Author Archives: dthunell

Lessons Learned

This semester, we talked a lot about what organizations and governments should not do in developing ICT policies and strategies or where these organizations/governments failed in implementing these strategies. And in our last class, we discussed a lot of the reasons for this failure, some included the “top-down” approach, the “one size fits all” method and lack of transparency. But the most salient lesson I learned, or the most all-inclusive lesson, was about communication and I learned it from Laura Walker Hudson’s TechChange video.

Hudson discussed her history in development work and why there are so many failures and challenges to implementing ICT4D. From the video, I started to understand why some people in developing countries are reluctant to use new technology or incorporate new ideas in development, whether that be with simple SMS messages to alert farmers about crop sizes or weather updates or a crazy, new technology that promises to fix every problem. These people need to be interacted with and communicated with properly in order to implement ICT policies that will actually better their lives and improve development. Too often, organizations or social entrepreneurs go into a new environment, guns blazing, and expect to be able to institute change without consulting enough of the local community. Or they simply just do not have an idea of what the people actually need and just provide them with a technology or idea that was successful in another country and another culture. Hudson really impressed upon the important of face-to-face interaction in implementing new information and communication technologies and in our world of smartphones and instant messaging, personal communication is often lost.

 

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Côte d’Ivoire ICT4D Resources

 National ICT Policy/Plan/Strategy

NICI, National Information Communication Infrastructure, is Côte d’Ivoire’s national ICT policy and was launched in 1999. The final plan was approved by the Council of Ministers in July 2000 and targeted the development of an integrated and comprehensive national strategy through 2005. The policy was written in French with a title of “Plan de développement de l’Infrastructure Nationale de l’Information et de la Communication 2000 – 2005” and many government agencies worked together on the project, including the Ministries of Agriculture, Education, Economy and Finance, Health, Commerce, Planning and Development and the Prime Minister.

 

Government Resources

In order to ensure that this project was implemented properly and future ICT development projects, the Côte d’Ivoire government established a Ministry of Communication and Information Technology. This link provides information on the National Assembly of Côte d’Ivoire, which oversees the passing and implementation of laws and programs in the country.

 

External Resources

UNECA, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, provides some invaluable resources on the West Africa sub-region as well as Côte d’Ivoire itself. A journal published by UNECA in 2007 does not provide any information on Côte d’Ivoire but it has some important material about various national ICT policies and e-strategies adopted by various West African countries. This is applicable to my country because the Côte d’Ivoire might need to do more and copy the lead of their neighbors in developing their ICT policies.

 

ECOWAS, the Economic Community of West African States, was also a useful tool in gathering information for my country and learning about the economic developments in the region. The webpage provides some good knowledge on how the member states are developing economically and how they are using communication and information technology to do this.

 

Lastly, American University provides a lot of resources on the landscape of information technology in Côte d’Ivoire, including pages on the national ICT policy, e-commerce, e-government, the IT sector and telecommunication developments.

 

Notes

The resources that were provided on the class page were sufficient enough in providing information and rankings on ICT policies. But specific information, because Côte d’Ivoire is a francophone country and does not have a strong ICT sector, was hard to come by. The fact that their most recent national ICT policy available online is from 2000 shows that the country lags behind in ICT developments and therefore it was quite difficult to find the proper resources for this.


Gender Inequality in Côte d’Ivoire

In class today, we had a presentation on gender inequality by Keshet Bachan, a gender equality expert from Israel. Among her talking points, Bachan noted that there are many forms of violence against adolescent woman, including trafficking and prostitution, and that many women who come from poor backgrounds are vulnerable to this sort of violence.

In my country papers for this class, I researched the Francophone West African state of Côte d’Ivoire. Through this research and my interest in this nation, I have learned that it lags behind many of its neighbors in the different ICT sectors and that there is much gender inequality in the state. The government does not invest much money, if any at all, in women’s education or fertility. And along those lines and echoing Bachan’s presentation, female mutilation/cutting is a common practice. UNICEF defines female mutilation as “the partial or total removal of the female external genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for cultural or other non-therapeutic reasons.” This is particularly a problem in Cote d’Ivoire where a national law was adopted in 1998 to criminalize the activity. It is a problem among people who do not have access to education, the Muslim population and the Voltaïques and Northern Monde ethnic groups, where over 70% of the women are mutilated. Genital mutilation is not only a problem for the obvious reasons of discriminating against and suppressing women, but it also leads to child mortality and makes it easier for adolescent women to contract HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases.

