Author Archives: ashleynfox

HandsOn Connect

My final case study is on a network management solution called “HandsOn Connect”. It is used by 250 affiliates of the HandsOn Network, but the local chapter is HandsOn New Orleans.  HandsOn started after Hurricane Katrina when New Orleans witnessed a huge influx of volunteers. There wasn’t any available organization that was coordinating volunteer efforts, so HandsOn was created to fill in this role. They’ve moved on from being just a disaster response volunteer coordinator, into a regular public service volunteer coordinator. Their vision of New Orleans is as a hub of civic-minded individuals that take action through service to meet critical community needs.

HandsOn Connect(HOC) is the management platform HandsOn uses within it’s website to manage, track and report on people, programs, trainings and volunteer opportunities in real time. The original program they used was called “HandsOn Technology” (HOT), but the affiliates needed a solution that was more customizable and user-friendly. A technology team got together and created a demo version of HOC. Next, affiliates could apply to be part of the first wave of instigating the program.  Next, data was transformed from HOT to HOC for the affiliates with demo sites, and the program went live.    Affiliates then use a help desk to comment on any bugs, defects, or changes they wish to see, and each new wave of the program is an updated version with these corrections. They are currently on the 7th wave, continuously updating the program.

This is the website, where you can check out HOC: There is a volunteer portal (which is what you will see when you go to the website) and a separate portal for employees and volunteer leaders with HandsOn New Orleans. Volunteers can browse volunteer opportunities and create accounts in order to sign up for projects. HOC will also record how many hours they have volunteered. Employees can monitor volunteer demographics,  confirm that volunteers have indeed attended projects, send automated e-mails to volunteers, coordinate projects, and many more!

Lessons Learned: ICT4D

Some important lessons I have taken away from our ICT4D class include sustainability, that there is not one blanket ICT solution for every ICT problem, and making sure development projects take grassroots approaches or at least involve community members and make sure technological solutions will be able to be used by the local population. One thing that really sticks with me is the fact that so many ICT projects fail for reasons that are easily resolved. One failure that I will always remember is from the video we watched where someone said that certain plumbers receiving phones does not change the amount of plumbing to be done, it just means the plumbers with the phones will get all the work, and the distribution of incomes of plumbers will be a lot wider.

One thing I found particularly interesting, and that I will hopefully utilize in future ICT projects is the use of social media. To most Americans, social media like Facebook and twitter are just ways to share our feelings or pictures and communicate with friends, but it is amazing how social media can be utilized for revolutions, to connect people all over the world, and to share real time data. I was a twitter-non-believer and now have actually created one and think it is really interesting to follow people in the IDEV field!

This is not necessarily a framework, or theory for development, but one exercise I really enjoyed was free brainstorming to solve mobile phone issues. It was amazing to see what ideas we came up with (crazy or not) when we weren’t restricted, and it was neat to narrow the list down and organize it into real-life solutions.

Esri and Thailand Flood Response

Information on Esri –>

Esri is one of the leading GIS softwares and is used in more than 300,000 organizations world wide. Esri is working with it’s equivalent in Thailand, Esri Thailand, to assist with flood response. They have their own disaster response team and they  also support other response organizations with application data, development, and technical support. Esri uses GIS to help first responders, emergency managers and others conduct rescue missions, provide infrastructure, evacuate areas, classify damaged areas, deliver supplies and prioritize recovery. Esri Thailand is also helping the government locate emergency calls and route emergency services as efficiently as possible.

Their response system even includes a social media web application available to the public and the media which allows people to follow events in real time using a map. It includes links to news reports, tweets, youtube videos, and other social media. People can also request assistance through the map.

Jibbigo Voice Translator App

The Jibbigo Voice Translator is a mobile voice translator application for smart devices.  It has state of the art speech recognition technology, a vocabulary of over 40,000 words, and NO internet connection necessary (my favorite part).  It does not need to connect to servers to function, so it will work fine in foreign countries where you need translating and may not have connection. It includes a dictionary, but it’s main function is to actually translate speech. All you need to do is speak a language (or have someone speak into it in a foreign language) and it speaks aloud in the language you choose to translate it into.  Right now, there are only 9 language pairs, only of which a few are major languages in developing countries, but in my opinion, if they have come this far- who’s to say they won’t develop language pairs for lesser spoken languages, and even regional dialects? My thinking for this application is that it would be really useful for development teams in foreign countries to use to communicate with the local populations.  In could also be helpful in learning new languages, and especially for people in developing countries to learn English.  What other uses do you think this APP could have? Would you consider getting it for your smart phone or IPAD?

Social Media and the Arab Spring

I thought this topic was really interesting because everyone knows about the violence and military ordeals of the Arab Spring, but the social media side is not as obvious. We also have not talked a lot yet of about the role (or lack there of) of the government in development. This article describes the efforts of protesters in utilizing social media like twitter and Facebook and also using ICT in the form of mobile phones. Phones were used by mass broadcast media to talk to protesters on the ground. Mostly, media was used to disseminate  information about the protest movement and provide anti-government propaganda, but the article states that once they were in full-swing, the use of social media died down.  One thing I found interesting in the article was the governments attempt at destroying the social media efforts. They attempted to hack and delete the main player’s social media profiles and the Egyptian government even shut off the internet and mobile phone services. This proves how effective the social media movement was if the government felt the need to destroy the social media outlets.

E-Learning Africa 2012

eLearning Africa 2012 is the 7th international conference fon ICT for development, education, and training.  It is Africa’s largest gathering of policy & decision makers, and practitioners from education, business, and government. This comprehensive group will come together in Cotonou, Benin from May 23-May 25 to focus on eLearning and sustainability. According to the conference website, eLA2012 will focus on ” the key themes of sustainable technologies and infrastructure; eLearning for sustainable communities; sustainable change management; eLearning and sustainable resources; and sustainable economy, culture and society.” Part of the conference includes a showcase, where exhibitors can show their latest ICT products and programs.

Check it out:

Do you think this type of conference will spur ICT development in education, or is it more of a “show” and less focused on actual change?

ICTs in rural Zimbabwe

Originally posted on Blackboard by Ashley Fox

Zimbabwe’s Vice President Joice Mujuru is encouraging the use of ICTs in rural areas after “the rural communities had been marginalised as far as ICTs are concerned”. She comments how mobile phone access is now available in almost all rural areas, thanks to three major network providers establishing bases “almost everywhere”. The goal is to bring internet access to these people, which would be extremely helpful for them to compare agricultural prices before delivering produce. It is good that she also acknowledges that the internet must be available in the different indigenous languages so people will understand them. The VP also said the government is working on a program to equip primary and secondary schools with with personal computers with e-learning software. Looks like Zimbabwe’s on the right track!