Author Archives: gmizrahi

The Growing Importance of Technology in Development

Overall, this course has opened my eyes to the challenges of a very specific tool that has growing prevalance in the field of development: ICTs. The introduction of ICTs into development has had many positive effects, but has also created some new problems, as well as exacerbating or growing off of some traditional problems.  For instance, gaps between genders, ages, or economic stratas are not unique in the development field.  However, ICTs have taken on their own form of this problem through the digital divide, as traditional gaps have been applied to ICTs and are a specific challenge in ICT4D. Another example of a problem that has always been seen in development, but has taken on its own form int he ICT4D field is the fight between the top-down and bottom-up approach.  Often in ICT4D, such as in the case of OLPC and other projects, the implementation of technologies from large organizations or projects have not been applicable or useful on the ground level.  Often, when a new field in development has growing prevalance, it can seem like a “magical fix” to all possible problems.  Therefore, one of the most important lessons learned in the course was to be aware of the challenges faced by ICT4D, so that they can be dealt with and addressed in the future, instead of believe that ICT4D is a fool-proof method for success in development.

I believe that something I have personally learned this semester that will help me as a development professional is the importance of infrastructure.  Overall, often people can think they have a great project idea, and then get on the ground and realize that it is not possible due to a lack of infrastucture. I think that in the future, this course will make me more aware, and will remind me to fully evaluate the conditions in the country I am trying to serve, and not assume that infrastructure (such as roads, electricity, potable water, etc.) that I take for granted living in the United States will be readily available where I am going, and to always look into those issues first to see the feasability of my project.  I also think that one of the most important lessons I have learned is to not be afraid of admitting failure.  With programs such as FailFaire, it is increasingly acceptable to learn from your mistakes in development, and not repeat the same problems just to attract more investors.  This mindset of accepting your mistakes and learning from them will allow you to grow more as a development professional, rather than pouring money into projects that are flawed because you are too afraid to admit a problem.

One of the most useful frameworks we have learned about in class, in my opinion, is the capabilities approach to development.  In this framework, the focus is on increasing freedoms and promoting equality in order to better advance development.  I have always been a strong proponent of equality in gender, and its ability to contribute greatly to development.  Therefore, this particular approach really reached me, and I think it is particularly useful.  I also think that its potential in the ICT4D field is extremely useful, as gender equality will not only lead to greater ICT penetration in communities as a whole (since women will be using it too) but greater ICT use can also have a great effect on equality by disseminating information and progressive ideas on equality, democracy, etc.  Therefore, as many tools in development, these two tools can help build eachother.

I think useful information to be added to future classes is more information about ICT4D in areas where we live, such as the United States and especially New Orleans.  I think that New Orleans has been well served, and can continued to be served, by many topics we have discussed in class. Although we have heard a some of these projects from our guest speakers, it would be interesting to learn and see more, as well as some of the history of ICT implementation in New Orleans, so that we can have a more direct interaction with a number of topics we have been discussing.

Guinea National ICT Resources

National ICT Plan: 

Plan de Développement de l’Infrastructure Nationale d’Information et de Communication de la République de Guinée 2001-2004

Created By: Ministry of Finance

Date Updated: March 2002

Language: French

Outside Resources: 

ICT for Education in Guinea– Useful for establishing the prospective usage and challenges of ICTs in eductation

Created By: The World Bank

Author: Osei Tutu Agyeman

Updated: June 2007

Language: English

Freedom House Rating– Ranks the access to deomocracy and fundamental rights in countries around the world.

Created By: Freedom House

Language: English

African Internet Facebook Usage– Used to see the percentages of Facebook usage in Guinea.

Language: English

Updated: June 30, 2012

Guinea Profile– Used to gather background information and have a clearer understanding of Guinea as a whole. 

Created By: BBC News Africa

Language: English

MultiSectoral AIDS Project (MAP)-An AIDS development project implemented throughout Africa, including Guinea. Not Directly Related to ICT4D!

Created By: The World Bank

Updated: 2011

Language: English

AIDS/HIV Statistics in Guinea

Created By: University of California, San Fransisco

Updated: 2012

US AID in Guinea-Provides information about USAIDs work in Guinea in a number of fields (ex. democracy, economics, agriculture, etc. )

Created By: U.S. Agency for International Development

World Health Organization information on Environmental Policy in Guinea- comprehensive information linked here.

Gender Development Index for Guinea by the United Nations Development Programme-comprehensive information linked here.

Overall, researching Guinea was interesting, but at the same time extremely challenging.  A lack of infrastructure in the country has not led to many development projects being implemented there for ICTD.  Therefore, there is not a lot of research into this field to be done in terms of growth or development, as their development has been lagging drastically behind.  Also, since the government in Guinea is not very stable, it was not always easy to find up-to-date resources, and a lot of the reasearch needed to be inferred.

Energy and Cost Effectiveness in the Cloud

Energy and Cost Effectiveness in the Cloud

When discussing the benefits of cloud computing, we talked about it being cheaper than other options, such as buying external hardwear, etc. However, what we did not delve deeply into was the macro cost effectiveness of cloud computing, often with the added bonus of it being better for the environment. For example, as Google expands its service, it created “Google Apps for Government,” which focuses on providing a secure and efficient cloud server for government agencies to utilize.

Benefits that it advertises include the decreased amounts of infrastructure that needs to be built to house a data center. It also allows less maintence of said centers, which lead to monthly costs such as electricity, air conditioning to maintiain the equiptment, and water for cooling the systems. The elimination of all these costs leads to huge amounts of savings, which makes the cost of “Google Apps for Government” itself negligible in comparison.

