Next month Catholic Relief Services’ 6th Annual ICT4D Conferencewill take place in Nairobi, Kenya. Through exhibitions, presentations, workshops, and open discussion sessions the conference aims to “provide an opportunity to listen, discuss and test innovative technology solutions with practitioners and providers who are using ICT to build the resilience of communities across Africa, Latin America and Asia”. Over and over again our textbooks and readings remind us of the importance of communication and information sharing in the Digital Age. With the plethora of technologies available now, conferences such as this one can help hone in the discussion to truly relevant issues and encourage collaboration amongst attendees. The conference explicitly reaches out to individuals, institutions, and corporations that seek to “enhance the quality and accountability of development and relief programs”. This sentence in and of itself signals an important shift in recent development strategy outlined in Richard Heek’s ICT4D Manifesto: “ICT4D 2.0” should focus more on improving the use of existing technology and measuring its effectiveness.
All past conferences, apart from the first, have been hosted by African cities (the exception being Washington DC). This signals the importance of an emerging digital market in the continent. Although Africa consistently ranks lowest on ICT indicators in terms of access, quality, frequency, and availability of various technologies it is in fact one of the fastest growing markets: “Africa is the region with the highest growth rates over the past three years and mobile-broadband penetration has increased from 2% in 2010 to 11% in 2013.” (International Telecommunications Union ICT Facts and Figures). This being the case, perhaps the conference should seek to attract actual users as opposed to solely focusing on institutional participants. Providing an opportunity for such individuals to voice their opinions and experiences could offer valuable input to the ICT4D movement as a whole. Currently the conference only offers one type of registration fee- $275 for general admission. Perhaps by offering various types of tickets the conference could attract a wider variety of participants.