The Salvation Army is a Protestant Christian church best known for its thrift stores and charity work. The organization’s message is based on the Bible and is actually a “spiritual army” (did anyone else know this? I’m a bit flabbergasted). The Salvation Army takes an active stance against issues such as abortion, homosexuality, and suicide. However, the organization also provides prominent housing and homeless services, youth camps, disaster relief, elderly services, and adult rehabilitation.The Salvation Army began in 1865 in England and currently operates in 124 different countries around the world. Its first efforts for disaster relief resulted from the tragedies of the Galveston Hurricane of 1990 and the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. Today, it is a prominent NGO that is usually among the first to arrive with help after natural or man-made disasters, as witnessed after the Haiti earthquake of 2010.
The ICT that was applied in Haiti was UPS’s TrackPad technology, which is usually used to track packages within campus environments. Salvation Army staff in Haiti used the technology to confirm what goods each family received in an Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camp by tracking the information via a laminated card with unique barcodes linked to the number of family members, along with their location in the camp, and their needs. The system worked to ensure that all families received the correct supplies at the right time, and greatly reduced theft and fraud. It also brought about a sense of calm to the camp. See complete details about the TrackPad Case Study here.
The goal of the ICT was to simplify and organize the aid distribution process at a 20,000-person IDP camp in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake. While no formal data was collected, valid anecdotal evidence indicates that the technology was a success. It brought about a sense of calm at the camp because people knew that their cards could only scan once to receive certain supplies, so they had to follow directions. Additionally, Salvation Army workers were able to see if families did not receive supplies and could check up on individuals. The technology made a positive difference. Stakeholders included earthquake victims, Salvation Army volunteers and workers, key UPS employees/Salvation Army volunteers, and labor from Cardinal Tracking.
I was surprised that it took roughly three months after the earthquake for the technology to become fully integrated to the IDP camp. I had assumed that the process would have been much more swift.
I just finished reading Zeitoun so I have Katrina on my mind.
According to this piece from MIT’s Technology Review, here are some tactics used in our city to respond to Hurricane Katrina:
- Many people utilized Craigslist’s “Lost and Found” section to find missing persons. People even utilized the Personals sections such as “Missed Connections” and “Women Seeking Men.”
- Websites such as BoingBoing.net (anyone heard of this?) were used to advertize goods and services such as old cell phones, cash, and expertise to use for disaster relief
- Officials were able to relay messages to a broader audience by contacting national news stations to ask for assistance
- Freedom4Wireless, a wireless company from Florida, was able to set up wireless networks that provided rescue workers with voice-over-Internet protocol (VoIP)-based phone networks and police radio capabilities. The equipment was solar- and battery-powered and thereby did not need electrical infrastructure to work
- Motorola offered Motobridge, which is an Internet-based system that distributes control on a network so that if one node fails, the entire system won’t fail as well
- Mesh networking technology was also used, which was a Wi-Fi cloud over the downtown business district and the French Quarter, with the bandwidth segmented for public safety and public Wi-Fi. It’s cheap, reusable, and doesn’t involve permanent infrastructure. In the aftermath of a similar disaster, the tsunami that struck Southeast Asia in 2004, Intel quickly set up Wi-Max, which increases the range of broadband from 150 feet up to 30 miles.
I wrote my second short paper on One Laptop per Child in Nigeria, so I thought it might be appropriate to provide a little summary of what I discovered.
People were very optimistic about the success of OLPC in Nigeria because it is striving to become a technology-based country in the developing world. The project is very much aligned with Nigeria’s national IT policy because it enriches the education process and makes knowledge more accessible, even to the nation’s poorest students. Additionally, OLPC promoted IT education for young people, which is a point emphasized by Nigeria’s Minister of Communications Technology. However, the program encountered some hardware problems in its first attempt in March of 2007 and was pulled from the country in December of the same year. Additionally, a Nigerian keyboard maker filed a lawsuit against OLPC, claiming infringement of layout.
A new program was launched in the summer of 2009 through the OLPC-SEED project. The XO hardware did not fail, and aside from a few minor technological difficulties, students and teachers seemed to really enjoy and learn a lot from the initiative. 73% of high school students were shown to be more studious and attentive to their studies and have improved their overall learning. And on an anecdotal note, Miss Manzo, a teacher at one of the OLPC schools has said, “[the project] is one of the happiest things that has ever happened to the school.”
