Author Archives: dbarnes4

ICT4D Lessons Spring 2013

One of the most important lessons that I learned in ICT4D was the need for varied approaches to development. Introduction to technology alone is not enough to spur development, nor should technology simply be an add-on to other development initiatives. Rather, technology needs to be incorporated in a way that makes it a tool to achieve the desired development goal. In order to make this possible, a project team needs people from different perspectives of development (tech, human rights, economics, etc.) to be able to produce a well-rounded and feasible result. In his talk, Wayan Vota said that ICT is ceasing to be its own department in many development agencies. Instead, ICT4D professionals are incorporated into teams with people from other fields as well.  He also said one of the absolute keys to working in the development field is having an open mind. You need to be willing to sacrifice whatever specific ideas you might have for a project if the target community wants to go in a different direction. This, in my opinion, is perhaps the most important thing to remember as someone in the development field. The work is not about the success of a specific personal project, but rather the betterment of lives in the way that the community feels would best achieve their development goals.

Being fairly technologically unconnected for my generation, the use of social media is something that I believe will benefit me later down the road as a development professional. I did not have a Twitter account prior to this class (I made one during the semester), and I believe that knowing how to effectively and appropriately use Twitter, especially in relation to natural disasters and big news stories, is an essential new skill. I had also never blogged before, and frankly didn’t trust blogs as a source of information, but using WordPress has educated me on the world of blogs, which might come in handy again someday. Finally, the OSM crowdsourced mapping exercise equipped me with a very useful knowledge and skill. Learning how to operate JOSM and deal with both software and conflict related troubleshooting was a good experience, and with crowdsourced mapping is on the rise, knowing how it operates is key in the development field.

For me the Human Centered Design was the most useful framework that we discussed this semester. It is specific, so I felt that I gained some real guidelines for actual implementation. It also reiterates the point I made above, that development professionals need to be open-minded and allow the communities ideas shape their own.


CISPA: Internet Privacy v. Cyber Security

Last July, President Barack Obama published a Wall Street Journal article detailing his stance on cyber security. The President emphasized that the vast majority of our country, from food delivery to transportation to national defense, is operated through the cyber world. This article calls for legislative action to enhance cyber security. In order for this to happen, companies and the government need to be able to share information regarding cyber attacks so that speedy recovery and future prevention is easier to achieve. However, the President is careful to include the importance of individual privacy, and that any cyber security law needs to include proper protections against inappropriate usage of personal information.

cybersecurity

In February 2013, he signed an executive order which seeks to address this topic. The order is not law, but encourages government agencies to share information on cyber attacks with the private sector in order for them to be able to cater their security towards existing and prevalent threats. It also asks the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to establish a set of cyber security standards to provide guidelines to companies.

The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), which was passed by the House of Representatives this past Thursday (April 18, 2013) and is outlined in this article, however, allows information sharing to flow not only from the government to companies but also from the private sector to government agencies. This would allow the government to aid companies in strengthening their cyber security systems, as well as pick up leads on hackers. Privacy advocacy groups and the White House, however, have had problems with the language of the bill. CISPA overrules existing federal and state law, making it okay for companies to share costumer information with the government without legal liability. President Obama has already promised to veto CISPA on the grounds that it does not adequately address privacy concerns. Ideally, legislation will come to the table that enacts the sentiment of Obama’s executive order and CISPA, but with provisions for the blocking of sharing explicitly personal content.


ICT Development in Mali

In a Plan International report, Hannah Beardon outlines the general ICT policy and initiatives in Mali, highlighting its strengths and weaknesses. Mali is well below the African average in the areas of telephone lines, mobile subscribers, and internet users. Rural establishments are very dispersed, making penetration a daunting task. Lack of infrastructure in these areas, along with limited national and foreign investment make ICT development a challenge throughout the country. One thing Mali does seem to be making notable progress in, however, is child participation in ICTs. Plan’s child-oriented programs, Kids Waves and Youth Empowerment Through Arts and Media (YETAM), have become a central focus in national ICT policy.

