Daily Archives: 28 November 2012

Cloud Computing: Who Dominates the Field?

Cloud Computing: Who Dominates the Field?

Guest speaker Adam Papendiek spoke about cloud computing as one of the top five emerging trends in the ICT field. Cloud computing is essentially a way to deliver software and hardware without the traditional hassles of installing and maintaining the specified program(s). Cloud computing uses shared resources in a complex infrastructure to deliver IT services at significant fractions of historical costs. Computing power has entered a whole new era of large scale capabilities as witnessed through the various platforms that are capable of connecting billions of people. While cloud computing has made sharing and accessing information easier, it has also made maintaining security harder- an issue that needs to be thoroughly investigated, especially in developing worlds. Cloud computing is broadly divided into three categories: Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS). Check out this diagram to see which companies currently dominate the cloud computing field in their respective categories. Learn more about cloud computing here.


Morozov doesn’t take digital diplomacy at face value: consideration of implications of “internet freedom” for development

This past Tuesday, Adam Papendieck delivered a lecture to our class. By exploring emergent ICT trends influencing development, his presentation helped us to gain an understanding of key trends in ICT which are influencing/disrupting conventional development interactions today. It is essential that we are able to identify these common trends in various development sectors, and think about how they can be harnessed for innovation. A great deal of our discussion in this course has revolved around this goal as well–an I feel as though we are making considerable progress in understanding the multifarious implications of technology and development. While my classmate rwoolworth evaluates “How Social Media Can Make History” in his post for this week, I would like the explore a more critical view expressed by Evgeny Morozov (Adam Papendiek mentioned his name after mentioning that we should all check out Clay Shirky’s TEDtalk). It is valuable to compare the contrasting work of these two individuals.

In his writing, The Net Delusion: The Dark Side of Internet Freedom, journalist and social commentator Evgeny Morozov contends that by falling for the supposedly democratizing nature of the Internet, ‘Western do-gooders’ may have missed how it also entrenches dictators, threatens dissidents, and makes it harder—not easier—to promote democracy. He assesses “digital diplomacy,” and thats that it requires just as much consideration as any other kind of diplomacy. I think it is worth considering this alternate view. According to  Morozov shows why we must stop thinking of the Internet and social media as inherently liberating and why ambitious and seemingly noble initiatives like the promotion of “Internet freedom” might have disastrous implications for the future of democracy as a whole.

Lee Siegel does an excellent review of Morozov’s work. Her work, Twitter Can’t Save You, touches on Morozov’s main arguments pertaining to the Internet’s political ramifications.

“What if the liberating potential of the Internet also contains the seeds of depoliticization and thus dedemocratization?”

This question is worth our consideration. The internet has become inextricable from democracy. So how can it be harnessed in a productive way?

Another point to consider: both Twitter and Facebook have refused to join the Global Network Initiative, a pact that Morozov describes as “an industrywide pledge . . . to behave in accordance with the laws and standards covering the right to freedom of expression and privacy embedded in internationally recognized documents like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.” (Morozov in Lee 2012).

Adam Papendieck’s Recommendation of Clay Shirky’s Institutions vs. Collaboration

In class yesterday, guest speaker Adam Papendieck of The Payson Center for International Development spoke of developments in internet and data technology. He spoke of the diffusion of internet, the leapfrog effect, and smartphones, with an emphasis on education and health initiatives in East Africa, where he works. In one of his slides, Adam brought a TED talk video to our attention. Here it is!

The 2005 video is 20 minutes long but worth the watch. The speaker, Clay Shirky, shows us how companies and closed groups will give way to looser networks where small contributors have big roles and fluid cooperation replaces rigid planning. He is a professor at NYU for the graduate Interactive Telecommunications Program and an author who is an expert in networks, peer-to-peer sharing, wireless and open-source development. He is a believer that when ways of media change the sorts of arguments we can have change. How does what Clay Shirky relate to what our guest speaker discussed? How does it tie in with our class?

Adam Papendieck and Ushahidi


Adam Papendieck spoke to our class on Tuesday about the latest developments in Internet and data technology: cloud computing, think clients, semantic web, open data, and of course LOLCats. His main interest is crowdsourcing and spoke about his experience working with Ushahidi. Like many students in our class, Adam’s background is in public health. He received his MPH from Tulane and is now the current Sr. Program Manager for Technology at the Payson Center for International Development and Tulane University.

