In today’s world, ever globalizing use information communication technologies is shaping development across sectors and countries. While many aspects of ICT4D will remain salient, I believe the application of crowd sourcing technologies is what we will see shape the future of international relations, development, and economies. Since the beginning of industrialization, nations have shared and stolen technologies from others. With the practically unlimited access to shared knowledge and ideas we have today, expanding and acting upon the base of shared information seems to be the most inevitable approach to future growth. In class we participated in crowd sourced mapping, in disasters we see the applications of crowd sourcing in emergency aid and relief, and in other sectors of economic development we see crowd sourcing that ranges from knowledge acquisition, market analysis, and social engagements. We see success where multiple minds work towards a collective effort, and this is the practice that has impacted me the most about ICT4D.
For my personal gain and professional development, I believe this class has helped me the most by demonstrating my own ability to learn new technologies and utilize them in a real way, whether it be JOSM, WordPress, or Twitter. I know my generation is supposed to be at the head of the tech game, but I am an anomaly to this rule. However, learning, and gaining proficiency in these areas has showed me my own ability to move forward in the professional world without fear of technological barriers, I at least knows its worth a shot. On the note of crowd sourcing, I do believe I will continue to seek opportunities to utilize crowd sourced information in my future careers and projects, hopefully gain a more complete perspective of the task at hand.
While I appreciate many of the frameworks we have discussed in class I find the capabilities approach to be the most useful. I have always been a member of the “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” school of thought. I believe the capabilities approach builds on this idea. When bringing in different aspect of ICT to a region, bringing in tools that are most applicable to the skills of the people and the infrastructure of the nation seem to be they will be the most sustainable. Just like we can teach a man to fish, we can teach a man to use technology, but doing so in a way that draws on inherent or existing capabilities will allow the technology to dig the deepest roots.
In this article by “Web 2 for Dev”, the author discusses pros and cons of the kind of mapping we are about to engage in in our class. The author cites issues such as climate change and crisis situations as some of the positives. We have, of course, talked about this in class before and have analyzed how companies like Ushahidi work. The authors presents Google and Openstreet Maps as the front runners in mapping for developing countries and suggests that collaborative mapmaking would benefit the countries, and the users much more. The author raises concerns including privacy issues with the policies that Google sets out and “tension over indiscriminate online mapping over land ownership and resource use and control.” This is a very similar concern that the Homeland Security Professor presented: where do we draw the line between mapping to help those who can use these technologies, and breaching privacy?
The World Bank has recently recognized the value in crowdsourcing for development. Last year the World Bank Disaster Management used crowdsourcing in Latin America and the Caribbean, partnering with Yahoo, Google, and NASA, among others. Recently they have applied crowdsourcing to the educational field, in response to systemic problems at the local and regional levels. Crowdsourcing could be used to raise low scores by sending out requests for instructional success stories, or to connect teachers to share educational strategies and solutions. One program that has already been implemented is the Open Innovation Portal, started by the US Department of Education. Open Innovation uses crowdsourcing to bring teachers together to share their knowledge on problems plaguing school systems such as dropout rates and difficult children. The program has seen instant results. Just four months after the start of the program, over 4,000 people signed up and shared many innovative ideas that may receive donor funds in order to be more successfully implemented or merely used as effective methods by other participants in the program. This is just one example of crowdsourcing being used here in the U.S. to promote educational solutions. This demonstrates one of the nearly endless ways that crowdsourcing may be utilized as it becomes a more popular strategy in ICT4D.
After learning about crowd-sourcing from our guest lecturer I began to research other ways in which it can be used for development. I came across an article from the Washington Post titled, “Can crowd-sourcing keep corruption at bay?“
The article discusses how high corruption rates in Ukraine are threatening to affect the country’s upcoming parliamentary elections. The fairness of this election is going to help other nations decide whether or not Ukraine has a democracy, and it will determine many agreements, like trade, between Ukraine and the European Union. The country was dropped down to a ranking of “Partly Free” by the democracy organization Freedom House in 2011. Freedom House has also stated that corruption is the number one threat to Ukrainian democracy.
According to an OSCE Election Observation report, as of October 19 there had already been abuse of administrative resources, violent threats towards campaign workers, and several more reports of other campaign violations. In order to reduce corruption during the campaign, one organization has created a plan to use everyday citizens to make a most honest election.
The organization is ElectUA, and they have created a crowd-sourcing system that allows citizens to submit reports of violations. As you can see on the map in the article, there have already been over 1,000 reports submitted. The red dots on the map represent confirmed cases of violation, and the blue dots are reported cases not yet confirmed.
I think this is an incredible way to use crowd-sourcing as a means of fostering development. If Ukraine can have a fair election with little to no corruption, they have the potentially to be raised to democratic status. This would mean a lot for the political development of the country and its international relationships. This is another great example of how a crowd-sourcing technique is fostering development.
Our guest speaker this week via the computer was Robert Munro. He gave us a very enlightening talk on crowdsourcing and the opportunities it creates in solving many issues around the world. Robert Munro is a computational linguist, which is someone who models natural languages through a computational perspective. This gives him a wide array of skills, which he uses in his many projects. Munro got his PHd from Stanford University and was top 5% in his class of engineering/science candidates. Currently, he is the CEO of Idibon, a company for language technologies, and does work for Energy for Opportunity in Sierra Leone. Munro also has an impressive background of many interesting and diverse projects. In 2011, he worked at Global Viral Forecasting, which aimed to track diseases worldwide. Munro also coordinated Mission 4636, in which he translated and categorized emergency texts for disaster relief in Haiti. Munro has done work with crowdsourcing world wide, and has used his unique skills set to help better the world through the use of language technology.
More information about Robert Munro can be obtain at his website.