Author Archives: Anna

Nepal ICT4D Resources

National ICT Policy:

Information Technology Policy, 2057 (2000)

Language: English

Date: 2000

Published by The National Information Technology Development Council

 

Information Technology Policy, 2067 (2010)

Language: Nepali

Date: 2010

Published by The National Information Technology Development Council

 

Government Websites:

National Information Technology Center (NITC)

Language: English

Date: 2010-2014

 

Office of Controller of Certification

Government of Nepal, Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment

Language: English (documents in Nepali)

Date: 2012

 

Case Studies:

Emergency Training in Nepal

Date: 2011

Agency: International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Nepal

Published by: ICT Humanitarian Emergency Platform

Goal: Improve communication and informational capabilities during earthquakes in order to create better, more efficient disaster responses.

 

External (Non-Governmental) Resources:

ICT Association of Nepal

Language: English

Date: Established in 2008

Information: NGO and non-profit that promotes ICT access throughout Nepal. Its mission is to increase knowledge exchange and technological skills in order to advance ICT for development.

 

ICT4E in India and South Asia- Nepal Country Study

Author: Kevin Donovan

Language: English

Information: Author explores the relationship between ICT and Education in Nepal as a method to improve overall development.

 

Note for Nepal ICT Research: Refer to such policies as “Information Technology” or “IT” policies as the titles of most Nepalese ICT documents leave out the word “Communication”. Also, authorship and ownership of policies, regulations, and guidelines are tricky to find, so pay attention to the different government departments and offices that the policies come out of.

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Semester Conclusions: Salient Themes of ICT4D

Before this ICT4D course I was unaware of how important technology can be for development. This class has exposed a few salient themes in relation to technology and development. First and foremost, access to ICT is truly an asset or a barrier to the livelihoods of people, especially those in developing countries. This stratification of access, also known as the digital divide, is therefore a key structure that needs to improve if meaningful development is going to occur. I have grown particularly interested in the digital divide because, often, the dimensions to technological access are interconnected with other systemic problems. Specifically, physical infrastructure, language, age, income, gender, and identity can all be barriers or access points to ICT as well as other facets of development, like jobs, healthcare, and resources. Curiously, bridging the digital divide will not only improve ICT in developing countries, but can also improve other sectors within a country.

The other salient theme that pervades ICT4D is the initial technological needs of a community. While it is great to design and implement new, cutting-edge technologies, it is important for development agents to meet basic needs first. More so, a community should have a niche request for the technology being incorporated. Sounds like a basic needs assessment? Indeed, it is! Needs assessments, along with stakeholder collaboration, and monitoring and evaluation, are critical to all development projects, even those non-ICT related, because ideally the purpose of the project is to improve the quality of life and livelihoods of real people. ICT4D projects must use discretion, creativity, and humility in order to utilize the most-fitting technologies for individual communities. Along the same lines, there is no one-size-fits-all ICT for development purposes, and therefore innovation should be a priority.  Ultimately, ICT can be a highly effective mode in development, however only when such projects take into consideration the lived experiences, needs, and desires of the affected peoples.


ICT and Disaster Preparedness: A Nepalese Case Study

In today’s ICT4D class we explored the use of technology during emergencies. While I was initially aware of ICTs for the purpose of humanitarian efforts following a disaster or country emergency, I was not completely versed in the potential that ICT has during before and during the actual emergency event. Following our discussion of ICT for disaster resilience, I decided to do some research on my focus country, Nepal. Situated in a highly volatile geographic region, Nepal is susceptible to massive earthquakes on a fairly regular basis. Therefore, the humanitarian efforts in the country have given a significant amount of thought to the integration of ICT for disaster preparedness. According to an article by the ICT Humanitarian Emergency Platform, Nepal is working on reducing the impact of natural disasters through the use of ICT. Specifically, the International Committee of the Red Cross has developed an Emergency Preparedness Plan (EPP) for maintaining communication during an earthquake.

The EPP includes a number of procedures to maintain information and communication throughout a disaster. To start with, they have technical physical equipment stored away for easy transportation and relocation. During a disaster, the plan initiates communication to the Headquarters in Geneva which then deploys a secondary emergency response. The plan also includes setting up communication with satellite phones and establishes connections to the office and corporate networks from remote locations. The goal of the plan is to keep officials in contact with each other because “communications is one of the most important tools during an emergency response operation.”

