<p>In my opinion, there are many important lessons in ICT4D. Technology is becoming increasingly important not only for the globalizing world, but also for developing countries. It is important to note that because we are increasingly connected, countries in the early stages of development need to work with technology to develop in a way that allows them to compete in the globalizing world. One important lesson that seems to be often times overlooked in ICT4D is the importance of sustainability. Thousands of projects that include telecenters and old/not durable technology have failed because they do not take into account the environment and the needs of the people. Programs need to be able to be measurable and compatible with the environment to be sustainable and help the area develop in the long run. There must be a way to measure success to know if these type of projects will help millions of other people.</p><p>This brings me to another point, the needs-based approach lesson of ICT4D. Projects like One Laptop Per Child are not sustainable or helpful because they are not compatible with the skills, resources and technological understanding of the people the project was aimed to help. ICT4D projects need to focus on the capabilities of the people and how to best meet their needs with projects, whether it is the technology used or catering the training sessions/applications to the people who will be using the tools. I think that this important lesson I learned will be extremely helpful in my future. Although I am not planning to focus on ICT4D, the needs-based approach is vital in all aspects of development. Projects and tools need to be catered to the specific population being targeted. Even if I just focus on one successful method of social entrepreneurship, that method needs to be compatible with the people and the environment in which it will be used.</p><p>In the future, it would be really interesting to study more case studies. Specifically, how technology has freely come into areas without ICT4D projects being implemented. Similar to the case study about the fishermen using cell phones in India to increase their income. I think it is really important to study these topics to learn about how technology can benefit certain populations and how to create ICT4D projects from these occurrences.</p>
Tag Archives: sustainability
This week in our ICT4D class, we have been focusing on past theories for developmental approach, and current theories that are being discussed. One of the main barriers to the use of ICTs in development is the capability issue that Erwin Alampay outlines as a factor into how individuals use technology. However, before you can focus on how an individual uses technology, they have to have the technology, which leads us to ICT4D projects.
Recently, the Information Society Innovation Fund [ISIF Asia] received approximately $350,000 [in US dollars] for ICT projects. The funds are a record-breaking amount of money for ISIF Asia, and they will allow them to grow and expand many projects that they are working on. ISIF Asia will be taking this money and distributing it as seed grants to 11 projects that have applied to receive the grants. What is most interesting about these projects is that they mirror what Heeks describes as “ICT4D 2.0” and focus on different types of access to the developing world. For example, one program in India is called Smart Phones for the Deaf Blind, Bidirectional Access Promotion Society. This program fits Heeks definition of ICT4D 2.0 because it is focusing the spread of mobile phones in a program that can actually have a long-term impact in Indian society. Other programs will be focusing on different perspectives of ICTs, like rights in regard to the internet. Whether or not these projects are moving in a direction that will establish best development practices for ICTs is still to be determined, but the only way to find out is to implement the programs.
The importance of sustainability in ICT4D projects is of the most salient lessons to be learned in the field. Just as any other development project, ICT initiatives are not one-shot deals, they are continuous and complex. Many factors must be considered in ICT projects from infrastructure needs, to education of local populations, to the complexity of ICT devices, to continued funding in future years. Many ICT4D projects have failed to adequately consider such factors, leaving the field with an exponentially high failure rate. For example, the One Child Per Laptop project failed for many of these reasons. Internet access was limited in many of the communities, teachers were not adequately trained on how to use the devices, and the computers ended up being more expensive than promised.
Richard Heeks discusses the field’s past failures and lays out a formula for the future of ICT4D in The ICT4d 2.0 Manifesto: Where Next for ICTs and International Development? Heeks believes ICT4D is moving into a new phase (ICT4D 2.0), which will be more sustainable than the “quick, off-the-shelf solutions” of the past. ICT4D 2.0 will do so by emphasizing existing technologies, allowing organizations to focus on the actual application of ICTs. As Heeks discusses the most effective ICTs are also the simplest — radio and mobile phones. More complex and expensive technologies like computers and telecenters are much less successful in development initiatives. Looking past flashy technologies to the most practical ICTs is essential to the future sustainability of the field.
Including local stakeholders in the ICT4D project development is also essential to the sustainability of projects. As discussed in class, there must be demand from a local community for an initiative to be successful. The community should identify a preexisting need before it is detected by an organization. The local community must also hold a sense of investment in the ICT endeavor; they should be financially and intellectually linked to the project. Locals should be trained in the ICT to ensure sustainability and should understand what the technology has to offer, how it can better their community. Though I think the field of ICT4D is a full of promise, its future is threatened by projects that ignore these basic principles.
