Author Archives: cmahoney2014

Costa Rica ICT4D Resources

Costa Rica was on e of the first countries to embrace ICTs in Latin America, and access to telecommunications is considered a civil right. The ICT policies covering the government and telecommunications are included in two national plans: The Digital Government Action Plan 2008-2010, and The National Plan of Telecommunications.

Digital Government Action Plan, English 2010

National Plan of Telecommunications, English 2011

In 1988, to help close the digital divide, Costa Rica implemented the Educational Informatics of the Ministry of Education and the Omar Dengo Foundation project which was implemented in schools all over Costa Rica. This project focuses on utilizing educational digital technologies to make advances in education. The program exposes the children to technologies, especially computers, and also to explains to them the relevance and importance of these ICT tools. Because all of the teachers are trained beforehand, they are able to teach their students how to correctly use these tools for educational purposes.

Omar Dengo, English, 2002

Utilizing the development indicators from the World Bank, and the human development indicators from the Human Development reports, gives a good starting point on the background of a country. They let you know about the economic standing of the country as well as some disparities that may exist, which can help you better understand the reason for ICT failures and successes.

World Bank

Human Development Report

Costa Rica is a fairly easy country to study when exploring ICT4D. There is supple information, and the country continues to utilize more and more ICTs.


Lessons Learned

There are a lot of people in the world who want to implement ICT4D projects. They have great intentions with great ideas. Good intentions and ideas is not enough when trying to develop a successful development project. When a project is not implemented correctly, it is difficult to see any lasting results. In this class we learned about what qualities make an ICT4D project successful and what makes it fail.

 

The most important thing I learned about the success of ICT4D implementation is that it is important to utilize existing technologies and that it is crucial to be culturally sensitive and relevant. Many times, ICT4D organizations throw new technologies at people. There are many issues with that. For one, the area may not have the correct infrastructure to support these ICT4D tools. Without proper training, these people will probably not be able to utilize these tools. If they do not find the technology relevant, they probably wont use the tool either. It is important to have someone that can teach how to use the new technologies as well as the relevance of it and how it will better their lives. Using existing technologies facilitates the transition. For example, M-pesa is a mobile banking organization in Kenya. They have been very successful because most of the Kenyan population already owns mobile phones. Their mobile banking works with any type of basic phone, and has had a huge impact on the lives of the people who use it. This project is relevant, and easy to use and that is why I think it has been able to help so many people.

 


Social Media and Disasters

After large disasters, public information is very important. People want to be fully informed on the extent of the disaster, and they want to know right away. These days the quickest way to gather the latest information, most of the time, is through social media. Social media allows everyday people to report the news as they see it to a large amount of people. They can do this through Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, blogs, and much more. Average people are not the only ones using social media, and it has become a very important with emergency aid organizations.

The Congressional Research Service found that organizations use social media in emergencies and disasters in two main ways. First, to give out information and receive feedback. The second way is using social media as an emergency management tool. “Systematic usage  might include using the medium to conduct emergency communications and issue warnings; using social media to receive victim requests for assistance; monitoring user activities to establish situational awareness; and using uploaded images to create damage estimates, among others”.(Lindsay)

There is no question that social media has been very beneficial in releasing information to vast amounts of people. There is still worry of the effectiveness and reliability of social media for emergencies. There have been issues of people relying too heavily on social media, and asking for help through Facebook or Twitter, rather than calling 911. There have also been many false alarms through social media, which wastes time and money. Either way, social media usage is here to stay and it will be interesting to see how emergency and disaster management continue to utilize it.

 

Lindsay, Bruce. Social Media and Disasters: Current Uses, Future Options, and Policy Considerations. Rep. N.p.: n.p., 2011. Print.


Mobile Banking For Everyone

Mobile banking has become very popular in the developed and developing world. It is especially beneficial in the developing world because it addresses many of the problems they are facing when dealing with cash currency. Before the use of mobile banking, small business owners and customers were forced to physically walk to each other to transfer payments. This became a problem, especially for women business owners because of the risk of theft. Another issue people living in a rural community face is distance from a bank; in many cases there are not banks within walking distance,making it difficult to withdrawal and deposit money. Because of these issues, along with others, mobile banking has boomed in the developing world.

M-Pesa is a very popular mobile banking program that started in Kenya, with 43% of their current GDP flowing through this system. (ITpro) M-pesa works with any basic mobile phone. It allows users to pay for goods or even withdrawal money from a M-Pesa office or ATM, with a simple text message and without a debit card. M-pesa has become so popular that this payment is accepted at a large variety of places including local markets, and by street vendors. It has also facilitated the transfer of money. Many Kenyan’s send money to their relatives. Before mobile banking, they would send their payments with someone going in the same direction, and many times their money would never reach the recipient. With M-pesa, transferring money to love ones is as easy as sending a text message. Some businesses even pay salary through M-Pesa. There are transfer fees as well as ATM fees, but they are comparable to other bank fees, but much simpler.