The plan, however, does not go into detail on what to do once communications are set up. Importantly, ICT during a disaster is necessary but not sufficient to reducing harm and damage to a country and its people. Similarly, even if officials have access to communication and information, it does not mean that anyone else does. I would like to find further emergency plans for Nepal that explore how ICT can be an advantage to the average person on the ground during a disaster. More so, I would like to see how ICT is integrated into the preparation, response, and recovery of more organizations in Nepal beyond The Red Cross. All questions aside, I was pleasantly surprised that humanitarian efforts in Nepal had integrated ICT into their action plan.


Security and ICT Project Development:Investment or Insecure Detection?

Traditionally, when we think about Cyber Security, what comes to mind is national defense and protection from others. In the United States cyber security is a means to protect not only individual money and identity, but is rapidly transforming into a tactic to cohesively bar and protect the nation’s ideas, defense operations, water, energy, and innovations. As United States citizens, our daily lives are both operated on and operated by computer technology. As our last IDEV4100 class exposed, our connection to the cyber landscape is both a benefit and a vulnerability. However, as I ponder security of the cyber world, I cannot help but question what this means for people and nations that are not fully “plugged-in”. What does cyber security look mean to individuals in, say, rural Nepal or even a college campus in Ghana? More so, while as citizens of the United States, we have access to secure and locked hardware and software, most developing nations do not. How is cyber security negotiated when every piece of technology used is imported, unlocked, and potentially insecure?

After pondering my own questions, I realized that cyber security for individuals in developing countries means protecting the small amount of resources that are owned and available to them. For instance, if individuals are transferring small money through their mobile phone, the application that allows them to do so needs to be secure so that their identity and money is safe and not stolen. The ramifications otherwise can be catastrophic to those that are already living in poverty or marginal communities. Further, cyber security means that businesses in developing countries can grow and learn about technology safely and that governments can protect their citizens.

Cyber security also means that development projects do not create another vulnerability for the population they are trying to help. In the article, “Why Information Security Matters in ICT4D”, Jon Camfield explains that there is a necessary space for cyber security in development for project initiatives because, often, project databases contain private information about people, organizations, and vulnerable populations. Given the sensitivity of project data and information, Camfield proposes that every project plan must include a budget and method for information security. Without it, too many people, communities, resources, and ideas are at risk in the cyber landscape. Pulling from an earlier article, Camfield also connects a key principle in the development realm: partner collaboration. Basically, in order to increase information security and utilize affordable and available technological skill-sets, projects should build a collaborative network between the “security community and the ICT4D world” (Camfield). Ultimately, in an effort to transmit, manage, and protect information in the growing digital age, cyber security must be an imperative concern for practitioners of ICT and development.


Do You Have The Power?

New and old technologies, from mobile phones and computers to radios and lighting, are all connected by an essential common thread: they require power.  ICTs might have the ability to improve networks, reduce poverty, or empower women, however, without an energy source the use-value of these technologies are rendered ineffective and irrelevant. Importantly, access to a power supply can be an extreme factor within the digital divide, and more specifically, rural residents often face the burden of this divide. The combination of my five-month experience in Ghana and this week’s ICT4D class has allowed me to raise a few important questions: what do you do when you can’t just “plug it in”? Further, how does ICT become relevant when power and electricity in and of itself is needed?

According to an article written by experts at Linkoping University and the University of Nairobi, the biggest barrier across Africa to ICT is power and electricity. Importantly, they explain that what will improve the livelihoods of many residents, particularly those in slums and rural areas, is not a new piece of technology, but access to energy. This finding echoes a publication from Rural21, the International Journal for Rural Development, titled Without Energy no ICT!. As exposed by Rural21, technologies cannot be useful to the daily lives of people if power and electricity are unavailable. I bring these articles up in conjunction with each other because it is imperative to listen to these needs in the development arena if ICT is ever going to be a realized factor in the lives of these marginalized communities.

Even more, as Rural21 pointed out, inventive and renewable energies might be the power solution that makes developing countries capable of utilizing ICT. Instead of expanding the power grid, why not harvest wind from the “windy coastline” or build new businesses from new environmentally-friendly battery sources (as seen in case-study of Zambia pay phones)? Ultimately, I want to emphasis the need for the ICT4D community to step back and see the real needs of people before simply implanting a flashy technology. While we can always find a power supply for our phones and computers, not everyone can. Therefore, let’s find the energy to power development, for this first step has the potential to empower more people in the long-term.


