Taking Information and Communication Technology for Development this semester has made me realize how little I knew about ICT4D going into the class. Obviously technology is completely changing development, as it is changing all other aspects of life. Yet surprisingly, I hardly looked into this field of development before this class in either my international development or my public health courses. I think it is a really valuable course, but I’m surprised this topic is barely even mentioned in my other classes as it is such an integral part of development.
It has been most valuable for me to learn about different eHealth services, which fall right in the intersection of my two areas of study. ICT technologies have already completely changed the medical world, especially with digital health records and online information sharing. Many of the most successful ICT4D projects are related to eHealth. In fact, the Clint Rogers video that I posted earlier in the year eHealth Service Improvements as one of the five greatest opportunities within ICT4D. There is so much potential in eHealth and I think this will only keep improving health care and health information accessibility in both the developing and the developed world.
The other most valuable realization I have come to this semester is that we need to change the way we think about failure in ICT4D. We have spent so much time talking about best and worst, practice in ICT development projects. We spent so much time discussing why such a huge proportions of ICT4D projects fail to some degree. But in order to put this information to use, we need to find a better way for ICT projects to be able to acknowledge their failures without losing support so they can come up with effective solutions. We like to talk about ICT4D projects as “successes” or “failures”, but in practice it is not that black and white. Most projects have some successful or positive elements but failed because not every part of the project was perfect. For example, One Laptop Per Child successfully found a way to make incredibly low cost laptops. However, they failed at making them user-friendly and didn’t provide a framework to educate the recipients on how to use the laptops. Not everything about the project was a failure, and I don’t think the project should be completely abandoned. The model needs to be adjusted, not thrown out. In ICT4D, and in development in general, we need to support effective and transparent monitoring and evaluations with an open and honest acknowledgement of failure if we want to see real change.