Daily Archives: 3 October 2012

BOSCO Uganda

This blog is for BOSCO Uganda: Battery operated systems for community outreach. Their project is focused on, “providing innovative information and communication technology (ICT) solutions using a collaborative and Internet approach to foster socio-economic development and peace building in rural communities in Northern Uganda” (Bailey).

Their main goals are:

“1 .Managing all Internet sites in the Amuru and Gulu Districts in Northern Uganda

2. Developing content, with a focus on education and peace building, for BOSCO’s Intranet system.

3. Supporting the expansion of BOSCO Uganda through new proposals and partnerships

4. Managing communications between local, regional and international stakeholders in partnership with BOSCO USA” (BoscoUganda)

Recently Bosco has joined with different organizations in order to further pursue their goals.  They aim to, “bring solar powered micro grids, Internet connectivity, and entrepreneurial training to a number of sites in northern Uganda” (Bailey). Efficiency is an important aspect of ICT, if an ICT being integrated into a developing country is not efficient the people might abandon it out of frustration (ie if internet connectivity is constantly down) . In order to avoid this issue, these solar powered micro grids will provide internet connectivity with , “clean and efficient renewable power” (Bailey). The idea of the power being solar is also a very important aspect here, now the communities will not have to rely on power via infrastructure their country may or may not have.

In the reading for Tuesday Unwin stresses that, “all communication systems require a physical infrastructure to be in place to provide energy and to generate and receive signals. Without such infrastructure, none of the complex systems of computers, radios or mobile phones that exist today would be able to function” (92). He mentions a program that introduced computers to a school but this initiative failed because the school did not have sufficient electricity. BOSCO provides a possible solution to the absence of electricity in developing nations: the use of solar power.

I think that this initiative sounds very forward thinking and progressive, yet the question of cost comes into play. Solar powered micro grids are extremely expensive. They are being donated through a grant program in this specific place in Uganda, but what happens when they break for instance? How can other developing places gain access to them? Is there a way to produce them at a lower cost, so that their positive ICT4D affects can be further reaching? Additionally, I’m curious about the power range of these solar powered micro grids are, how many people are these micro grids actually going to provide with solar power?

Overall, I think that this initiative could be very successful in the future and could possibly be the remedy for poor physical infrastructure + electricity problems in developing nations, if somehow the challenge of cost can be confronted.


The Future of Public Libraries in an Internet Age

Though the toll the internet age will take on newspapers is often debated, I’ve rarely thought or heard about the future for public libraries in the United States. As Uwin points out, historically, libraries were the main storage and access point for information across the world, especially for those who could not afford to purchase their own information. However, over the last twenty years the increase in the amount of published material and availability of digital technologies has changed libraries’ role forever.

In Unwine’s ICT4D he sites Klugkist as suggesting that in the future libraries will continue to be a gateway to information, but in particular an expertise centre, physical entity, and collection center for printed material. He reasons that libraries will not be replaced, they will merely transform their ways of accessing information–they will become digital libraries.

In the National Civic Review’s report on The Future of Public Libraries in an Internet Age, Ruth Wooden emphasizes that libraries do have a future in the U.S. Even with the vast amount of information available on the Internet, Wooden is sure that libraries will continue to play a vital role in communities. Strong public opinion surrounds the issue. For example 78% of those interviewed states that if their library were to loose funding they would feel “that something essential and important has been lost, affecting the whole community.” At this point libraries are more than just an access point for information–they are a safe haven, a place for children, a community meeting place. Wooden believes that libraries have been a relic of community engagement in the past and will continue to be in the future, regardless of the Internet. Additionally, most interviewed believed precisely because there is so much information available now (some of which you must pay for), that public libraries are a necessity to provide free information for anyone who needs it. Similar to Klugkist’s thesis Wooden emphasizes that in the digital age public libraries are a haven for low income community members, a resource for those who have no access to a computer or the internet at home. Wooden and Klugkist both believe that the advent of computers and the Internet will not displace libraries, if anything it will heighten a need for them.

Musekeweya: Using Radio to Encourage Trauma Recovery in Rwanda

Every Wednesday, 85% of those with access to the radio in Rwanda tune in to the “Musekeweya” radio soap opera. On the air since 2003, the radio program, which translates to “New Dawn” in English, is produced by the Dutch NGO Radio La Benevolencija Humanitarian Tools Foundation. La Benevolencija creates radio shows and educational programs with the goal of “providing citizens in vulnerable societies with the knowledge on how to recognize and resist manipulation to violence and how to heal trauma, encouraging them to be active bystanders against incitement and violence.” Using a traditional and very basic technology – the radio – in a non-traditional way allows La Benevolencija  to reach a diverse audience and communicate the benefits of non-violent attitudes and reconciliation.

