Author Archives: ahauser1205

ICT4D Professional Profile: David Kobia

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I chose David Kobia, co-founder of Ushahidi, http://ushahidi.com ,for my Thought Leader Profile because of his unique story and tremendous, ongoing contributions to the development world. Born and raised in Kenya, Kobia came to the United States to study computer science at the University of Alabama in 1988. After some time, however, Kobia dropped out to pursue a career in web developing. Soon enough, Kobia was employed by several top companies, including Reader’s Digest, Times, Inc. and Southern Progress as a web designer. Kobia always has been, and still is very involved online. He frequently tweets, @dkobia, and updates his blog, www.dkfactor.com, with useful information relating to development. It was this constant Internet activity, which lead to his involvement with Ushahidi.

After shutting down one of his online forums which had begun to take a radical, uncontrollable turn, enabling insensitive information and communication pertaining to violent events in his own homeland, Kobia was keen to make up for this mistake. It was at this time that Erik Hersman approached David about creating Ushahidi. Kobia immediately joined the team, and still holds an important position, as Director of Technology and Development. Kobia has created and owns several other online companies and resources (www.kobia.net), in addition to his ongoing work to improve Ushahidi.

David Kobia has received international accolades for his work with Ushahidi, including Humanitarian of the Year, and has been included on multiple prestigious lists highlighting accomplished innovators in the ICT4D field. What I find most remarkable about this admirable leader in development is his loyalty to Kenya, his first home, despite his decades spent in America. Kobia firmly believes in the ability of the African people, not the white Westerners, to achieve better levels of development. In support of this belief, Kobia has constructed a technology innovation center in his hometown of Nairobi to stimulate the development potential of the area. Kobia believes the African people will soon live up to their potential, confirming, “There’s a pool of mind-blowing talent just waiting to be tapped” (http://www.technologyreview.com/TR35/Profile.aspx?TRID=947).

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Improving Cybersecurity or Giving the Government Free Rein?

Ever since the USA Patriot Act was signed into law, American citizens have had concerns about the unrestrained power such legislation grants the government. Scott did a good job explaining this in his post this week. That’s why, when I read about the newest cybersecurity bill to be reviewed by the U.S. House of Representatives at the end of the month, I rolled my eyes with the rest of America, thinking it was yet another piece of legislation to give the government even more leeway in freely snooping through our private information and communication. It might be just that.

This bill, an enlargement of one of the Pentagon’s pilot programs, would expand the areas which are subject to share sensitive threat information with the government. Instead of only defense contractors, along with their Internet providers, a much greater portion of the private sector will be included in the institutions who must share this information with the government.

Many groups in opposition to this bill, and the resulting increase in federal power, have been speaking out against this it. Leaders of the Electronic Frontier foundation assert that this legislation would “…give the government free rein to monitor communications, filter content from sites like WikiLeaks, or possibly shut down access to online services”.

House Representatives C.A. “Dutch” Ruppersberger of Maryland (D) and Mike Rogers of Michigan (R), the two main lawmakers on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, have been the greatest proponents of this legislation. They claim that the purpose of this bill is not in the interest of increasing the government’s unchecked power, as its critics claim, but simply to allow the sharing of data and information containing dangerous software code (not content). Furthermore, this data would be given only to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. If such information is used for any reason not pertaining to cybersecurity, Rogers and Ruppersberger claim that measures will be included making the federal government subject to private lawsuits. If they follow through on their promise to include these restrictions, this bill might fulfill its potential to augment America’s cybersecurity capabilities. If not, then its critics are correct in claiming that it’s simply another piece of legislation giving the government free rein to monitor our private lives and information.

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/04/11/us-cybersecurity-congress-idUSBRE8391FY20120411


Networking for Development Efforts

MobileActive.org was founded in 2005 by Katrin Verclas and Marty Kearns, officially convening for the first time at a conference that brought 40 of the top mobile activists in the world together in Toronto, Canada. It started off as a unique project branching off of the Green Media Toolshed.

MobileActive.org is the worldwide leading resource for the use of mobile phone technology for development and social change. The organization is devoted to facilitating the use and improving the potential benefits of the mobile device for NGOs and other organizations devoted to development. The organization consists of technology specialists, non-governmental organization staff, development activists, content and service providers, academics and donors.

Their goals include reducing the learning costs to implement mobile technology, provide effective and relevant strategies for the use of mobile technology in development plans, spreading accessibility and knowledge about the use of mobile technology in “making the world a better place”, and providing assistance in the construction of a platform to facilitate relationships moving in the direction of development.

They help connect people throughout the world both online and by through participatory events, conduct research, provide consulting in the field, and carry out work to increase the use of cell phones for development purposes. This sharing of resources and experiences is possible by the upkeep of a network connecting over 20,000 people internationally, as well as an online center of mobile applications, strategies, research and other resources.

I believe this organization is essential in the spread of mobile technology as a main resource of development. Each month, it holds panels and discussions facilitating the sharing of information, opinions, resources and experiences. This communication is one of the most important factors in the success of development projects throughout the world. I believe the networking provided by MobileActive.org will be instrumental in all development efforts of the future.

Here is Mobile Active’s website.


