Author Archives: emilyschnitt

Lessons Learned in ICT4D

I have always heard of IT as an abstract concept, something that I believed was reserved for people who had extensive knowledge of computers or circuit boards. Through learning about ICT in the development context, I realized that it is so much broader and more relevant than what I had originally believed. I now am under the impression that ICT4D is one of the most important concepts in developing countries as it can tackle problems in every sector. The ability of ICTs to connect people is especially important as it allows for a greater network of learning and understanding between countries and between people. Especially important as well is the idea of e-governance, as it has the potential to increase transparency, reduce corruption and increase dialogue between citizens and government.

One of the most salient take aways in looking at case studies especially, in addition to reading the Human Centered Design (HCD) framework is the fact that citizen and local input is one of the most important aspect to the successful conjunction of ICTs and populations in the developing world. In looking at what worked throughout the semester, such as farm radio and the cell phone use by fisherman in India, it is clear that it must come in part from pre-existing infrastructure and what is already easily accessible to the people. Farm Radio International was effective because of the prevalence of radios in the areas, which they utilized to their advantage.

I believe that instead of throwing ICTs at the people, there must be at least a dialogue to understand how to best use pre-existing infrastructure to their advantage, in addition to creating dialogues to understand what they need most. As opposed to project implementation such as One Laptop Per Child (OLPC), I think a lesson learnt is that to use ICT4D effectively, it must be implemented using design strategies that consider pre-existing conditions. Merely giving people ICTs and then backing off may be one of the greatest flaws in projects. Using local knowledge could be of the greatest asset. If rural areas hardly have electricity connectivity, how can we attempt to implement Internet? I believe patience may be a virtue, and teaching people how to use the tools they already have access to instead of introducing entirely knew and foreign technology is what ICT4D project should be about.


Spear Phishing Attacks South Korea

In March of this year, a  cyber attack wiped out many banks and broadcasters in South Korea. Specifically concerning about this attack was the fact that many members of the Shinhan banking network were targeted using what is known as spear phishing. Spear phishing requires prior knowledge about a specific person or group of people to be targeted and hackers send phishing e-mails to these specific people. The look-alike pages used in phishing and spear phishing can be especially worrisome due to the fact that people put their trust in a company and may blindly follow commands upon asked to change their password or something of the like.

This cyber attack was well-planned according to researchers in that hackers gained access to the organization’s computers eight months prior, monitoring the activities inside the server. Finally, malware was distributed to computers, wiping out much of the data.

These attacks are of an extremely serious nature. They allow for high return for the hacker with little traceability or chance for getting caught. The introduction of AttackKits allows for less knowledgeable hackers to conduct attacks on larger scales than otherwise possible.

Spear phishing to large organizations, or even vulnerable populations, can on any scale have detrimental effects. The freedom of the internet and the anonymity behind it has spiraled into a world of its own, allowing large amounts of data to be stolen or wiped out without even having to leave the house. This begs the question on how to protect against cyber attacks. Nation-wide implementation of cyber security should be a main priority, as cyber attacks could potentially wipe out essential information and infrastructure, leaving it at a standstill and having to start from ground zero. Policies must begin to be more stringent in this manner.

Read the article about South Korea here and here.

 


Jorge Zapico: ICT4D Pioneer

Jorge Zapico describes himself as “a researcher looking at the intersection of information technology and sustainability” and has an extremely large database of information pertaining to ICTs in all aspects of the field. His recent article “ICT and Environmental Sustainability: Friend or Foe?” pertains directly to the issue of the utilization of different sectors in conjunction with ICTs. In many of his articles, Zapico works to get the ball rolling on certain ICT issues, in addition to the attempt to facilitate further research.

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Zapico also pioneered the “Green Hackathon” who’s mission is to get developers together to use computers and technology for the greater good in making it more sustainable and more efficiently utilized. These “coding events” have taken place in many different countries around the world, in hopes of getting more and more people involved on an international scale.

He as also worked on projects like Green Analytics, which helps represent data on things like carbon footprints in an understandable manner, in addition to generating life-cycle assessments to allow people to understand how to reduce their carbon footprint.

His article on industrial ecology is especially pertinent to the Energy and Environment ICT sector. Using metrics, the measuring and accounting of data, he explains, can allow for better use of resources in industries using a myriad of ICTs to allow for a greater scale of dematerialization and optimization.

Check out his website and Twitter page.

 


Voluntweeters: Self-Organized Volunteers following the Haiti Earthquake

Similarly to the crowdsourcing efforts we studied using Open Street Maps during the 2010 Haiti Earthquake, social media and  Twitter were utilized in self-organization in the same disaster setting pertaining to digital volunteers. The development of a Tweak the Tweet (TtT) syntax was effective in creating a universal language for those helping with these efforts. The website allowed any Tweeter to transform their information into the TfT syntax, thus creating “translators” that transformed unstructured essential information into understandable data. Th4 volunteers were not mandated by any one company, but came out organically through the Twitter world. Using specialized TtT hashtags such as #need or #offer, allowed tweets pertaining to this effort to be easily identifiable, allowing the information to be shown in an ongoing feed.

