Author Archives: briannasteinmetz

Pakistan ICT4D Resources

ICT Policy

Draft National ICT Policy

Last Updated: July 3, 2012

Published by: Ministry of Information Technology, Government of Pakistan

Language: English

 

IT Policy and Action Plan

Last Updated: August 18, 2000

Published by: IT & Telecommunications Division, Ministry of Science & Technology Government of Pakistan

Language: English

 

Government Websites

Pakistan Ministry of Information Technology

This website provides an overview of the role of the Ministry of Information Technology in Pakistan and has several plans, policies and other publications. It also offers valuable information on the current events within the Ministry of Information Technology.  The website is in English , up-to-date, and is a good place to start your research.  

 

Pakistan Ministry of Science and Technology

This website provides an overview of the Ministry of Science and Technology. This Ministry is more science based, but can still be helpful in providing some ICT information. It is entirely in English and kept up-to-date.

 

Pakistan Ministry of Planning, Development and Reforms

This website provides an overview of the role of the Ministry of Planning, Development and Reforms, which was created to help monitor various projects, programs and initiatives. The website and publications are in English and are up-to-date.

 

Case Study

Sending A Message of Accountability: SMS Helps Improve Services after Pakistani Floods

The Strengthening Participatory Organization, the Popular Engagement Policy Lab, and Raabta Consultants teamed up to create a “Complaints and Response Mechanism using FrontlineSMS.”

Time Frame: 2011-Present

 

External Resources

ICTs for Development: Moving Out of the Pakistani Paradox

Author: Hasan Rizvi

Last Updated: 2003

 

A Qualitative Inquiry of ICT Based Socio-Economic Development in Developing Countries: The Case of Pakistan

Author: Muhammad Naveed Baqir

Last Updated: 2009

 

The Gender Digital Divide in Rural Pakistan: How Wide Is It and How to Bridge It?

Author: Karin Astrid Siegmann, Sustainable Policy Development Institute

Last Updated: 2009

 

Due to Pakistan’s recent technology boom, it is relatively easy to find statistics about ICT and resources on their ICT Policy and the digital divide. All of the publications I found and used were written in English so it was easy to read. It will be interesting to see how Pakistan manages this ICT growth in the future and whether the ICT policy goals will be met; therefore, it is definitely a great country to analyze for this project.


Learning about GIS for Development

Over the past semester this course has taught me a great deal about ICT4D theories, concepts and frameworks, as well as showed me various avenues of work for development professionals. GIS for development is the topic that has piqued my interest the most as I have never thought about the endless uses for GIS before this course. I have always just considered GIS to be used in order to give directions and locations, so listening to Robert Banick and Stephen Ward, as well as reading the additional reports, has opened my eyes to the world of GIS. While GIS is starting to become a major tool for international development, I think its ability and uses are still very much undervalued.

During this course I have learned that GIS is being used in applications such as Ushahidi to map areas of land cover and land usage, areas of social/political conflict, roads, populated areas, health clinics, and distribution of emergency aid and relief. We have talked about specific applications such as using GIS during the Haitian earthquake, the Pakistani floods, the Malaysian Airplane crash etc.; however, I think GIS will continue to grow and develop to where we can continue to layer different variables to actually enable all of a development project’s details to be visible on a single map. Instead of simply mapping the location of disaster relief, GIS will enable workers to map the location of disaster relief, as well as the affected area, the most populated areas, etc. GIS can show real-time maps and in the future I think most development projects will use GIS to help oversee and organize the projects. We have also discussed reasons for ICT4D project failures, including not looking at the whole system, not understanding infrastructure capacity, and creating projects not relevant to the local context. GIS could be a useful tool to help prevent ICT4D failures as it can be used as a reference to learn about the target area and the system as a whole in the past and present, and may also be able to map the rate of project success in the target area.

Over the summer I will be interning in D.C. and helping professionals work on the NEPAnode, which is a program recently launched by the DOE using FOSS to organize and collect data on environmental programs . I am very excited to witness the development of these GIS programs, as I hope to work in this field in the future and continue to help improve future development projects.


