Lessons Learned

I feel that there are many lessons to be learned in ICT4D both through practice and innovation that comes naturally with time. ICT4D by nature is a field that is always changing but I feel that there are some salient lessons that are realtively constant.

1). Make sure that the  goal of your project aligns the needs of the people who will be effected by it and that they want it. It is crucial to a project that the community wants it, can use it, and that they have the infrastructure to maintain it. No matter how great an idea is a community will not adopt or maintain a project if they do not agree to it, it strains them, or they do not have the correct skills.

2). Pilots are important. Another factors that can greatly impede a project is if the actual hardware is faulty or does not work according to plan. This links with my previous point that if someone cannot use something since it strains them they will not. This could be if something is hard to charge, breaks easily, or is not viable for the environment of the community.

3). ICT4D is important as is innovation but sometimes simpler is better. User interface issues are pretty prevalent and so easy to prevent. Many times it is easy to forget that not everyone is as comfortable with technology both physically and culturally as we are in developed nations. Having simpler ICT’s can sometimes be not only cheaper but also more effective (like the radio!)

All these lessons are very much linked together and reflect on the core nature of ICT4D and development…it is for the people and they should be the primary thought. An example that incorporates these three lessons is the XO laptops. This project failed (in my opinion and many others) even though it had a great core idea. The company did not pilot it nerarly enough, they did not manufature it well so it strained the users, and it was slightly complciated to the extent that it took our class 5-10 minutes to even pry one open!

After taking this class I learned many things but something that stood out to be was the way one can use different lenses to look at different situation and problems. Many problems do not have one sole root and can be seen impeded by cultural, social, economic, and political differences. During the country case studies I studied South Africa and I feel that this country is a great example of this thought. South Africa is a dynmaic country full of potential that is special in a sense since its extremes. Some cities like Cape Town are very technology savvy and other more rural parts are extremely not. This also showed me that things like language differences and cultural practices can be a big issue for ICT4D. Many communities and groups have specific customs and could see  some techniques and technologies as insulting or opposing to them.

I feel that a really useful framework that we have talked about in class that can be used to think about and implement ICT4D is the HCD process. This also circles back to my lessons as “hear, create, deliver” simplifies the core idea. Organizations must make sure they know what the community or people want, create it and do it well, then deliver it and make sure that it is sustainable. This is a great framework and could loosely fit with most organizations and projects as long as the steps are done properly.

All in all ICT4D (the class) was quite interesting and I learned a lot about a sector that I too feel is the future of development. It would have been cool though to learn more about cyber security and how developing nations are transitioning into developed nations in relation to technology and the growing cyber sphere. I wonder how governments can control the cyber sphere while trying to keep the economic and social sphere stable.This is a question I feel our class and other classes would have enjoyed finding the answer.



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