Author Archives: gwendroff

Important Lessons Drawn from ICT4D

I think that the most important lesson to take away from this course is that any development effort needs to begin with a bottom up grassroots approach. If an organization or a non-profit attempts to swoop in, bring a community some form of technology it deems applicable, and then leave, nothing is going to be accomplished. This is relevant to many failed development projects, specifically in terms of the failure of kiosks that were placed in grocery stores.

This concept is relevant to the human centered design approach we learned about in class. The tenet “hear” involves interacting with the community, talking to them, and understanding what they feel the community needs in terms of development projects. This approach not only allows for the potential success of projects because they are targeting issues people actually feel are relevant, but it also integrates the community into the project. Integrating community members into development projects is important as it allows for channels of communication between the developer and the recipients.

Next, I think an important concept in ICT4D is that program implementers need to adequately make sure they have built up technological capacity among the recipients, before they leave. This is especially important in terms of ICT’s that are integrated into the education sector. From the readings and various research done for the sector project a big problem identified was that with programs aimed at implementing technology into the classrooms the teachers did not incorporate it into their lessons due to their lack of knowledge of how to use it. This design fault is relative to the one laptop per child initiative.

Lastly, I think an important idea to think about is that new development projects should center their approach on local knowledge. Instead of bringing a completely new idea/technology into a developing country, they should focus on pre existing knowledge. This involves first communicating with community members to gauge the extent of local knowledge available, and the specifics of it. This approach allows for less time spent on building capacity and more time catering the specifics of the actual program so that it will yield positive results.

These are just some of the important lessons learned throughout this course, but there are plenty more. ICT4D showed me that there is no one “right” way to approach development, and that a lot of projects do fail. The important thing in development projects is that despite all the failures, it is vital to celebrate the small victory of one project being successful. This is because after the success of one project, we are one step closer to improving the quality of lives of people in developing countries. With that knowledge in mind, the high number of development projects that have failed in the past suddenly do not seem that significant anymore.

United Republic of Tanzania National ICT Resources

1. National ICT Policy/Plan/Strategy:


Created: March 2003 (part of “The Tanzania Development Vision 2025”)

Created By: The Ministry of Communications and Transport

Language: English

The Tanzania Development Vision 2025: This government website explains Tanzania’s overall vision for development in general, but it also states specifics about the ICT sector.

Tanzania ICT Sector Performance Review 2009/2010: This is a more recent, non-government document that reviews how Tanzania is doing in terms of their ICT sector for 2009/2010.

Authors: Mary Materu-Behitsa and Bitrina D. Diyamett

4. Helpful Notes:

The above documents hold very valuable information for your papers. The National information and communications technologies policy is the most important document, as it will provide you with all of the information you are responsible for in your first paper. It is long but very thorough. You will be able to sufficiently write the paper by using this document, but you must read the document in its entirety.

Summary: The Subtle Condescension of “ICT4D” Erik Hersman

 This article/blog post is about how Erik Hersman does not approve of the terminology ICT4D as he finds it condescending. First, he has a problem with this terminology because he says this is what NGO’s do in Asia and Africa but if it is done in the US it isn’t called development it is called “civil society innovation or a disruptive product.” He then goes on to say that he is a proponent of getting technology into the hands of “ordinary people,” which is why he does not admonish OLPC, as he thinks the dissemination of technology is a positive thing. He specifies this point, when saying that he is not against the spread of technology to places like Africa and Asia he is just against the baggage/ condescension that the term ICT4D carries.

He then brings up the point again about whether or not development is considered ict4d if it done in the US; He references an ICT program that combats violence in Chicago called PeaceTXT.

His next point is that ICT4D is a way to name interesting/innovative products from Africa/Asia as something different than if the same thing were to appear in the western hemisphere. Furthermore, he proposes the question, are programs still considered ICT4D if they are profitable and the same time as helpful?

His next point is that when people from the developing work thing about ICT4D they automatically think of the UN coming in an installing toilets. He says that this is a main problem as there have been numerous years of failed aid projects, especially in Africa. He says this triggers the “begging bowl” image, and strips away dignity away from the aid program.

He then claims that ICT4D is the way that NGO’s are trying to stay relevant, that private donors will support. He asks how many ICT4D initiatives a more than starter projects, and how many have the effect of westerns coming in, giving supplies, and then leaving.

Furthermore he states that there is a two fold problem occurring. First, the tech scene in Africa is ready to be treated as a legitimate money making industry. When individuals in this industry hear the term ICT4D connected to a project they get turned off of it and consider it a “special needs project.”  He says that start up companies who are trying to get their start in underdeveloped places are automatically “pigeonholed” in the international community as ICT4D.

The other side of the problem is, NGO’s are undermining the fact that people could be creating the same technologies/ICT initiatives in that country and chagrining for it, but because NGO’s are providing things for free it is stunting the growth of ICT in developing countries.