Technology contributing to VAW

All too often we view ICT4D projects as a means to empower women and minimize the gender divide, and overlook how technology can exacerbate gender issues, such as violence against women (VAW). While ICTs can decrease/stop VAW, it can also be seen as a facilitator, as technology can provide additional platforms for violent action. In order to understand how technology can exacerbate VAW, it must be understood that VAW does not simply include physical violence, but also psychological, economic, and sexual abuse. The MDG3: Take Back the Tech program, which was a project created in 2009 to strengthen women’s rights activists to use technology tools to prevent technology related VAW, categorizes technological violence into 5 broad categories including online harassment and cyberstalking, intimate partner violence, culturally justified violence against women, rape and sexual assault, and violence targeting communities. There are several ways in which violence is committed with the use of technology:

  • Mobile Text Messaging and calling
  • Intimate Photos and Blackmail
  • Mobile Phone Tracking
  • Manipulating Photographic Images
  • Use of Internet to Fake Recruit victims
  • Violation of Passwords
  • Listening and Recording Phone Conversations
  • Monitoring Web Browsing

According to a paper from the Association for Progressive Communications, men are misusing mobile phones to harass and threaten their partners, and even track their partner’s phone to know her location at all times. Technology has added another dimension to the issue of privacy, as men try to gain control of their partners by tracking and monitoring their every move. Additionally, in several developing countries husbands are using intimate/pornographic photos of their partners to blackmail them and gain control. Men have even been known to use fake advertisements to lure women into forced marriages, guess partner’s passwords, and disrespect their privacy by listening to phone conversations.

Technology related VAW is a dangerous and growing problem as technology enables violence by allowing anonymity, automation, affordability, action from a distance, and propagation. Technology does not only provide an affordable and detached way to harm women, but has also made it easier for the offender to remain anonymous, to stalk and monitor their partner, and to create damage that can follow their women around forever. While technology is a promising way to improve gender equality, I think we must not ignore the growing and serious issue of how technology can exacerbate VAW. After reading this paper, I question how we can protect women from technology related VAW.


Is Crowdsourcing the Next Solution?

Before this semester, I was familiar with crowdsourcing only in the context of consumer behaviour, using it to search for the best restaurants, hotels, etc. It was not until Dr. Stephen Ward spoke to our class that I realized the endless broad and diverse applications of crowdsourcing using available GIS and satellite imagery of the Earth. Dr. Ward discussed how DigitalGlobe launched their crowdsourcing platform Tomnod on March 11th in order to increase efforts to find the missing Malaysian plane. Using Tomnod, over 25,000 people have been able to scan satellite imagery and tag highly important areas, which are then run through algorithms to sift out all irrelevant information. Within a couple days, Tomnod uploaded over 1,235 square miles of high-resolution satellite imagery of the Gulf of Thailand, making me question how, even with crowdsourcing, we would be able to efficiently sort through the massive amounts of data to find the important details. Although computers use complex algorithms to determine what is noise and what is most likely relevant, I cannot help question the reliability and efficiency of this process.

According to The Stream Official Blog, some users, reported coordinates for interesting objects, such as an outline of what appeared to be a plane underwater, and oil slicks and metal/plastic debris. However, several people are skeptical about the practicality of using crowdsourcing to find the plane, as the plane probably will not resemble a plane any longer and the lack of visibility of debris due to the limited resolution of the satellite. What prevents people from tagging every rock or garbage they see? Also, how are we certain that the algorithms don’t discard any relevant information?

Over the past five years the developments in crowdsourcing has enabled it to be applied to several disciplines, such as science, international development, and security. It has been used to find missing people, determine future famines, highlight current conflict areas, and supply information that would otherwise go unknown. That being said, I fear we still lack the scientific capacity to rely as heavily as we have been on GIS and crowdsourcing. We cannot significantly reduce ground searches and ground operations until we successfully use GIS and crowdsourcing several more times. In the future, I think GIS and crowdsourcing will alter the development sector; however, we must continue to develop innovative ways to more efficiently and accurately deal with the influx of data before we rely on this method.


Mobile Phones: Not Just a Technology

Recently, our class discussions have focused on the benefits of using mobile phones for international development, as seen with the Fishing Industry in India and the mobile phone use in Africa. However, through our discussions and readings I have noticed that we primarily focus on the use of mobile phones for business or for alerts, such as disasters or availability of clean water, and sometimes forget that mobile phone use is highly dependent on the culture and main focus of its users. When writing “Dead China Make: Phones off the Grid,” the author used an article written by Genevieve Bell called “The Age of Thumb: A Cultural Reading of Mobile Technologies in Asia,” which assesses the ways that cultural practices affect Asia’s mobile phone use. Bell argues that mobile phones are not merely for business calls, as they also maintain individual identities and social roles in Asia. Bell’s article focuses on the ways in which mobile phones are being “deployed, consumed, regulated, rejected, and naturalized in urban Asia” to understand how phones are being used as cultural objects in addition to technological objects.