Success Stems from the Simple Six

Failure, simply defined as the lack of success, is a popular result in the ICT4D world. Today’s class exposed a critical part of integrating ICT within development: technology is not always the simplest and most effective route to a successful project. A recent World Bank report found that 70% of its ICT4D projects are considered failures. With this information in mind, I think it is important to ask why. Sure, the easy answer is to say that most ICT projects, even in developed countries fail, and that it is just part of the creative business. However, when we are dealing with marginal and vulnerable populations, is such high failure a cost that the development arena can endure? More so, can failure within the ICT4D realm point to a bigger issue stemming from power dynamics and hegemonic technology? Could ICT4D projects be mostly unsuccessful because they are tailored to a Western vision of development, rather than the needs, desires, and culture of the people?

After reflecting on the severity of failure in ICT4D, I decided to investigate what successful ICT4D looks like. What I found was an article by ICT Works, titled 6 Simple Guidelines for ICT4D Project Success. The guidelines are as follows:

  1. “Invest some time to understand the problem and hear it directly from the concerned parties or communities.
  2. Ask yourself: Is technology really needed here? Or is there a solution lying elsewhere?
  3. Study what technologies are already lying around or have been used by “concerned parties” or communities and how they are currently using it.
  4. Can your solution be built using existing technology that the people(“concerned parties” or community) already use? If not, try to spend a decent amount of time to find the answer to this question again. Chances are, it’s possible.
  5. Keep in mind that your solution should require minimal (or no training) i.e. The focus should be on a lower barrier to entry & a decreased learning curve. [If answer to 4 is still no]
  6. Build your solution in a way that you wouldn’t be needed at all after the implementation.” (Kumar 2014).

What strikes me as obvious within the context of development is that all guidelines ask ICT projects to tailor the technological scale and innovation to the population being served. This idea, echoed in the theoretical landscape of social constructivists, is imperative if success rates of ICT4D projects are going to increase.  I appreciate these guidelines because they lessen the dominating power dynamics between experts, project designers, and the population being served. Instead of trying to make a group of people match the capacity of the technology, ICT4D projects should use technologies that match the current needs and capacity of the people. Also, I see similarities between these guidelines and Unwin’s conception of incorporating traditional knowledge and systems into ICT4D projects because both take the time to consider the people being served, and design projects that will facilitate better lives and livelihoods within the existing society, rather than trying to make radically change in a Western direction. My ending thought, how can we as agents for development reconceptualize the actual function and use of technologies in order to reduce failure rates in ICT4D projects themselves while simultaneously benefiting and empowering the population being served?


Masking Hegemony: The Downside to the Millennium Development Goals

Until I read Richard Heeks’ article, “ICTs and the MDGs: On the Wrong Track?” I had not considered how the Millennium Development Goals might actually be a site for which power and inequality are reproduced. As we know, the MDGs were created post neo-liberalism as a way to reconceptualize the human aspect of development. What I found interesting about Heeks’ argument is that while the MDGs are not intrinsically bad, they surely have latent effects that maintain normative power dynamics between developed and developing countries. Going further, he exposes that when ICT is incorporated into the development goals, further inequality can be met, especially if economic growth and ICT production and skills are not cultivated. Heeks’ argument about power dynamics and the MDGs raised a few questions. First and foremost, what are the underlying motives of the Millennium Development Goals that could produce and perpetuate hegemony? How does the concept of moral and humanitarian development work play a role in masking dynamics of power between nations? How do axis of identity, specifically relating to citizenship, nationality, gender, and class play a role in maintaining or deviating from the normative hegemony of the MDGs? Finally, how can ICT of any form reproduce or challenge power dynamics established by the MDGs?

After reading Heeks’ article I decided to see what others were saying about ICT in relation to development. In December, The Guardian published an article that relayed what experts were forecasting as ICT development trends for this upcoming year of 2014. They all discuss increases in some form of technology or another, with a particular emphasis on mobile technology, and as well, they all expected ICT to transform society and promote more equity. For instance, Maria Eitel, the president and CEO of the Nike Foundation predicts that providing women with mobile phones will create The Girl Effect. Point, how do predictions such as these from ICT experts perpetuate the idealistic nature of combining ICT with the MDGs? Can such ideas and predictions of ICT use actually create further problems with the one-size-fits-all atmosphere of the MDGs? Similarly, how can ICT and MDGs be reconstituted in order to meet the needs of people while also disrupting and alleviating oppression, inequality, and hegemony?

Ultimately, both articles show biased and opposing arguments that can be made regarding ICT and development. That being said, in the process of reading these perspectives I was reminded of the important influence that power and identity have on development work worldwide, even in efforts of good intentions.