Author Archives: etuttlem

Q&A Best Practices

We were asked to write a short 2 or 3-paragraph post about one of the following questions. But of course, I didn’t follow the directions carefully and wrote a paragraph for each question. I learned more about my future involvement with ICT4D, and you got more information than you asked for. Sorry I’m not sorry.

a) What do you think are the most salient lessons to be learned in ICT4D?

The several important lessons to be learned in ICT4D are 1) Seek out what medium of information dissemination already exists in that region or sector. Only use ICTs selectively to improve the efficiency of, or expand the current information path that has already been carved out. I saw this worked with the success of Telemedicine, where the path from doctor to specialist was already forged, but technology was needed to improve diagnostic time. 2) Richard Heeks’ strategy of think back-office not the front office: improve a country or sector’s ICT capacity from the inside out. Do not introduce or update a technology if it isn’t needed. Usually it is, but you must first assess the current status of information exchange and research the appropriate technology to sustainably grow a sector. I discovered the Ministry of Health in Turkey failed to research the appropriate technology to implement a nation-wide electronic health records system in 2003, making the system more inefficient and inaccessible to nurses and doctors than before. 3) You can’t always trust an open source platform. Corruption and transparency, inaccurate or incomplete information, and the expectation of results can cause problems in achieving a truly open source online platform. I learned this in the Harassmap case study and the 9 Ethical Considerations in Participatory Digital Mapping with Communities.

b) Reflections on something specific that you have personally learned this semester that you think would/will help you as a development professional.

What I have personally learned this semester is the beneficiaries need to be involved in every step of the ICT project design. From start to finish, the information has to better their lives, as does the skill of learning a new technology. With my interest in Gender Studies, I am learning how to improve social conditions without replicating existing frameworks of patriarchal power. One information medium I have seen that is empowering for women in marginalized spaces is storytelling and preserving indigenous knowledge. If the process or stories are relevant to them, giving a voice to underrepresented information through mediums like participatory video, amateur radio, or Usnet forums, gives empowerment  to people’s life experiences. Through people taking their lives or livelihoods into their own hands, such as in Farm Radio in Africa, we have seen concrete improvements in their life conditions. Furthermore, using ICTs in empowerment processes builds confidence in using technology in general, and increases the chance of learning how to use a new technology medium in the future. Technology skill building is key for sustainable growth of ICT4D. Many ICT projects have failed because they required too much external facilitation and support, such as in Facilitated Video Instruction in Low Resources Schools. Incorporating the beneficiaries and their opinions at every stage would prevent this from happening.

c) The most useful theoretical concept or framework we’ve discussed that can be used to think about and implement ICT4D.

The most useful theoretical frameworks we have discussed to implement ICT4D are to the barriers to access and supply-driven versus demand-driven paradigm. Examples of barriers to access to seriously consider when introducing an ICT solution  are the country’s previous technological investment and/or capacity to develop the infrastructure necessary to support this new technology. Inter-generational illiteracy, cultural stigmas preventing trust of the information or technology delivering it, and the lack of ownership issues are the most challenging barriers to accessing technology for development. I have learned in other development classes that if a beneficiary does not invest something of her own other than her time, she has no incentive to keep it. Therefore, promoting ownership is especially important for ICT solutions because technology is expensive and information needs to be driven by demand, not supply. That is why the second most important framework is the top-down/supply-driven vs. bottom-up/empowerment focused framework. In Connecting the First Mile, Talyarkhan researched existing knowledge systems and created appropriate materials based on thee relevant issues and information needs for the target group. The way I see it, researching the barriers to access for participatory development could take you years, but the impact and longevity of your idea/project could last lifetimes.

I want to take this impersonal online moment to say thank you to my highly intelligent and hilarious classmates this semester. It wouldn’t have been this much fun learning about technology without you. And never last, the coolest nerd in school, and our trusted leader Jessica Ports. Best of luck on your dissertation, and thank you for all the laughs and memories. The Red Cross will be lucky to have you!

P.S. D for D!


The ‘Filter Bubble’ and Indigenous Knowledge: a Match Made in Archivist Heaven

How does social media really inform our awareness of social issues?

