The Importance of Incorporating Local Knowledge

This ICT4D course has opened my eyes to many aspects of development that I was not previously aware of. What I found the most interesting was the ways in which the technology I use everyday (and take for granted) can impact, for example, how a woman in rural Kenya locates clean water. Throughout this course, I have noticed one overarching trend – the importance of incorporating local knowledge. Any and all successful projects myself or the class have looked into, all had used pre-existing social networks or ways of communicating and simply adapted a technology to make this more productive. This also makes implementation significantly easier. By expanding on local knowledge, it will cut back on the amount of time needed to train the population to use new technologies. For example, in Argentina there was a system of handheld computers developed to help farmers better track their cattle. This did not require the project implementers to teach local farmers how to track cattle, just to do it in a more efficient way.

In conjunction with capitalizing on local knowledge was the concept of a bottom-up approach. It was something I had never really considered in-depth, but various readings in class opened my eyes to the common assumption that all rural peoples in developing countries only wanted technology to show them where to find food, water, etc. This condescending belief also tied into how technology and information was disseminated into a population. Using means such as the TV and radio, non-participatory and one-sided, for information broadcasting was not usually the best approach. Developing a method in which the content was adapted through local channels, and allowed for the more open discussion, adaption, and feedback created the more sustainable and well-recieved projects. The knowledge I have gained from this course will undoubtedly help me in my future career in development.

Overall, I found the class to be a great overview of ICT4D. I had never heard of a majority of the new technologies that were being employed in the development sector (web mapping, Text4Health, just to name a few). For future classes, I think more focus on the sectors would be beneficial. They encompass a majority of ICT4D aspects, problems, and have myriad relevant case studies. Also additional emphasis on case studies would be helpful because, personally, I don’t think there’s a better way to fully understand how ICT4D impacts (or fails to impact) various development challenges then to see them in action.


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