Musekeweya features two fictional rival villages, Bumanzi and Muhumuro, that are experiencing a conflict similar to the one that preceded the 1994 Rwandan genocide. The characters struggle with hate, revenge, jealousy, murder, greed, and love. Their problems are further exacerbated by the differing ethnic identities of the two villages. The plot communicates specific messages selected by a diverse group of stakeholders, including script writers, academics, representatives from the Rwandan Ministry of Justice and Bureau of Information and Broadcasting, and La Benevolencija’s grassroots associations. The scripts are also reviewed by psychologists before they air on the radio.

In Unwin’s ICT4D, he states, “Local and community radio can be used highly effectively not only to convey particular information messages but also to engage and involve people in beneficial development practices. In developing such programmes, it is crucial for script writers and producers to draw upon the advantages of radio as a medium, such as its basis in oral tradition, its appeal to the imaginations of listeners, and its ability to be heard en masse and individually at the same time” (112). Musekeweya is one example of how this basic technology can be used in an innovative way to combat a specific development issue.  According to La Benevolencija, “A Yale University study conducted found regular listeners [of Musekeweya] are more likely than other Rwandans to report increased trust in their communities and are more likely to believe their mental health would improve by talking about their traumatic experiences during the genocide.” In this case, La Benevolencija is fulfilling Unwin’s prescriptions for a successful radio-based development project and the positive impacts of doing so have been clearly demonstrated.

Check out the video below to learn more!


Satellite Technology: a growing alternative

The Unwin reading pointed out that satellites are quickly becoming a large part of connectivity around the world, especially in developing countries. Satellites are a good alternative to providing connectivity to rural populations, instead of building a lengthy cable-based infrastructure. However, satellites can also be an expensive option, especially in their development and the subsequent launching. Despite this, there are major benefits of using satellite technology: reception is possible with a small antennae, connection can be established almost instantaneously (without wires), consumer equipment is generally inexpensive, and Internet, tv and radio can all be provided through satellite (Unwin, 97).

In conjunction with Unwin’s points, this article outlines the reasons, and problems, faced by developing nations who are becoming increasingly involved with satellite technology. The main focus of these countries is to rely less on externally collected data and build up their own individual capacities. These countries are “seeking more control over remote-sensing data to map and forecast disasters, monitor crop yields and track environmentally driven diseases such as malaria,” among many other things. This article points out how, in recent decades, companies and universities began attempting to make satellites cheaper and smaller (around 10-30,000 dollars). Today, the main company located in England, has offered training to countries such as Nigeria and Algeria. They educate the engineers from the developing countries who, in turn, return home and educate more people. For example, since the training, South Korea has created its own satellite program and now teaches other developing countries in the region. Innovations such as the “cheap” satellite, and the training offered in England, will help build up the human capacity as well as the technical capacity of these developing nations.

The article also points out that countries adopting satellite technologies will face many technical and social debates. For example, they will decide what they would like to measure which will dictate what kind of technology they will need to develop. Additionally, these countries may choose to partner with neighboring regions or developed countries in order to receive training or share knowledge.

I believe that satellites are the future of ICT technology. As innovations make them increasingly affordable, more people living in rural regions will have access to connectivity. In addition, building the human and technical capacity of a country will allow it to become a player in the global economy. It will also increase interconnectivity between countries and regions, which I personally think helps create a more prosperous and cooperative world.

a satellite in a remote Sudanese region

Open Source & Open Content

The debate about open content and open source software ICTs is mentioned briefly in Chapter 4 of ICT4D: Information and Communication Technology for Development (114-18).  Although the debate between those in favor of open source vs. proprietary software and information sources continue, I think it is important to recognize how much open content has become a take-for-granted part of our culture already.

This article  points out that “it used to be pretty clearly defined whether a vendor or product was open source, but as we’ve seen the largest vendors in the industry — all of them — embrace and integrate with open source software, those lines of definition have bled together.”  The distinction is no longer black-and-white, and it has become nearly impossible to completely oppose open source software and open content material.  The debate may still be a lively one in theory, but it seems that the open source culture has become an unstoppable phenomenon in most people’s everyday lives.

Even children are being taught about open sourcing, a topic that anyone born before the turn of the century probably never hard of or learned about in Elementary school.  There are now animated videos and teaching tools, such as this animated video, to help explain open content sources to children and videos, such as this one, to encourage a positive perception of open sourcing and open content to today’s youth.  While some focus on the issues related to profit, licensing, and privatization, others celebrate this new democratization of information and the wide range of possibilities it opens up, especially for poor and marginalized populations.

The textbook, ICT4D: Information and Communication Technology for Development, explains that “at the heart of this debate is the way in which we conceptualize the value of knowledge, and whether it is something that should be individually or communally ‘owned'” (114).  Although this debate may continue to exist in theory, I believe the global community has already made up its mind.  Now that knowledge is becoming more accessible and available for free, it will be very difficult to find mass support for taking steps backwards towards a more exclusive, privatized conception of knowledge.