Government Resources (1&2)
1) Department of Electronics and Information Technology
This website is in English, and India’s national ICT Policy and Plan can kind of be pieced together by reading various parts of the website. It does not contain publishing dates on the pages, but some of the documents that are uploaded to it have dates attached.
Non-government Resources (3)
1) Tata Computer-Based Functional Literacy Program
This is run by the Indian company Tata. This website contains information about the program and how it is run, and is produced by the program itself
2) Article about Tata Literacy program by Tata
This article gives a good overall impression of what the Tata Literacy Program does, and plans to do.
3) UNESCO Talking About Tata
This article gives an overview of what Tata does, and where the organization works as put out by UNESCO
4. It is difficult to find an actual ICT Plan and Policy for India. What is slightly easier is to piece together their overall plan from various pieces of the Department of Electronics and Information Technology website. This is also the most useful government website, and contains a great deal of information (although very few hard numbers), if you are willing to sift through it.
After taking ICT4D for a semester, doing all of the readings, and looking at all of the case studies, I think that I can safely sum up the salient lessons in ICT4D in two key points: Local knowledge and infrastructure. While these two things may seem, well, lets say, not all encompassing. I think they target the main problems that ICT projects encounter.
First, lets talk local knowledge. This knowledge may include but it not limited to, local customs, business deals, market influence, everyday technology practices, literacy levels, demographics and much more. These are all things that must be known before an ICT4D intervention can be successful. Without this knowledge. You may not know that technology wont be used for the purposes that you thought it would be, or that the community as a whole doesn’t need or want that particular kind of technology because it isn’t relevant to their lives.
Secondly, infrastructure. I’ll say this again, infrastructure, infrastructure, infrastructure. Without this ICT4D is doomed to fail. Infrastructure needs to be built prior to and/or alongside ICT4D in order for technology to be and stay useful and relevant.
I found this article about Indian cyber security to portray one of the fundamental flaws of the tech age we are living in. Technology is moving faster than the rules and laws that may govern it. And even when laws and mandates do catch up with technology it is nearly impossible to make sure everyone complies with them.
This article addresses primarily the fact that Indian Banks have adopted new mobile banking technologies without protecting their customers by ensuring that their security is up to par. This leaves customers at extreme risk. Furthermore, because under the law these crimes have not been put into one specific category (financial or cyber), most banks are just blaming their customers where they can.
From what I can tell even though there are SOME laws and regulations in place about mobile banks, there need to be more and ones that are not redundant But more than this, it seems as though India needs a regulatory body over mobile banking to ensure that both banks and consumers are fulfilling their duties, and not leaving themselves open to blind attacks. I think if this came into being and was effective, mobile banking would be much more widely accepted in India.
After doing our sector presentation on education this week, I thought it might be interesting to further investigate some of the things we had been talking. I found this article about the Worldreader program.
Worldreader is currently two years old, and has distributed 1,100 kindle e-readers. Along with this, they have also distributed 180,000 e-books. This program currently runs at about $5 a book, in comparison with Room to Read, which can print and deliver one of their books to a school in Africa for about $1 per book. So Worldreader is still significantly more expensive. Having said that, these readers have huge potential. They can last for weeks on a single charger, and allow many books to be transported without the burden of carrying them.
Worldreader has also undergone it’s first study by the U.S. Agency for International Development, which found that standardized test scores for children with e-readers typically improved 13%-16%.
I’ll be interested to see if this project scales well, because at this point the results seem very positive.
In preparation for our sector presentations next week, and because we have been reading so many case studies, I thought it would be interesting to share this video. This video describes the Tata Literacy Program which is a computer based functional literacy program, or CBFL.
The software was developed by the Tata Consultancy Group. Interestingly, they developed the software so that it would work on very slow running machines, this enables them to not have to buy new equipment as often, and be able to use donated equipment from NGOs. The software is animated, with a voice over, limiting the necessity of a teacher. By the end of the program which takes 10 – 12 weeks, participants have a base of 300 – 500 words.This program targets one of India’s most needed areas, because even though their ICT fields are developing quickly, their potential markets and workforce are much smaller due to the large numbers of individuals in rural areas that are illiterate.