He closes by saying that the terminology ICT4D should not be used in Africa as it has negative conations in terms of the tech stat up business. There needs to be more of a focus on local initiatives and think less about the development aspect, and more of “commercial value”.


Original article can be found here.

Hurricane #Sandy: The Value of Social Media in a Crisis

This article talked about various social media efforts taken during hurricane sandy to connect people, alert people of unsafe places, and alert reaction efforts.

Technologies Used:

  • Google’s Crisis Map: This map showed information and specific places affected by the storm, the path of the storm, shelters, operational gas stations etc.
  • Facebook: statistics done showed that “we are ok” was the most common status updates post Sandy
  • Twitter: ““Over 127,000 pictures tagged #Sandy were posted on Twitter”
  • Instagram: “520,000 images tagged #Sandy were shared on Instagram”

This article also talked about the downside of social media, which we discussed in class, which was a big problem during this storm.

I think social media is a vital resource in the aftermath of disasters. But, people must take tweets for example, with a grain of salt during disasters like this, because these social media forums are not news sources they are social media outlets. In addition it is important to remember, as mentioned in class, that a network built up before disasters is important or else there is no way to connect to people, and the social media cannot be used to it’s fill capacity. Despite this, Twitter and Facebook were great ways during Sandy to know if loved ones were okay and safe. Hopefully twitter and facbeook will play a large part in uniting relief efforts post Sandy.

Furthermore, I did research into what would have happened if there was social media involved when hurricane Katrina hit, and came across this article. This article stated that there actually WERE some forms of social media used (outside of Facebook and Twitter). For example, blogs and wiki’s were used. More specifically, The Katrina People Finder Project was created to help people unite with their families who were separated from the storm. This basically was one central data base that collected information on missing persons from various blogs and wiki’s. “The Katrina PeopleFinder Project enlisted virtual volunteers to enter data about missing and found people from the various online sources.” I think that this is very interesting because we think social media as this recent creation that has emerged in that past couple of years, but here we see the connection of people created by the onset of social media back in 2005 when Katrina hit.

BRIDGEit in Tanzania

Bridgeit is an ICT initiative (specifically mEducation), which aims to, increase the quality of education specifically mathematics, science, and life skills in primary school though the use of mobile phones and television. Teachers are provided with access to a digital catalogue of short educational videos. They are also provided with a Nokia mobile phone, which they use to download these videos (via a server). The mobile phone is connected to a television in the classroom, so that the videos can be broadcasted for the class to view. Additionally, the videos come with interactive lesson plans for the teachers to follow, which address key concepts/ideas that the video introduces (erumi). Some of the schools were focused on just mathematics and science, while others were focused on mathematics, science, and life skills.

What is interesting to note about this project is that the education aspect of it does not focus on the mobile phone like those in the past; the mobile phone is just the medium in which the educational video is downloaded through. The main aspect of technology here is the television where the students watch the educational video.

Another interesting part of this program is that its implementers worked in collaboration with the Tanzanian government, as well as community organizations. By involving respected community members in the research process of the initiative, this project adhered to the human centered design toolkit’s phase “hear.” Additionally, because of government involvement this is a more dynamic approach to the legitimate implementation and sustainability ICT’s in Tanzania’s education sector, which was a main goal of their ICT policy.

An Evaluation was done for the first year. Overall, test scores of students in BridgeIT and BridgeIT + Life Skills in both math and science increased. Some other results that came back from the attitude questionnaires indicated that teachers received a lot of support from various outlets. Although the above results came back positive, there also were negative results: the teachers had decreased satisfaction with their jobs, and the students initially thought the video content was boring. But when students became more accustomed to the video learning, they found that the videos increased their understanding of math and science (Enge &Kjell).

Although I believe a proper evaluation was conducted, it did not mention anything about infrastructure in terms of electricity with this program (main problem in Tanzania), which was a main component of it. Additionally, it did not mention anything about what happened when the mobile phones were broken, or if there was a problem with theft.

Lighting Africa

In the article “Dead China-Make’’ Phones Off the Grid: Investigating Mobile Phone Use in Rural Africa they mentioned that, “In Kenya, only 20 percent of country’s population of about 40 million have access to electricity; the majority of those who do without live outside of the country’s cities” (2). When I looked in the bibliography to see where this fact was from it lead me to a website called lighting Africa. Lighting Africa is an IFC and WB program that helps to develop commercial off-grid lighting to markets in Sub-Saharan Africa. They’re goals are, “Initially mobilizing and supporting the commercial sector to supply high quality, affordable, and clean lighting to 2.5 million people by 2012. Ultimately eliminating market barriers so that the private sector can supply high quality, modern, off-grid lighting products to the 250 million people in Africa without electricity by 2030” (World Bank). They aim to do this by initially fostering conditions to facilitate the development of off-grid lighting markets.

