Author Archives: dcooper6

Zambia ICT4D Resources

1) Zambia National ICT Policy. This is Zambia’s first ICT policy, finalized in 2005 and adopted by the government in 2006. It was created by the Ministry of Communications and Transport and written in English

2) Zambia Information & Communication Technology Authority. In 2009, ZICTA gained broader authority to implement ICT policy.

3) Zambia Radio Farm Forum Implemented by the Ministry of Agriculture in the late 1960s, the program is still in use today

4) Panos London Zambia Policy Briefing Very helpful policy institute briefing on problems and possibilities for ICTs in Zambia

5) It was not too difficult to find resources regarding ICT policy in Zambia. They are available, some research in necessary.


ICT4D Course Lessons; The Importance of Understanding Local Context

After taking ICT4D, I believe the most important thing I have learned this semester is the importance of having a good understanding of the local population that is being aided by a given ICT project. If there is one area that I have noticed many ICT4D programs struggle with, it is not having a solid understanding of their target populations. While it may seem extremely intuitive, not everyone in the world can speak English and use computers. Yet many ICT programs wrongly assume this and often fail in their goals.

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A proper understanding of local cultures and knowledge is vital  in order to utilize that knowledge to aid the target population. That knowledge the#in provides guidance as to which ICT technologies to utilize and how to properly implement an ICT initiative. Without that firm base of knowledge, an ICT program is that much more likely to fail in its goals. I hope to use the knowledge gained in this class to better inform my future decisions and ensure that I don’t make the same mistakes that many development professionals do.


#hastag Activism: Does it Work?

Twitter has been widely credited with being a driving force in the Arab Spring uprisings of the early 2010s and for good reason – twitter allows individuals to rapidly disseminate information and to spread opinions and views quickly. While few dispute its previous impact on international events, does twitter activism work when it comes to less dire circumstances?

Recently, noted comedian Stephen Colbert came under fire for an incentive and out-of-context tweet regarding asians. A twitter fire-storm ensued, with #CancelColbert trending across the nation. Ultimately, Colbert’s show was not effected in the slightest – he was even given a promotion to replace David Letterman on The Late Show on CBS.

What does this say about Twitters influence on activism. The Wall Street Journal claimed that “Twitter may be the most powerful amplifier for individual voices that history has ever produced” but then acknowledged that its 140-character limit can be its biggest downfall. In the case of the Colbert situation, in which the original quote was taken out of context from a joke poking fun at the Washington Redskins, this was certainly the case. #Hastag activism will continue to be a driving force in world events, yet its lack of depth may inhibit the proper amounts of information to be spread


IBM TO IMPROVE ACCESS TO VITAL HEALTH AND EDUCATION INFORMATION

On Tuesday, computer giant IBM announced a 10-year plan to improve cognitive computing throughout Africa. The program will work to develop data for different sectors of the African economy and will work to connect more Africans to the digital ‘cloud,’ where they will be able to assess information on health and education. According to Dr. Robber Morris, the Vice-President of the Global Labs department of IBM Research, the program will allow Africans to use their mobile phones to “ask relevant questions on health and other areas of interest to human endeavor and receive instant answers through their phone.”

This new IBM program represents an important and interesting investment by IBM into the African ICT community. As mobile phone usage continues to sky-rocket throughout the continent, the opportunity to utilize such technology for a variety of means continues. While the IBM program has not fully begun, and little information exists on the particulars of the program, it makes theoretical sense to try and take advantage of mobile phone usage and make it easier for individuals to access important information about health and education.

While the program is obviously in the early stages, I think it is very important that IBM both ensures local buy-in of their program and ensures that the information is available in a variety of languages. The program announcement does not mention working with local communities to spread information about the program, and the seemingly top-down approach that the program takes is troubling. Additionally, ensuring that the information is available in a variety of languages will ensure that it is as easy as possible for individuals to access the information.

Overall, the program is an ambitious attempt to try and improve the access of vital heath and education information to more individuals. It will be fascinating to see how the program is implemented over the coming decade.