Many of these translator volunteers had personal connections with Haiti, others felt the need to be active in the relief efforts, if even from afar. The platform for Twitter made it easier for this emergent group to connect, interact and self-organize. Hashtags make the filtering of information especially simple through Twitter. The article cites that a few of the volunteers decided to use the hashtag #rescuemehaiti. In this way, they were able to contact those in need of help, asking them to use this tag for aid requests. The tag was able to catch on quickly, making it an effective communication skill between those on the ground and the volunteers, who thus were in contact with direct relief efforts.

The idea of “crisis tweeting” allows for quick and vital information to be relayed from both sides. Hashtags make this idea especially useful in its ability to organize and view items with similar relationships. The speed and brevity of Twitter (140 characters or less) allows for information to be communicated as it is happening and thus aid to be allocated as the information rolls in.

The use of ICTs in relief efforts cannot be undermined: through social media’s far-reaching scope, information in a disaster is disseminated through different channels, allowing help to arrive more quickly and resources to be better dispersed.

Read the full study here.

 


InfoDev Knowledge Maps for ICT Use in Education

InfoDev, a company that promotes technology in developing countries, has created comprehensive knowledge maps relating to ICT in education. The maps construct a resource base of knowledge gaps in ICT use in developing countries in the domain of education. It allows for stakeholders and policy makers to see areas of focus and where improvements must be made.

The themes—impact, costs, current implementation of ICT in education, and planning—are a product of key findings identified before the compilation of the project. InfoDev attempts to narrow down the broad nature of ICT research by highlighting vital conclusions of the nature of ICT In education. Under each category, some key findings are as follows:

IMPACT

  • Disassociations between rationale for the use of ICTs in education and their actual implementation
  • Lack of standardized methods for ICT use

COSTS

  • Little data or guides presently exist

CURRENT ICT USE IN EDUCATION

  • ICTs are popular in education in developing countries, despite the difficulties they may face

POLICY

  • Practices and lessons are not easily accessible as of now
  • The argument is being made that ICT use in education is a good motivation tool for students

Due to the nature of the inclusive report, which emphasizes the issues and priorities of developing countries and of stakeholders and policy makers, organizations and governments can begin to make changes that address these needs to make ICT implementation more effective and useful in the classroom. 


Senegal National ICT Resources

National ICT Plan/Strategy:

Senegal ICT Sector Performance Review – 2009/2010, Research ICT Africa: English Version

Senegal ICT Sector Performance Review: French– 2009/2010: French Version

Guide to ICT Policy in IST-Africa Partner Countries – April 2012, IST-Africa: English

Government Website:
Plan for the promotion of ICT use, July 2012 – Senegalese Government: French

Non-Governmental Websites:

IMF Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper 2010– Country Report written by the International Monetary Fund including a section about ICTs as a form of poverty reduction, 2010: English

Measuring the Information Society-  International Telecommunication Union, 2012: English

Global Information Technology Report – World Economic Forum, 2012: English

UNDP Harnessing the Power and Potential of Information and Communication Technologies for Local Development– Handbook for Policy Makers written by the United Nations Development Programme: Geneva Representation Office, 2012- Gives a helpful ICT Profile breakdown for Senegal: English

Breakdown of World Bank Statistics for Senegal– Trading Economics highlights World Bank Indicators for Communications in Senegal, 2012: English

For Senegal, I found it slightly difficult to find actual documents coming from the government, as opposed to external sources writing about government decisions and policy.


Gender Assessment of Radio & TV

In the report “Gender Assessment of ICT Usage and Access in Africa,” I found the gender disparities especially in Radio & TV to be especially surprising.  Radio is the main source of information for low income and rural households, although the price of constantly having to buy batteries hinders the upkeep of these radios. The fact of being a woman reduces the probability of listening to the radio and increases the probability of watching TV. Women watch TV more constantly then men, usually occurring in groups and watching entertainment shows. In the report, stories of widowed women who no longer have the means to buy batteries and have the responsibility of supporting their children does not allow for radio usage to fit into their lifestyles. Similarly to women in America, watching TV becomes an enjoyable social event, allowing for relaxation greater than that of listening to the radio. Tied to many cultural norms, women may be subject to scrutiny if seen watching TV and engaging in leisure activities.

This marginalization of women is concerning to the advancement of ICTs in that their inclusion is essential to meeting the MDGs and the advancement of their opportunities. In the following video, the author of the “African Women and ICT, Investigating Technology, Gender and Empowerment” book highlights the need for politicians to make sure women become a part of the ICT revolution.

While women have already been introduced to different technologies like TV, it is essential to development to get politician and communities behind them in their endeavors to create a network between themselves and within the society. Is it possible to try to change lasting societal norms? How can we cope with the marginalization of women in developing countries?