This video shows how M-Pesa has been impacting the lives of Kenyan’s.

http://www.smh.com.au/it-pro/business-it/the-next-currency-killer-african-emoney-mpesa-20140331-zqp9j.html


Mobile Phones for Women’s Empowerment

It’s amazing how prevalent the use of mobile phones has become in the developed world as well as the developing world. In communities where people may not have access to clean drinking water or electricity, you can still see mobile phone usage. It is estimated that there are around 3.9 billion mobile subscribers worldwide. (Informa Telecoms & Media 2011). What is even more amazing is what an impact these mobile phones are having on the developing world, especially the women.

Mobile phones are being used to empower women worldwide. In a article “Woman’s Empowerment? There’s an APP For That” the author, Alice Newton, recalls her time working in Madagascar, and how the women used their mobile phones to empower themselves. She saw mobile phones as “one of the most powerful tools for development” especially for women. Mobile phones allow women more economic opportunities. In many rural countries, women have very particular family commitments. By using mobile phones, these women can do their family duties and still have time to work. Without mobile phones, to communicate with customers, these women would have to walk long distances. Business owners can now receive mobile payments, without neglecting family duties. She also states that communicating through mobile phones improves the safety of these women because walking to meet customers can be very unsafe for women. They can also utilize mobile banking which allows women to save money and build credit.

Mobile phones are also great ways for women to receive information. There are apps and games that teach women’s health. They give information on pregnancy and sexual health. Women are often time unable to receive this information and can not care for themselves and their children as well as they could. They are also able to receive information on politics. This information keeps women from having to rely on others, and allows them to be more self-sufficient. Another important role of mobile phones for women that Newton mentioned was the use of mobile phones to combat domestic abuse. Domestic abuse is a common problem, and now women can connect directly with authorities.

Though there has been an increase overall in phone usage in the developing world, there are still gender gaps. Newton states that “women are 21% less likely to own mobile phones, rising to 37% in some regions.”


#FAIL

“Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.”- Henry Ford There are a lot of problems in the world, poverty, inequality, disease. There are also a lot of good people in this world. These good people are full of great ideas, with great intentions, but these great ideas will never amount to anything, without proper planning and implementation. Sadly, failure is the result of many implemented ICT projects, as 70% of ICT4D projects fail. It is important that when starting a project developers consider all aspects of creating a successful project, and more importantly learn from the mistakes of their past failures and the failures of others.

There are many different reasons projects fail. In class we discussed how propers needs assessments are needed for a successful project. We discussed how lack of sustainability can lead to failure. When failures occur, they are oftentimes thrown under the rug. No one wants to admit failure. This makes it hard for future developers to learn from the past mistakes of others. With 70% of ICT4D projects failing, they are likely repeating mistakes.

Failfaire was established to sweep the failures out from under the rug. This project recognizes ICT4D failures, and allows the creators implementers of the failed projects to explain why the project did not work out. It encourages conversation, and growth.The creators of failure say “At FAILFaire we want to recognize the failures: the pilots that never got anywhere, the applications that are not delivering, the projects that are not having any measurable impact on the lives of people, and the cultural or technical problems that arise.” They believe that sharing success stories is not enough, and that talking about failures can help the future developers make better decisions.

Without acknowledging the problems we have with current and past projects, it will be difficult for the the future of ICT4D to be successful. We need to take advantage of other people’s experience in order to be efficient as possible in making a difference in people’s lives.

 


Technology: Scary or Empowering

In class we have been discussing different technologies and how important it is to give the developing world access to all these technologies that make our lives better. This refers to the digital divide, the technological gap between countries that have fully exploited ICT and those that have not. We spoke about why these gaps existed and broke the reasons up into groups: access, skill, policy and motivation. We discussed how access could mean whether or not the hardware existed anywhere near you, and how skill refers to the technological skill level of the user, and if they had access if they would be able to figure it out.  Policy is another aspect because there are countries that do not have an enabling environment. The last aspect of the digital divide, motivation, was the most interesting to me. This aspect covers people’s desire for new technologies. In many cases residents have no interest in new technologies and are content in the way they have been living.

While reading and discussing the motivation aspect of the digital divide, I wondered if forcing new technologies on people who found them irrelevant or had no motivation to use them was that important. I wondered if that was the case in most developing countries. Were we bombarding these people and their cultures? In this Microsoft blog , the author talks about a study done by Microsoft where they surveyed over 10,000 internet users in 10 nations. In the majority of the countries, developing countries included, the people saw the use of personal technology as a type of empowerment. India believes that technology is even improving health care, and education. Brazil, as well, embraces new technologies and believes it has impacted both art and culture. These countries, for the most part, agree that technology especially personal technology is improving their quality of lives as well as empowering them. Though this does not cover all developing countries, or the different opinions of rural versus non-rural places, it is reassuring that a lot of people want, and embrace new technologies.