Bell looks at mobile phones as “objects for communications, manifestations of information, as a form of identity politic, and as sites of anxiety and control.” Her research found that, just as in the US, Asia uses phones to stay in constant communications with friends and family to find out the newest gossip, know where their family is, and if everyone is safe. A lot of families interviewed even purchased phones for their teenagers to keep in touch. She also discovered that these users also use cell phones for information, such as streaming sports games and finding up-to-date scores, online shopping and payments, ordering taxis and even providing prayer reminders to Muslims. Additionally, Bell realized that several Asian countries censor phones and monitor every text message sent, as they are concerned that it could negatively affect cultures. Lastly, and what I found most surprisingly, is that people use these cell phones as identities –  the way they decorate it with cultural symbols, the telephone numbers they choose, thinking that those numbers are lucky, and the photos and backgrounds of their family. All of these little things prove that cell phones are as much a technology as they are a culture.

Some might ask why bother focusing on the cultural aspects of mobile phones, when we are only using it as a technology object for development. Well, I think it is crucial to understand the cultural uses of phones in order to understand how best to utilize mobile phones for development. Giving a fisherman a phone, without understanding his culture, would probably drastically limit the success of the ICT4D initiative.


Pakistan’s ICT Industry: Is it progressing?

Over the past decade, Pakistan’s ICT sector has experienced a “prolific boom” as an increase in ICT infrastructure and affordability has led to better accessibility. Currently Pakistan’s technology export rate (which includes aerospace, computers, pharmaceuticals and scientific instrument products) has increased from 1% in 2007 to 1.8%, where it has remained relatively constant for the past three years. In comparison, the United States’ technology export rate is 18.1% of its manufactured exports. Additionally, Pakistan’s ICT expenditure accounts for 4.4% of its total GDP.

While ICT production does not seem to be as high as other more developed nations, Pakistan is making an effort to increase its production in order to use ICT at an enabler for development in other sectors, such as health, education, etc. Additionally, Pakistan is looking to decrease its urban/rural digital divide by investing 700 million dollars towards infrastructure and networking. In order to accomplish this Pakistan will need to upgrade their local software and applications, creating hundreds of thousands of jobs for the Pakistanis, which will positively impact Pakistan’s economy. Additionally, companies such as Telecommunication Company Limited, which is investing in one of the largest international submarine cables to help Pakistan meet future telecommunication needs, are increasing investments in order to create better quality and faster ICT products.  

It is clear from Pakistan’s 2012 IT Policy draft that an increase in ICT production would positively affect the education, health, agriculture and empowerment sectors, which would in turn have a positive impact on the economy. Creating jobs, decreasing child and maternal mortality, increasing agriculture productivity and increasing knowledge and training will not only help Pakistan’s social environment, but also increase their GDP, their exports and increase foreign direct investment. It seems that ICT production may be the key to Pakistan’s transformation from an underdeveloped country to a global competitor.


Can you Define Failure?

The vast majority is very quick to criticize ICT4D projects and highlight statistics such as the World Bank statistic that states that about 70% of ICT projects fail, without even understanding the context of these numbers. In this case, how does the World Bank define failure? What constitutes a project as a failure? Some projects may be black and white with a clear boundary between success and failure; however, most projects lack this definitive boundary. For example, the Zambian Interactive Radio Instruction (IRI) program, known as Learning at the Taonga Market (LTM) was launched in 2000 to create low cost, high quality education for educationally and geographically marginalized areas in Zambia. The LTM integrates IRI, which acts as an active teaching tool, and the Lifeline radio, which is a dual-powered device that uses both wind-up and solar technology minimizing the dependency on other energy sources to teach lessons written and recorded by the Educational Broadcasting Services in conjunction with the Education Development Center. This program was designed to use existing technology, such as the radio, to provide high-quality education for over 800,000 children who cannot attend school. Since its implementation, over 160,000 children have received education through the LTM and these children have tested better than the children attending mainstream schools.

While this program appears to be working, some people argue it is another failed ICT project. Even though the demand for the LTM program and the enrolment of G1 participants have steadily increased, the retention rate is uncomfortably low as only 2,916 of the total 7,782 learners completed G5. Additionally, when testing the participants’ literacy and numeracy skills, it was apparent that the children had gained knowledge. However, the mean numeracy score dropped from 71.5% in 2001 to 63% in 2003 and the literacy skills dropped from 56.6% in 2001 to 48.8% in 2003. Even though observers noticed an improvement in literacy and numeracy skills, the tests proved otherwise. Does this mean that the project failed?

The lowered retention rate could be due to a lack of monitoring and evaluation; some people could be counted as “drop outs” even if they just switched IRI centers. Additionally, the discrepancies in the numeracy and literacy tests could be due to the different sample sizes tested in 2001 and 2003. Therefore, is it accurate to consider this project a failure on the basis of somewhat skewed data? And even if the data were accurate, should this project be classified as a failure based on two statistics, even when vast improvements and increases in demand have been noted? All these questions cannot be answered unless we define failure.