Author Archives: AmeliaConrad

About AmeliaConrad

Hi! I'm a senior at Tulane University studying International Relations, International Development, and Spanish. I'm passionate about a lot of things and my current activities include the following: serving as a Fall Fellow for the Obama campaign, president of the Tulane chapter of RESULTS, vice president of Women in Politics, and co-chair of the Leadership Conference for Middle School Girls for Mortarboard; working as a resident advisor at Tulane; and interning at Save the Children! I'm really excited to pursue all of these opportunities this year.

Peru National ICT Resources

Government Resources

It is difficult to find one complete national plan for Peru’s ICT sector, but there are many resources discussing various aspects of ICT implementation in the country. The most useful governmental sources are all in Spanish. 

1) El Programa Nacional de Tecnologías de la Información y Comunicación: La Agenda Digital Peruana.
Language: Spanish. Author: José L. Segovia Juaréz, CONCYTEC, INICTEL. Date: November 2010

2) Plan Nacional Estratégico de Ciencia, Tecnología, e Innovación para la Competitividad y el Desarrollo Humano 

Language: Spanish. Author: Ministry of Education. Date: 2005.

3) Plan de Desarrollo de la Sociedad de la Información en el Perú: La Agenda Digital

Language: Spanish. Author: CODESI. Date: March 2005.

4) Peru: Tecnologías de Información y Comunicaciones en las Empresas 2006-2007

Language: Spanish. Author: National Institute of Statistics and Information (INEI). Date: 2009.

5) Impactos de las Tecnologías de Información y Comunicación en el Perú

Language: Spanish. Author: Adolfo Roquez, INEI, ONGEI. Date: July 2001.

Government Agencies

There are several government agencies in Peru that deal with ICT. Below are some of the most important ones. Their sites are all in Spanish. In addition, the Peruvian National Institute of Statistics and Information (INEI) is listed as it is a valuable resource in collecting data about ICT use and demographics in the country.

Non-governmental Resources

There are a good number of non-governmental resources concerning Peru’s ICT policy and practices. Many of these are in English, which is helpful since all of the governmental resources are in Spanish. A few of the resources that have been found to be useful are included below.

1) ICT Policy and Perspectives of Human Development in Latin America: the Peruvian Experience

Language: English. Author: Edgar Ferrer. Date: 2009.

2) Information and Communication Technology (ICT) for development of small and medium-sized exporters in Latin America: Peru

Language: English. Author: Carlos Daniel Durand Chahud, Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean. Date: December 2005.

3) Peru: IP Telephony and the Internet 

Language: English. Author: Arturo Briceno, International Telecommunication Union. Date: No Date.

Additional Notes

There is a wealth of information available about ICTs in Peru and Peru is an interesting case study thanks to its growing economy and push, in many cases, for increased ICT use, despite ongoing centralization and lack of infrastructure in the rural areas. However, I would hesitate before choosing this country if you are not able to read in Spanish as some of the most important resources are in Spanish without reliable translations. If you can utilize the Spanish-language resources, this is a great country choice! 


What I’ve Learned

Over the course of the semester, our ICT4D class has covered many topics and lessons. We have looked at successful case studies from India, ICT4D failures like OLPC, and many different sectors that could employ ICT4D. However, if I had to boil all that I’ve learned this semester down to one sentence it would be this: ICT4D can be a wonderful, transformative tool in the development world, but, by itself, it is not enough. 

ICT4D can, absolutely, be a useful tool in the development process. We saw in this course how cell phones allowed Indian fishermen to reduce their time and waste. We tried our hand at OSM, helping the Red Cross create maps for service delivery in Uganda. We learned about tools like Ushahidi and other crowdsourcing applications that allowed survivors of natural disasters to locate their families. As our classmates presented on various sectors– from e-government to agriculture– we learned about the myriad ways in which ICT can help to transform the developing world.