ICT Production in Zambia

ICT usage in Zambia has increased dramatically over the past few years. Amongst other indicators, the nation has experience a massive increase in mobile phone subscriptions, from less that 500,000 in 2003 to more than 3 million in 2008 – nearly one cellphone subscription for every two adult citizens. However, the nation has lacked any meaningful increase in ICT production. The Zambian economy is principally involved in primary sector activities – exporting a large amount of copper and agricultural products. While high-tech exports make-up 24.8% of all manufactured exports, ranking them 19th worldwide, the actual amount of exports comes to $221 million. When you take into account that copper mining is responsible for 60% of total exports and accounts for $5.6 billion, it is clear that the high percentage of high-tech exports is purely due to the lack of size of the Zambian economy overall.

Zambia has a fairly developed national ICT policy, dating back to 2001. Current policy is more concerned with increasing ICT usage, rather than promoting ICT production. Of the 13 pillars that make up Zambian ICT policy, only 1 is concerned with developing a local ICT industry. Hypothetically, it might make sense for the Zambian economy to focus more on promoting ICT production. Due to their reliance on copper, the entire economy of the country could collapse were global copper demand or prices to fluctuate. By diversifying their economy and making a concerted effort to increase ICT production, Zambia would be better protected from shifts in global demand for copper.

One could argue that it is important for the nation to be able to stand before it walks – i.e. Zambia should focus on ensuring that improvements to ICT infrastructure are made and that the prices of ICT equipment are reduced before focusing on improving the production capabilities of the country. However, future production of ICTs might be an interesting means for spurring employment opportunities and economic growth and stability throughout Zambia.


Eduction and Poverty Reduction

In the fight against eliminating poverty worldwide, there is one tool that is the most effective – education. According to the Global Partnership for Education, if all students in developing countries completed school with basic reading skills, global poverty could be cut by 12%. A good education can also reduce infant mortality rates, improve life-expectency and improve nationwide stability. There is an undeniable link between education and poverty reduction, and its up to those in the development community to try and improve access to education worldwide.

Thankfully, there are many industrious and innovative professionals who have taken this call to arms. These individuals are using ICTs to close the education gap, especially in rural communities. In an article for Human IPO, an online news journal for African tech news, author Gabriella Mulligan details the impact that Kusile Labs & Technology has had on schools in rural South Africa.

Kusile Labs & Technology works to install mobile science and computer laboratories in rural schools in an attempt to better educate these communities in the areas of technology and innovation. These mobile laboratories work to teach students important science and ICT concepts through laboratories that can easily be implemented in any environment. With these mobile laboratories, students can perform experiments through using and learning ICT tools.  Hopefully, more organizations will follow the lead of Kusile Labs and will continue to help in the fight to bring improved educational technologies to the rural communities that need it most.


ICTs and Australia: A Cautionary Tale

According to recent article in the Brisbane Times, numerous Australian ICT investments and programs have “fail[ed] to meet their objectives, run significantly late or cost far more than planned.” The article, which cites a report developed by Australian NGO Standards Australia, reveals that between 65 and 85 per cent of projects fail in some capacity, with the average cost of overrun between 50 and 100 per cent. This is compounded by a further 30 per cent of projects that are outright canceled after proper investments have been made.

For a nation of the economic size and level of development as Australia, this is a troubling news. While the infrastructure investments and IT programs in Australia are likely more complicated than programs that would be instituted in a developing nation, the relationship between investment and waste is deeply concerning  for such a developed nation. One would imagine that with the numerous benefits that come from operating in a developed nation, contractors and government program leaders would be able to properly manage ICT investments and programs.

In their report, Standards Australia revealed numerous guidelines to leaders in ICT investment on how to combat investment issues. Perhaps nations looking to improve their ICT use can look at Australia as a cautionary tale. The Standards Australia guidelines make a note of encouraging project leaders to take personal responsibility for project success, in addition to several other reforms aimed at combatting waste. Hopefully, by using Australia as an example, developing nations can adopt the crux of the Standards Australia guidelines in order to avoid many of the same issues that have plagued Australian ICT investment.