Author Archives: elizabethcauchois

ICT National Resources for Cambodia

First two links: National Proposed Policy for ICT Development for 2015; good background about plans for the governments planned changes and admitted weaknesses of already existing programs. Second link, has more about the national policy, but in a rural context, which is useful, because Cambodia is extremely rural. 

http://www.jica.go.jp/project//cambodia/0609376/04/pdf/01_policy_e.pdf

http://www.itu.int/ITU-D/asp/CMS/Events/2011/ITU-ADB/Cambodia/ICT_Policy_Cambodia_NiDA.pdf

ICTs for E-Environment- Excellent source of background information for the environment sector, for the sector projects. Goes over the concepts (e-environment, e-waste), and has a lot of useful statistics.

http://www.itu.int/ITU-D/cyb/app/docs/itu-icts-for-e-environment.pdf

Link below: Good background information about applications of ICTs within Cambodia, also specific information about what has failed and been successful for specific telecenter projects. 

http://ireachkh.org/ireacheng/files/2011/09/iREACH-Book-Chapter-as-published.pdf

Following three links: Background information for 1st paper about ICT prevalence and usage, readiness of economy for ICTs, and environment for ICT projects

http://www.itu.int/net/pressoffice/backgrounders/general/pdf/5.pdf

http://www-935.ibm.com/services/us/gbs/bus/pdf/eiu_digital-economy-rankings-2010_final_web.pdf

http://reports.weforum.org/global-information-technology-2012/

Notes: 

– Make sure to take note of difficulties with ICTs due to after effects of Khmer Rouge regime and land mines (in relation to building infrastructure)

– Theres a decent amount of information available about current and past ICT policies Cambodia, most of them in english (some in khmer, with no translated options available)

– Theres less information available about specific projects- the only concrete examples were rural telecenters, with varying success rates


Take away lessons about ICT4D

I think one of the major things to take away from this course is the reasons why ICT4D projects fail, and how the knowledge of what makes projects fail can be translated to more effective, successful projects. For initiatives to be successful in the future, the dialog within the ICT4D world needs to change to include more demand driven projects, projects that have long-term impact (unlike projects like one laptop one per child, or other similarly one dimensional projects), and projects that understand the country and system already in place, and a general understanding of how to most effectively work within these systems. 

Personally, what I learned from this course, is not only how specific technologies can make a difference in developing countries, but also how technologies can be utilized for the purpose of making a difference- the role that technology plays in communication and information dissemination, and how this can be extremely beneficial for development projects. Almost more than anything I learned about what kind of technologies could work in different countries, I learned how to most effectively reach the largest segment of the population on the ground in developing countries as well as what technologies are actually utilized in developing countries. It was especially interesting to learn about the role social media has played in disseminating information, the role it has played in protecting freedom of speech, and how it has been utilized in disaster settings. 

Since technology and development have always been linked- technology being a great signifier of economic prosperity and progress, it makes sense that there would be a course designated to examine how the two interact. It would have been interesting to not only learn about small scale development organizations approached the disparity in technology and their solutions to address the problem, but also to learn how technology can change quality of life on a larger scale in terms of industry, and what new manufacturing and technologies for business can do to the level of economic growth in a country that is already struggling. 


UN Improves Responses to Humanitarian Crises

The article Improving UN Responses to Humanitarian Crisesby the UN Chronicle  documents the efforts that have been made to improve responses to complex humanitarian crises, including how they plan on incorporating new technologies into that improved effort. It talks about the two different phases that made up this effort:

1) Improving Coordination- one of the huge issues in humanitarian crises is that everyone responds at the same time, with similar intentions for what they do to alleviate suffering, with little coordination to figure out what is already being addressed and what still needs attention. The UN tried to remedy this by creating a humanitarian “cluster” system in 2005; this cluster consisted of UN agencies, NGO’s, and IGO’s. Within these organizations, each would be assigned a cluster: protection, camp coordination and management, water sanitation and hygiene, health, emergency shelter, nutrition, emergency telecommunications, logistics, early recovery, education and agriculture. Each cluster then coordinates with a main UN office for Humanitarian Affairs. These clusters are flawed in that the information they have is difficult to share, and their remains little coordination with the office of humanitarian affairs. Another huge problem is that many in the field were not aware that the clusters even existed, so they werent utilized for their specific function by many agencies on the ground.

