When I initially took this course, I really had no idea how technology would fit in the field of development. I remember the first class when Professor Ports asked if any of us knew about Information and Communication Technologies and I did not have a clue what she was talking about. I have never considered myself to be a very tech savvy person and my initial thoughts were that concepts from this class wouldn’t prove to be particularly vital. Indeed, I proven wrong. We live in an extremely fast paced world that is driven by continuous technological advancements. The scope of technology and its’ applications extends across all sectors and ultimately, without a grasp on technology, one is unlikely to succeed.
Being exposed to the many real-world applications of ICT4D throughout the course is what really sparked my enthusiasm. I was excited to see course lessons extend beyond the classroom walls and realized that the knowledge and skills gained through this course will be applicable to any career path. It was also this class that solidified my career passions in the humanitarian sector. Specifically, I was inspired by the ICT4D applications in disaster relief and humanitarian aid. I was amazed by the whole idea of crowd sourcing/HOSTOM and its’ ability to function efficiently in a situation when every second counts. In addition, the experience we had working with Geographic Information Systems gave me invaluable skills that will be extremely useful to a career in disaster management. After focusing on the humanitarian sector for my group project, I became really interested in other ICT4D applications that could bring even greater benefit! Any area of ICT4D that I feel deserves more attention is what our class recently covered in regards of cyber security. Its nearly impossible for the appropriate policies and regulations to keep up with technologies fast-pace nature. This leaves a huge gap in cyber security, such as potential for cyber threats, and I think it is crucial that this aspect of ICT4D is addressed as we move forward. We’ve seen endless examples of ICT4D applications bringing great benefit to the people and overall development , from advocating for human rights, ending corruption, to e-medicine, and I’m excited for what the future of ICT4D holds.
Throughout our class discussions we have highlighted the role of social media in developing world from humanitarian sector, to ending corruption, and raising awareness to name a few. Social media has brought about a lot of positive change throughout the world, but it also opens a new window for cyber attacks. Social media has allowed for the extremely rapid dissemination of information and high volumes, but with it comes the possibility of false information spread as it occurred in Assam, India. As the Muslim population grew in India, tensions continued to arise between the Muslim and Hindu groups. In July 2012, an indigenous tribe in Assam attacked a group of Muslim settlers, killing 78 people and relocating over 300,000 to refugee camps. Soon thereafter, reports of riots outside of Assam went viral with photos of riots taking place in different urban cities, ultimately inducing a mass panic. As it turns out these photos were false, and in fact were altered photos of other riots. This is a good example of social media used for crowd manipulation and hysteria propaganda, and demonstrates the need for cyber security efforts to expand in this new digital tool.
After discussing the many positives of social media in development, especially in countries facing a hostile and volatile political environment, it sparked my interest in researching other social media channels. I came across the website, ipaidabribe.com, and thought it related directly to our class discussions. The purpose of the site is express of corrupt practices to voice the public opinion when dealing with private governments and/or institutions. Currently, the website is used India, Greece, Pakistan, Kenya, and Zimbabwe with several other countries in the works. The site also allows for anonymity and essentially provides a record of “snapshot” of corrupt activity that’s occurring in a country to provide proof to back arguments for improvements in policy and to increase government transparency. This website is a great channel for using social media in the developing world facing harsh political regimes among other corruption. This sort of social media reminds me of the political uprisings we read about that occurred during the Arab Spring, and should be continued to be utilized.
With over 80% of Africans having access to radio and a little over 50% having access to television, these technologies have been in the spotlight for use in the developing world. Although these may be considered “old” technologies, using radio and television as a means for ICT4D does not mean not to bring “newer” technologies into developing countries like Africa, but more stresses that ICT initiatives should not overlook radio and television. I read an interesting initiative taking place in Kenya called KenTel that offers a low-cost solution to enhance community radios and/or community telecentres that lack broadband internet connectivity. These programs utilizes a service offered by Twitter for those in rural areas with limited connectivity and/or runs on simple feature phones that allows them to receive tweets as short text messages (SMS). “Each country has a special short code which they can use to configure any phone to receive tweet on feature phones.” The program involves compiling a list of listeners from the community, who then are instructed over radio how to subscribe to this Twitter feature. Using this Twitter channel, the community radio can remind listeners of upcoming broadcasts/programs, provide a feedback mechanism, and conduct surveys among other small services. This channel mobilizes the listeners ultimately enhancing the capabilities of the local radio to reach its listeners and achieve greater and more efficient means of communication and media. I thought this was an especially neat program in the large difference it makes utilizing ICTs at an extremely low cost with only each tweet costing $o.o125 USD.