However, before we start reveling in the wonder that is ICT4D, we must also consider a second major lesson to be learned from this course: that ICT is not enough. Sure, there are many ways in which ICT can serve as a powerful tool for development, but without the proper infrastructure, planning, and evaluation, its effects will be limited at best. We saw cases of failures like the OLPC program, where we learned that simply throwing technology at the poor is not enough to truly create effective and lasting change. We discussed briefly all of the donated equipment sitting in developing countries, unable to be used because no one can repair it, because there is not sufficient power, or because it is unsuitable for dusty or humid conditions. There is a need for ICT4D, yes, but more than that there is a need for smart ICT4D, ICT4D that is well thought out, designed with developing countries in mind, and regularly evaluated and revised.

This course made me more aware of the many ways in which ICT can be implemented in the developing world, of the many possibilities that arise out of new and creative uses for technology. But it also taught me to be wary of the quick-fix, the seeming magic bullet. Technology is wonderful and full of potential, but, just like every other development tool, it is also imperfect. We must move forward cautiously with ICT4D, always aware of the possibilities it provides but also wary of moving too quickly or promising too much.


The Cloud in Africa

Cloud computing technology is becoming increasingly important in ICT. This technology provides hardware and software services over a network. “The Cloud and Africa: Indicators for Growth of Cloud Computing” discusses predictors of cloud computing success in Africa.

The paper first discusses the potential benefits of the cloud in Africa– economic growth, greater data storage, increased communication and collaboration, and lower overhead costs. In addition, cloud computing can specifically be used in different ICT4D projects like e-education, e-health, and e-commerce.

The article describes the idea of “cloud readiness,” focusing on five indicators of cloud readiness: ICT, infrastructure, business, investment, and socioeconomic factors. These indicators help to determine which nations are most ready to employ cloud technology. In order to conduct this study, the author chose the 10 largest internet using nations in Africa: Nigeria, South Africa, Sudan, Kenya, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire, Senegal, and Zambia. Finally, Rwanda was added to the study because of its government’s focus on ICT4D.

The author then created a Cloud Readiness Index (which is described in much greater detail in the paper). The top five countries for cloud readiness were, in order: South Africa, Zimbabwe, Senegal, Sudan, and Kenya. A visual representation of the Index can be seen below:

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In his conclusion, the author reemphasize the importance of the cloud as one tool in the ICT4D toolkit, but also reminds us that each country will need its own individualized path to cloud readiness and this should be a focus in coming years.


Malala Yousufzai: Blogger Activist and Inspiration

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Malala Yousufzai

Malala Yousufzai is a 14-year old girl from Pakistan. Unlike many 14-year olds, however, Malala does not simply spend her days complaining about homework, whispering secrets to her best friend, or flirting with her crush. Instead, Malala has become a blogger activists, advocating for girls’ education in Pakistan. She lives in a conservative region of Northwestern Pakistan where the Taliban tightly restrict female education. Malala’s frustration with these restrictions caused her to begin speaking out via the internet. For her courage and activism, Malala was awarded Pakistan’s first National Youth Peace Prize.

However, Malala’s story is not only one of accolades and courage. Sadly, in early October, Malala was shot by Taliban extremists. Pakistan’s President and Prime Minister both condemned the attack. Today, doctors say Malala is making progress, but the road to recovery is slow. She is currently in the UK receiving medical treatment after an initial surgery to remove a bullet lodged in her neck in Pakistan. Her story is inspiring people around the world to take action, with thousands signing a petition to nominate her for the Nobel Peace Prize and November 10th will mark “Malala Day.”

Malala’s story demonstrates the great power of activist bloggers. Malala’s blog about the horrors of life under the Taliban and her desire to promote girls’ education earned her international attention and scared Taliban militants enough for them to attempt to kill her. If she survives, they promise they will try again. Malala is a strong young woman, however, and vows to return to Pakistan eventually to continue advocating for education and life free of Taliban rule. Blogging and other social media have propelled her story from the rural Swat Valley of Pakistan to international attention and will hopefully help to further her goals, as well as recognize her courage.

You can learn about a few other youth activists using social media in this article.


