Digital Morocco is Morocco’s national ICT policy and was originally launched in 2004 by the Ministry of Industry, Trade, and New Technologies. The current plan is Digital Morocco 2013. The policy was originally in French, but the current policy is in English.
While we certainly learned about a number of dos and don’ts in program- in particular ICT4D programs- implementation, I think that one of the most valuable lessons to be learned in ICT4D is the idea that one needs to be flexible. While many programs may have great ideas and plans, they are worthless if they cannot be amended or adapted when issues or unforeseen changes arise. One cannot plan every possible difficulty into a program design, but you can leave room and allow for adjustments when needed. And that can create much better results in the end.
Before this semester, I can’t say I really realized how much of a difference ICTs make, especially in development. It truly is something we take for granted in our daily lives and the ability to communicate with each other, access information at almost any time, and access other things like bank accounts among others have become such important parts of how our societies function. This course has helped me reevaluate the way I see ICTs- which I hope will not only help me be a better development professional in the future, but also a better person.
Started in 2010 by the International Technological Union (ITU), the International Girls in ICTs Day is centered around the idea of celebrating and promoting female involvement in the international technology sector. While ITU itself does not put on any events for the day, it encourages all ICT related organizations and stakeholders to be involved, stating on their website, “these are events where girls and university students are invited to spend the day at the office of ICT companies and government agencies so they better understand the opportunities the ICT sector holds for their future.” The website also provides various resources and promotional materials for general International Girls in ICTs Day events and profiles of female role models in the technology industry from around the world. Additionally, they provide archives of current and past events for the day to encourage groups around the world to become involved in the cause.
One event put on last year in Swaziland brought two communications companies in the nation together with 160 high school girls from around Swaziland in the first annual Girls in ICT Communications Installations Tour. The groups visited national and regional communications stations and viewed presentations from sector female and male professionals among other things.
While the gender gap in the ICT sector around the world is far from solved, events and celebratory days like this are crucial to encouraging and promoting the involvement of women and girls in ICTs. The growth of events like these and the idea that girls and women can and should have equal roles as men in the technology industries play a large role in the path towards gender equality, access, and education.
This Thursday, we heard from several professionals on the usage of crowd sourcing and mapping technologies in International Development and disasters or other situations. Hearing about the use in finding missing people was very interesting and I found an online resource created in Egypt in 2010, HarassMap, that “uses mobile and online technology together with a huge offline community mobilization effort in neighborhoods throughout Egypt to end the social acceptability of sexual harassment.” With over 99% of women in Egypt reporting experiencing harassment and almost 50% of women report experiencing sexual harassment or other contact on a daily basis, the need for information and communication of the occurrence and location of sexual harassment and assaults is certainly there. Utilizing information collected via text message and online, volunteers around the world can help map occurrences or tips of sexual harassment, assault, and other activities, making the map available on mobile and internet browsers. This, combined with local volunteers who act as advocates for social responsibility and equal and fair treatment, has the possibility of aiding change in Egypt.
While this tool is certainly a great resource for women (and men) across Egypt to stay safe and up to date on reports and locations of sexual harassment and assault, it likely has some of the same issues we discussed with our ICT4D professionals this week. Hacking, false reporting, volunteers with ill intentions, incorrect information, and others may present issues for the tool, but hopefully their continued research can combat any possible problems and help create positive change in the social culture of Egypt.
Our class on Tuesday focused primarily on various effects of and issues with usage of mobile phones in the daily lives of some in developing nations. While we talked more about the basic effects of having a mobile phone on economic development, mobile phone access can influence connections to financial information and services. This past week, Forbes came out with an article about two major companies in the financial services sector and their plans involving growing developing economies. MasterCard and Visa see the growing mobile phone usage in developing nations around the world as an opportunity to increase their reach in such economies. While full financial services will not be available, the usage of mobile banking and mobile payment technology certainly has the potential to create great financial opportunities for people in those developing nations- whether they already have access to traditional financial services or not. These changes could lead to even greater economic development than already projected for many of the developing economies.
As many of the other bloggers this week have stated, our study this week was focused around the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the good and bad seen through their implementation. While all addressing the applications of ICTs in International Development and development theory, Erwin Alampay and Richard Heeks had very different takes on the subject. Erwin Alampay’s article “Beyond Access to ICTs” focused more on the various ways that access to and ability to use ICTs can change from person to person due to differences in human development and individual differences. In his articles “ICTs and the MDGs: On the Wrong Track?” and “The ICT4D 2.0 Manifesto,” Heeks, instead looked at the process of utilizing ICTs to achieve the MDGs, the results of such attempts, and how such efforts can be altered to better apply what has been learned. While I am familiar with the MDGs and have previously read about the access issues related to individual differences, I had not read much before specifically on the usage of ICTs to achieve the MDGs. I found it very interesting to learn of a Development Informatics scholar’s view of such implementation and his opinions on how to better use ICTs in reaching those goals.
Earlier this week, I read an article by the UNDP about the utilization of technology in the public service sector, as discussed at the UNDP’s Global Centre for Public Service Excellence’s Activate Summit earlier this month. While the article highlights the opinions of Haoliang Xu, the UNDP Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific, and examples in Asia, the ideas are applicable to development all over the world. Mr. Xu talks about the potential benefits that the usage of social media and digital technologies could provide to many governments. He emphasized the fact that uneven access and abilities creates disadvantages for some, but various efforts can help groups and societies overcome or cope with such drawbacks. Mr. Xu points out many current e-governance programs across Asia and the Pacific- something that Heeks discusses in his articles- and talks of their successes in reaching people in those nations, especially those in the many remote areas. Lastly, the article mentions the UNDP’s Global Centre’s efforts to promote more interest and production in the area of ICT4D by supporting one of the categories in the summit’s “Tech Talent Competition”- which hopefully produced many new technologies that can better help those in need in developing nations around the world.