The following is a link to Pakistan’s national IT Policy written originally in August 2000 put forth by the IT & Telecommunications Division Ministry of Science & Technology Government of Pakistan. It’s last revision took place in June 2012. http://www.pakboi.gov.pk/pdf/National_IT_Policy.pdf
The following link is is titled “A Qualitative Inquiry of ICT based Socio-Economic Development in Developing Countries: The Case of Pakistan, written by B. Naveed in 2009. He anaylzes the Pakistan’s IT policy including areas of noted development and areas still lacking in terms of ICT. I found his anaylsis very helping in understanding Pakistan through an ICT4D lens. http://libres.uncg.edu/ir/uncg/f/Baqir_uncg_0154D_10238.pdf
The following has several links to various webistes with data reports, ICT reports, broadband usage, among several other resources with information on Pakistan as a nation and ICT for development.http://www.internetworldstats.com/asia/pk.htm Internet usage, broadband and telecommunications reports
The Global Information Society Watch (GISWatch) is a space for collaborative monitoring of implementation of international (and national) commitments made by governments towards the creation of an inclusive information society, with an integrated World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) action agenda. The GISWatch Reports are a series of yearly reports covering the state of the information society from the perspectives of civil society, such as including ICTS and environmental sustainability; Access to Online Information and Knowledge; Acess to Infrastrure; Internet rights and Democratization; Internet and Corrpuption. There is interesting and relevant information on Pakistan in most of these reports.
As we’ve become aware of the many benefits brought by the information age and ICTs its pertinent to incorporate issues regarding gender in ICT policy. Thus, by integrating gender issues into ICT policy better ensures that women will have access to such benefits. As mentioned in class women often have the typical domestic responsibilities such as caring for children and the elderly among various other tasks depending on the individual situation and their respective culture. These domestic duties are particularly predominant in the developing world further separating women from access to ICTs. With less leisure time and little extra funds to spend outside the family needs reaching ICTs can hold infinite barriers for women in the underdeveloped and rural regions. Not to mention the majority of the worlds illiterate population is in fact female further depriving them from the benefits of ICTs.
I found an article online that was particularly interesting to me which addressed gender issues and efforts to incorporate them into ICT policy by proceeding on at least two fronts: (1) “sensitizing policy makers to gender issues, and (2) sensitizing gender advocates to information technology issues.”
I thought this was an interesting approach to addressing gender equality in ICT policy. The article provides insight to potential obstacles in the first front, such as the likelihood of policy makers in regions characteristic of great gender inequality being resistant to engendering the policy process. Furthermore, this is where gender advocates may be capable of producing greater results in engendering ICT policy. They put forth that since gender sensitive advocates, women organizations, and civil societies can be influential in the policy process, if they educate themselves on technologies and the importance of engendering ICT usages this could greatly contribute to the closing of the inequality gap. Obviously, addressing gender issues is not black and white and actually rather complex as is addressing most social issues, but I felt this was a unique and insightful approach to keep in mind in women empowerment in the ICT realm.
Many ICT4D initiatives have yet to scale or prove to be sustainable post implementation. Chapter five of Unwin’s textbook emphasizes that in order for ICT4D initiatives to actually have a chance at producing a lasting benefit, it is essential to lay a solid foundation of effective national ICT policies and strategies. He highlights the need for these policies and strategies in that the market alone will not allow ICTs to reach the poor and confidence must be given to the private sector to ensure their investments are safe and will produce a profit.
However, after all our class discussions covering indices and their importance in terms of measuring ICTs for development, I thought it was particularly interesting when he points out how indices can potentially hurt ICT4D initiatives. He explains that excessive attention to the indices may lead governments to dump large sums of money into programs solely attempting to feature their country higher up in the indices rankings/ratings which can ultimately divert attention from implementation of initiatives at the ground level. Moreover, governments become more considered with the numbers placed on their status rather than focusing on funding efficacious ICT4D practices.
Every year IBM releases its annual “5 in 5” list which consists of the company’s’ predictions of emerging technology trends that will effect our lives in the next five years. CNN wrote an article discussing their No. 4 prediction, claiming that the digital divide will vanish within the following five years due to ubiquitous mobile technology. This is a bold statement. Although ICT reports demonstrate that mobile phone usage is growing at exponential rates, surpassing other technological means of communication, it is unlikely that mobile phone usage alone will lead the to closing of the digital divide. Indeed, the ever-increasing number of mobile phone users will contribute to the narrowing of the divide, but an increase in mobile phones alone will not close the gap entirely. What do you think?
Depending on how you define the gap of the digital divide, those considered to have access or not changes, for example, in defining who has and doesn’t have high-speed internet access. Measuring this becomes rather difficult and the reporter brings forward a good point of what is deemed “fast enough” in online access when technology seems to be limitless in its’ advancements. This made me think of the reports we discussed in class and how this could be a large obstacle in terms of measuring. Moreover, with each time data is collected, one year may consider a certain bandwidth/internet speed/network as defined as a “high-speed internet user,” whereas within a couple years there most likely will be an even higher internet speed being used elsewhere. Thus as technology continues to advance faster and faster as we move forward into the future, how do we go about tracking ICTs internationally most effectively?