Kids Waves is a weekly radio program that is broadcasted throughout the region. The entire show is put together and hosted by children, providing an avenue for expression and empowerment through media. Plan Mali is currently one of the big leaders with this program and has an additional radio animation training component. YETAM is a project that brings youth (12-18 yrs.) together to discuss local issues and then create art and media projects about them. This includes videos, websites, applications, and other forms of media. Such projects educate the communities on these issues and allow the children to participate in the development process. The YETAM program in Mali has proven to be very successful, and has identified and worked with problems such as forced marriage, female genital cutting, education quality, and water access. These projects are published on the project’s youtube channel for the world to see.


Que No Te Roben

Crowdsourcing can be very useful in disaster response, as we have learned from our OpenStreetMap project. It provides humanitarian actors such as the Red Cross to obtain accurate information on affected areas in times of need, when traditional mapping is insufficient. However, crowdsourced maps have other uses as well. In Lima, Peru, a site entitled Que No Te Roben maps the location and manner of crimes throughout the city. It pinpoints successful robberies, escaped robberies, crime warnings, and car robberies. The map also has the locations of police offices where crimes can be reported.  This map can serve as a fast and simple avenue for communication between citizens and the city police. By looking at the pins, citizens know where is safe, as well as where to report crimes. Police can also benefit from the map by identifying problem areas with high robbery rates.

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The makers of this website not only use crowdsourced mapping to educate on crime in Lima, but also social media. They also run a youtube channel, a Facebook page, and a twitter account that all disseminate information on how to avoid becoming a victim of crime. The Facebook page has garnered about 3200 likes since it joined in March of 2010, and its Twitter has about 1500 followers since the same date. Considering that the population of Lima comes in at about 7 million people, the initiative has a long ways to go before these social media initiatives truly benefit the city as a whole. This initiative demonstrates another angle in which crowdsourced material and social media can be used to spread useful information to members of society, but also shows the challenges of becoming well known enough to effectively get the message out.


OLPC in Peru

As we discussed in class, the One Laptop Per Child initiative has made some progress in improving education, but also has some inherent flaws. Peru, as the country with the largest OLPC program, is a great case study to illustrate the successes and failures of the program. Peru is also a good case study for OLPC because of its large number of rural indigenous people, which is the type of population that the OLPC is trying to target.

In February of last year, the International Development Bank published a working paper evaluating the OLPC initiative in Peru. The evaluation was done over 15 months and encompassed 319 participating schools.

Successes:

– Out of all the schools that were elected for the project, 99% of students and 83% of teachers received laptops. This shows that there is very little corruption and inefficient allocation in regards to the program’s implementation

– Students who received laptops were found to be significantly ahead of those who did not in cognitive skills such as information processing speed and analytical capacity.

Failures:

– Although the majority of teachers received some initial training in how to use the laptops, most all participating teachers expressed a want for more training in regards to how to incorporate the laptops into the school’s educational program. Further training was promised, but two out of three schools have not received any additional training.

– Only about 50% of students actually ever brought the laptops home, as is one of the goals of the OLPC program. The main reason was that the school prohibited it. Students and parents were also afraid of damaging the device.

– Partly because teachers did not receive any training in how to involve the laptops in the educational curriculum, the computers were not used in the classroom on a very regular basis (17% used daily, 33% used 3 times a week).

– Probably the most disappointing failure was that there were no effects on test scores. Both math and language test scores remained the same as they had for the past years before OLPC was implemented, indicating a near zero effect on how the children are actually being educated.

These successes and failures demonstrate clearly the issues that we discussed in class regarding the Warschauer and Ames article. This case study shows that even in a country where OLPC has been accepted as a feasible and desirable education model, inherent problems still present themselves. Until the OLPC initiative can penetrate the curricular and administrative levels of education, there will continue to be a disconnect between the program’s utopian objectives and the reality of the results on the ground.


World Bank ICT Strategies

The World Bank is an international organization that manages the distribution of aid and makes loans to developing countries, with the goal of reducing poverty and spurring development. In June of 2012, the World Bank updated its ICT strategy, previously revised in 2001, to reflect the progress of ICT’s in the past decade. The strategy is focused around three pillars: transform, innovate, and connect.

