Author Archives: bstanga

Lessons Learned

Development practitioners and policymakers must realize that ICT is a tool, not an goal in and of itself. Access to the most up to date technology and the latest communication innovation does not necessarily translate into tangible development if it is not distributed in an appropriate manner. This class’s focus on synchronizing the needs of the target population with the appropriate technology is one of its strongest features. People’s conception of how technology is/can be used in their daily lives varies significantly. Age, gender, geographic location, peer group, work environment, etc are among the many factors that allow one to conceive a use for technology. The fact that this class was able to address so many different “types” of tech users was very useful. Additionally, the fact that so many sectors were mentioned and studied was greatly beneficial. It was inspiring to see how technology is used in different fields- from security to farming to disaster relief. A snapshot of each sector broadened my outlook regarding post-undergraduate possibilities and options. I can foresee using the what I’ve learned about GIS and open source mapping in the future- before our sessions on disaster relief and humanitarian aid I had not considered the extreme usefulness of crowdsourcing. 

Taking into account that IDEV 4100 is part of the core requirements for the  international development coordinate major, it is understandable that the curriculum focuses solely on developing countries. That being said, I think it would be interesting to investigate the ICT policies and programs of wealthier countries, (such as the United States, Portugal, Sweden, Germany…) especially those that focus on low-income socioeconomic groups. I think technology is a tool that can be used (and already has been used) to reduce inequality, or the digital divide if you will, in developed countries.

Advertisements

Colombia ICT4D Resources

Image

1) National ICT Policy: Vive Digital

Colombia’s national ICT policy is outlined through El Plan Vive Digital,  an initiative sponsored by the Ministry of Information and and Communications Technologies (MinTIC). This link includes a short introductory video, an outline of the plan, policy goals, Colombia’s demand for ICT etc. A pdf of the government publication outlining the plan is availble here

Data is from 2011

Content language: Spanish

2) The Ministerio de Tecnologías de la Información y las Comunicaciones is responsible for overseeing Vive Digital. Link to their website here (content is in Spanish)

3) Here is a link to a study (in English) conducted by the Center for Information & Society at the University of Washington  and the Instituto de Estudios Peruanos that discussed the impact of ICT training programs in Brazil, Colombia, and Mexico. The Colombian programs highlighted were through the Centro Juan Bosco Obrero, Teleton Colombia, and Cirec (site of the latter is currently under construction).

4) Additional Resources:

Colombia Digital: information on Colombia’s policy (English)

Pro-Ideal: Colombia ICT summary and policy overview (English)

Latin Lawyer: Information on ICT legislation and rights (English)

5) Due to the popularity and relative success of Vive Digital, it is fairly easy to access information on Colombia’s ICT policy. That being said, the most up to date content is often only available in Spanish.


GENDERIT.ORG: A FORUM FOR DISCUSSION ON GENDER POLICY AND ICT

Image

Yesterday’s guest speaker got us all thinking about the different kinds of obstacles faced by younger women in the developing world. Young women have the potential to truly impact their communities in the long run provided they are given access to the appropriate tools. Information and Communication Technology can be used in unique ways by and for women to help them become more participatory members of their communities, to help them overcome gender-barriers, and be more able to take care of their families. However, policymakers and implementers must proceed with caution. As with all development projects, the framework and goals of the project must be aligned with the needs of the stakeholders. Policy discussion and implementation methods are vital to the success of a project. While researching ICT4D and women, I came acrossgenderITorg. This blog-style website was developed by theAssociation for Progressive Communications Women’s Rights Programme. According to the site its aims are:

*To develop an information resource/knowledge sharing site for gender and ICT advocates, civil society organizations and policy makers that wish to be active in gender and ICT policy.
* To raise awareness among civil society organisations, specifically in women’s movements, regarding gender and ICT policy issues.
* To empower women’s organisations and networks in collaboration with other civil society actors to take action on ICT policy issues and develop ICT policy that meets their needs. To encourage them to lobby for an information society that builds social justice and human rights, at the national, regional and global level.

It classifies, interprets, monitors, and analyzes the ICT policies of countries in Latin AmericaAsia-PacificCentral Eastern Europe, andAfrica. Users can find information by country, policy issue, or specific organization (most of the content is available in English and Spanish). The site also has a glossary of terms frequently used in ICT and gender discussions. While the site isn’t as flashy or smartly-arranged as some of the other development websites we’ve seen- the amount of information is staggering. Furthermore, the site allows for interaction between users to discuss policies and project ideas.

See their twitter feed here!


Security in a Box

Image

After Adam Hash’s talk on Tuesday, it seems that the only way to protect our personal information is to be, well, some hay in the haystack. In class we’ve been introduced to countless organizations that have conducted hundreds of studies. The plethora of information collected is incalculable. But where is all this information stored and how is it protected? NGO’s, socially-conscious organizations, and governments have collected sensitive data such as HIV status, sexual orientation, political preference, etc. that could compromise the privacy and safety of the individual if accessed by malicious users. However, cyber security is generally not a budgetary priority of NGOs. Unless there is a direct and easily identifiable adversary (such as Greenpeace and Japanese whalers), security measures are often seen as unnecessary overhead costs. Much such organizations are already structured to minimize overhead and administrative costs as much as possible. Yet, a security breach could seriously harm the beneficiaries of the organization/initiative, as well as the reputation and work of the organization itself

Fortunately, there are solutions out there. The Tactical Technology Cooperative, an international non-profit whose mission is to “advance the skills, tools, and techniques of rights advocates, empowering them to use information and communications to help marginalized communities understand and effect progressive social, environmental and political change”, has launched a project that directly addresses cyber security of human rights advocates and organizations. Security in a Box offers informative how-to booklets and guides which allow an organization to up their security measures, free of charge. Each of the guides includes free, open-source software as well as instructions on how to use it. Topics include “How to remain anonymous and bypass censorship on the internet” or “CCleaner – Secure File Deletion and Work Session Wiping”. They even offer special guides for mobile security. Perhaps most impressively, the information is available in 11 languages, including Russian, Turkish, Arabic, and Indonesian. 