Eli Pariser’s above Ted Talk on “Beware online ‘filter bubbles’” paints a glum picture for social and participatory media’s ability to disseminate knowledge based on political and social biases. “Filter bubbles” happen when algorithms learn to personalize and filter your various news feeds (Google, Yahoo News, Amazon, Huffington Post) based on the kinds of content that you regularly click on. Algorithms replace the “stuff that really matters” with “information junk food” as Pariser calls it (goofy viral videos, celebrity news, kittens), until the stuff that really matters falls out of your view altogether. As the co-founder of the new website Upworthy, Praiser says that lack of information about challenging social/political issues matters “because although we can lose sight of common problems, they don’t lose sight of us.”

This is a challenge for international developers, as a classmate likes to call us, because we become the algorithm by which our beneficiaries receive news. If we deploy an ICT program in a development setting, there is a very real potential for our information, important to beneficiaries or not, to eclipse their information, which could lead to a loss of indigenous knowledge (IK). But Patrick Ngulube, an Ethiopian graduate professor in the fields of archival science and indigenous knowledge systems, found that ICT professionals play an integral role in preserving IK, in so far as that the two fields have become practically intertwined in the past decade.

Ulwazi Community Memory in South Africa engages with local communities to preserve indigenous knowledge.

Ulwazi Community Memory in South Africa engages with local communities to preserve indigenous knowledge.

Ngulube’s 2002 publication Information Development led to the deployment of many ICT programs that preserve IK. One such program is Ulwazi Community Memory, which captures the local culture and heritage of South Africa, mainly Zulu culture, folk tales and traditional agricultural methods, in a digital library. Local participation in building the digital library is key to its success, as it creates jobs and empowers local communities according to an ICT Update author.

To fulfill Tulane’s service-learning requirement this past semester, I interned at the Jazz and Heritage Foundation Archive and saw the connection between ameliorating poverty in New Orleans through promoting and documenting music and the arts. Pariser’s filter bubble does and will indeed continue shape our current social experience if that’s all we’re interested in. But “the stuff that really matters” to those who are interested in pursing challenging and uncomfortable stories from other points of view,will continue to be kept alive through the laborious yet riveting work of archivists and information specialists. When our future selves ask, how did social media inform our awareness of social issues in the past, hopefully they will turn to archivists and to Eli Pariser for some insight.


Crowdsource Volunteers are HOT HOT HOT!

The earthquake that hit Port-au-Prince, Haiti on a Tuesday afternoon in January 2010, forever changed the way that emergency responders use crowdsource mapping to provide need-based aid.

HOT volunteers writing OSM manual in Kreyòl

HOT volunteers writing OSM manual in Kreyòl

According to a U.S. News Editorial about crowdsourcing in various disaster affected communities, volunteers from all over the world began collecting data information from several sources coming out of Haiti, including SMS, Twitter, and news websites. With enough specific geographic information, these sources were used by volunteers to annotate a live map on OpenStreetMaps (OSM) to aid emergency responders on the ground in Haiti. We have been using OSM in class this week, and the sheer pace that these volunteers traced roads for 24 hours a day remotely from the disaster point was nothing short of amazing. These annotated OSM maps were vital to the success of the U.S. State Department’s SMS relief program’s short code 4636. Texting 4636,“INFO,” meant that anyone within the Digicel mobile network  in Haiti could text “I need water” or “I need medical help” and their location, and these messages were routed to aid organizations and emergency responders like Red Cross on the ground for free. The maps that the volunteers filled in on OSM were essential to NGO emergency responder’s execution of relief aid to any area requested.

The success of this collaboration spurred the formation of the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT). HOT workers gather base data on disaster-prone regions remotely and on the ground from available satellite imagery to improve disaster preparedness in that region. Some HOTOSM (HOT + OSM = HOTOSM) project sites include Somalia, Cote D’Ivoire, Mongolia, and Indonesia. From my nerdy interest in plate tectonics, I know that Somalia and Indonesia are their own plate boundaries, which make them prone to earthquakes and volcanoes. But after researching their disaster statistics on PreventionWeb (a detailed disaster reduction resource), I learned that more deaths occur in Somalia from floods and epidemics than from earthquakes. I can now understand how the unique disaster-development challenges in each region motivates volunteers to negotiate access to imagery and trace roads for hours on end, like we are doing in Nepal and like HOT volunteers doing in Somalia. Just for our own motivation for the our HOTOSM project, I researched the disaster statistics in Nepal. The most common disasters that affect and kill people are storms and floods. But wildfires bare most of the economic burden to Nepalese development.