IT@School Program in India

There are many ways that ICTs can play a role in making education more effective and efficient. However, as our examination of One Laptop Per Child policies a few weeks ago demonstrated, simply distributing technology to classrooms or children in the developing country is not sufficient. Instead, a more nuanced and holistic approach is necessary. In India, the IT@School program addresses some of these concerns.

The IT@School program was begun in 2001 by the government of Kerala, India. It is intended to foster ICT-enabled education in the state. The program is multifaceted and includes a focus on: e-governance, content development, field level mechanisms, capacity building, FOSS initiatives, and impact studies as a means of evaluation. Some of the specific projects of IT@School include: a centralized textbook indent system, e-textbooks, a centralized resource website for students, an animation movie making initiative called Animation Training Program for Students (ANTS), ICT training for teachers, and online registration forms.

This project addresses many of the topics we have discussed in class– like open source and open content (e.g. FOSS) and training needs (via ICT teacher training). It also has a strong monitoring and evaluation component, which is key to any successful development initiative. It focuses on sustainability of its technology through “Hardware Clinics” where the computers and other equipment are repaired right in the schools. IT@School also addresses infrastructure needs by creating a unique scheme for electrification of classrooms and providing broadband internet connectivity for teachers and students. It incorporates an evolving constructionist vision of education– with school wikis for collaborative learning and student driven learning via projects like ANTS. This is a large-scale project– reaching over 12,000 schools– and seems to have thought through many of the common pitfalls of ICT-based education projects in the developing world.This unique and holistic approach to ICT-based education focuses on using ICTs to enable learning, not just the learning of ICT skills but learning as a whole, and may serve as a model for other ICT4education projects.


Mapping Malaria in Africa

This article describes an innovative approach to using ICT for development initiatives. Malaria remains one of the deadliest diseases on the planet with a great deal of malaria cases occurring in sub-Saharan Africa.In order to track and prevent the disease, it is necessary to know where people live. Though this sounds simple, it is harder than one might think in Africa. A new project, the AfriPop Project, used cell phone records in Kenya to track popular travel routes between population centers, therefore mapping the location of almost 15 million people. The project then applied this map to a malaria transmission model to reveal how malaria is likely to spread in Kenya. The use of cell-phones, rather than GPS, surveys, and traffic flow data, provided exponentially more data, making the transmission model much more effective and powerful. This technique maximized very limited resources in order to help prevent the transmission of malaria in Kenya.

How could this technique be replicated in other countries? In what fields, other than disease transmission, might it be applicable? What are potential drawbacks of this approach?


OLPC: Peru

As we read in our assigned readings this week, specifically the report from the Inter-American Development Bank evaluating the “Una Laptop por Niño” program in Peru, One Laptop Per Child Programs are not magical cure-alls for the many educational ailments that plague developing countries (not to mention our own.) Further evidence of the lack of success for this program comes from a Forbes article where the author states that the One Laptop Per Child program may have widened gap between rich and poor students in Peru. The article emphasizes the fact that technology alone cannot transform education. This particular program, and many like it, failed to think through the training of teachers or the redesign of school program to get the most “bang for your buck”. Where technology has been really effective in transforming education it is with an entirely new schooling model, like online education. This has not been the case in Peru.

However, this Miami Herald article argues that the program should not be evaluated primarily on its ability to improve test scores. It claims that the true purpose of the One Laptop Per Child program in Peru was to increase social inclusion, and that it has succeeded in this regard. “Education is a long term project that takes years to translate into better test results,” the author argues. The article does recognize that more math and language software would improve the program and that more teacher training is essential to the success of the program, but believes that we should not discount the One Laptop Per Child program just yet.

