Author Archives: bridgetslattery

Iran ICT4D Resources

1. National ICT Policy/Plan/Strategy:  While no official Iranian ICT policy has been published these reports offer a comprehensive overview of ICT projects in the country.

The new Iranian government elected in 2013 has been working with the ITU to draft a comprehensive plan for the future.

Here is a press release that outline the general goals for the 2016-2019 plan. Public Consultation on the proposed draft text of the ITU 2016-2019 Strategic Plan

Last Update: April 2014

Language: English

The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran has also complied this report of newly elected President Rouhani’s campaign promises, many of which revolve around ICT policy.

Last Update: August 2013

Language: English

 

2. Relavent Government Websites

The Ministry of ICT oversees the majority of the ICT development projects in Iran. News about there projects and organization can be found here.

The Supreme Council of  ICT is the body which drafts policies about what is appropriate on the Internet and drafts government technology policy.

*The website is in Persian but a google translated version can be found here.

3. Case Study: 

National Program on Technology Enhanced Learning (NPTEL)

Funded through Iranian Ministry of Human Resource and Development with the cooperation of Iranian universities.

Time Frame: 2000-Present

4. Non-governmental Resources:

Reporters Without Borders

Enemies of the Internet Report: Iran 

Small Media

Internet Infrastructure and Policy Report which is updated every one to two months with recent progress in Iran.

Notes: 

Information published by the Iranian government is often unreliable especially when it come to a controversial topic such as Internet access. The government wants to portray its projects as complete successes and rarely allows independent evaluation of its development work. However, the many international watchdog groups which monitor Iran have access to enough information to paint an accurate picture of Iranian ICT capabilities. As I was researching for these posts the most reliable information was almost always found through groups such as, Small Media or Reporters Without Borders, over Iranian government publications or UN reports which rely on self reporting.

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ICT4D Important Lessons

Throughout this semester as we have learned about and discussed ICT4D project a few reoccurring themes stuck out to me. First, that pre-planning is crucial for any successful project. This type of planning is often overlooked when top-down projects are implemented. You need to fully understand the area in which you plan to work and the resources, both human and physical, that it has. A project won’t succeed if the people they are aimed at helping do not have the resources to charge devices you give them, to access the Internet, or do not possess the skills of how to use the ICT. This idea goes hand in hand with avoiding one-size fits all solutions. Each project needs to be tailored to the community and account for the unique culture and structural needs.

Second, it is important to ensure that whatever ICT project you develop is sustainable. You need to ensure that you plan for what happens when devices break or technological changes occur. Sustainability is important for all projects but especially in ICT4D because of the high cost of equipment. When planning for a project you need to account for which technologies are effective today and will remain the most relevant in the future. It is not sustainable to develop a project that uses technologies that will not stay relevant.

Most importantly, whenever possible it is important to partner with both the local government and community organizations. This gives your project the best resources possible. It ensures that you have community support and that your project is relevant to the community at large while simultaneously working with the government to help accomplish larger development goals.


ICT access and Women’s Empowerment are Linked

We have spent a lot of time this year discussing the digital divide between rich and poor nations as well as rural and urban communities. While both of these issues are important to address in development work there exists another digital divide between men and women which occurs in both developed and developing nations. In 2000 the United Nations published this report focusing on empowering women through ICT use. The report offers several suggestions on how ICTs can be used to help empower women but also expressed concerns that unless special care is taken to include women in national ICT infrastructure and educations projects ICTs could develop into another area in which women are excluded. The report emphasizes the fact that technologies are “socially constructed” and will always affect men and women in different ways. While both men and women use ICTs for the same reason, information, connectivity, etc, women are less likely to own radios, mobile phones, and computers. This can exacerbate existing divides in society. A United Nations report found that “an evaluation of telecenters funded under the Acacia programme in Africa indicated that women consistently make up less than one-third of telecentre users.” The report suggested women-only training center or seminars be established to make women feel more comfortable but also warned that even when these resources are available women’s access to ICTs was not equal to men’s.

The same report found that when women are trained in ICT use, especially in the business sector, they reported gaining more respect in their local communities and felt more prepared to enter the job market. ICT use and women’s empowerment are linked. When women are granted access to ICTs it aids their empowerment in other areas but when women are denied access to ICTs it can intensify existing divides between men and women. As countries develop their ICT policies they must take precautions to ensure that women are not excluded from access to ICTs.


Cybersecurity in Developing Nations

Over the past few weeks we have discussed many new tools and programs designed to put more governmental information online to streamline processes. These programs have the potential to simplify and aid in development but they also come with their own set of problems. Cybersecurity is one of the most important issues of the new millennium.

The ITU has released an entire report about how developing nations need to upgrade their cyber-infrastructure. As these nations begin to put more and more governmental, financial, and secret data on to computer systems hackers and cyber-criminals have opportunities to steal this information. High profile attacks like on the Saudi Arabian oil company Arramco which affected more than 30,000 computers could be devastating to a developing nation. Cyber criminals can target government owned systems to steal data or digital currencies like M-Pesa to steal money from 1000s of miles away.

The ITU has released guidelines for developing nations to improve their security. Some of their recommendations include training the weakest part of the cybersecurity system, the user. The same skills gap that holds developing countries back in terms of digital knowledge also makes their existing systems more venerable to cyber threats. Inexperienced computer users are not worried about cyber threats and can take risky actions online. Poorly trained government workers can easily compromise sensitive government systems and allow hackers and other cybercriminals access to governmental data.

