Author Archives: chelseabrennan

ICT4D Professional Profile: Wayan Vota

Wayan Vota is a senior director at Inveneo who maintains a few different ICT4D blogs and websites: Wayan Dot Com, ICTWorks, Educational Technology Debate, Technology Salon, OLPC News and Belly Button Window. Wayan has worked in a lot of different ICT4D sectors but now works in education. He focuses a lot of OLPC and the different benefits and flaws of the project.
Wayan is really involved in social media. He tweets frequently and likes to use social media to aid in his presentations and speeches at conferences. For example, for ICISTS-KAIST, he asked his blog readers to submit links, topics, articles, etc. to him for his discussion about the digital divide. He asked them to submit their suggestions via Twitter using #ICISTS.  He also uses social media frequently to run Technology Salon and to interact with the ICT4D community.
Wayan had three suggestions for securing a job in ICT4D: start making contacts, go on informational interviews and blog about ICT4D. I’ve always known that making contacts/networking is essential to securing a job, and blogging obviously helps you to become more well-known. However I had never heard of informational interviews and didn’t realize that it was something that people did often. I think it sounds really helpful and might try it in the future.

Cloud Computing for E-Government

The relationship between cloud computing and security is a very interesting one to me. With the growing needs for ICT for development and in general, cloud computing is an obvious solution. It keeps everything linked, easily accessible, and increases storage resources. For example, Tulane University switched to a cloud-based email system about a year ago, giving students 10 GB of email storage as well as a “SkyDrive” which is a cloud-based flash drive. This switch gave students more space than they would ever need–I have thousands of emails and I’m only at just over 1 GB.

But is the cloud a solution for everything and everyone in ICT? An article published recently in March talked about cloud computing in relation to e-government for Barbados, stating that “cloud computing has the potential to significantly lower Barbados government enterprise ICT cost while improving overall ICT operations and support services.” While cloud computing is certainly a new option to improve ICT cost and operations for governments, is is a good idea in a sector that deals with so much private citizen information? Security has always been a concern when dealing with ICTs, so it needs to be an even bigger concern when looking into e-government and e-governance. I believe that it is possible and a viable option, but only after a lengthy consideration of ALL possible security concerns, and a well-outlined security and architecture plan.

Infographic- Mobile Web Africa 2012

While reading through the White African blog, I found a link to an infographic on Afrinnovator, a blog that focuses on “telling the stories of African startups, African innovation, African made technology, African tech entrepreneurship and entrepreneurs.”

I’m a huge fan of infographics, mainly because I spent my internship last summer creating them, so I understand the work, research and planning that goes into creating a detailed, informative and visually pleasing infographic. This infographic by Alex Muriu is very easy to read and understand. It organizes a wide range of statistics about Africa’s Internet and mobile usage. The infographic makes a case for Africa investing in ICT development, quoting stats about the amount the Kenyan government could save with a move to digital ($1 million), the rise of mobile phones in Africa and their usefulness, and generally the benefits of digital development. These stats paint a simple picture: investment in ICTs for Africa is proven to be worthwhile in the few endeavors and increasing mobile phone owners. But is it really that simple? This week’s article “Information and Communications Technology for Development (ICT4D)- A Design Challenge?” discussed the various components necessary for the successful of an ICT project. They included discussions on stakeholders, metrics, incentives and design.

While reading and analyzing this infographic, I thought critically about these necessary components. An ICT4D project is not likely to succeed without previous analysis and consideration of these aspects. In order for the suggestions made by the infographic to be implemented, one must consider the stakeholders (numerous) and design of the project. The infographic uses a few data points to reference how helpful ICTs could be in rural areas, but in order for them to be successful, the program must be designed in a way that is structured for the rural residents as well as the government stakeholders (just to give one example.)

In short, I think that this infographic is an amazing way to get people thinking about the future and necessity of ICTs in Africa, but also to think critically of the logistics behind it.

ICT4D and ICT4$: It’s not black and white

I was a little put off by the class discussion and some of the blogs we read for Wednesday’s class. I don’t see ICT4D and ICT4$ as black and white, two separate entities with no overlap or gray in between. Maybe I’m thinking of the terms too broadly, but I see it as a scale:

1. ICT4D, strictly non-profit: several class members talked about ICT4D projects/organizations being strictly non-profit, with no revenue or profit. This would be one far side of the scale: a project or organization that operates solely on funding/grants, with no revenue or profit of any kind coming in.

