1.) Rwanda National Information and Communication Infrastructure (NICI) Policy and Action Plan
Although the document does not say when it was last updated, it was created in 2000 and the plans are outlined until 2020. The text is in English and was produced by the Minister in charge of ICT in the Office of the President. This document focuses on NICI III, however it also provides information on NICI I, II and IV. Here is a link to the Rwandan Government website (the website to the Ministry of ICT infrastructure does not work).
2.) Rwanda Vision 2020
The Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning created this document in July of 2000. It is printed in English and outlines Rwanda’s 2020 Vision to be a middle-income, knowledge-based society by 2020. Vision 2020 cites ICT4D as one of the three crosscutting areas to achieve development goals.
1.) National e-Strategies for Development
This report was written by the International Telecommunication Union and it provides information on Rwanda from pgs 23-25.
2.) The Global Information Technology Report 2012
Rwanda’s Networked Readiness Index and sub-indexes is on pg 282.
3.) One Laptop per Child in Rwanda
Overall, information on Rwanda’s ICT plans is very accessible. The Government of Rwanda prioritizes the role of ICTs to accelerate the country’s developmental efforts. Plans to become a technology-driven society by 2020 are closely mapped out in the country’s NICI plans.
What I enjoyed most about this course is that we learned by doing. As a first time blogger, tweeter and mapper, I appreciated learning the material while simultaneously becoming fluent with programs relevant to the field. In many development classes, it can be difficult to see the value in what you are doing as everything seems theoretical and you are rarely discussing current issues. However, in this class it seemed like we were constantly learning about current technologies and their application in the developing world. When I was blogging, I connected frameworks discussed in class to current ICT development projects. When I was tweeting, I was following social media trends of the US election and sharing information of disaster relief for Hurricane Sandy. When I was mapping, I was able to see the organization and structure of Ugandan slum, Bwaise in the city of Kampala.
I gained other valuable takeaways from the class by looking at the development plans of my focus country, Rwanda, within the context of ICTs. I enjoyed comparing Rwanda’s National Information and Communication Infrastructure Plan to the WSIS Action Line Items. It was striking for me to see the similarities in the frameworks. Also, by looking at the various ranking systems and statistics of Rwanda in terms of ICTs, I was able to observe development through different lens perspectives. Rwanda ranked 142/152 in the ICT Development Index, tracking the progress countries are making towards becoming information societies, but ranked 82/142 on the Network Readiness Index, measuring the degree to which economies across the world leverage ICTs to increase competitiveness. Another interesting statistic that stuck with me was from 2008 to 2010, Rwanda experienced one of the highest Internet user growth rates of 8900%! However, this number is not nearly as impressive knowing that in 2009, only 7% of Rwanda had electricity. It was also interesting to learn of Rwanda’s commitment to improving education and their strong partnership with One Laptop Per Child but then learning the various challenges and unsustainable practices of the organization.
Overall, I took a lot away from this class. I greatly enjoyed learning about the practical applications of technology in the lives of vulnerable populations, not only in developing countries, but throughout the world. In moving forward, I now have a much greater understanding of the complexities of ICT4D and a much more critical eye when considering the role of technology in development.
Going with the theme of this week, I read an article on CNN yesterday about 5 big tech issues that Obama is faced with in his upcoming term.
Piracy: The highly contentious Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) earlier this year brought up many discussions about anti-piracy, freedom of speech and online privacy. The bill did not pass but the Obama administration is going to have to revisit piracy issues of illegally downloaded content, preventing copyright infringement without overtly censoring the public and violating the first amendment.
Privacy: Violations of individual’s privacy can be seen in the way that companies collect and track consumers online activity and the government collects data and monitors people for security purposes. There are ambiguous laws regarding the legality of government tracking individuals through digital communication. The Obama administration will need to update the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986, which limits the government’s online access to personal information.
Cybersecurity: Cyber vulnerability of critical US industries and infrastructures such as transportation, water or nuclear and chemical plants are serious threats to national security that must be addressed. The Cybersecurity Act of 2012 attempted to increase collaboration between the government and private sector but the act did not pass, as there was much disapproval from the Senate and private industries. This is a pressing issue that Obama must face in the coming years.
STEM education: There is an increased demand for science, technology, engineering and mathematics professionals (STEM). The Obama administration launched the national STEM Master Teacher Corps program to increase the amount of qualified teachers to educate students in these pertinent fields. Obama plans to develop this program and increase the Pell Grant program to allow more students to receive higher education.
Immigration reform: The Obama administration has tried to allow for more qualified tech graduates from other countries to stay in the US. There have been efforts to provide more green cards to skilled workers to support the US emerging IT field. The Startup Act 2.0 aims to provide 50,000 visas to foreign STEM to get upper level degrees in the US.
I read about a project from the WorldReader e-Reader Pilot in Ghana. As part of the Millennium Development Goals to achieve universal education, the project distributed e-reader technology to Ghanaian primary, junior and senior school students. After extensive evaluation of the iREAD (Impact on Reading of E-readers and Digital content) Ghana Pilot Study showed much of the projects initial success as well as challenges to address in the future. The e-reader allowed students to gain immediate access to academic and personal reading material including books, textbooks, magazines and various articles. Access to these materials allowed students to a have greater number of texts, which were previously limited to the resources available in their local library. On average, students had 107 books on their e-reader over the course of the project. The initiative also put a large emphasis on Ghanaian books, allowing students to gain access to culturally relevant information as well as outside resources. In addition to the immediate impact on students, teachers also reaped benefits by accessing current textbooks and carry out research to prepare lessons rather than relying on outdated and limited textbooks.
The outcome of the pilot study revealed the project increased student’s enthusiasm about reading and simultaneously allowed students to develop useful ICT skills. Students in primary school exhibited improved standardized tests scores, while older students did not display significant gains as a result of the technology. Unexpected challenges in the project included technical problems with the e-reader (about 40% of the e-readers broke), which hindered the long-term success of the project. In addition, the article also suggests that a lack of ICT knowledge and low literacy rates led to the accidental deletion of material and an increased distraction from its entertainment functions.
While the project has initially revealed some promising results, several common challenges (breakages, literacy, electricity, Internet) stand in the way of the e-readers practicality and sustainability to increase literacy rates and improve educational opportunities in the developing world.
For a more thorough analysis of the iREAD project in Ghana, please check out this link.