I think one of the most valuable and important lesson in ICT4D is that this type of developmental route can work. When I initially approached the concepts of ICT4D, I had serious doubts on how such ICT programs can be utilized for development. I thought that when it comes down to it, a developing country is going to need fresh water way more than they are going to need cellphone coverage in their village. But then I realized that it wasn’t about installing ICT structures and promoting modernization through them, but ICT4D is utilizing technologies that have already been adapted into developing nations, and promoting growth through them. Such projects like mBanking and Open Street Maps have successfully implemented change in developing countries, and through the harnessing of such technologies, countries can develop at a quicker rate.
That being said, there are still a lot of ways for ICT4D projects to fail, and failing to adapt projects to local communities proves to be the biggest downfall. Programs such as mBanking in Kenya and the use of mobile phones for fishing markets in India were such a success because they molded their projects around their target community. ICT projects assist in development when they are able to build off of a sound foundation of ICTs. Because so many ICT projects fail to address this common issue, they struggle to reach their goals and give ICT4D a bad name. However, the successes of former projects who have worked with the developing nations instead of just hoping for the best, prove that ICT4D does work.
When we first began our discussion on cybersecurity, I was struggling to figure out the needs for such an ICT initiative in the developing nation. There is no terrorist organization or foreign entity that is going to want to cause mayhem in a developing country, because what’s the point? But then after this week’s lecture and hearing Professor Russo discuss the need for cybersecurity, I realized that protecting online information and softwares is a key component of development. With weak security on anything from banking to government files, citizens of a developing nation are finding trouble trusting their government or banks, leading to a failure with domestic investments. A lack of domestic investments further retards a developing nation’s economy, and promotes a greater divide between the developed and developing. For this reason alone, I feel that cybersecurity is a huge step towards development, and that organizations such as the EastWest Institute (EWI) are making great strides in the development of this field.
EWI is a corporation responsible for the 2009 Worldwide Security Initiative, which views the securement of cyberspace as a global challenge. The Worldwide Security Initiative formed a coalition of representatives of the world’s most digitally advanced nations, who’s aim is to “shape “rules of the road” for cyber conflict and fighting cyber crime through international cooperation.” With programs starting in India, China, and Russia, the EWI is committed to bringing cybersecurity initiatives to the developing world in order to secure cyberspace around the globe.
The video below details the aims of the Worldwide Security Initiative, and discusses the importance of why cybersecurity is truly a world wide issue. It is because programs like the EWI that gives promise to developing nation’s economies, and provides the guidance for these developing nations to accomplish these goals.
When viewing ICT4D projects, it is easy to point out the flaws and failures that plague the majority of them. Whether it be infrastructure problems or improper assessment of the target population, it is disheartening to say that even the greatest ICT projects are unlikely to reach their goals. When you go online and search for ICT success stories, the pickings are slim, and every success is countered with a heavy but. However, through all of the negative stories I found one that made me rethink how people are defining failures.
Earlier in the year our class had previously discussed the M-PESA development project that allows cell phone users in Kenya to have mobile money services. The project deemed to be a huge success, and students in previous years have discussed in lengths about the benefits of this mobile banking program (See blogpost ‘Further Information on M-Pesa‘). With the undeniable benefits of this business in my mind, I was intrigued when I came across an article detailing of this projects failure.
In the article “Mobile Phones Will Not Save the Poorest of the Poor” authors Zimmerman and Meinrath discuss how projects such as M-PESA are ‘leaving a substantial portion of the nation’s poor in even more dire straits.’ They mention high costs and the resistance of mobile phone companies to expand infrastructure to the rural parts of Kenya, as reasons for M-PESA’s failure. However I found it hard to agree with them, leading me to question the extent as to why some projects are deemed failures.
In my mind M-PESA is a success, and although its services fail to impact everyone in Kenya, it is having a huge impact on those who are capable of using it. It is illogical to claim that this project is a failure, and the authors’s expectation of a development program to affect everyone is far-fetched. This article made me realize that just because some projects are labeled as a failure, it doesn’t mean that they truly are.