Another way that these Google apps minimize environmental and cost impacts is through a decrease in the need for travel. This service offers efficient video and digital interfacing, so that it can decrease the need for travel. This is a huge cast saver, as well as helping the environment as it decreases the harmful greenhouse gasses that are released when flying or driving.

Overall, Google Apps for Government seems to be a useful way in utilizing the cloud to save money, help the environment, and allow the government to address its consituents concerns to release less carbon. Google seems to be leading the field in this focus on adapting the cloud for specific fields, and it is an innovative way to make money and improve efficency at the same time.

Is this Guy Crazy…or Could He Be Right?

For years conspiracy theorists like the one in the video above have been derided as crazy for believing the government could spy on them using their own technology. However, there is possibly some evidence to suggest that there are capabilites the government has to use personal technology to spy on ordinary citizens.

For instance, the cababilities of the computer worm stuxnet, which was probably developed by the United States and Israel, prove that governments have enormous capabilities to infiltrate mass numbers of computers.

Also, with the prevalance of video cameras connected to personal computers, it is not impossible for hackers to be able to activate these computer cameras to watch people in their personal settings.  According to the above article from CBS Chicago, spying from a webcamera is not only easy, but a number of people have already begun doing it.  For instace, there is a worry that children can be spied on by pedophiles, attackers, etc.  However, almost anyone can gain this spying tool, since it is generally easy to do.  All they need is to either get the chance to tamper directly with the camera, or can even send a computer virus that gives them this access, just as the government has proved they are capable of doing through Stuxnet.

Although it is highly unlikely that the government is actually doing what this man claims, the potential is there, and we need to be careful to maintain our rights. Otherwise, we may someday be watched more closely than we would care to be.

Charities and the Incorporation of Social Media

With the phenomenon of social media comes a number of innovative and inventive ways for it to be used by a variety of sources.  One of these groups that has begun to tap into how to use social media to expand its purposes is charities.  According to the Social Media Today article, charities have discovered a number of innovative ways to utilize social media websites, such as facebook and twitter, in order to further their aims.

  1. Tweet-a-Thons: A tweet-a-thon is when an organization asks its supporters to tweet as much as possible in a certain time period about their cause.  They hope that this will cause their organization to go viral, especially through the use of hashtags, as well as links to the organizations website.
  2. Facebook: Creating a page for an organization that a person can then “like” and interact with will encourage that person to then become more involved and aware in what the charity is doing.
  3. Youtube: A video on youtube that outlines and highlights the charities aims and goals can then be linked by supporters to other forms of social media, effectively spreading the word.

However, there can be a number of problems with this form of advertising for charities.  For instance, many people may believe that just because they are linking to the page of an organization, they are effectively helping.  However, this belief leads to problems for the organization, since they need this awareness to lead to donations.  Also, through posting on multiple sources, often the messages of these organizations can become skewed from their intention, since they have gone through so many different channels.

Reuters Market Light-Case Study

This week I did a lot of work looking into the rural and agriculture sector in ICT4D and there has been massive amounts of implementation within this field.  One organization that has made tremendous strides on this topic is Reuters Market Light, which aims to provide agricultural information over mobile phones to farmers in a number of countries.  There are a number of benefits to this platform.

  1. Reuters Market Light aims to decrease the digital divide in the agricultural world by providing these small holding farmers with crucial information so that they are able to compete with larger, industrialized farms.  This will help to improve the abilities of a greater number of small farmers, rather than allowing a monopoly on success by larger farmers.
  2. By increasing access to information, Farmers will be able to increase their yields as they will be more educated on different important techniques and innovations in the field that they can apply to their work.
  3. As weather patterns are changing due to global warming, Reuters Market Light will be able to mitigate for that, and will allow for the farmers to understand new adapted practices, rather than remaining with their current strategies to no avail.

However, there are also some problems with the program as well, which do not allow it to access its full potential.  For instance, the issue of infrastructure is problamatic as this program only targets those who are already in range of a mobile phone network.  However, the farmers who are probably in the worst conditions and may need the most help are those who are in areas that are so under-developed that they do not yet have access to cell phones, continuing the digital divide.  Also, this project continually has the difficulty of working in rural areas, rather than cities, which are often passed over for larger, metropolitan areas when it comes to aid work.

Mobile Banking in Africa

Mobile Banking in Africa

In class, we have discussed a phenomena that is common in development called ” The Leapfrogging Effect.”  The Leapfrogging Effect, when discussed with ICT4D, is what happens when a developing country skips over an entire generation of a specific type of technology, and jumps straight into a very new, modern kind.  For example, in Africa, there is often a prevalance of mobile phone users, however, landlines are often very rare.  This is attributed to the leapfrogging effect, and that once the countries in Africa had the means to implement the phone technologies, it did not make sense for them to waste their money installing infrastricutre for their outdated landline phones, but rather jumped straight ahead to invest in mobile phone technology, leading a large portion of people in Africa to have never had a landline, but to have cell phones now.

This article by The Economist does not directly discuss the leapfrogging effect, but indirectly proves it.  It discusses how African nations are often way ahead of developed countries in the use of mobile banking.  Although not explicitly stated, one hypothesis for this is that possibly the rise of large and modern banks in African countries never developed as they did in the developed world.  However, now as they begin to get their foot in the door of banking, they will leapfrog ahead straight to mobile banking, rather than invest their money in a more archaic type of banking.