Genital mutilation in Côte d’Ivoire is a form of social integration and sometimes a required religious ritual of purification. Seeing that female mutilation was in direct conflict with four of the Millennium Development Goals, (MDG 3: promoting gender equality & empowering women, MDG 4: reducing child mortality, MDG 5: improving maternal health, MDG 6: combatting HIV-AIDS, malaria and other diseases) UNICEF has begun to take action to safeguard human rights in the country. Through advocacy for women’s rights, gender equality and access to education, UNICEF has been able to raise awareness about the issue and help curtail genital mutilation. They have also used nationwide technology campaigns on radio television and mobile phones to establish child protection networks and to empower adolescent and adult women. Between 2000 and 2006, national genital mutilation dropped in females from 44% to 36.4% in direct response to these radio and television campaigns. While we in the United States may scoff at the power that radio has to bring people together and raise awareness about issues, because we are so engulfed with social media and smartphones, radio is showing in Côte d’Ivoire that it is a reliable strategy to achieving gender equality in developing countries.

 


Smartphones and their increasing connection to cyber warfare

Last week, our presentations on ICT technologies and their applications in different ICT sectors educated us about the challenges that developing countries face when implementing these projects. We also learned how access to information is critical to all aspects of ICT4D and its’ different offshoots. We completely changed gears with the guest speaker on Tuesday but we still discussed how important this access to information is. Cyber security and cyber warfare have emerged in the last decade as innovations in technology continue to advance rapidly. In the world of cyber warfare, hacking and cyber espionage have become extremely common. In the CIA and NSA, the United States has hundreds, if not thousands, of workers devoted to keeping tabs on cyber terrorists and their organizations and preventing them from attacking us as well as ensuring that our data is secure.

But the questions about how secure is our data have come up numerous times over the last few years, as cyber espionage from China have emerged and individuals like such as Julian Assange and Edward Snowden have leaked U.S. military and government data. If one of the most powerful countries on earth’s private information and data is susceptible to two individuals, how secure is the technology we use in our own homes on a daily basis? We have talked all year about how mobile phones, especially smartphones, are a critical tool in international development and ICT technologies. But I learned from this CNN article that as smartphones, which have more than 100 times the computing power than the average satellite, provide more hope for ICT4D and digital communication they also make us more vulnerable to cyber attacks.

This is concerning because emails have become less and less secure in recent times, forcing people to rely heavily on their smartphones. And in developing and emerging markets, such as China, this is an even bigger problem because smartphone users download apps from third party sites because Google Play is banned. Many of the apps on these third party sites contain AndroRAT, a new software developed by hackers that makes it very easy to inject malicious code into a fake version of an app. Smartphones will continue to be a popular destination for hackers and as this technology becomes increasingly ubiquitous in the developing and developed worlds, we will need to find ways to secure mobile phone data and information.


The Power of OpenStreetMap

Before our class today, I had never heard of OpenStreetMap, map crowd sourcing or using different maps to collect data and help in disaster response. I am in no way a map enthusiast but the work that the Red Cross was able to do in Gulu, Uganda and in Tacloban City, Philippines following Typhoon Haiyan by using OSM is very remarkable. Upon further research into OpenStreetMap, I came across their sister company CloudMade. CloudMade uses maps from OSM to allow users to access map data, points of interest, navigation, routing and other data around their location even when not connected to the Internet. It all sounds well and good but I was still skeptical about the feasibility of this operation and even the necessity of OpenStreetMap when the map market already has technological heavyweights such as Google Maps, Nokia HERE, TomTom and to some extent companies like FourSquare and Yelp.

