Lessons Learned in ICT4D

I have always heard of IT as an abstract concept, something that I believed was reserved for people who had extensive knowledge of computers or circuit boards. Through learning about ICT in the development context, I realized that it is so much broader and more relevant than what I had originally believed. I now am under the impression that ICT4D is one of the most important concepts in developing countries as it can tackle problems in every sector. The ability of ICTs to connect people is especially important as it allows for a greater network of learning and understanding between countries and between people. Especially important as well is the idea of e-governance, as it has the potential to increase transparency, reduce corruption and increase dialogue between citizens and government.

One of the most salient take aways in looking at case studies especially, in addition to reading the Human Centered Design (HCD) framework is the fact that citizen and local input is one of the most important aspect to the successful conjunction of ICTs and populations in the developing world. In looking at what worked throughout the semester, such as farm radio and the cell phone use by fisherman in India, it is clear that it must come in part from pre-existing infrastructure and what is already easily accessible to the people. Farm Radio International was effective because of the prevalence of radios in the areas, which they utilized to their advantage.

I believe that instead of throwing ICTs at the people, there must be at least a dialogue to understand how to best use pre-existing infrastructure to their advantage, in addition to creating dialogues to understand what they need most. As opposed to project implementation such as One Laptop Per Child (OLPC), I think a lesson learnt is that to use ICT4D effectively, it must be implemented using design strategies that consider pre-existing conditions. Merely giving people ICTs and then backing off may be one of the greatest flaws in projects. Using local knowledge could be of the greatest asset. If rural areas hardly have electricity connectivity, how can we attempt to implement Internet? I believe patience may be a virtue, and teaching people how to use the tools they already have access to instead of introducing entirely knew and foreign technology is what ICT4D project should be about.

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