- National ICT Policy: http://www.hayzara.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=71%3Apolitique-nationale-des-technologies-de-linformation-et-de-la-communication-pour-le-developpement-pntic-d&catid=35%3Apolicy&Itemid=45&lang=en Published by the Ministry of Telecommunications, last updated in 2005. Everything is in FRENCH!!
- Government websites:
- Economic Development Board of Madagascar: http://www.edbm.gov.mg/page-ict-9-3 (this is the only government website with information about ICTs that is available in ENGLISH)
- External (non-government) resources:
- UN World Food Programme Madagascar: http://www.wfp.org/countries/madagascar/news
- Telecoms Sans Frontieres – website kind of hard to navigate, but they have a Telecom center in Madagascar and have played an important role in disaster response initiatives, especially in the past year. http://www.tsfi.org/index.php
- FAS: Information about the current political crisis in Madagascar – this has had a HUGE effect on international relations and the current state of the economy, and this is a pretty inclusive source on how the political turmoil began, and the status of the government now. http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/row/R40448.pdf
- Notes: There really isn’t much information on Madagascar, and development has basically come to a complete halt because of the political crisis that began in 2009. That being said, Madagascar is a disaster-prone nation (especially vulnerable to cyclones), so in the future (i.e. after elections are held in May 2013 and international sanctions are lifted) there should be some opportunities to study disaster response and preparedness best practices, etc. However, almost all government documents and websites are in French (and are unavailable in English since they are mostly in PDF form so Google Translate will only do the first few pages, if that), so unless you are fluent in French I would not recommend selecting this country.
Author Archives: calliemedin
For me, the most fundamental ICT4D course lesson was the importance of accessibility on a deeper and more inclusive scale. In the beginning of the semester, we discussed barriers to access and how there is a lot more than just a lack of an internet connection (for example) that prevents people from using new technologies. For an ICT4D project to be successful, the technology being implemented must have a user interface that is appropriate to the target beneficiaries – that’s pretty much a given. However, we can make something as user-friendly as possible, and yet no one will actually use it for more than a few months, so in the long-term the project is a failure. Why? Because unless we can make the direct benefits abundantly clear, people in our target population see no need to put time and effort into adopting and implementing new technologies. One of my blog posts this semester discussed a project called Txteagle that worked with telecom providers in Kenya to use airtime minutes to motivate participating nurses who sent in SMS texts regarding supply levels at local hospitals and blood banks. Even though the reward was small—only a minute of airtime per text—it caused a HUGE increase in participation, which benefitted the hospitals involved and thus helped to improve health care in those areas. More recently, Txteagle has been used to survey vulnerable populations to collect data on disaster preparedness. The success of this project supports everything we have learned about in class in terms of why it’s so important to make technology both easy and attractive to access for beneficiaries.
This idea of motivated participation as a requisite for success for development projects was further supported by our course lessons about building on existing framework. Our assigned readings about the controversy regarding ICT4D as a “condescending” term really helped me to gain a deeper understanding of why it’s so important that we don’t come barging into a developing nation and try to change everything. Implementing new technologies is difficult and can cause friction between developers and beneficiaries, but if we instead work to improve systems that are already in place, we are more likely to be successful in our initiatives. Keeping this in mind, I felt like I had gained a much more realistic perspective on ICT4D. From this class, I have learned that when working with developing nations, we must provide both means and reasons to access new technologies. We are more likely to succeed if we work with pre-existing practices, via either increasing access or improving the technologies themselves. I would have liked to have this information before taking the grant-writing IDEV course (Approaches to Sustainable Development); I feel like I would have been able to propose a much more plausible project had I been able to utilize the lessons learned in this class.
Txteagle is an interactive data collection platform that is incredibly innovative in its techniques. They received funding to set up an application for nurses in rural Kenya to text in blood supply levels at local hospitals. At first, the application was very successful, but within a few weeks, participation declined to close to nothing. To counteract the decrease in engagement, Nathan Eagle, the program’s founder, created an incentive system. Safaricom, the local Kenyan mobile operator, gave Eagle access to their mobile billing system. This allowed him to reward participation in his application with minutes of mobile airtime. So, for each text they sent containing data about blood supply levels at local hospitals, nurses received one minute of airtime. This incredibly simple incentive system was wildly successful—almost immediately, all of the nurses began participating again!
This incentive program is applicable to a plethora of other data collection applications. Eagle eventually integrated his system with Safaricom’s partners, so that 220 mobile operators worldwide were able to use his billing and compensation platform. To put this in perspective, Safaricom and its many partners have access to 2.1 billion active numbers in 80 different countries. Consumers need only to complete an opt-in process to begin sending information in exchange for mobile minutes.
More recently, Txteagle has begun working with the Global Network of Civil Society Organizations for Disaster Reduction. This network, consisting of 300 nonprofit organizations worldwide, focuses on increasing the resilience of affected people to disasters along with minimizing the impact of the disasters themselves. Txteagle’s platform is used to send survey questions to vulnerable communities in order to improve disaster preparedness. To initiate communication, a “blanket SMS” invitation is sent out to a community; if a person opts-in, he or she is given the option to complete a survey via SMS text or online – either way, airtime compensation is still received.
I think that this is an awesome idea. By incentivizing inputs, Txteagle is ensuring a much greater level of participation, thus enabling its partners to more effectively give aid to those in need. Txteagle also works with the operators to provide incentives for them as well. Because both the operators and the end users are being compensated for their participation, this program has a great chance of long-term sustainability. It can be applied to so many aspects of development beyond just disaster relief, so future growth seems inevitable.