However, I agree with Warschauer and Ames in that OLPC is too utopian to create real change. Like most developing countries, Nigeria lacks the basic infrastructure to improve quality of life. Basics must improve before relatively advanced technology is implemented in the poorest schools.
Originally posted on Blackboard by Suzannah Schneider
This is an older article from July about simple technologies that are being used in the developing world to combat everyday issues. It covers some exciting tools from TEDGlobal in 2011. One such technology uses texting to link retailers with customers in developing countries. Femi Akinde, CEO of SlimTrader, found that there are plentiful goods and services in Africa, but no reliable way to access them. With over 300 million cell phone subscribers in Africa, he realized that the best way to boost business and ameliorate all transactions was to make them more accessible and instantaneous through the use of cell phones for trade. The idea is based off online shopping in the Western world, which is something we take for granted. It’s nearly impossible to purchase anything online in Africa, especially in more rural regions. Thus, mobile phones are the way to go.
For instance, a farmer trying to source fertilizer can send a text message and get a response from SlimTrader outlining all the distributors near to where he lives. The distributor will be credited by SlimTrader, so the farmer knows he won’t be sold a fake good. Additionally, he doesn’t have to leave his house or his fields. Physical travel, postal service, long waits, and other hardships associated with completing life’s necessary tasks, from filling prescription to buying bus tickets, are all eliminated. From what I understand, customers have the option of paying with M-PESA, Airtel, MTN, mobile money, Interswitch, and text and pay.
For more information check out SlimTrader’s website.
Intel’s new health program is determined to train one million healthcare workers in developing countries by 2015. The 1Mx15 Program will use educational and ICT tools to improve healthcare specifically for women and children. The “Skoool Healthcare Education Platform” has an “anytime, anywhere” multi-media content delivery and assessment platform. It will have an open access license with no charge for users. The idea is that the company will provide the platform to governments and healthcare workers for free, forgoing what might otherwise be an opportunity to collect licensing fees. Specifically, it is a collection of online and offline educational materials designed to help healthcare workers in developing countries address health issues primarily affecting women and children such as malnutrition, communicable diseases, and childbirth safety.
Sri Lanka will be the first country to employ this platform to better serve its healthcare workers and students. Intel already has a history of working with Sri Lanka,’s President and Minister of Health. The program will hopefully expand to sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, Central Eastern Europe and parts of Asia by 2015.
Originally Posted By Suzannah Schneider
Originally Posted: September 20, 2011 1:40:33 PM CDT
By: Suzannah Schneider
A study published in August by PLoS Medicine shows how subscriber identity module (SIM) cards can be used to track population movements after disasters. Specifically, the study targeted SIM cards from the largest mobile phone company in Haiti (Digicel). This article from the NY times explores the parameters of the study.
- Geographic positions of SIM cards were determined by the location of the mobile phone tower through which each SIM card connects when calling
- Followed daily positions of SIM cards 42 days before the earthquake and 158 days after
- Used a ratio to track the number of SIM cards to number of moving persons
Researchers from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm and Columbia University tested the method before the earthquake, and more recently to track cholera victims. This is important because refugees can be put in greater harm if they wander outside the limits of relief efforts. This technology can alert officials where victims need help, and where new outbreaks can occur. It can also assist in setting up tents for aid.
While this technology is incredibly useful, does it seem like it could be dangerous and a breach of privacy if it gets into the wrong hands?
I was particularly intrigued by Mark Surman’s case study on telecentres, not only as a tool for development, but for a tool to foster community collaboration. We tend to forget that development can produce creativity; sometimes it seems that it exists only as a goal and the steps to reach that goal.
“Socially-responsible outsourcing” (SRO) is the use of information technology to benefit poor communities through outsourcing. A telecentre in rural Bihar is being used for Development 2.0, promising “direct development” and will supposedly bypass typical problems with new development systems. However like any initiative, telecentres have their drawbacks.
1) This is not “direct development.” Only data work can be done, not voice work. In this sense, another layer is necessary. The telecentre is not a sole solution to direct development as some hoped.
2) The cost of the telecentre in Bihar is $13,000. Additional investments are necessary for reliability of power supply.
3) Even after intense training covering IT, language, typing, and communication skills, telecentre staff still required the layered superstructure of quality control between them and the clients.
4) The pilot project created 19 new jobs in the village, but the new telecentre’s biggest problem is getting enough clients.
Telecentres can be successful and incredibly exciting for a rural village, but it is clear that costly training and monitoring are still vital for success.