Kony 2012 from the Perspective of Another Nonprofit

John Travis, co-founder of Drop in the Bucket, a non-profit organization devoted to the construction of wells and establishment of sanitation systems in African schools, published an article today entitled, “Kony 2012: Why It Worked”. Prefacing the body of his article analyzing why the video was a successful use of social media, Travis outlines the two sides of the campaign, and defends the opinions of both sides, asserting that it is impossible not to become impassioned about a matter involving the intentional and deliberate harm of children.

Travis makes several important points addressing the success of this video campaign. First, the message of this video was more effective than any of the previous attempts Invisible Children has made in the past. It was a simple (some claim too simple), direct and inspiring message which resonated with many more people than ever before. While many of the “facts” Invisible Children claimed to be true in this video are inaccurate, a mistake they have been highly criticized for, Travis maintains that in the thirty minutes the organization had to relay their message, they certainly made an impact and delivered a memorable and and more easy to understand message, despite some inaccuracies.

Travis concludes that Invisible Children did have some successes, including the fact that because of their campaigning, great numbers of people around the world have become aware of the nation of Uganda, and its struggles because of, and since, the terror inflicted by Kony and the LRA. However, Travis after showing thanks to Invisible Children in that regard, he then continues to request to the reader not to participate in the day of action, April 20th, as advertised in the video. He asks this from the position of a person close to many people affected by Kony and his violence, and out of respect for them, especially those currently living in the US as a result of the death, violence and forced removal from the country. Instead, he merely asks that you educate yourself. Find out more about what is going on in Uganda now, and consider contributing your money to an organization devoted to helping the Ugandans with their current struggles. Look toward the future, instead of the past.

Here is an article on why Kony 2012 worked.

 


30% Success Rate: Pretty Impressive

ICTworks recently published an article analyzing the development efforts of the World Bank, and the success (or lack thereof) the organization has achieved thus far with the $4.2 billion it has contributed to Africa’s ICT sector during the 2003-2010 period. After this week’s readings which highlighted common causes of failure in ICT projects, “Information and Communications Technology for Development (ICT4D) – A Design Challenge?” in particular, the name of this article caught my eye. Entitled “A Great Success: World Bank has a 70% failure rate with ICT4D projects to increase universal access”, the author argues that the World Bank’s mere 30% success rate in this sector is quite an achievement.

He explains the difficult circumstances World Bank must operate under, including challenging environments for implementation, almost negligible private sectors and local opposition to any type of reform. He goes on to commend World Bank leaders for having the bravery and humility to accurately and truthfully assess the organizations successes and failures, setting the foundation and taking the necessary steps to improve for the future.

The perspective of this author, though unexpected, was a good learning experience for me. World Bank, such a renowned and widely supported organization, undoubtedly implements most, if not all of the 10 sections of Plan International’s Checklist for successful ICT programs. I never would have imagined that, despite all of these precautions, research and effort, the potential for failure is still so high.  After reading it, I found myself agreeing with the author in finding a 30% success rate an impressive achievement.

 


Mobile Phones to Mobilize the Most Marginalized

On March 9 of this year, UNICEF held a panel discussion at their headquarters in New York City about the potential impact of mobile phones in the mobilization of marginalized women throughout the world. Participants emphasized the cell phone’s ability to help rural girls acquire critical life skills, and give them a voice in their community. They outlined the combination of new, modern technologies with development and communication strategies to empower these silenced women.

Leaders of discussion emphasized, as we learned in the readings this week, the undeniable influence of environmental factors on the development of these women. The participants agreed that these cultural and political traditions which influence social norms are what must be targeted to instigate change. In order to reach these women, programs must also reach out to their families, community leaders and the community itself.

Gannon Gillespie, the Director of Strategic Development at Tostan, highlighted the amplification effect of communication technologies such as cell phones in the dissemination of information and sharing of opinions and ideas. Communication for Development (C4D) and Information and Communication Technology has allowed for a two-way conversation between the organizations helping in development and the marginalized people living in developing countries, leading to more effective development plans. UNICEF plans to prioritize the use of communication technologies such as cell phones in future development plans. To read more about the panel discussion, follow the link below.

http://www.unicef.org/adolescence/index_61962.html


Ghana’s E-government

Ghana recently announced in a stakeholder consultative meeting the establishment of it’s country’s first e-government efforts directed towards eleven different departments and agencies. The departments involved in this project will include “the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, the Accra Metroplitan Assembly (AMA), the Food and Drugs Board (FDB), the Birth and Death Registry, the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), the National Communications Authority (NCA), the NationalInformation Technology Agency (NITA), the Passport Office, the Minerals Commission and the Registrar-General’s Department” (Ghana.gov).

Ghana’s e-government program will focus on online payment for government services, a document management application, and improving the availability of government-related matters and information online. Leaders of this project hope to implement management and information-distributing systems for the justice, government procurement, parliament, immigration, and passport sectors of the government. Eventually, there will be a free flow of information between the public, service providers, government departments and agencies.

While this is an important step for Ghana’s governmental development, undoubtedly contributing to a more accountable and transparent political system, certain vital developmental needs, similar to those discussed in class, still exist in this African country that deserve attention as well.