2) This cluster system was especially proven to be flawed in the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. It was then that the United Nations Foundation, along with other partners published a report on Disaster Relief 2.0, or how new technologies would help make things like the cluster system more effective. These new technologies include crisis mapping (which we worked with in class this week), mobile technologies, geospatial data and active citizen-based reporting. All of these have played a role in improved quality of response and response time in disasters, but the mapping systems have been particularly useful. In Japan in 2011, crowdsource mapping played a huge role for relief workers as they tried to figure out their priorities for delivery of food, shelter and sanitation aid. Mapping was also used during the conflict in Libya to track fighting and the movement of refugees.

The UN report then continues to note how new technologies like the ones above not only are proving extremely useful in disaster settings, but also allow for new voices to play a role in disaster response. Through the use of new media and mapping sources, citizens and not just officials can play a role in reporting where and what needs help most immediately and urgently. The mapping that we plan to do for our final project is not only informative on how to use mapping systems like Open Street Map, also provide us with a skill that is becoming increasingly important in the aid world as a way to support official agencies on the ground.


ICT4D Postcard Project: A good idea, or mislead?

One of things mentioned in our readings for this week, as they debated the pros and cons of the term “ICT4D” was a postcard project within the ICT4D world as a way to document the effectiveness of such projects. Intrigued by what this postcard project actually entailed, i found a blog post describing what was behind the idea (http://www.kiwanja.net/blog/2011/11/ict4d-postcards-the-story-so-far/). 

In this post, he describes his reasoning behind the project- he was hoping to provide a few examples of good work being done in the field, since much of what is focused on is the drawbacks and inefficiencies. With each picture, the person who sent it is supposed to describe what is going on in the picture, the context (information such as the country, region, and what some of the main ICT4D issues are there, whichever the contributor chooses). While it is a good idea to try to create a good impression of the work that is being done, and in the descriptions the people do discuss what effect they have had, the failures of the field are present in both the pictures and the description. Almost every single picture perpetuates already existing stereotypes held by people in the western, developed world- africans with a phone, africans with a digital camera, all looking so excited and happy to be helped by the european or american. The two pictures that stuck out to me, where the first and last- the first was a picture of two women using mobile phones in rural Rwanda. It is then described how mobile phone rates for women have risen so dramatically, but as is sometimes the case, the phones are mainly being used for calls with friends and family, and not for microcredit or mobile banking as so many development officials hope they will be. At the same time, it is much easier for them to stay connected to family members and the world around them, which is extremely important. The last picture is the use of a digital pen in Kenya for women in labor. This approach is different- instead of trying to alter usage of a technology that has already been integrated into daily life in a certain way, this is introducing a completely new type of technology, in a field (health) that can use all the help it can get in rural Kenya. Since the concept is simple- audio goes off when a dangerous point of labour is reached, it does not require too much explanation or training for how to use it- it is a simple, straightforward and extremely applicable option that can be extremely beneficial for reaching lower rates of maternal and child mortality because of complications during childbirth. 


Hurricane Sandy and how Social Media influences Information Dissemination

Our guest speaker this week talked about the different ways social media and ICTs can be used in a disaster setting, and, since it was extremely topical, how these technologies played a role in Hurricane Sandy and its aftermath. One thing that we talked about in class that was interesting, was how things like twitter and facebook were key in getting information to people who were experiencing the hurricane, as well as to their family and friends elsewhere. Those two platforms also played a role in disseminating false information about the hurricane, its severity, and the aftermath. There were photoshopped pictures floating around, false rumors about sharks in lower manhattan, and just absurd tales in general coming both from the outside and causing hysteria for those there.