Over the next few years the success of eGovernment and eCurrency programs will be determined by the level of security they can provide for users. If developing countries cannot train their population to safely use technology many of the advances that technology can provide will be lost due to compromised security problems. Technology can help to improve the lives of people living in developing nations but if their governments do not invest in security infrastructure for their networks the same technologies that can help them develop can make them venerable to crime and cyberwarfare.

 


Mobile Phones in Rwanda

This week we discussed the use of mobile phones in developing countries. We read this article about how fishermen in India used their mobile phones to predict demand and anticipate which types of fish would be in demand. While reading more about this topic I found this article also from the ITID Journal that discussed how mobile phones impact “microoentrepreneurs” in Rwanda. Rwanda is one of the most underdeveloped nations in the world but even in this difficult situation in Rwanda mobile phones made a difference. Microoentrepreneurs are people who start businesses with 5 of few employees. In the developing world one household may be the site of multiple microenterprises. My article discussed the story of a baker in Kigali who credited his purchase of a mobile phone with the rapid expansion of his business. He claimed, “business increased 30% due to the mobile, so much so that he had been able to move his family into a larger more comfortable home.” Since buying his phone customers can call him to place orders, he can call his suppliers to buy materials, he can take orders from all over the city and not only his neighborhood, as well as constantly communicate with this employee. He has also been able to expand his business into wedding cakes orders, which are phoned in from throughout the country.

His mobile phone had the added bonus of allowing him to keep in close contact with his wife and children while at work.

Mobile phones expand the market place and make business owners better able to respond to the needs of their area. Microoentrepreneurs, like the baker in Kigali, can save time by calling suppliers and customers rather than having to visit them in person and increase productivity by expanding their customer base by taking phone orders.

There are countless uses for mobile technologies in the developing would but better technological infrastructure needs to be created to fully utilize all the possibilities of mobile technologies.


ICT in Iran

In Iran ICT exports account for 4.5% of manufacturing GDP. In terms of total GDP telecommunications account for 1.1-1.3% of Iran’s total GDP in 2002. Since the early 2000s this percentage has most likely grown as Iran begins to attempt to become technologically independent from other nations. Iran wants to become a larger exported of media and technology to help with their other geopolitical goals.

Iran has an extremely young population with the majority of their population under 30. This group has turned more and more to the Internet and technological careers and demand for computers and software is expected to skyrocket in the next few years. For security concerns that government has been hesitant to allow unregulated importation of software and in response a domestic industry has flourished. Out of necessity Iranian programmers and developers often work to create Iranian versions of useful apps and programs to circumvent governmental restrictions.

In the next few years the technology sector in Iran is predicted to rapidly expand and become a more important economic force.


Failure

This week we talked a lot about what types of technologies can work for development and which technologies fail. We also saw many presentations about apps and programs that can help for development. A common theme that I noticed throughout all the tech tools we saw presented was that no group brought up the real implementation challenges that their tool faced. I think that this happens because the data on these failures is not available. In the development field failure is seen as a bad word, No one is willing to admit that a project as failed for fear of removal of funds or bad publicity. I read this article about how failure is the “f word of international development” and how realizing failure helped this organization realize how to adapt and change.

While most people see failure as a single abject stage this author says that failure should be split into several stages based on the impact that is has on the project and community.

  1. Catastrophic failure
    Failure a scale so vast as to encompass the lives and livelihoods of generations to come. Examples: the meltdowns at Fukushima Dai-1 and Chernobyl; building codes in Haiti before January 2010. Possible future catastrophic fails: asteroids, climate change.
  2. Abject failure
    This failure marks you and you may not ever fully recover from it. People lose their lives, jobs, respect, or livelihoods. Examples: British Petroleum’s Gulf oil spill; mortgage-backed securities.
  3. Start-up failure
    A big bet backed by money and momentum, that wipes out both when the market shifts or the business model hits reality. Examples: Pets.com; Jumo.org; Solyndra LLC
  4. Structural failure
    It cuts – deeply – but it doesn’t permanently cripple your identity or enterprise. Examples: Apple iOS 5 Maps; Windows Vista.
  5. Glorious failure
    Going out in a botched but beautiful blaze of glory – catastrophic but exhilarating. Example: Jamaican bobsled team.
  6. Epic failure
    This is a failure that brings joy to all and perhaps even fame and stardom for the fail succeeder. Examples: Celebrity antics; Youtube videos of people falling down; FAILblog
  7. Common failure
    Everyday instances of screwing up that are not too difficult to recover from. The apology was invented for this category. Examples: oversleeping and missing a meeting at work; forgetting to pick up your kids from school; overcooking the tuna.
  8. Version failure
    Small failures that lead to incremental but meaningful improvements over time. Examples: Linux operating system; evolution.
  9. Predicted failure
    Failure as an essential part of a process that allows you to see what it is you really need to do more clearly because of the shortcomings. Example: the prototype — only by creating imperfect early versions of it can you learn what’s necessary to refine it.
  10. Opportunity Failure
    The failure to take risks that leaves you wanting and is usually associated with sentences that begin with, “I should have…” Examples: Not buying Apple stock in 2006; Not selling Nokia stock in 2010; Not getting off your butt today.”

All of these types a failure mean a different thing and if development groups and governments could learn lessons from these failure then maybe development projects would be more successful.