Author Archives: anvitavivek

Ukraine National ICT Resources

It was somewhat difficult to find one clearly defined ICT plan, however finding information on national ICT policies and programs, and ICTs in Ukraine in general, was fairly easy. Ukraine has prioritized the development of ICT and the transitioning to an information society, so it was easy to find sources, essentially all of which were available in English.

Government Resources

1) The State Agency for Science, Innovations and Informatization of Ukraine (DKNII) is the government agency responsible for ICT policy. Their official website includes information on programs and legislature regarding many aspects of ICT such as e-Government, regulatory policies, and collaborative efforts with the EU, among many other helpful resources.

2) Strategy for Development of Information Society and Informatization 

From: The National Commission for the State Regulation of Communications and Informatization, the national commission created specifically to implement state policies regarding information society development.

Non-Government Resources

3) The National ICT Sector and Policy Appraisal Report

From: The Strategic Cooperation in Ukraine, Belarus, and EU in Information and Communication Technologies (SCUBE-ICT)

Date: 2010

Language: English

4. Prospects of Information Society Development in the Ukraine in the European Integration Context

From: EU Working Papers

Date: 2007

Language: English

5. ICT Country Profile: Ukraine 

From: USAID Regional Competitiveness Initiative Project

Date: 2011

Language English

ICT4D Reflection

This course has definitely changed the framework within which I tend to think about the field of international development. I’m not a very technologically inclined person in general, so coming in to this course I was honestly not so sure what to expect. To be perfectly honest, I didn’t understand why this course was a requirement for the major. I would have certainly agreed that “modern technology” had the potential to do enormous good in terms of development, but I had never really examined the meaning, nuances, or implications of that belief. I have definitely come a long way from that starting point; reflecting back on this semester, I think that this has been one of the most informative, interesting, and relevant courses of my academic career.

One of the main things I quickly realized is that technology is not a subset of development, independent from other points of focus within the field, but rather is, or at least can be, integral to the various aspects of development. I hadn’t previously thought about how far-reaching and diverse the applications of ICT4D can be, from health to activism to economic growth to disaster and crisis management, beyond simply technological progress for its own sake.

Another salient lesson that changed the way in which I think about development projects and interventions, and was an important recurring theme throughout the course, was that technology by itself is rarely enough of a solution, and that simply “throwing technology at a problem” without consideration for factors such as logistical feasibility is neither effective nor sustainable. Related to this, a point which I found to be particularly important – and almost counterintuitive at first – was to consider that the newest technology isn’t always the best technology for a development intervention. I had definitely previously thought about the potential for cell phones and computers, but it hadn’t really occurred to me that sometimes older technologies, such as radio, may be the most effective technology in a given set of circumstances. It truly surprised me when I learned about how high the rate of failure is with ICT4D projects. On the one hand, I truly believe that ICT is one of the most, if not the single most, promising things for international development and that by its nature, the possibilities for ICT to improve people’s lives are ever multiplying; however I think the most important thing to understand, for me, has been that technology is an invaluable tool, but it is a tool, not an end goal in and of itself.

In addition to a greater intellectual or academic understanding, I really appreciated, and benefitted from, the opportunity to have more hands-on experiences. I think that the blog, the twitter, and activities such as the mapping project did a great deal to enhance our exposure to the ICT4D field. These experiences, as well as our individual research projects and class discussions about specific ICT4D efforts, provided an immersion in to the field in a way that was much fuller, more current, and more dynamic than I have experienced in many of my other classes. I certainly feel much more well-versed and comfortable with technology than I did at the beginning of the course, and particularly now that I understand how the ICT4D is becoming increasingly important and present in development, I’m grateful to have had this experience.

Ukraine: A Safe Haven for Cybercrime

This semester I have been studying Ukraine. Especially in recent years, Ukraine has gained notoriety for being a safe haven for cyber crime. The FBI has stated that the most significant criminal problem regarding Ukraine is the issue of cyber crime including identity theft, child pornography, denial of service attacks, hacking, and financial crimes. This problem received international attention in 2010 when a group of five hackers was arrested for stealing $70 million from US bank accounts by using a version of the Zeus Trojan computer virus. Around the same time, two other hackers from Ukraine were arrested in England for stealing around $9 million from British bank accounts. There have been other similar events more recently which have contributed to Ukraine’s reputation for hacking and other types of cybercrime. In addition to large, international crimes, cyber crime is a threat within the country on a smaller scale as well. According to one study, 17% of Ukrainians say they have been victims of cyber crime.

Part of the reason for this increasing problem is that legislation regarding cybercrime is outdated and therefore ineffective in terms of both investigation and prosecution of cyber crime. The Ukrainian government has stated that updating this legislation and policies towards cyber crime is a priority. Another important contributing factor is the fact that Ukraine has a fairly educated population however the English language barrier makes it difficult to find employment in the IT sectors in other countries; as Ukraine does not yet have a developed and profitable IT industry, people with computer/technology skills who do not find work are likely to instead turn to cyber crime. The strong presence of organized crime in Ukraine and neighboring nations only exacerbates the issue of cyber crime as an alternative for unemployed but skilled individuals.

As this is a problem with global consequences, other nations are also making efforts to take part in a solution. For example, the UK, through the British Embassy in Kiev, is currently implementing a program, scheduled to be completed in February 2013, that aims to collaborate on forming policies, as well as train Ukrainian law enforcement to assess and respond to threats. In my opinion this combined local-global approach is key, because circumstances specific to Ukraine have made it a safe haven for cybercrime, but it is a global problem and it is vital to the interests and security of other, particularly developed, nations to combat it.