Tata has also partnered with the governemt from very early on. The government has provided some needed infrastructure teachers, and even classrooms in which Tata can run their programing. Even though this does seem to be a top down program. Tata Literacy has the government support that many other programs lack. Because of this they have been able to rapidly expand since their founding in 2000, and so far they have served 175,000 people in multiple languages, and have been asked to create programs to run in both South Africa and Egypt.
This is a video about TulaSalud, an organization in Guatemala that is using ICTs to improve their healthcare. While the initial premise is great, I find this program slightly questionable.
After watching the video I noticed how long it was taking to send off information in each case. This in and of itself takes time away from patients. But more than that, they were sending in dates for information such as, when is x baby going to be born.
While I think that integration is a good thing for the most part, and agencies cooperating, sharing records, and helping each other find solutions to diseases and other health problems is great. I think something is being lost here. In number of hours that these workers are spending sending this information, I wonder how much more it would cost to hire or train a village health worker. Not one that has gone to medical school, but a professional who has been trained to deal with common diseases, general medications, maternal and child health etc. Several programs like this exist, and I feel like in this context a real live person, would be much more effective for what they are looking for answers for.
I think when looking at m-health applications it is important that they either make medicine better and/or increase productivity without hindering the medicine. This program seems to have improved the medicine but from the looks of it, the program may be significantly hindering productivity. At this point, I think a project reevaluation may be necessary.
Turning Technologies clickers were something that I rediscovered at Tulane Tech Day. Turning technologies is at its core a data collections technology. My introduction to it was through one of my first classes at Tulane. The clickers were used to take attendance, to answer questions during class about the lecture or readings to gage our understanding, or to take quizzes as each of our clickers was linked to our student ID.
For the most part Turning Technologies has targeted their clickers towards education/educators. Whether it be a classroom environment or professional development they have marketed their product as a way to gage an individuals learning.
But, I think this technology could be used in another way. Much of what we know and need to know about the developing world and it’s needs comes from surveys, an old but useful form of data collection. These clickers are inexpensive and work sans an internet signal, all you need is a computer, the software and a receiver. This could make data collection much easier, cost effective and efficient. These clickers can also function over almost any platform meaning that a language barrier is no longer an issue (though literacy might still be).
From what I see, these clickers could change the way information is gathered. Getting data from a large number of people, anonymously in a very small span of time.
Here is a short article on the ICTWorks website that makes one very valid point. We have talked a lot in class especially this week about ICT4Ds failures. For the most part we are basing this analysis on DATA. While this data may sometimes have large holes, or significant flaws a lot of this data is still out there.
I think we may have overlooked how significant it is that this data is being collected. While monitoring and evaluation have become common practice in development projects, the fact that this data has been collected means that there are ways to grow and move for with ICT4D that there is evidence behind.
The article applauds the world bank for it’s transparency in announcing it’s failure rate for ICTs and I do to. There is a large publishing bias, of only publishing projects that have shown positive results. But there is more than enough to learn from with our failures. I think that the more we encourage organizations to publish both their successes and their failures, the more useful information the ICT4D community will have. But we need to make this a goal and avoid the “you obviously did something wrong, because your project failed” mentality.
Here is a short interview with Jeffrey Sachs a well known economist in the development community. While this interview is very short I think he makes two very good points.
The MDG’s have come under scrutiny for many reasons, especially that they are essentially a filter that development has to go through now, which present difficulties, as well as the fact that while well intentioned, they may not be the best or most effective ways of going about development and combating injustices.
That being said, Sachs has one line in this interview that I think really stands out. “We argue about so many things, agreeing on a few things is extremely important.” More than being well intentioned the MDG’s have given the world REAL, MEASURABLE development goals to rally around. And yes, while some development projects like Urban ICT4D projects may have gotten less attention or funding in recent history, it seems that in general the MDGs have allowed more people to be players in development. They have allowed nations to come together over shared goals of education (and other things) and leave the disputes of economic policy by the wayside.
For the most part, I believe that the MDG’s have done a massive amount of good. Sure, maybe they aren’t ALWAYS the MOST effective ways of aiding development. But they have allowed a massive amount of development to take place in a very short amount of time, with a number of governments and agencies collaborating over shared goals, WELL. This is progress.