2. ICT4$, sustainable non-profit (hybrid): this would be ICT4D organizations that classified as a 501c3 nonprofit but generate revenues through the selling of services/products. For example: Inveneo (current employer of Wayan Vota). Inveneo is a non-profit “social enterprise” “that aims to get the tools of information communications technology (ICT), such as computers, telephony, and Internet access to those who need it most — people and organizations in rural and highly underserved communities of the developing world.”

3. ICT4$, social enterprise: this would be an organization that makes a profit, but is driven by the concept of development and focuses on that (example, VC4Africa)

4. ICT4$: this would be companies that sell information and communication technology for profit, without ICT4D as a main mission (ie Google, etc)

In my opinion, types 1-3 should definitely still be considered ICT4D. I see ICT4D as information and communication technology for the benefit of development. Organizations like Inveneo and Ushahidi make a profit, but does that mean they aren’t concentrating on development? The world runs on money, it isn’t something that we can avoid. Non-profits that generate revenues can be even more successful because they can be sustainable and not run on grant money. An organization can be categorized as ICT4D (even if it generates revenue) if its mission is to create a social impact and benefit/increase development, in any country.

Frontline SMS

Frontline SMS is a free open source software that can work without an internet connection. Frontline SMS only requires a computer and cell phone. By using the cell phone and local phone number as a modem, the Frontline SMS software allows SMS messages to be managed without Internet.

This software was originally created by Ken Banks in 2005 in South Africa to help conservationists keep in touch with communities within Kruger National Park. The software became available online in 2007 and was released as open source in 2008. In 2009, the Frontline SMS founder hired the first employee of a team that has since grown to 15 members. During the earthquake in Haiti in 2010, Frontline SMS worked with Ushahidi, CrowdFlower and Samasource to create Mission 4636 that we discussed in class on Wednesday. Frontline SMS has assisted in other disaster situations since then, including the Pakistan floods in 2011.

Frontline SMS has been useful for more than just disaster humanitarian response. Frontline SMS has been used in the medical community to track outbreaks of diseases, saving hospitals thousands of dollars. The coolest new improvement to Frontline SMS is Medic Mobile, a new aspect of Frontline SMS. They are developing technology that will include a $15 cell phone addition that will allow people (like hospitals in rural areas) to put a blood sample into the back of the phone under an LED light and take a holographic image that can be sent via MMS. A diagnosis would be sent back within 10 seconds and would be able to diagnose malaria, some STDs and potentially HIV. This technology will be invaluable once finalized.





Ashoka and ICT4D

Social entrepreneurs are opportunistic individuals who are frustrated with the status quo and, seeing a niche in the market, make efforts to develop an innovation to promote social change. Since its creation in 1981 by Bill Drayton, the non-profit organization Ashoka has supported over 2,000 social entrepreneurs who have been elected as Ashoka Fellows.  Ashoka Fellows are supported by Ashoka financially and in other ways, and have found innovative solutions in 53 different sectors. 66 fellows have been elected in the field of technology and information technology.

Social entrepreneurs are essential to ICT4D because they look to transform the current system and make it more effective. I think that social entrepreneurship actually complements ICT4D, because technology enables us to find even more innovative ways to solve social problems. For example, Dr. Julia Borbolla, a Ashoka Fellow in Mexico, has founded an organization called Antennas for Children. Dr. Borbolla addressed the problem of millions of poor children being unable to receive quality psychological care by developing a multimedia project that reaches out to traumatized children who do have have adequate access to care. Dr. Borbolla’s organization uses ICT4D and social entrepreneurship to find a solution.

Why ICT4D fails and potential new approaches

During class, we watched a video about the Top 7 Reasons Why ICT Projects Fail. The article that I read (on an ICT4D blog), Richard Heeks briefly highlights five reasons why ICT4D projects fail and then explores the idea of a “process approach” to ICT4D projects. Using this process approach, the five highlighted reasons for failure are turned around into five key points for success.

The process approach includes beneficiary participation, flexible and phased implementation, learning from experience, local institutional support, and sounds project leadership. These elements have all been found in successful ICT4D projects. Heeks describes the process approach as a wheel, with all five components as an integrated whole. This is most beneficial of ICT4D projects because it can lead to concrete and well organized projects.


In addition to this, I found that the most successful aspect of the process approach is that instead of the project being an outright “success” or “failure”, the project would contain many “successes” and “failures”. Turning perceived failures into successes is one of the most important aspects of the process approach. This idea can help to give hope to ICT4D projects that may be abandoned early on due to a small perceived failure. The notion that these failures can occur alongside successes is essential for an overall successful ICT4D project.