Tracking Malaria in Kenya With Cell Phones

This article discusses the results of a Harvard School of Public Health study which was released this month regarding the use of mobile phones in tracking malaria in Kenya. In this study, researchers tracked the timing and location of calls and texts from 15 million mobile phones in Kenya between June 2008 – June 2009 and compared this data with data on malaria prevalence by region. By studying the movements of people relative to the movement of the disease, the researchers were able to identify primary sources of malaria, as well as those most at risk for infection. They concluded that the most significant amount of malaria transmission in Kenya is from travel from Lake Victoria to Nairobi, Kenya’s capital.

This study differs from some of the others we read about and discussed this week in that it does not use mobile technology to directly communicate with mobile phone users. It is interesting to see how the prevalence of mobile phone use, particularly in Africa, can be utilized for development in ways other than direct communication. Because this was a large scale study, rather than using mobile phones for direct communication within a smaller population, these results might be immediately applicable to policy decisions. In addition they can be applied to mHealth efforts more similar to the ones we read about this week, which directly engage and interact with their target populations to help more effectively educate about, prevent, and treat malaria. One of the researches associated with the study suggested warning texts to travelers to and from malaria hot spots.

While this study has the potential to provide a great deal of insight regarding patterns of malaria transmission, the data is biased due to the digital divide, and population differences between those who have mobile phones and those who do not. Younger, wealthier, male, and urban populations are more likely to have mobile phones and therefore be reflected in this data, so initiatives and policy based off these results may disproportionately benefit those groups. These results, and this method of data collection, may be less effective particularly in terms of helping rural, female, lower-income, and less geographically mobile populations. Of course, any knowledge which can promote health, even disproportionately, should be considered and used to implement public health initiatives – however hopefully there will be other measures taken to make up for disparities in data, as not to further disadvantage already disadvantaged groups within the population.

The Millenium Development Goals and Gender

Following the class discussion on the Millenium Development Goals, I was particularly interested in re-approaching them from a gender perspective. I agreed that the MDGs were well intentioned but not necessarily practical or realistic, however one of the more positive aspects was that it put various issues on an official development agenda. From this standpoint, it would seem beneficial that “promoting gender equality and empowering women”  (MDG3) was an issue that was given importance and included in the conversation.

One of the main criticisms I read, however, was that this reinforces the idea that the empowerment of women is a separate development issue, which is problematic because this often results in efforts at the empowerment of women being adressed as a less important concern which can only be catered to when there are already sufficient resources to address other, more important concerns. Furthermore, the failure to consider and integrate gender in ‘other’ development efforts results in less effective development overall; Development issues as well as development efforts affect the genders differentially therefore the lack of gender considerations lead directly to unequal benefit,.

This article  from Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) about gender inequality and the MDGs states, “We find that countries where social institutions are highly discriminatory towards women tend to score poorly against the human development targets used to track progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).”  The article points out for example, that the issue of women’s access to land and credit is essential to addressing the eradication of hunger and poverty (MDG 1). Additionally, while the MDGs in general have received the criticism of being vague and not necessarily prescriptive, the goal of”promoting gender equality and empowering women” is especially so, compared for example to MDGs 4,5, and 6 which all pertain to different aspects of health and medicine – MDG6 even specifies certain epidemics which need to be addressed.

Important issues which directly impede the empowerment of women as well as the ability for overall progress in other respects, such as sexual violence against women, are not mentioned. This makes it particularly difficult to address MDG3, or even define indicators to monitor progress. Interestingly, much of what I read noted ICT as an important tool in working towards the empowerment of women. For example, there have been successful efforts to convey information about sexual and reproductive health and rights through radio campaigns, and the use of e-commerce has given women access to the global marketplace and taken down some of the societal if not necessarily structural barriers to equal economic rights, as noted in UNESCO’s report on gender and ICTs. Also, other technological innovations and initiatives have been directed specifically towards women’s safety, such as HarrassMap which uses Ushahidi’s crowdsourcing information technology to help prevent sexual harassment and assault.

‘The Subtle Condescension of “ICT4D”‘

This article, written by Erik Hersman, a co-founder of Ushahidi, is about the negative impacts of using the term “ICT4D”. Hersman argues that the term “ICT4D” is hypocritical in that it is often used to describe technologies and projects which, if implemented in lower income regions or communities in developed nations, would use a different descriptor such as ‘civil society innovation.’ He claims that technology in the developing world is automatically labeled as ICT4D and that this terminology sets technological innovation in the developing world as somehow different than technological innovation being used for social good in the developed world. This, he maintains, is problematic because it undermines technology start up businesses and prevents the growth of the tech industry in developing regions (he discusses Africa in particular). If technological innovation is labeled as ICT4D, it is dismissed as something other than a legitimate business, which can attract investors, create value, and make money – and perhaps more importantly for the interest of development, might be more sustainable than projects implemented by NGO’s and development organizations. The article concludes by supporting a focus on ICT for profit rather than development, in order to promote the tech startup culture and the viability of technological solutions.

I agree that there can be condescending connotations to the term “ICT4D” where it concerns tech start ups who would be more effective as legitimate businesses. I think that the growth of a strong tech industry would be positive for development in Africa, that grassroots efforts can be realistically more sustainable than efforts organized an implemented solely by ‘outsiders’, and that bias against for-profit companies can be counterproductive. If technological solutions are helping people and meeting real needs within communities, then that is development whether or not it is labeled as development. However I also think it would be problematic to make “development” a negative word; the problem, in my opinion, isn’t that the field development or development efforts are actually condescending but that there are unfair perceptions of the word itself; if the meaning of “development” and the connotations associated with development efforts were to broaden to include for profit growth as well as ICT for social good in what we consider ‘developed countries’ then “ICT4D” wouldn’t necessarily be a condescending term.