But as this article suggests, monopolies on markets are not healthy for anyone involved. Furthermore, OpenStreetMap and founder Steve Coast’s other business endeavors have helped to revolutionize how we look at it and use maps. As of January 2014, OSM had over 1.5 million registered editors, with that number only growing because of the simple editing features that allow and encourage anyone with computer knowledge to contribute to the mapping platform. Obviously no mapping system is 100% accurate and even more so when the editing platform is open to the public. And with OSM and CloudMade offering international maps via Wi-Fi and in offline modes, this allows for people all over the globe to navigate without giving away personal location details, a big concern with users of Google Maps. This accessibility is certainly a major advantage that OSM possesses and explains why it has been such a helpful tool for the Red Cross in disaster relief. I am a big proponent of crowd sourcing and I believe that Wikipedia has shown that using volunteers and peer editing can be a viable tool for providing information. I can only hope that OpenStreetMap does the same with maps, not just for disaster response and international development but in all situations.


Admitting Failure: The Key to Success?

On Tuesday, we talked a lot about why ICT4D projects fail. We even attempted to watch a YouTube video that detailed the main reasons why ICT4D projects fail but the video failed to load. Hopefully that was just a coincidence.

Failure is not a new thing and it certainly won’t go away anytime soon. But all this talk of failure made me think about what these innovators and social entrepreneurs are doing to combat ICT4D projects that fail. What are they doing to overcome them and how is this impacting development? We are often measured in life in our ability to succeed and overcome failures and the ICT sector is no different. ICT4D projects and the innovators that spearhead these ideas are ambitious and risk takers so it is only natural that failure will come for some if not all. What donors and outsiders looking in need to know about failure in ICT4D projects is that these ventures will not give an immediate return on private investment. But sometimes these development projects are not given the chance to succeed and as a result the social entrepreneurs are forced to omit aspects of their idea and they are not allowed to be as wild and as innovative as they need to be.

I came across the organization Global Fund, a non-profit organization that utilizes a “21st century approach” to combat AIDS, TB and Malaria. The organization has grown immensely since its inception in 2002, currently providing ARV therapy to 6.1 million HIV positive people, they have treated over 11.2 million people with TB and distributed over 360 million insecticide-treated nets. But the organization has not always been a success. In 2011, Global Fund announced that it had mismanaged grant monies and donor funds leading to some countries retracting their support for the organization. But this negative turned to a positive because of the transparency of the organization and their decision to admit the failure. This honesty led to renewed support for the organization as it showed they were willing to admit failure and work to address the problem. Thus, this admission of guilt allow Global Fund to continue to be innovative as support for them increased, which is a win-win for everyone because the social world needs more programs like this to reach their full potential and make a difference in health and medicine.

Lastly, I came across a great site to read individual stories about development failure. The site is a great resource to help us (international development students or people interested in creating development projects) understand why failure is important and what we can learn from others to overcome that failure and succeed: http://www.admittingfailure.com/.


ICT Access in Burundi: Can ICTs Solve the Problems of the Developing World?

This week we read an article by Erwin A. Alampay, an ICT specialist from the University of the Philippines. In his article, he explained how information and communication technologies can be used for development and how universal access policies are beginning to address the problem of the digital divide. Alampay raises the idea that policymakers need to understand not only who has access to ICTs but also where and how. While this information is still very hard to analyze and requires more research, it made me wonder if countries that lack access to ICTs are employing any innovative methods to bridge the digital divide. I found a few but none more impressive than Burundi’s project.

Burundi, a small country in Sub-Saharan Africa, is one of the world’s poorest countries and the adult literacy rate is very low. But Burundi’s president, Pierre Nkurunziza, has established an ambitious project to redevelop the country through the use of ICTs. He has partnered with contractor, BBS Company, to install fiber optic broadband infrastructure and as of August 2012, the network covered 8 of 17 provinces in the country. President Nkurunziza believes that ICT access development will help bring the country out of poverty and has even begun using ICTs to ensure government transparency and accountability. Furthermore, Nkurunziza has laid out plans for the ICT sector to continue to grow over the next decade and become a regional hub for information and communication technologies. With Burundi hoping to address education, poverty, health and gender problems through the use of ICTs it is clear that not only developed countries but developing countries as well are beginning to utilize ICTs to accelerate development. Nkurunziza seems to believe that ICTs are the key to solving problems in Burundi and I think that is the same for the rest of the developing world. If leaders and policymakers from other developing nations copy Nkurunziza’s ICT development plan, I think many of the challenges these countries face, like poverty, unemployment and education, will be resolved.