One of the things we talked about in class this week was the need for a certain level of physical infrastructure to be in place in order for ICT projects to be successful. One of the most basic aspects of this is the need for electricity- without electricity, even the most basic tasks become a struggle, not to mention that without electricity, it is extremely hard for new technologies to take off. An interesting solution to this is the option of solar energy. I found an article discussing the use of solar power systems for hospitals and clinics in Haiti. Despite having a lower power capacity, it is extremely sustainable, and is easier for the government, since it is not a complete overhaul of infrastructure. With power, these health facilities can now utilize microscopes, centrifuges, can refrigerate life-saving vaccines, and can perform operations at night. SELF, the Solar Electric Light Foundation, a major donor to the project, has laid the groundwork for local staff to be able to operate the system themselves and keep them operating at maximum efficiency for the long term. While solar energy is an extremely attractive alternative option, it only really addresses the most basic level of technological need in Haiti. It’ll be a long time before every building in Haiti has the capacity or the know-how to install solar powered energy systems.
- Strengthening policy consistent with environmentally friendly development
- Mobilizing financing options to make energy more accessible
- Enhancing energy delivery options to widen the range of the service offered
This month, Marines turned to companies for renewable ideas. They invited 13 companies to their desert base to pitch them ideas about inventions and advancements in solar and fuel efficiency technology. The companies that showed up were almost all start ups. The developmental implications of this article are that technological advances are often spurred on by the military and eventually passed on to the private sector. A cutting edge solar power generator design picked up by the Pentagon today will likely end up being utilized in a developing country somewhere down the line. Additionally, with a deep pocket and interest in the field of solar energy, the military provides an incentive to scientists to continue to develop new and innovative approaches to solar power. This benefits developing nations since that technology will often by donated or replicated for their use at some point in time.
Throughout the semester we’ve been looking at a wide variety of uses of ICT in areas such as governance, education, health, and disaster mitigation. What’s been most interesting is the broad range of applications for ICTs in almost every sector of development, and in every corner of the globe. Until this course, I’d always assumed that ICTs would be cumbersome and ineffective in remote areas or underdeveloped nations, but throughout the semester it’s become more and more clear that ICTs can be used almost anywhere if the proper measures are taken to ensure it’s sustainability.
One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is that thought and planning are key to successful ICT projects. Like any development initiative, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all model, and all stakeholders must be consulted and considered. Even after the project has been implemented, there must be a constant process of evaluation and analysis to keep the project sustainable. I’ve also come to realize that many of the most successful projects are built from the ground up, and that these grassroots projects have been planned and initiated by the everyday people who will be using the proposed technology. A prime example of one project that fell short of it’s potential is the One Laptop Per Child Program. It’s intentions are good, but the project was implemented with little collaboration from the majority of it’s stakeholders, and without the use of a pilot program there is little room for adjustment.
As someone who plans on pursuing a career in education, I’ve really enjoyed looking at the potential for ICT projects in this field. Education by itself can do so much good, so with the addition of ICTs that can improve upon what people already know and create a global forum for learning, there’s almost limitless potential for success. One of the keys to successful ICTs for education is a true access to knowledge for all, and the number of ICT programs that work toward that goal truly give me hope for the future.
I have learned a variety of important information that I will need as a development professional. First of all, as globalization continues to expand and the world in technology continues to progress, the understanding of ICT4D will become crucial when dealing with both international and national development. I have always shied away from technology because I assumed that everything would prove too complicated for my limited knowledge of current technological developments. However this class has been eye opening; I have realized that simple technology such as social media, that is easily accessible, has such an immeasurable impact on both disaster relief and international development. I really enjoyed week 9 (Governance, Social Movements and Social Change), 10 (Participatory and Citizen’s Media), and 12 (Disaster Response and Humanitarian Aid) because they all taught me about technology that I felt I could have a grasp on and utilize when I start my work in the world of development.
The biggest overarching lesson that has been impressed upon me even more than I had known before is that before trying to fix large problems in developing countries it is very important to come up with achievable and sustainable smaller goals and projects. Sustainability may often not come with the cheapest price tag initially, but overall a sustainable project is more economically friendly and socially sound. It is necessary to work from the ground up; every project must be looked at individually. There are some wonderful new technological advancements that can help many people, however if people do not know how to use basic computer programs, or don’t have the fundamental infrastructure to support such technology, it doesn’t matter how great the new findings are, they will not make an impact where they are most needed. This means that local participation and input is required for a project to succeed. It is important to give populations what they need, not what countries thousands of miles away believe that they need. The trickle down effect may work in some situations, however in an area where even the most basic infrastructure is lacking, it is just the wealthy that benefit from the technology. It is important to focus on small goals in education, such as introduction to the Internet, or word processing, rather than unleashing E-government or E-governance before the population can understand that language.
I think this class was really successful in making people with no technological background interested in, and less intimidated by, the technology that will inevitably be a part of our lives now and in the near future.