Daily Archives: 18 October 2012

ICT4E in Zimbabwe

About OLPC that we discussed today: When I check the wiki on OLPC, I find that the penetration of information technology channel in Zimbabwe is still lacking because of the current financial difficulties in the country, so the project of OLPC remains to be communicated with the new minister of telecoms and science and technology

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Even though economic, social and political turmoil in Zimbabwe has a debilitating effect on its already declining education system, Zimbabwe national ICT policy does make significant references to the promotion of ICTs in education including pedagogical use in educational institutions.

Zimbabwe has a vibrant civil society sector that promotes ICT for development and education as well. For example, organisations such as World Links Zimbabwe has played a pioneering role since the late 1990s. Its mission is ‘to improve educational and employment opportunities for youths and teachers through the use of information and communication technology.’

One of the projects that draws my attention is Teacher Professional Development (TPD). It empowers teachers to use ICTs as a tool for better teaching and learning. They train a national team of master trainers who will be able to provide training to theory counterparts around the broad theme of using ICTs to enhance teaching and learning at all levels. Continual training will assist to achieve their capacity-building goal, one of the policy recommendations for ICT implementation. The program includes the Strategic Literacy Initiative (SLI) and Quality Teaching for English Learners (QTEL), comprehensively addresses teacher learning, from preservice through teacher leadership in grades 2-14.

Unlike OLPC, this project focus more on the human factor to education. Its continual training enables the sustainability.

Check out this link, and this link for further information.

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Chile: Donated Reused Computers for Isolated Indigenous Communities

Click here to go to article about organization that started a computer donation program to aid isolated indigenous communities in Chile.

After the 2010 earthquake in Chile in the Alto Bíobío region in the southern Andes found themselves disconnected from the national communication network unable to send and receive reports on the regions status after the major disaster. This article discusses this challenge along with the many other challenges faced by a Mapuche indigenous community in Southern Chile because of a lack of connection to communication methods. Having traveled extensively in Chile, and having studied with the Mapuche communities in the south of the country, I definitely agree that many of these communities are at a disadvantage to much of the rest of the country in terms of technology access, a digital divide. The article states that while the region has internet connection ability (they are connected) there are no points of access for the common person, people typically do not have internet in their houses, there are no internet cafes, and only a very small number of institutions have access points.

The InterConnection organization is a US based non-profit that provides points of access to the internet and has provided recycled computers to the Alto Biobio region in Chile. Similar to One Laptop Per Chile organization (OLPC) which is a nonprofit that constructs new computers to sell to developing countries, the InterConnection organization aims to provide computer technology to underserved regions. However, InterConnection uses donations of people’s old computers to serve their target communities. In Alto BioBio they donated computers to several schools and a fire station.

I really like the InterConnection model versus the OLPC model. The technology they are providing can be applied in various settings, not only primary schools. The communities being aided also are not responsible for buying computers, as in OLPC, which lowers the financial burden. The organization also states that they provide high-quality refurbished computers, so the ones being delivered worked well. I believe this InterConnection represents a flexible and sustainable way to bring computer technology to underserved regions.


Can a Magic Laptop Solve Education Problems for the Poor?

We have gleaned from Warschauer and Ames’s work- Can One Laptop per Child Save the World’s poor? the complexity of such initiatives. “It is not the computer that brings benefit, “but rather the social and technical support that surrounds the computer that makes the difference.” (44)

The OLPC deployments that simply tried to hand out laptops have failed because they ignored local contexts and discounted the importance of curriculum and ongoing social, as well as technical support and training. This seems to reflect a larger pattern in technology and development, in which new technologies generate excitement and optimism to be eventually deconstructed by disappointing realities.

The OPLC computers were offered as a type of prescription to developing communities, while not all of the symptoms had been adequately assessed. Mark Warschauer and Morgan Ames remind us “the effort to improve education around the world through better use of digital media is a long term one that is still at an early stage” (47). It is important to focus on the past project failures in order to better the deployment of similar initiatives.

But where do we go from here? Technology must be content-appropriate, coincide with socio-culture norms, be integrated with the community, provide services that will fit needs, and take into account other components like transportation, and continue to incentivize stakeholder participation.