Transform: “Making development more open and accountable, and improving service delivery – for instance, education, health, and financial services” .1) open and accountable development using ICTs: This strategy point focuses on using ICTs to increase government accountability and the availability of information and data. This requires cross-sector cooperation between government, civil society and businesses to improve the delivery of services, as well as citizen feedback systems. Given the World Bank’s focus on aid, this strategy emphasizes the use of ICTs in monitoring aid programs in order to evaluate and maximize their efficiency. Also, this point recognizes the ability of ICTs to empower and involve women in society. 2) transformation of service delivery: This point focuses on the delivery of services in the sectors of health, education, social protection, justice, agriculture, water, energy, and transport. The WB recognizes the widespread use of mobiles, and their strategy promotes them as the most effective way to get services to those who need them most. This point also stresses the need to coordinate services between sectors, so there is less overlap and more convenience for citizens. 3) projects: an open and free World Bank database; initiatives to inform citizens about projects in their country and increase their involvement; a more selective and restrictive allocation of funds to IT investments because of their high failure rates.

Innovate: “Developing competitive IT-based service industries and fostering ICT innovation across the economy – with a focus on job creation, especially for women and youth” 1) competitiveness: by giving incentives to the private sector to develop ICTs and establishing regulations to build trust in the ICT sector governments can enhance competition and therefore drive down costs of ICTs, making them affordable to a larger population. This point also mentions the usefulness of mobile banking in helping small businesses get financing. 2) IT-based services: governments need to play an active role (tech parks, infrastructure, etc.). Building IT skills is essential. The best ways to do this are through curriculum integration at the secondary and tertiary levels, investment in R&D, and standard testing in the IT field. 3) ICT entrepreneurship: In order to support business start up, countries should provide training and reasonably priced start-up space. Another feasible strategy is to promote clustering of IT businesses for cooperation and knowledge sharing. 4) Bottom-up, user-centric approach: Introduces the concept of “light innovation” which is an inexpensive, decentralized and fast moving model for innovation. It focuses on innovation from the user perspective, using community networks to produce ICT solutions.

Connect: “Scaling up affordable access to broadband – including for women, disabled citizens, disadvantaged communities, and people living in remote and rural areas” 1) Promoting affordable and accessible broadband services: Broadband service is expected to require more government intervention than voice telephony. Therefore, countries should expect to allocate more time and resources towards the development of these services. One way this can be done is through removing obstacles and giving incentives for the private sector to invest in broadband in underdeveloped regions.

The World Bank is in an excellent position to insure that its policy strategies such as this one are carried out. One of the implementation methods is for the World Bank to be more conservative with its available development funds. The countries that are seen as compliant with this ICT strategy will be allocated more aid from these funds than those that are not. Needless to say, this is a very powerful economic incentive. Out of the current World Bank projects, the World Bank claims that 74% of them have an ICT component. It recognizes the need to improve this number, and this new strategy is seen as what will be an effective way of doing so. It will be interesting to see if this new strategy will effect how countries approach ICT4D and if their funding from the World Bank will be altered.

 


Gender Inequality and Media Education

In Gilwad, Milek and Stork’s Gender Assessment of ICT Access and Usage in Africa, it is made clear through data and analysis that women not only have less access to ICTs, but also use them in different ways. For example, while men spend the majority of their TV time watching sports, news, politics, and educational programs, women spend the majority of theirs watching entertainment and music, as well as “ANYTHING being broadcasted”. This suggests that the gender gap in ICTs needs to be addressed in both areas. One innovative strategy that I encountered in an OECD report is called “media education”. This approach, instead of making the use of ICTs its main goal, emphasizes the teaching of productive ways to utilize ICTs (i.e. find jobs, increase information sources, knowledge, awareness, etc.). The idea behind it is that children will see and engage with media outside the classroom in differing ways, making it difficult to have a uniform ICT curriculum. By focusing on how to productively interact with ICTs, the school can cover a wide range of bases effectively. While this does increase overall access that might not be available at home, it also increases usage productivity and awareness. This aids gender inequality by providing all children with a knowledge of how ICTs work and function, which could help the gap caused in some places where men are more likely to be in a professional job where ICTs are available and knowledge about them is necessary. In addition, it provides women with the knowledge necessary to pursue such jobs. Gilwad, Milek and Stork show in their research that for some ICTs, usage and access would be equal or even reversed if income and education were held constant. Deeper analysis in the classroom of ICT use can help break down these cultural perceptions that men are the ones who are most suited to use ICTs.