SOS via SMS

Image

“I want to draw your attention to a gap that exists today between the public’s use of social media in a disaster and the ability of disaster response organizations and relief agencies to act on that information.” In a testimony to Congress in 2011, Suzy DeFrancis, Chief Public Affairs Officer of the American Red Cross, brings to light a key issue area in current disaster relief strategy. The potential value of social media during disaster situations is enormous, more and more often people are using social media outlets such as Twitter or Facebook to alert others of their well-being (or not) and whereabouts immediately after a disaster. While social media may not be accessible to some in lesser developed countries, mobile phones and texting is almost an universal function that is available globally. The 2010 Emergency Social Data Summit at the American Red Cross identified key benefits and challenges associated with the use of texting in a disaster situation. Their report identified texting as the most accessible technology across socio-economic groups. Furthermore, texting costs less and requires less bandwidth then say a phone call, a tweet, or a Facebook post.

A priority of disaster response is making the situation less chaotic. By encouraging citizens participation and empowering people to contribute to the relief effort on the ground, a sense of order and accomplishment can be achieved. Using text messages to send out information about shelters, food and water resources, or first aid stations could save precious time and help agencies efficiently distribute their resources. FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate emphasizes the importance of enabling people to see themselves as survivors, not victims, of a disaster. Social media and text messaging could be a viable means for empowerment. Citizen reporting can be extremely useful and is sometimes the only information aid agencies have available, yet presents the following challenges: (1) Misinformation (2) Overwhelming the system (3) Language (4) Platform Failure. In order to overcome these challenges the public must be educated on the appropriate manner in which to contact aid agencies before a disaster, so as to manage the response expectations. Furthermore, one single agency or social media platform should not be responsible for all requests; a collaborative effort is much less vulnerable to shocks and unprecedented failures. The potential technology has to coordinate relief efforts and save lives is astounding, aid agencies simply must keep up with technological advances while staying in tune with public use. 


6TH ANNUAL ICT4D CONFERENCE

Image

Next month Catholic Relief Services’ 6th Annual ICT4D Conferencewill take place in Nairobi, Kenya. Through exhibitions, presentations, workshops, and open discussion sessions the conference aims to “provide an opportunity to listen, discuss and test innovative technology solutions with practitioners and providers who are using ICT to build the resilience of communities across Africa, Latin America and Asia”. Over and over again our textbooks and readings remind us of the importance of communication and information sharing in the Digital Age. With the plethora of technologies available now, conferences such as this one can help hone in the discussion to truly relevant issues and encourage collaboration amongst attendees. The conference explicitly reaches out to individuals, institutions, and corporations that seek to “enhance the quality and accountability of development and relief programs”. This sentence in and of itself signals an important shift in recent development strategy outlined in Richard Heek’s ICT4D Manifesto: “ICT4D 2.0” should focus more on improving the use of existing technology and measuring its effectiveness.

All past conferences, apart from the first, have been hosted by African cities (the exception being Washington DC). This signals the importance of an emerging digital market in the continent. Although Africa consistently ranks lowest on ICT indicators in terms of access, quality, frequency, and availability of various technologies it is in fact one of the fastest growing markets: “Africa is the region with the highest growth rates over the past three years and mobile-broadband penetration has increased from 2% in 2010 to 11% in 2013.” (International Telecommunications Union ICT Facts and Figures). This being the case, perhaps the conference should seek to attract actual users as opposed to solely focusing on institutional participants. Providing an opportunity for such individuals to voice their opinions and experiences could offer valuable input to the ICT4D movement as a whole. Currently the conference only offers one type of registration fee- $275 for general admission. Perhaps by offering various types of tickets the conference could attract a wider variety of participants.


The Swedish Spider Web

Image

Spider is a program out of Stockholm University which aims to support the use of ICT4D and poverty alleviate through project sponsorship and support in developing countries, with a primary focus on the “twelve priority countries” for Swedish development cooperation (Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mali, Mozambique, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia). Spider mainly supports projects related to the enhancement of democracy and the improvement of education and health services, which correlate with the United Nations Millennium Development Goals. I think its important to consider ICT4D as a means to achieve and end goal and not a end in and of itself. There’s a reason increasing Worldwide Internet Access isn’t a MDG!  In order for a development project to be successful,  the target population must be in demand of the service to be given (such as vaccines or textbooks). In Richard Heeks’ article ICT and the MDGs: On the Wrong Track?, the author addresses the controversial issue of developed, wealthy countries proposing a single, relatively inflexible path to development that they themselves did not pursue. Why should developing countries have to follow this agenda? Who says it is the right one to follow? The same goes for ICT. There’s no use in seeking to implement technology where there’s no demand or infrastructure to support it. Spider’s framework theoretically overcomes this obstacle in that it focuses in three main areas (democracy, education, and health) where there is a demand and a distinct possibility for the tangible application of technology for development and poverty alleviation purposes, with longterm results. With four “Networks” (hence the spiderweb metaphor), Spider aims to promote “synergistic collaboration and cross-breeding” based on geographic location of development theme. This allows experience and expertise to inform the various projects: “in addition to supporting and advising each other, the projects also feel that they are part of a greater effort, the compound impact of which surpasses individual parts”.