Before taking this course, I always had marveled at how fast technology has developed and how dramatically it has changed so many lives but I have always felt intimidated by actually using it. I’ve also never been a huge fan of social media. I use Facebook regularly to stay in touch with friends and keep up with different events but often feel resentful towards it because it allows me to waste so much time and I have to filter through so much over sharing to just to keep up with my close friends. I also thought that twitter was also just another way for people to over share and I never had any interest in using it. However, now I realize that ICT4D is actually quite access able to non-tech people and that social media has a much broader and more significant role in development than I previously thought.
I think that learning about the digital divide and understanding the difference between rates of access and use are some of the most important concepts learned because they apply directly to international development field work. As we’ve seen from readings, especially from looking at OLPC case studies, bringing technology to people is easy but overcoming the digital divide and ensuring that people are actually making use of the technology is the hard part. There are so many systemic reasons, including lack of education, language, distrust of outsiders, and lack of infrastructure, that can impede the success of an ICT4D initiative. Therefore, another major lesson that I learned, is that ICTs are closely interconnected to all of the other aspects of development that had already interested me. Going off of this, I think that most important theory and framework that studies was the Human Centered Design Guidebook. This really lays out how to make sure that I project is needs driven and that local community knowledge are involved. It also gives great ideas for working as an effective team and for studying a community in an non-intrusive way.
I also learned that ICT4D projects don’t have to necessarily be fancy or “cutting edge” in order to have a big impact. I especially saw this through our readings and discussion of radio. Living in the US, radio seems like a dying medium of ICT but it has the ability to spread so much information to so many people in the developing world because of its simplicity. I was particularly impressed with the work done by Farm Radio International because they seem to be developing very high quality radio shows that give farmers access to important information about climate change and environmental sustainability. Small rural farmers have the potential to greatly suffer from climate change so I think it is so great that Farm Radio is giving them quality importation that allows them to adapt to changing conditions.
I also really liked learning about GIS and crowdsourced mapping. I had never heard of crowd sourced mapping or Ushahidi before this class think that they are such interesting and useful development tools. I like that crowd sourced maps incorporate local knowledge and have a such a wide range of uses, from disasters to food access to public safety. Understanding the significance of the physical environment through local knowledge of specific places is extremely valuable to any development project.