The most salient lesson that I have learned from this semester is the importance of working with your target population every step of the way. It’s disheartening to have learned about ICT projects in the past that have failed because they did not properly incorporate the people their project sought to help. Too often, a solution is created by a development group without the input of the target population. The development group is then surprised when their tools/plans are not implemented efficiently. I have learned that in order for an ICT project, or any development project for that matter, to be successful the involvement of the target population is crucial. Prior to creating a solution to a development problem, the group needs to go to the country and meet with citizens of the target population. They need to properly determine the needs and concerns of the population. Are there any cultural, religious, or gender related obstacles that need to be dealt with? What relationship needs to be made with the village elders or government officials? How can the target population best assist with the implementation of the project? These questions and more need to be addressed during the planning and creation process in order to achieve success. When actually implementing the project, it is crucial not to overlook the importance of proper training of the target population in the use and management of the tools/system. Too many ICT project fail because target populations are left unprepared. As a result, the tools/systems are inefficient or even cast aside. ICT can’t be about showing up at someone’s doorstep and expecting them to take to your project when they lack prior knowledge of it and adequate training.
Another lesson that I learned from this semester, which has further solidified what I have taken from other development courses, is the importance of accounting for all variables/aspects of your project and being prepared to respond when one of them inevitably does not go according to plan. This applies to any project in any field, but I feel that it is even more relevant in international development. Tireless efforts need to be made in order to think of every single variable that needs to be addressed in order for the project to be a success. This includes all aspects of the planning, operations, logistics, and finance/administration fields. Very few projects every go completely according to plan, so it is important to be prepared for as many variables as possible in order to minimize the chances of something unexpected happening or a problem arising that you can’t fix. This reality stresses the need for a pilot project to be implemented to identify and create solutions for any potential obstacles and issues with the project. I believe committed preparation and quickly learning from mistakes is the key to success… I would like to be able to get hands-on experience with more of the ICT tools that we discussed in class.