How they  do it

According to the World Bank, “The undertaking will use high-tech compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) and light-emitting diodes (LEDs) powered by renewable energy sources like solar and wind power and micro hydro and mechanical means like hand cranking and pedal power to illuminate homes, businesses, health centers and other sites that aren’t connected to the power grid ” (world bank). This power is affordable which is a main factor in many ict projects (as seen in the OLPC case). Additionally, in many sub Saharan African areas who live off the grid, supportive infrastructure is absent – instead of needing fossil fuel based electricity above alternative power sources are used. This is a way to integrate new technologies into these areas where it was never possible before. Another positive aspect with this is that in sub Saharan Africa where there is no electricity, when the sun goes down, the workday ends. This initiative counters this problem by providing light, “he Lighting Africa initiative will improve the lives and livelihoods of the target population by potentially extending the work day for small and medium enterprises, thus expanding production, enriching income opportunities, and improving working conditions” (world bank).

A potential drawback that I can see in this initiative is that energy sources like solar power are expensive which begs the issue as to whether or enough the imitative is sustainable, but based on the positive results (see below) it is doing very well so far.

August 2012 Results

  • 3,800,000 people with better lighting and increased energy access using solar lanterns in Africa
  • 780,000 quality off-grid lighting products sold that have passed Lighting Africa minimum quality standards
  • 78,000 Tone of GHG emission avoided CO2-equivalent to taking 15,000 cars off the road (lighting Africa)

Overall I think Lighting Africa is great. It combines green energy initatives, with business models, with a moral based aspect as well regarding extending the work day, increasing productivity, increasing safety, etc.  It is a need based operative that addresses a fundamental failure of ict4d programs—lack of infrastructure.

ICT Teacher Training

When researching whether or not Tanzania has adopted OLPC I came across a statement from the Tanzanian Ministry of Education and Vocational Training who said in 2009, “We are still far from reaching that level where every child could be provided with a laptop, in fact most teachers do not have the knowledge, therefore we want to train teachers first” (olpcnews).

I thought this was a very smart statement. When going over OLPC in class we discussed how many of the pitfalls started from how the teachers had no incentive to incorporate ICT into their lessons because they were not given laptops, they were not ICT literate, and they had no incentive to become ICT literate. So, the children were mostly using the laptops for games, as they were not introduced/regularly used in their classrooms. Focusing on training teachers in ICTs is a more important first step in my mind, so that if a project like this was ever to be introduced into the country the teachers would actually know how to use the technology and actually incorporate it into their lessons.

After further research I came across an article on an initiative that focuses on ICT teacher training in Tanzania. This project aims at implementing ICT into all teacher-training colleges in the country, in order to improve access and quality of education into the country. The goals of this project are to, “i) integrate the use of ICT to achieve educational objectives, (ii) facilitate the use of ICT resources in schools and (iii) facilitate development and use of ICT as a pedagogical tool for teaching and learning” (ictinteachereducation) From doing our short paper 1 I recalled that an important part of Tanzania’s ICT policy was involving teachers in the ICT process too.

In 2010,  The East African Community(including Tanzania), signed a memo of understanding to incorporate OLPC into primary education in their schools; hopefully they did not abandon their original thinking about how crucial it is for teachers to be ICT literate first before the children receive laptops to be used in their classrooms (olpcnews).

BOSCO Uganda

This blog is for BOSCO Uganda: Battery operated systems for community outreach. Their project is focused on, “providing innovative information and communication technology (ICT) solutions using a collaborative and Internet approach to foster socio-economic development and peace building in rural communities in Northern Uganda” (Bailey).

Their main goals are:

“1 .Managing all Internet sites in the Amuru and Gulu Districts in Northern Uganda

2. Developing content, with a focus on education and peace building, for BOSCO’s Intranet system.

3. Supporting the expansion of BOSCO Uganda through new proposals and partnerships

4. Managing communications between local, regional and international stakeholders in partnership with BOSCO USA” (BoscoUganda)

Recently Bosco has joined with different organizations in order to further pursue their goals.  They aim to, “bring solar powered micro grids, Internet connectivity, and entrepreneurial training to a number of sites in northern Uganda” (Bailey). Efficiency is an important aspect of ICT, if an ICT being integrated into a developing country is not efficient the people might abandon it out of frustration (ie if internet connectivity is constantly down) . In order to avoid this issue, these solar powered micro grids will provide internet connectivity with , “clean and efficient renewable power” (Bailey). The idea of the power being solar is also a very important aspect here, now the communities will not have to rely on power via infrastructure their country may or may not have.