Information Dissemination Debate

“If we agree that people have a right to information, it is not our place to decide what that information can and cannot be used for.” This argument was raised for a second time in the semester this week, and I’m surprised that it doesn’t come up more often. It was raised in regard to the efficacy of two automated SMS health interventions: 1) Effect of a Text Messaging Intervention on Influenza Vaccination in an Urban, Low-Income Pediatric and Adolescent Population) 2) Mixed-Method Evaluation of a Passive mHealth Sexual Information Texting Service in Uganda.

For the first case, we as a class determined that the high cost project implementation didn’t outweigh the small change in flu vaccinations: $7,000 in programming costs produced a 3-4% rate of vaccination change in a low-income urban community in New York City. The rate of change wasn’t statistically significant because “Five text messages about the importance of flu vaccinations and where to get them are not going to change the misconceptions people have about getting the vaccine,” raised by a Public Health student in class. Similarly, for the second case, just because teens have information on healthy sexual behavior, doesn’t mean that they’re going to make better decisions. In fact, teens with this service actually increased their number of sexual partners  with this information.  As much as we in the ICT4D sector would like to reduce our margin of error through testing and evaluating our lessons learned, there are just some factors that we cannot account for that influence people’s behavior – such as power differentials, deeply rooted fears, and prejudices.

Does this mean that we should not provide people with information that could potentially benefit their lives? Upon reflection, I would say that information dissemination is still important for several reasons. 1) Just because an authority figure tell us something is right or wrong, doesn’t mean that we have to accept it at face value. Sometimes we need to have secondary information to make a decision that is right for us. 2) Just because a service does not work for some people, doesn’t mean it will not work for all, or even just one person! This individualism argument falls in line with human development approach, where the goal is to enhance individual freedoms and capabilities. 3) If we don’t provide this information at all because of it’s potential negative side effects or failures, then we risk kicking away the ladder, denying for developing countries the very paths to development that industrialized countries used (Heeks, Ha-Joon Chang). This, to me, is the most convincing argument because developing countries have debated the effects of information since its release – think Calvinism and the Catholic Church! Our political freedom allows citizens to research, accept, or reject this information depending if it is relevant for them. Denying access to information based on protectionist policies leads to social constructivism, which produces my first reason promoting dissemination of information: necessity to question the authority or culture in which you were raised. The reason that ICT projects fail, however, is because project initiatives tend to not understand the local context and demand for information where they implement their technologies. So the technology becomes obsolete because it is supply-led rather than demand-driven.

For us in the ICT4D sector, we have the opportunity to challenge the way information has been traditionally disseminated. We can ask questions about who or where are people now turning to for information, what is the new language that people are using to ask for information, and what can we do to facilitate access to this information. These theoretical debates, which challenge our assumptions about information and technologies, are to me the most exciting part of ICT4D.


Health Management Systems Rolled Out in Tanzania

North-Star-Alliance-Kahama-COMETS-Training

In preparation for my health sector presentation next week, I decided to examine how ICTs can be used to improve health in a developing country. But since I have already done a blog post on the Cariopad in Cameroon, a front office technology, I will focus on the back office application of ICTs to improve health system management in Tanzania. “Back office applications,” says Richard Heeks, “help better planning, decision-making, and management” (Heeks ICT Manifesto 2005). After writing my national ICT policy analysis, I learned that healthcare affordability for the patient alone doesn’t improve the overall level of health of a country. The affordability and efficiency of health systems for doctors and hospitals to treat more people at higher quality improves the overall development of the health sector in the long term. For this reason, I will focus on health management information systems in Tanzania.

There have been many ICT health-focused initiatives in Tanzania since the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare (MoHSW) proposed a strengthening of the country’s health information systems (HMIS) in 2000. Two such initiatives, Telemedicine, and eRCH4BC, are examples of how technology can be used to increase communication between doctors and community health workers to treat patients with severe cases who reside in places far from specialists or high quality health care.