In lieu of the educational potential of ICT4D projects, I would like to share the work of Rob Van Son, The Question is not Whether, but how ICT can be Useful in Education.

Son guides us through the aims of educational spending and further considers much of the criticisms encountered in Warschauer and Ames’s work. One section of Son’s work, which focused on targeting teacher productivity addresses the use of ICTs in terms of the potential for information distribution in general. We must consider how information is distributed, and in what context. Son also asks, can ICT4E actually work in the developing world?

“Critics of investments in ICT4E can point to monumental failures in introducing technology to aid in development. In each individual case, the reasons for failure are complex and intricate. Generalizing, even over-generalizing, it can be said that all the really hard problems of humanity have at their root social problems. Economic, agricultural, industrial, and technological solutions are all only effective if they are also able to solve some of these social problems. The problems of under-development and failing education are not different” -Rob Van Son

Technology, like any other proposed solution will only work if it is seen as integral to the social structure.

But we are also left to consider a critical idea–when it comes to education, can anything replace human relationships, culture, and context?


Mobile Phone Initiative in Pakistan for Women

In 2010 the Bunyad Foundation, UNESCO and Mobilink Pakistan joined together to laungh a mobile phone program in Paksitan, described here. The project aimed to narrow gender divides in the country by increasing young women’s literacy and ICT competence through non-formal learning. Initially, the project targeted 250 young women who had just finished a basic literacy program providing each with a mobile phone and prepaid connection. After completing a class on how to use mobile phones by Bunyad Foundation employees, the women were texted multiple times a day  in Urdu with interesting and informative information on health and nutrition, religion, economics and more. The women were expected to respond to these texts and were graded on their replies. Results showed striking early gains in literacy, the share of girls that received the lowest scores dropping nearly 80%.

The project encountered resistance from families and communities, but resistance began to soften as people began to see the benefits of the program. Parents could now take advantage of the new knowledge gains of their daughters, use the mobile’s calculator and came to appreciate the increased security a mobile phone brings a young woman. Though 56% of the learners and their families initially had negative feelings towards the program, by its conclusion 80% approved.

Because of its wide successes the Bunyad Foundation, UNESCO and Mobilink plan to expand the program further. The program illustrates how an ICT as simple as mobile phones can be used to effectively carry out a basic education program and overcome societal notions of women’s restricted access to ICTs. In the words of Rashid Khan, President and CEO of Mobilink, “The cell phone holds the key to social development by its very nature and we want to make sure that women are part of this revolution.”

Check out this video!


mHealth Initiative to Combat Noncommunicable Diseases

Plan to save lives and reduce costs agreed at ITU Telecom World 2012

“Of the 57 million deaths globally, NCDs contribute to an estimated 36 million deaths every year, including 14 million people dying between the ages of 30 and 70.” This is extremely sad that there are such large statistics concerning deaths due to NCDs. These are preventable diseases! The burden of non-communicable disease is now greater than the burden of communicable diseases across all income groups. People are living longer and their lifestyles create a higher probability of developing chronic, degenerative diseases. People can control the risk factors for non-communicable diseases, but yet heart disease, neoplasm, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension, myocardial infarction, and cancers still are the top killers in the US and other countries. Despite affecting so many people, some non-communicable diseases can be prevented or controlled at relatively low cost, such as type II diabetes. Major risk factors for many non-communicable diseases are tobacco use, diet, physical activity, and environmental exposures. If these risks factors can be reduced, the percentage of people developing non-communicable diseases will decrease.

Utilizing mobile phones to save lives, reduce illness and disability, and reduce healthcare costs significantly would be very innovative of ICTs. In addition, the idea that this mHealth initiative is building on current projects and existing health systems and platforms, and will involve partnerships between governments, NGOs, and the private sector is perfect for sustainability and working with what is available rather than trying to do something completely new. Similar to the Txt4Health campaigns, this larger scale initiative will most likely bring positive impact. Perhaps with this new m-Health initiative by the ITU and WHO, we can find ways to reduce the rate of non-communicable disease not just in developing countries but also developed countries like the US.