After reading Abraham’s research article “Mobile Phones and Economic Development: Evidence From the Fishing Industry in India” and our classes discussion on how ICTs can impact developing economies, I became really interested in other ways mobiles can help foster development. Throughout my research I stumbled across the Grameen Foundation, who has recently partook in the Community Knowledge Worker (CKW) initiative. This program “helps poor, rural farmers in Uganda by providing them with up-to-date, accurate information” through the use of smart phones (Grameen Foundation).
Community Knowledge Workers are local Ugandan natives who are equipped with smart phones in order to give ‘fellow farmers vital information on treating their diseased crops and sick animals, the best crops to plant and when to plant them based on weather forecast, and market prices at different locations (Grameen Foundation).” Much like the Farm Radio International initiative, CKW hopes to increase farming efficiency and productivity in order to advance Uganda’s developing economy.
In addition to financing these Workers, the Grameen Foundation is introducing the Ready Set, a solar panel that can charge up to ten phones per day or provide the village with up to ten hours of light. By adapting to such infrastructural drawbacks and recruiting native Ugandans, it seems that the CKW program will prove to be a sustainable development project. The video below highlights Grameen’s project and shows how the CKWs can help rural farmers fight ‘information poverty.’
When discussing the use of ICTs in education development, it seems like the majority of efforts are centered around youth education. However, as brought up in this weeks lecture, what happens to those who are left out of the ‘youth’ bubble? Although starting a movement to target children’s education early on is crucial to ensure development, how far can a country develop if they lack the ability to provide higher education? It seems that this issue was not only a concern for my classmates, but also for New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman. In early January, Friedman wrote on the need for higher education, and found a solution with the program of free massive open online courses (MOOC).
MOOCs are programs established by notable colleges such as Stanford, Harvard, Princeton, and MIT, which provide free online education for anyone. Although this education does not give you college credit or an established degree, it does provide many with the skills and capacity building programs needed to lift them out of poverty.
Coursera, a market leader amongst the MOOC programs recently partnered with the World Bank’s New Economy Skills for Africa Program (NESAP) and the Tanzanian STHEP Project to pilot the Youth Employment Accelerator Program Initiative (YEAPI). This project aims to help fill the highly demanded IT jobs in Tanzania through the skills learned by the MOOC programs. The skills acquired by these MOOC programs can prove to be incredibly beneficiary to the development of Tanzania, especially in terms of reducing youth unemployment rates and encouraging higher education.
However, after reading many cases where educational development has failed, especially the project of One Laptop Per Child, I feel that this program is struggling to address some of the key issues at hand. While these online courses can be incredibly helpful for the continuance of education in rural communities, they fail to acknowledge certain infrastructural problems that these populations might face. This program assumes that individuals will have access to computers and that these computers will have adequate access to the internet. Furthermore, this program assumes that individuals will want to partake in such education, even though it lacks initial incentives. While I completely understand and support this program’s initiatives, I feel like the pilot program will show that there are much greater problems at hand.
National ICT Policies
- National ICT Policy 2008
- Last updated: September 2008
- Created by: The Bangladesh Computer Council
- Language: English
- National ICT Policy 2002
- Last updated: October 2002
- Created by: The Ministry of Science and Information Communication Technology Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh
- Language: English
Accessing information about Bangladesh’s ICT Policies were incredibly easy. The country’s devotion to harnessing ICTs for development allows for openness in their policies.
In 2004 the Swedish program for ICT in Developing Regions (Spider) was established. This organization focuses on the spread of ICTs throughout the developing world, and since their founding it has been devoted to just that. Their numerous development projects have proved successful in their twelve target countries scattered throughout the world, and while their main focus is centered around development and poverty reduction through the use of ICTs, they have also partook in projects dealing with various social issues. Since 2007 Spider has focused its energy on a variety of gender-focused initiatives, which can be viewed in their 2012 report ‘Empowering Women Through ICT.’ These ‘women centered projects’ were focused in six different locations, and although all are pertinent to the gender divide in ICTs, I chose to highlight their project empowering indigenous leaders through ICTs in Bolivia.
