Author Archives: ahamilton92

Guatemala National ICT Resources

Plan Nacional de Ciencia, Tecnología y Innovación 2004-2015 (Guatemala’s National ICT Policy)
Document last updated in 2005 by the Guatemalan National Secretary of Science and Technology
Written in Spanish

Guatemalan Department of Science and Technology website
Written in Spanish

Other Non-Governmental Resources

Guatemala ICT Report by Harvard University
Echeverria, L., & Lopes, M. (2002)

Official report by the Enlace Quiché Project
(A language-education ICT initiative)
Enlace (2012)

Additional information on the Enlace Quiché Project
Academy for Educational Development (2001)

Information on the TulaSalud m-health program
Bhavsar, M. (2011, Mar. 9)

Luckily, Guatemala was included in the WEF report and the ITU report. It was not included in the EIU index, however. USAID and several other international aid organizations are doing a lot of work in Guatemala, so there was a plethora of resources. The national ICT plan was written in Spanish, however, so I would not recommend picking Guatemala without a basic knowledge of the language.

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ICT4D Key Lessons

One of the most important lessons that can be learned from past ICT4D projects is the importance of understanding your target population. No one understands the needs of a population better than the population itself. Therefore, it is very important to speak with people about their specific situation before designing an intervention. Many ICT4D project developers have had great ideas, but these ideas do not always translate into reality. Building a telecenter in the middle of a small village may sound like a helpful solution, but if villagers don’t understand how the technology can be applicable to their daily lives, it will be worthless. An example of an ICT4D project that did not keep the needs of the recipients in mind was the One Laptop per Child initiative. Although it would be nice for every child to own a laptop, there are other technologies that could better serve their needs. In order for projects to be successful, the local community must participate. If they do not feel ownership for the project, the benefit will disappear when the funding goes away. If project developers understand the social structures and values of a population, they can use this to their advantage to increase their impact.

Another important thing to keep in mind with ICT4D projects is the gap between how a project is intended to work and how it works in reality. There are many factors that developers do not consider. For example, the ICT4D community thought that personal solar panels would be an excellent solution for people without access to electricity to charge their phones. What they did not realize was that solar panels would be stolen if left outside, unattended. Another ICT idea, using the rotation of bike wheels to charge phones, cannot be practically applied in much of the developed world. The bike chargers require long stretches of paved road in order to work effectively. Many ICT developers have attempted to create educational games and other applications for phones.  These games are rarely used, however, because people do not want to waste their phone’s charge. ICT4D interventions should always be planned with the end user in mind.

 


The Internet: a stepping stone, not a solution.

Today’s class speaker mentioned a TED talk given by Evgeny Morozov on the potential of the internet and social media to be used to empower dictatorships. After watching the video, I believe Morozov is not necessarily saying that internet connectivity is bad, but that we must realize that internet access does not mean people will use that access to fight for democracy and social justice. Regimes have learned that if they try to sensor online communication, their problem will only get worse. Instead, they have begun to hire bloggers to spin content on the internet to their favor–a concept Morozov calls “Spinternet.” Morozov also pointed out that the internet allows regimes to better sense the mood of their populations and stamp out potential threats. The internet, just like print media, can be used for harm and for good. This does not mean that it is any less important. The internet is a useful tool that can be used to create social change. A tool, however, is nothing without people willing to use it in the right way. Click here to see Evgeny Morozov’s talk.


Cyber Security and Civil Liberties

With large amounts of information flowing on the internet, there is an increased security risk. When everything from banking to personal communication is now done online, there needs to be some kind of protocol in place to protect this information. Unfortunately, this is easier said than done. As firewalls get better and better, hackers find new ways to access personal information. Important questions also arise about how the government should be allowed to access citizen information. Although new technologies may make it easier for the government to catch criminals,this should not be done at the expense of privacy. The American Civil Liberties Union created a “blog of rights” where people can post information on important cyber security legislation and opinions. Some of the most alarming pieces of legislation allow police to locate suspects using cell phone signals, without a warrant. To find more information on cyber laws, click here to view the blog.


Does social media really cause political change?

In a 2010 New Yorker article, Malcolm Gladwell argued that social media does not strongly influence social change. He argues that true social activism requires strong social ties to a cause and to others fighting for that cause. Without these ties, no one will take the necessary risks. Social media, however, encourages weak ties. It allows us to be a part of a cause without actually doing anything. Therefore, it does not create social change and may actually distract from real movements.

In response to this article, the New York Times posted an online forum for discussion. Six experts weigh in on Gladwell’s assertions. Click here to read their arguments.

Some of the main points they discussed were:

  • Movements not only need serious risk takers, they also need a large group of people sympathetic to the movement.
  • It is harder for oppressive regimes to staunch online communication than the mass media.
  • The internet provides new tools to inform, persuade, and communicate.
  • Every demonstration can have a global audience. There is no mass media filter.
  • The internet does for movements now what TV did for the civil rights movement. Without images of marches and police brutality, far fewer people would support the civil rights cause.
  • One potential problem with virtual activism is that it may take the place of conventional activism which is far more involved and effective.

Class Reading: Mobile Phone Use in Rural Africa

This week, the class was assigned to read various articles on mobile phone use, including a study by Wyche and Murphy on the obstacles to cell phone usage in rural Kenya. Some of the main obstacles they found were:

  • Traveling long distances to reach battery charge stations. This took up time and money.
  • Knock-off batteries made in China could not store charge for long periods of time.
  • Original batteries were often stolen from charging stations.
  • Universal chargers ruined batteries because they used intermittent levels of voltage.
  • Solar panels were not durable enough for rural conditions and lacked proper connectors for charging certain mobile phones.
  • Most rural phone users had “dumb” phones, which have significantly fewer programs and capabilities than smart phones
  • Phones were used twice as long on average than phone are used in the US. This lead to wear and tear on the phones.
  • Difficulties involved with battery life and charging changed the way rural Kenyans were using their phones. They turned them off at night and did not play games or use calculator and clock functions in order to save battery.

This article is an example of several of the themes we have discussed in class. Lack of infrastructure, corruption (stolen phone batteries), and poverty all impact how ICTs are used in the developing world. This article provides another example of why needs assessment and evaluation of projects is critical in ICT4D


Text4Health Global Problems

This PBS article discusses the challenges involved with text messaging programs designed to spread health information in developing countries. Many of the problems discussed are issues that we have brought up in class.

Some of the problems include:

  • The difficulty of charging cell phones in isolated areas.
  • Is the information provided relavent and useful?
  • Will people follow the advice given in text messages?
  • How will cultural differences across countries affect how people respond to the text messages?
  • Early data did not look at whether or not text messages actually cause behavior change.
  • Governments need to be on board for large scale projects.

This article discusses several ways mhealth can be utilized in the developing world. In India and South Africa, text messages are being used to give pregnant women advice during each stage of pregnancy. In Bangladesh, text messages are being used to inform parents about when to vaccinate their children. Even in the United States mhealth is being used for smoking cesation programs.

We discussed other issues in class that the article did not include. For example, would text messages be too expensive for some people? Does everyone with a phone know how to send texts? How can you encourage people to sign up for the text messages? How can you make sure information is clear and relevant and that people will actually read the texts? These are all problems that future mhealth programs must address.