Projects he has worked on:
• Creating of a web mapping application for the World Vision US corporate information portal
• Design and implementation of open source thin client computer labs in Rwanda
• Creation of e-learning platforms at African institutions of higher education
• Various crisis mapping initiatives and disaster analytics activities for the Gulf Oil Spill, Hurricane Katrina, and other events

Ushahidi was one of the projects Adam mentioned that I knew nothing about. After looking around on their website I learned a little bit more about it.
Ushahidi is a non-profit tech company that specialized in developing free and open source software for information collection, visualization and interactive mapping. “Ushahidi” means “testimony” in Swahili, and was originally developed to map reports of violence in Lenya after the post-election follow up in 2008. Ushahidi now has 45,000 users to map incidents of violence and peace efforts throughout the country.

Data Mining: Efficiency on the Over-Crowded Internet

This week we discussed with our guest speaker, Adam Papendieck, some of the new frontiers in ICT and important innovations to improve technology. One topic that I had not heard about before was Data Mining. Data Mining is the process of using technology such as computers to sift through the trillions of data sets to pick out actual important and useful information.

In today’s age there is so much raw data being stored in databases every day that clogs up usable space and makes gathering information a challenge. For businesses, research organizations, and customers it is an extremely useful task to organize and limit what is stored. One frightening example of the amount of online data piling up is “databases are now measured in gigabytes and terabytes. (One terabyte = one trillion bytes. A terabyte is equivalent to about 2 million books!)”(Data Mining, Alexander).



Data mining is useful for industries from retail to healthcare, but can also help for ICT4D. It looks for patterns and trends in more data than is humanly possible to study. This can locate root problems, potential areas of famine, disaster relief needs and assistance. Papendieck showed how Ushahidi has used data mining and crowd sourcing to pinpoint disaster results. The long term possibilities for data mining are incredible, and as our world becomes increasingly reliant on digital information and data it will lead to an even greater need for data mining. Obviously privacy concerns will need to be taken into account, but this truly is a great use of technology.

Information from Data Mining by Doug Alexander

and Class presentation by Adam Papendieck

Cloud Computing in ICT4D: Vietnam

         In class this week, we discussed cloud computing as one of the top emerging trends in Information and Communication Technology today. Broadly, Cloud Technology is using computer resources that are delivered over a network, without needing the necessary hardware or software making it a great option in developing countries. I was interested in looking at how this was specifically applied in developing countries and came across this blog describing a pilot project in Vietnam. This project was developed to help sugar cane farmers communicate with factories about deliveries and payment. Due to the sensitivity of time between the time the sugarcane is harvested and when it is received at the factory, it is crucial for farmers to communicate with the factory to discuss pick up times and amount of cane needed. Previously, farmers were attempting to call the factories and had trouble with their calls going through or not getting the information in a timely manner. Cloud computing allows the farmers to receive a response in 1-2 minutes. By beginning their texts with a keyword such as NATL, the SMS messages are routed appropriately and can be responded to with the requested information. The diagram below details the exact mechanism of the message response and delivery.

          Fred Chong, the author of the blog and one of the main computers on the project identifies SMS messaging as being critical to the success of a project like this in developing areas due to the remaining spottiness of service making phone calls difficult, low costs of sending SMS, the large availability of cellular network infrastructure in rural areas, long mobile battery life as opposed to computers, and suitability for rugged, roaming lifestyles of farmers. This program has led to higher quality sugar cane and greater profits for these Vietnamese Farmers. Chong looks forward to a bright future in this work and calls it “one of the most fulfilled computing project I’ve ever done”. Check out the video in the blog for more information and to hear from the farmers themselves!


Water for People

Access to clean, safe drinking water is a basic human right – one that still presents a challenge for developing countries. Water for People has found an ICT solution to making sure governments have the correct information and resources to supply safe drinking water. $80 handheld computers allow “organizations an integrated way to collect, analyze and report monitoring data regarding the condition of water and sanitation projects.” The handheld device software allows for data collection through GPS and cameras, and visual mapping software through Google Maps/Earth. Currently it is used mostly to track locations and conditions of water pumps.

Here’s an example of the what the dashboard looks like when viewing the Southern end of Malawi.


So far, the Water for People technology is being used in over 17 countries including Nepal, Uganda, and Peru. I think because this program is so universally applicable it will be very succesful. It was only started in 2010, and it already widely used.The fact that the handheld only costs $80 is a very affordable for a government’s budget. The software is also easy to use and is straight forward. This project will be sustainable because there is a universal need for access to clean water. The only potential drawback would be that the handheld needs proper cell phone signal to function, which might not always be available.

Water for People