Bolivia is home to 36 indigenous communities whose recognition in the local political realm has up until recently been largely ignored. With the election of President Evo Morales in 2005, these indigenous groups have gained more rights and prevalence in the political world, but the presence of women’s rights and roles in the government has been somewhat of an afterthought. However, in 2007 Spider coupled with CIDOB (the Confederation of Indigenous Peoples of Eastern Bolivia) to focus on leader ship and public policy advocacy for indigenous women. To enhance the role and rights of indigenous women in Bolivia Spider and CIDOB have trained a core group of indigenous women in developing their computer skills. Several of the skills taught to these women include:
- Computer and Internet skills: such as email, Skype, and blogging and writing
- The use of applications such as Word, Excel, and Power Point
- Web development and maintenance
This training was rooted in political leadership, and has helped articulate the female’s voice in the political arena. Through the teaching of ICTs, this project has lead for ‘an increasing number of female leaders that have been able to gain key political positions at a local, regional, and national level.’
The use of ICTs has given women more confidence in reach out and speaking out on issues pertinent to them, and through this greater access to knowledge these women are able to realize the gender inequalities that they are facing. Spider has hoped that the teaching of this core group of women will initiate change in Bolivia and help spread the use of ICTs. ‘To date the women of Bolivia have initiated twenty-three socio-economically sustainable projects in the areas of promotion of indigenous handicrafts, tourism, forestry, and livelihood,’ proving this program to be a success in empowering women through ICTs.
In late 2012 Mongolia’s cabinet approved the ‘National Satellite for Communications of Mongolia’ project, which details the implementation of the country’s first satellite. Currently Mongolia pays $2m every year to rent other nations’ satellites so their citizens can connect to TV, radio, and obtain mobile phones. The government argued for the creation of this satellite not only to enhance domestic communications, but also in hopes of transforming Mongolia’s agricultural based economy into a knowledge based economy by 2021.
This plan projects that the ‘satellite will earn some $50m in its lifetime and trends suggest profits in Mongolia’s ICT industry are to rise.’ While this satellite proves to be beneficial for Mongolia’s ICT national policy, the necessity of this plan is called into question. With Mongolia’s latest ICT national policy stating that 50% of the population is not connected to the internet, it is curious as to why the Mongolian government is going to spend $441m on the research, launch, and maintenance of this satellite.
Although they state that this satellite will help jumpstart the economy and promote an e-governance action plan, it seems that with 50% of the country unable to access basic internet, this plan’s success does not seem tangible. As Richard Heeks argued in ‘ICTs and the MDGs’, it appears that Mongolia is pushing the ‘e-development’ agenda. While this satellite has the potential to improve internet and other e-services, furthering Mongolia’s movement towards the MDGs, the plan fails to address accessibility and sustainability. While this satellite seems great on paper and the promised benefits could greatly help Mongolia’s economy, the project does not seem to be the best step for Mongolia’s ICT policy.
When I first approached the subject of ICT4D I was somewhat skeptical of the immediate need of information and communications technology in developing countries. I figured that programs focusing in on healthcare, education, and gender equality are more important to the developing world. However, through this week’s lecture and a recent article on RYOT.com, I realized that it is through the use of ICTs that these three ideals are able to be promoted and sustained.
During this week, we discussed that one of the main problems with the spread of ICTs is the difficulties of accessibility. Without proper devices or nearby locations to access such technologies, there is little hope for ICTs to spread and help develop these countries. In order to fight this obstacle, Earth Institute Director Jeffery Sachs has pledged to train 1 million health workers in sub-Saharan Africa. This new campaign provides workers ‘mobile phone and broadband access to sophisticated medical resources’ in order to deliver health care to the rural poor.
Jeffery Sachs, along with Rwandan President Paul Kagame and Novartis CEO Joseph Jimenez announced the campaign earlier this week, and have hopes to ‘equipping and deploying one million health care workers by the end of 2015’ across sub-Saharan Africa. This pledge of ICTs to rural Africa will have huge impacts on these countries which are plagued with disease and have high maternal and child mortality rates. Through the accessibility of such simple technologies, the largely incompetent health care services in sub-Saharan Africa have the potential to develop and modernize.