Telemedicine in Tanzania enables doctors in remote areas to consult specialized doctors with healthcare expertise and resources in the cities for better diagnoses. “People who can afford it come to cities for their health care in huge numbers and at enormous cost. Telemedicine is beneficial for patients, because they can get specialist consultations and treatment in their own hospital.” Doctors are able to exchange medical data, still images, x-rays, live video and audio over the Internet to a panel of expert doctors in cities. Within a short period of time, they come up with the results and tell the rural doctors what to do. Dr. John Materu of Kibosho Hospital says, “Referral is easier when you can tell the patient the advice that you have got from a specialist-doctor on the right treatment” (IICD video). In terms of efficiency and cost-effectiveness, Telemedicine has the power to transform health development by cutting costs for patients and extending the knowledge of specialists. It seems to be financially sustainable since the Internet-based software is free and training manuals are easily adopted online or through visits from Telemed training institutions. My concerns about the project are the privacy and safety of patients’ information since it is discussed online by a panel of doctors. Also, if the Internet is down for an extended period while someone is in critical condition, there should be a back-up method of communication that doesn’t rely on Internet. Since the project has been able to push funding past their two-year pilot into Phase 2, hospitals are asked to provide funding from their own resources, which also could be a hindrance. Overall though, I am optimistic that Telemedicine is the key to improving HMIS and patient health care in remote areas.

Since I provided a comprehensive review of Telemedicine, I will go into less detail with the second health-focused ICT initiative. “eRCH for better care” was a joint pilot project between Spider and ITIDO from 2011 from 2012 with the objective of improving reproductive and child healthcare systems through ICT intervention in the Rufiji district of Tanzania. Amongst other RCH challenges, e-RCH4B aimed to solve the lack of antenatal check ups and lack of support for community health care workers (CHWs) in rural areas. To solve the former, an electronic record keeping system with both mother and child’s health data made check-ups easier and enabled data transfer data between facilities upon referrals. For the latter, eRCH4BC provided CHWs in with “Tele-maternal,” like to telemedicine but only for mothers, to identify danger signs of women and children “so CHWs can advise them to go to nearby health facilities for more professional care.” It is  significant that civil society recognized the lack of formal education that CHWs have to provide new and expecting mothers accurate diagnoses. I hope the Tanzanian government will catch on too. Although Spider has not yet released the project’s evaluation, I am glad to see initiatives addressing fatalities that could be prevented with ICTs.


Stories Shared via Participatory Video

Think back to the videos of the Millennia that changed the way you see the world. The polar bear stranded on a melting ice cap; Jacob’s smile in Kony 2012, and Charlie’s chuckle in Charlie bit my finger – again! Videos like these have impacted the way we communicate with people, and can have the added benefit of transforming the lives of the people who made them.

In class this week we discussed Participatory Video (PV), a popular development technique organizations are using to share information and empower participants in the developing world. What initially drew me to PV is its usefulness to attract donor funding since I plan to participate in the NGO world. But after I learned about InsightShare, I now see how technology can enable marginalized people to tell their own stories in their own words, and create lasting partnerships between organizations and the  people they aim to help.

Over the last 10 years, InsightShare has developed a 3-stage capacity building model that trains local facilitators on the process of mentoring and filmmaking with the participants they aim to help. With relatively simple recording equipment provided by InsightShare, participants learn all the filmmaking techniques ranging from storyboard-making to sound checks to editing. In all the years that outsiders have come to film them, this is the first time that local people have been behind the camera. They tell the stories that they want to show.

I watched a technical video of a Ghanaian farmer who shared his innovative pig-rearing technique, that allows him to increase his yields more efficiently. I watched another where indigenous Peruvian villagers shared the importance of respecting Mother Earth. The audience of these videos can range from national governments to their children and neighbors. Because the technological skills remain in the community even after InsightShare leaves, bringing video-making to the developing world can taper the digital divide by passing down knowledge to grow the information society. The factors that might inhibit this growth in an indigenous community are insufficient funding to purchase additional equipment that would enhance the filmmaking experience, lack of support for technology malfunctions, and the looming problem of focusing on technology when hunger and illiteracy are still rampant. My opinion is that InsightShares has probably thought of this, and would say that you can’t solve everything,  but you can  improve the dignity of the people you’re trying to help. And by transforming a shepherd into a film director, you are increasing the human capacity of the person behind the camera, and preserving, or amplifying their life stories, depending on what they want to do.