In the reading for Tuesday Unwin stresses that, “all communication systems require a physical infrastructure to be in place to provide energy and to generate and receive signals. Without such infrastructure, none of the complex systems of computers, radios or mobile phones that exist today would be able to function” (92). He mentions a program that introduced computers to a school but this initiative failed because the school did not have sufficient electricity. BOSCO provides a possible solution to the absence of electricity in developing nations: the use of solar power.

I think that this initiative sounds very forward thinking and progressive, yet the question of cost comes into play. Solar powered micro grids are extremely expensive. They are being donated through a grant program in this specific place in Uganda, but what happens when they break for instance? How can other developing places gain access to them? Is there a way to produce them at a lower cost, so that their positive ICT4D affects can be further reaching? Additionally, I’m curious about the power range of these solar powered micro grids are, how many people are these micro grids actually going to provide with solar power?

Overall, I think that this initiative could be very successful in the future and could possibly be the remedy for poor physical infrastructure + electricity problems in developing nations, if somehow the challenge of cost can be confronted.

IBM’s ViaVoice / Dragon Naturally Speaking

Unwin mentioned IBM’s VIAVoice software package in the latest reading. This software was originally called ViaVoice by IBM but sold to Nuance and now is now called Dragon Naturally Speaking. It is a speech recognition software that takes the complicated task of learning how to use a computer, and essentially makes it more user-friendly for beginners who may have trouble typing. This program advocates the following
“You talk, and it types. Use your voice to create and edit documents or emails, launch applications, open files; control your mouse, and more. Quickly and easily capture your thoughts and ideas while Dragon helps you get more done faster” (Nuance).
Typing may seem like an easy task to the average westerner, who learned to type in Kindergarten, but as I have seen from experience, it is much harder for an adult to learn how to type (I interned at a non-profit this summer called Refugee Resetlement and had to spend a great deal of time helping a refugee from Sierra Leone struggle with learning how to use the computer/type).

Although this software seems beneficial, Unwin believes that it can also be detrimental. He says that,  “the use of ICTs [like the aforementioned] may be reducing the dependency that people have on the traditional literacy skills such as reading and writing” ( 65). He then argues that, because this specific software negates the need for someone to be literate by creating text out of the spoken word, this might in the future cause people to abandon the need to learn to write (65).

I disagree with this notion and think (at the risk of sounding too harsh) Unwin’s concern that this may cause people to not learn to write is a far fetched assumption. Literacy allows one to communicate, creates a better quality of life, leads to more opportunities in terms of acquiring knowledge, provides for a wider array of job opportunities, allows one to better participate in society, etc. This software could definitely be used in terms of literate people wanting to get things done faster and not spending time to type, but it is improbable that it ever take the place of literacy.  Literacy is a vital aspect of education and furthering one’s knowledge and will never be abandoned regardless of how many cutting edge technologies are created year after year.

From MDG to SDG, with help of ICT: Sachs shows the way

This article talks about professor Jeffery D Sachs’ (of Columbia), idea of moving away from the MDG’s and towards the SDG’s, the sustainable development goals. Sachs is optimistic about the role of ICT’s in sustabinable human development and has a different take on the way they can be implemented than does Heeks.

The 4 pillars of the SDG’s are,  “ending extreme poverty, ensuring environmental sustainability, social inclusion (such as gender equality, jobs, happiness) and good governance” (Nalin).

According to Sachs, in order to:

End extreme poverty he thinks that e-health is a vital way to share health information, and that this is an aspect of ICT that should be focused on. Furthermore he says,  “education holds the key to any development process and we should see to it that there are more virtual classrooms to provide a good platform to share smart ideas and enhancing the reach” (Nalin).

In terms of Environmental sustainability: Sachs said that,  “agrarian ecology, transportation, telepresence, smart grids in checking and enhancing efficiency, metering and integration of renewable, green buildings, remote sensing and emergency responses can be integrated through ICT resulting into a cleaner and greener environment” (Nalin). Here, he throws out a plethora of environmental terms and says that if they are somehow integrated, they will pave the way for a cleaner environment, yet he fails to describe exactly how he foresees this occurring.

In terms of the role of ICT in terms of good governance  Sachs says this, “can already be seen in various parts of the world as people now mobilize through various social platforms present on the social media” (Nalin). Here, I think this is a legitimately good example, as we have seen social networking websites contribute in spreading democratic ideals and messages which lead to the Struggle for better governance and the mobilization in Tunisia accelerating the Arab Spring.

Sach’s idea centers around the idea of sustainable human development, but he does not mention the sustainability of the ICTs that he proposes to integrate into developing societies.  I’m not quite sure if his ideas are practical. Are virtual classrooms realistic in the majority of developing countries? Would that laundry list of environmental sustainability though various ICTs actually be implemented? Will the people ACTUALLY use the above-proposed technologies?