Lessons Learned: ICT4D

There are numerous lessons that I have learned this semester in our ICT4D class. Yet, the most outstanding lesson for me was the importance of creating an ICT4D tool that is tailored specifically for the community it is working with. I noticed over the semester that there were a number of great ideas for development tools that ultimately failed due to some divide/ miscommunication with the targeted community. I found that when the ICT4D tools were created with a specific group of people or community, there was often a lasting positive outcome. I think that understanding the importance of developing different or altered ICT4D tools for different communities is extremely important for my future international development work. It is easy to believe that one tool will provide aid to a large variety of people, but this does not often hold true in reality. There have been many good attempts at the implementation of various ICT4D tools in many nations, but without the right connection with the community and the people, the development tools are essentially worthless because the people will not continue to adapt and use the tools provided. If developers do not fully understand the community, then how can they really provide a technology that the people will understand, use and enjoy?

I still think the example in the video we watched in class about the various things villagers can do with a tomato is a wonderful depiction of the many different issues in the realm of development. A single tomato can be used in many ways – sold at the market, turned into tomato paste, dried out – and it is important for development groups to look at examples like this and see how to alter development tools in accordance with the community that they are targeting. A village close to the market could sell fresh produce at the market much easier than a village far away. The far away village, however, could be taught how to turn the tomato into tomato paste which would travel easier and provide a variation of the tomato so they would not have to compete with the fresher produce of the close village. Altering development programs is imperative to providing the community with tools that could ultimately produce a lasting change.

I also found certain development programs we studied in class extremely interesting. I really enjoyed looking into the use of ICTs in programs like Ushahidi and ICT4Peace. I think that there should continue to be a strong emphasis on Social Media and the way it can alter the course of an entire nation. This semester the country I researched  was Tunisia. During my research, I came across numerous articles about the use of technology and the progression of the Arab Spring. Technology played an extremely large role in the complete turmoil and reformation of entire nations. I think it would be interesting if the class spent time on modern examples like the Arab Spring that clearly demonstrate the positive and negative aspects of the rapid spread of technology. With a large amount of help from Social Media, countries like Tunisia are becoming democratic after multiple decades under dictatorship.

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2 responses to “Lessons Learned: ICT4D

  • tchowdh

    I agree that having technology tailored to a community or culture is more likely to be effective and produce better results. However, I think the costs related to producing specially designed products would be too high. Especially when working in the area of international development, you are most of the time working on a budget, and many times a very small one. I think the better approach would be to create a technology that would have widespread adaptability.

  • jnseng

    Adding to Tasneem’s comment, I agree that budget restraints leave developments groups unable to cater their technology to specific communities. I feel that they can counteract this problem by ensuring the involvement of the community during the project planning. By keeping the community posted about the project’s mission and developments, the community will be better prepared for when the technology is eventually implemented. That preparation will lead to an expedited incorporation into the social fabric of the community. Additionally, the development group can further counteract the technology’s lack of community specificity by committing to sufficient training of the locals in the communities where the technology is being implemented.

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