One of the benefits of things like facebook and twitter, especially in places like Syria and other regions of the middle east where most things could be censored and/or monitored by the government, is that these websites are completely a part of the private sector, and peoples opinions and thoughts can be voiced completely freely and unencumbered by fear of censorship. This has been incredibly useful in situations like the uprisings during the Arab Spring, but can be disastrous in an emergency setting. The amount of fake stories and pictures before, during, and after Sandy were extremely detrimental. Not only did they increase the amount of general hysteria among the population, but some such articles and pictures were gotten a hold of by the mainstream press, causing more hysteria not only in the effected area but all over the country as people were getting false information about what was really happening. It doesnt seem clear what effect it had on relief efforts, since organizations like FEMA and the Red Cross were relying on more reliable sources such as government publications or direct reports from the ground. It doesnt seem clear how possible it is for facebook or twitter to develop a way to verify information that has been posted without infringing on people’s basic rights, but there needs to be something done to lessen the amount of false information flying around, especially in disaster situations where it could end up exacerbating the stress of everyone involved.


ICTs for the Good of the Environment

In doing our sector projects this week, I was made aware of how detrimental ICTs can be for the environment in terms of e-waste and other factors, yet also how useful they can be to help protect the environment and monitor degradation and keep developing countries in check in terms of sustainability. One of our case studies was the project in the Amazon with the Surui tribe- a really interesting way to go about conservation and monitoring. We talked about it a little during our presentation, but were not fully able to go into detail- by introducing new technologies, the tribe was able to receive validation for carbon market standards from a number of international agencies.

The success of this project could be due to any number of factors, but it seems to me that its most important aspect was the involvement of the indigenous people from the very start. One of the main reasons for failure we have seen in many ICT projects is in projects like One Laptop Per Child, where the model, while a good idea in theory, is very one size fits all and doesn’t take into consideration the needs of the people from the get go. The Surui project has been headed by the Matereilá association, or the Surui representative body from the very start. The representatives on the Matereilá and people in the community were then not just instructed what to do get financing but were also taught how to use the appropriate technology for conservation and for financing purposes. Along with developing a program for the carbon project, the organizations involved in the project also developed a 50 year development plan, with financing from their sustainability initiatives, that is a completely self-developed and autonomous action plan for improved territorial governance and community well-being- a plan that will hopefully bring a lot of development to the community, but also, more importantly, brings development in a way they see fit, that works with their lifestyle now and for years to come.


What will mPesa mean for Kenya?

One of the things we talked about in class this week, is the seeming success of m-pesa, and m-paisa in Kenya and Afghanistan respectively. In Kenya specifically, the mpesa initiative has been so successful that in 2007, a group of banks lobbied the government to audit m-pesa, in an attempt to slow the growth of service. This attempt failed, and the audit simply exposed how much m-pesa was growing, and by honest means. This attempt was mostly founded on Kenyan banks suspicion of the move from cash to e-money, and what it will do for their services and the systems they maintain right now- the need for cash will never disappear, but in Kenya and other countries with e-money, it is developing a different role.

Since its inception, it has been mainly focused on basic financial services, such as depositing and withdrawal, but now there is am movement to expand so that Kenyans can buy from superstores Uchumi and Naivas using credit on their phones and not having to carry cash around. They also intend to have this expanded to petrol stations, restaurants, hotels and chemists. This would revolutionize the way that transactions are done- not only has m-pesa changed the way that people transfer money officially, it would make all transactions on one device, making it that much easier for the average kenyan. It is somewhat similar to the idea of a credit card in the US, but more applicable to the daily life of Kenyans, since mobile phone usage rates are so high.

While some could argue that making every transaction based on the idea of someone having a mobile phone will exclude parts of the population, meaning not everyone will benefit from the m-pesa plan, this does not seem to be true. The barriers to access have been reduced significantly, and mobile subscriptions are increasing even among the poorest, most remote citizens of rural Kenya.

To learn more, click here