Lessons Learned: ICT4D

At first glance, international development is vague. Everyone wants to make the world a better place and fight poverty, and it seems easy to identify the most pressing problems and identify hypothetical solutions. However, putting ideas into practice requires huge amounts of coordination and generally results in many setbacks. Anyone pursuing a project in the field of ICT4D should understand the intricate steps to implementing a solution. It is truly  a detailed process, but most changemakers are too quick to want save the world without considering the implications of every detail. A great example of this is One Laptop Per Child. Of course giving a laptop to a child in a developing country will promote knowledge, but is it really a substitute for education? Is it financially sustainable? What if the hardware fails? ICT4D solutions can, in fact, make an impact, but all possible scenarios must be considered and planned for.

This semester I’ve learned that technology is not an enemy for development. At the start of the course, I felt that there wasn’t a need for a technological revolution in the developing world because it would be too complicated and couldn’t address the true core of a problem. However, I’ve come to understand that ICT4D is hugely helpful in transforming a country. Additionally, ICT doesn’t have to mean something as complicated as Internet communication for social change, like the Zapatista Effect. ICT can mean tangible technology, like Dr. Laura Murphy’s presentation on mobiles in rural Kenya. Technology is vital for change; it should not be disregarded.

The most useful framework that can be used to think about and implement ICT4D is the concept of the Knowledge Society. Information can provide a backbone for growth, but the ultimate goal of ICT is to promote knowledge and intelligence. Information is raw data, which should never be ignored, but knowledge is the use of data. Knowledge bring everything into a broader context and should mean improved access for everyone. Knowledge Society is ICT in context, in consideration of humans as emotional, individual beings, not as another statistical group.

I would like to explore social media in the developing world. It is a worldwide phenomenon that is changing the way all societies interact, and I am quite curious to understand its implications on development.

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2 responses to “Lessons Learned: ICT4D

  • emswiet

    I felt similar sentiments about technology at the beginning of this course. I was apprehensive about the applications of technology in developing countries because of personal experiences abroad. From my adventures in Senegal, where access to electricity was few and far between–even in the capitol city of Dakar–it seemed like a lot of advancements in basic infrastructure was needed before technologies can have a lasting impact. In that sense, I felt it was more useful for developing nations to focus on providing basic needs instead of trying to catch up with the continual developments of technology in the 21st century. However, this class how showed me otherwise. In particular, I learned that the leapfrog phenomenon has made technology accessible even without some basic infrastructure. For example, many developing rural areas sidestepped phone landlines and went directly to cell phones which made communication possible without expensive and time consuming investments in infrastructure. This was particularly evident in Dr. Laura Murphy’s lecture where we discussed renewable forms of energy, such as solar panels, to charge phones without the need of electricity. These advancements could have been especially useful in Senegal!

  • jtriplet

    It’s very true what you say about the concept of international development as a whole. Especially because of the way in which issues are presented in IDEV 101 (educating the women of the world, educating the children of the world, eliminating poverty), we often feel as though we are faced with unsuperable tasks. By breaking these issues down into smaller, more managable parts, it is much easier to see how things can be improved, one small step at a time. I like your point about technology that, while helpful, it does not have to be the most complex or expensive technology on the market, and cell phones are a great example of that. Through the M-PESA mobile banking in Kenya and similar programs, people are able to use the technology that many already possess to improve their standard of living.

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