Development practitioners and policymakers must realize that ICT is a tool, not an goal in and of itself. Access to the most up to date technology and the latest communication innovation does not necessarily translate into tangible development if it is not distributed in an appropriate manner. This class’s focus on synchronizing the needs of the target population with the appropriate technology is one of its strongest features. People’s conception of how technology is/can be used in their daily lives varies significantly. Age, gender, geographic location, peer group, work environment, etc are among the many factors that allow one to conceive a use for technology. The fact that this class was able to address so many different “types” of tech users was very useful. Additionally, the fact that so many sectors were mentioned and studied was greatly beneficial. It was inspiring to see how technology is used in different fields- from security to farming to disaster relief. A snapshot of each sector broadened my outlook regarding post-undergraduate possibilities and options. I can foresee using the what I’ve learned about GIS and open source mapping in the future- before our sessions on disaster relief and humanitarian aid I had not considered the extreme usefulness of crowdsourcing.
Taking into account that IDEV 4100 is part of the core requirements for the international development coordinate major, it is understandable that the curriculum focuses solely on developing countries. That being said, I think it would be interesting to investigate the ICT policies and programs of wealthier countries, (such as the United States, Portugal, Sweden, Germany…) especially those that focus on low-income socioeconomic groups. I think technology is a tool that can be used (and already has been used) to reduce inequality, or the digital divide if you will, in developed countries.
If you take anything from our ICT4D class, take away the common problems in ICT4D, and how to turn them to your advantage. One that stood out to me, most likely because it was in a Zimbabwe case study, was the solution to the “first mile”– to find alternative channels to reach your target population. Another salient lesson for those working in ICT4D, is to harness the local knowledge and make sure there is a shared ownership in whatever program you are implementing. And thirdly, make sure that if you upset the status quo, then consult with the community so they can create their own solutions.
Personally, I’ve learned a lot about top-down, one-size-fits-all development projects: what they look like, how to spot them, and when to switch to a better fit for my own program implementation. The ability to crowd source and build on existing technology are also helpful resources for a development professional. I cannot chose one most useful theoretical concept, but I’ve narrowed it down to two. One, the concept of leapfroggings is key to any ICT program being created for a developing country. Its simple and should be obvious, but sometimes it takes development professional to see it. Two, the concept of individual versus communal, for example a cell phone v pay phone or personal internet browser v FM radio. These concepts interrelate in that they both deal with how technology is used, whether it be influenced individually, communally, or competitively. In conclusion, an additional topic that could be explored in future semesters is: ICT4$ — the new movement, a push for private business models and entrepreneurship, instead of ICT4D non-profits.
Now, in reflecting on this entire course I see that most of the same principles that apply to the development projects we know and love also apply to information and communication specific development projects. In one of our last Info Tech classes as I sat and listened to everyone’s opinion on what works and what doesn’t within ICT4D, I noted that a large majority of each list would apply to any development project. There were only a few that would only apply to something related to technology. For example, the weakness of not taking the problem of charging into account. So, even though this lesson could apply for many types of development projects, the most useful concept I will take away for implementation of ICT4D is working with the existing strengths of the country. The way this is most specifically important for ICT4D, opposed to just a good lesson overall, is that one of the biggest issues with technology is that it is so new (and not necessarily a necessity, like say, water) that the implementation of it requires trust. Working within the resources of the country helps to reduce that lack of trust.
The leading lessons to be learned in ICT4D are involving girls, focusing on the development goal first and then the technology tool, and educating the population on how to use the tool along with repair. The first point “involving girls” was made clear to me when we heard from a woman actually in the field, Keshet Bachan. She connected what I already knew about the power of girls in education with the efficacy of inserting technology into that equation. Focusing on the goal before the tool has a lot to do with what I find most useful from this course. Many case studies showed that it is irrelevant to implement a technology tool if there is no clear reason for which it is going to help. Finally, education the population is important in all things, but especially the repair aspect for technology because there are such specific instructions. Aside from all of this, one of the most interesting things I have learned personally is the importance of developing tools in the language where you desire to implement them. This seems like an obvious thing but after learning about several projects I saw that it is often disregarded. Not only is it disrespectful to the culture but also clearly it renders the project ineffective in many ways. Overall there are many aspects to consider for an ICT4D project but they are not too far off from the considerations for all development projects.
1. There is no official national ICT policy for Yemen. However, there is a national ICT policy for higher education. The most recent version I could find is from December 2004 and is written in English. The documented was created during a Future Search Conference and was compiled by stakeholders from several Yemeni universities. www.academia.edu/5029849/ICT_Policy_in_Yemen
2. Since there is no national ICT policy, there is no administrative organization directly responsible. However, there is a website for the Yemeni Ministry of Communications and Information Technology. http://mtit.gov.ye/ The website is in Arabic.
3. My case study was on NetHope, an ongoing communication initiative for humanitarian organizations. Their website is full of useful information. http://nethope.org/
5. The lack of an official national ICT strategy posed a lot of difficulties. There is good information about access to technology and related statistics, but information about government involvement is difficult to come by.
I think the most important lessons to be learned in ICT have to do with monitoring and evaluation, and the willingness to admit failure and be flexible in project planning.
Personally, I have learned the value of listening to the community, and using relevant participants instead of ideas form the funders or implementers of the project. It’s so much more important to listen to what the community wants and needs than to just go in and implement your own idea of how to fix a problem. Community involvement and constant research and needs assessments are so important to evaluating the success of projects and being able to modify them to become successful. Also, redefining what success means within ICTs is important- it should be more about the value of the qualitative results than just the numbers and figures on paper.
The most useful concept we’ve looked at in my opinion has to be crowdsourcing, and the idea of using everyone’s knowledge combined together to create a solution to a problem. If people looked more at all the available resources out there to work with ICT4D instead of just what’s trending or popular, there could be much more effectively combined efforts to solve problems and implement projects. I think an additional topic that would be great to learn about more in this course would be how to create successful and effective monitoring and evaluation systems using the technologies we’ve discussed, and how they can be integrated in technology projects.
3. The case study I examined was that of a project called eLimu, who delivered tablets and educational software to schools in Kenya in 2012. http://e-limu.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=27&Itemid=51
4. External Resources
5. It was relatively easy to find quantitative data on Kenya’s ICT usage, because there is a lot of statistical data available, however this does not give an extremely accurate picture of what the average Kenyan’s ICT usage looks like. More reports and case studies would be helpful, although the data available is a good start.