And another semester bites-the-dust. I know I’m not alone when I say this was the most fun IDEV class I’ve taken here at Tulane–can’t wait for Ds for D.
One of the most salient lessons I’ll take away from this class is that data can be very deceiving–not necessarily an epiphany, but nonetheless an important and reacurring theme for the semester and the field. My semester’s research was focused on Rwanda, a country acclaimed for its rapid development in the last decade, which, in-part, ICT initiatives are responsible for. Reading through the various reports regarding Rwanda’s ICT accomplishments, and even walking through the impeccably clean streets of the capital city of Kigali, one cannot help but join in on the praise. But the reality is that the overwhelming majority of the Rwanda’s “meteoric development” has only occurred in two cities: Kigali and Butare. The rest of Rwanda, rural Rwanda, well-outside the scope of these regarded ICT initiatives and home to more than 80 percent of the population, remains largely unchanged since 2000. Electricity is scarce, to say nothing of Visa’s mobile banking initiatives, city-wide-wifi, and the other impressive ICT projects we’ve read about. So, data that reflects rapid development in a few areas doesn’t mean things on the ground are as impressive. It’s like the barrier to entry and content relevancy; if a country has 98 percent internet and moblie reach, but only 50 percent of the content is relevant, and only 15 percent of the population can actually afford access to it, what’s so impressive about the first figure?
Something that will help me as a development professional, is also what I think to be the most important theoretical framework, which is that projects should be demand driven. We talked a lot about the “if you build it, they will come” complex built into a lot of failed ICT initiatives; such supply driven initiatives, like Mr. Vota so eloquently explained to us on Tuesday, don’t really inspire the change and development they wish to achieve. Thus, extensive market/stake-holder research is critical to a projects success. Anything less is blind-ambition, or worse, laziness.