Turkey National ICT Resources

It was relatively easy to find Turkey’s National ICT Strategy however, there are several documents saying more or the same thing.  You’ll find that the national policy is more strategy based. The policy has not been updated since the early 2000’s. Although it’s important to cite the State Planning Organization, external websites give a better picture of what is actually going on since there is a problem with biased reporting and incomplete information in Turkey.

Government Websites

Turkey’s Information Society Strategy provides the goals and ways to reach them to transform itself into an Information Society. Updated in 2006, author is the State Planning Organization, language is in English.

Turkey’s e-Transformation Action Plan written by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development in 2004 is more descriptive and than the same plan written by Turkey’s State Planning Organization in 2003. Both are in English. An outline of the Short Term Action Plan with more recent updates, written by  Emin Aydin of the State Planning Organization’s newly created Information Society Department, was published in 2010 and is in English.

ICT Industry

ICT in Turkey updated in 2012 provides insights into Turkey’s ICT Industry. Written by McBDC Business Development & Consultancy Services Co.Ltd. It is in English and provides the best picture of recent ICT industry growth in Turkey I could find. A less recent but also helpful document called Insights into Turkish ICT Industry was published in 2004 by Rukiye Ozcivelek and Haluk Zontul  of the European Commission’s Joint Research Center in English. It to see what products are imported and exported over time, but I would stick to the more recent one.

 

External Websites

Information and a picture of Turkey’s electronic identification card system written by Bilgem, Center of Research for Advanced Technologies of Informatics and Information Security in what I believe is 2008, although it doesn’t explicitly say.

Weakness of Turkey’s ICT Policy written by Dr. Özgür Uçkan  in 2009 shows the setbacks of not having a policy and Turkey’s fear of governance. It is in English and very insightful if you have time to read it.

 


Preventing Heart Disease in Africa One Tablet at a Time

As we’ve discussed in class, actual technologies themselves have little impact on development. It is only when they are used to effectively deliver the aspirations of poor people that they may be able to positively influence their lives and livelihoods (Unwin, 76). That is what Arthur Zang, a young Cameroonian engineer, had in mind when he built the first fully touch screen medical tablet that could soon save hundreds of lives. The Cardiopad enables people with heart disease living in remote locations to perform heart exams, while the results are transmitted from the nurse’s tablet to that of the doctor who then interprets them. In a part of the world where there is one cardiologist per 70,000 people, where many have great difficulty traveling to urban centers to seek medical care, and where the cost of medical exams is prohibitive for most of the population, the Cardiopad is bound to save thousands of lives.

Taking in factors of development, the Cardiopad has advantages and disadvantages. The factors that might inhibit the Cardiopad from being effective are infrastructure, user interface, and cost effectiveness. Access to high bandwidth and electricity is limited in remote villages, so a wireless solution might fall short. Cables and wires are also susceptible to deterioration and tampering, making the physical infrastructure an inhibiting factor. However, the engineer assures that “the Cardiopad is equipped with a battery that can independently power the machine for more than seven hours.” The other issue is user interface. Nurses and doctors in remote areas will have to be trained on how to use the heart exam software, and that will cost money. I’m not saying it cannot be done, but general acceptance and motivation could be an inhibiting factor. Then there is cost effectiveness. Because the Cardiopad is still in its pilot stage and not yet available on the market, its price isn’t fixed. Hospitals in remote areas are already underfunded and in poor condition. The tablets will have to be privately funded or petitioned for public funding – which isn’t guaranteed. But hopefully like other tablets for development we have learned about in class, they will be available under for $100 and subsidies can cover at least part of the cost.

Overall, I think the Cardiopad is a huge step forward in putting ICTs to use for development. At only 24 years old, Arthur Zang has engineered a device that crosses not only thousands of miles across the African continent, but also propels humanity years into the future towards saving the lives of more people in more regions across the globe.


MDGs crumble at the feet of national ICT strategies

Richard Heeks’ article, “ICT and the MDGs: On the Wrong Track?” really got me thinking of the ineffective application of national and international ICT strategies in development. In particular, Heeks’ “do as I say, not as I do,” paradigm points out that industrialized countries are, “denying for developing countries the very paths to development that industrialized countries used,” (Heeks, 2005). When I began reading Ch. 5 of Tim Unwin’s textbook ICT4D I couldn’t help but notice this paradigm unfolding. In referencing the competing interests of the private sector, civil society, and government strategies, Unwin says, “It is only the government of a country that can make any attempt to regulate the balance of interests between these competing agendas,” (Unwin, 150). Unwin eventually continues with a multi-stakeholder partnership approach, but not without mandating that “sound regulatory mechanisms need to be in place,” (166). There are so many problems with Unwin’s position. First, we in industrialized nations did not get to where we are today through government regulation. Theorized by Immanuel Kant in 1784, in his essay, “What is Enlightenment?” the United States was founded on granting citizens freedom to reason and debate laws so that the laws reflect the will of the people. This fundamental right to question is exactly what is not reflected in the MDG agenda or in Tim Unwin’s approach to sound development. Do we not realize that we are imposing on developing countries the very authority we fought so hard to overthrow?

Friedrich List

Friedrich List on “Kicking Away the Ladder”

The second problem with Unwin’s section on national ICT strategy is his one-size-fits-all tactic. Unwin and many large international multilateral agencies such as The World Bank and UNDP highlight the “paramount importance that ICT4D programs should explicitly focus on the information and communication needs of poor and previously disadvantaged people if they are indeed intended to enhance equity,” (171). However, as Heeks pointed out, not only should equal weight be given to medium-and large-scale IT firms that are better equipped for creating jobs and improving exports (which increase equity), but when you establish multilateral international partnerships, it simply reinforces global hegemony. As we each saw in our data & indicator reports last week, it takes an enormous effort to coordinate an international consensus to measure ICT penetration, even in countries where ICT penetration isn’t happening. As long as we continue to enforce people at the top making decisions for people at the bottom, and a “do as I say, not as I do,” strategy that kicks out the ladder from underneath our feet, we will continue to see a stagnant, if not widening, digital divide in the poorest countries of the world. Indeed, Heeks nailed it on the head when he asked, “Where is the breaking space and support for countries to construct their own individual agendas?” With 2015 quickly approaching, don’t be surprised if we see MDGs and development goals crumble to a halt in poor countries; they still have their own goal setting to do.


United Villages: “Drive-By Wi-Fi” for Consumer Goods

As an American-born college student who has grown up in the age of instant gratification, I’m used to clicking a few buttons to obtain the information or products I desire. Just a few clicks connect any company’s products to my hands at home; and likewise I am connected to the customer base of that company. But for a rural Indian villager of my same age, and a growing Indian supply chain company, that instant connection appears more difficult to foster.

Chicago-born Indian entrepreneur Amir Alexander Hasson recognized this disconnect between rural village-dwellers and limited supply chain companies, and in 2004, he founded United Villages – India’s first network of consumer goods using wireless and transportation infrastructure. United Villages offers voicemail, text messages, email, Web search, and e-shops to people living in rural areas, especially kiosk owners, through “drive-by Wi-Fi” technology (Mobile Access Points or MAPs) installed on existing buses and motorcycles. Whenever a MAP-installed vehicle is in range of a mobile device or Internet connection, it provides access for Wi-Fi enabled kiosks along the road. In addition, United Village sales people regularly visit rural villages via such motorbikes and take kiosk-owners product orders. This way, the network of growing Indian companies is brought to rural customers via wireless Internet infrastructure and personalized customer service, without villagers ever having to leave their doorsteps.

Locals in the Indian village of Kalapathar wait to use the internet and, inset, the bus that makes it all possible.

Initially, I was skeptical of the 4D aspect of United Villages. It had seemed to me that Hasson had found a way to profit from the digital divide because after all, United Villages is for-profit model. However, as I read deeper into the meaning of the digital divide, I grew a greater appreciation for this technology’s connectivity – its capacity to bring products, services, and information to people typically excluded from the global marketplace. Wireless Internet also allows rural Indians to browse locally relevant websites. The potential side effects of United Villages are that these products, though they aid Indians in big cities, may not be relevant to the needs of rural villagers, perhaps exploiting their vulnerable finances with wasteful consumerism, and adding to environmental pollutants over time.

But that is up to the choice of consumer. I see United Villages as aiding in the advancement of global economic liberalism in the developing world, which provides rural consumers with the means to make informed product choices and with practice, instant connections around the world.