In this interview with Sandro Marcone, General Director for the General Directorate of Educational Technologies (DIGETE) of the Peruvian Ministry of Education, some of these issues are addressed. Marcone particularly emphasizes a new method of teacher training in which, during their last two years of training, future teachers will receive instruction in the use of ICT in the classroom, particularly suited for the One Laptop Per Child program. Marcone also informs his interviewer that the national government will no longer be responsible for providing laptops to schoolchildren. Instead, regional governments, NGOs, and parents will take on the responsibility of purchasing laptops for their children. One can imagine the complications that might arise in this situation– especially in areas with low penetration of NGOs, impoverished parents, and weak regional governments.

After spending a semester studying abroad in Peru and traveling and volunteering extensively within the country, I found these articles, especially Marcone’s interview, fascinating. I spent time volunteering in three different schools in three very distinct regions of Peru– the coastal desert in an urban slum, a small village in the rainforest, and a village high in the rural Andes. Interestingly, none of these schools provided laptops for their schoolchildren. In fact, only the rainforest school even had a computer lab (the computers had been donated fairly recently by an NGO; however, several were quite old and already not functioning.) Access to the internet was available in only the urban slum outside of Lima. These three communities represent some of the most marginalized and impoverished sectors of Peruvian society and yet the One Laptop Per Child program did not reach them. Whether, as the Forbes article and the report from the IDB argue, the One Laptop Per Child program is simply not enough to transform the education of Peruvian children or, as the Miami Herald and Sandro Marcone believe, this program is worth continuing, it will not drastically alter the course of development and education in Peru until it begins to reach millions of the most impoverished and marginalized Peruvians and provide the infrastructure to match.


Is Social Media a Prerequisite for Development?

In this article from the Public Service Review, a panel of experts are asked this question: Has social media become a prerequisite for development or can it lead to negative consequences? Social media played a transformational role in the Arab Spring in Libya, Tunisia, and Egypt; but it is important to ask whether or not the growing presence of social media use is necessarily a good thing.

The first expert, Dr. Hamadoun Touré, argues that, while social media has provided an avenue for the expression of dissent and popular sentiment, it has not provided practical solutions in crisis situations. He believes that, though the incidents in Libya, Tunisia, and Egypt caught headlines, the true potential behind social media lies in more practical, less flashy uses: crowdsourcing, information sharing, etc. Dr. Touré wraps up his insights by stating that, for the array of uses of social media to truly reach their potential, we must work to provide high-speed broadband in many areas where a fast connection is still hard to come by.

The second expert to offer an opinion, Anna Kuznicka-Marry, describes how social media can be used to connect those in rural and isolated areas with news and knowledge that they would otherwise not have access to. She goes on to remind us, however, that access and literacy are often limited in certain regions of some countries, thus constraining the beneficial effects of social media. Social media is not, therefore, a prerequisite for development; while it can lead to progress, it can also be a force of destruction.

Next, William Echikson of Google discusses the potential uses of the Internet, but also talks about growing restrictions on freedom of Internet use, and the detrimental effects of such restrictions. He recognizes the importance of some limitations of freedom of expression on the Internet (citing, for example, child pornography) but also emphasizes that, when push comes to shove, freedom of expression is essential.

Finally, Heather Blake from Reporters without Borders describes the significance of social media in the context of the Arab Spring and for future advocacy efforts. She does, however, recognize certain limitations of social media, recognizing that it is not by any means the only prerequisite for development. Social media, like many other options, is only one of many ways to employ technology in the quest for progress.


Learning to Use ICTs to Reach the MDGs

This report by Professor Clement Dzidonu, commissioned by the Division for Public Administration and Development Management of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, explores how information and communication technology can be used to help reach the Millennium Development Goals, focusing specifically on Africa.

The first several pages are spent discussing the role of ICTs in achieving the Millennium Development Goals. As the report states, “There is now a consensus that in what is increasingly becoming a highly competitive information-driven world economy, development without ICTs is not possible.” The report graphically demonstrates the way that ICTs can impact development in eight major sectors: the public, agricultural, service, industrial, research & development, education, health, and private sectors.

Interestingly, the report mentions that ICTs can facilitate the development process not only in developing countries, but also in more developed countries, a point that is sometimes overlooked. It also states that technology is not a goal in and of itself; instead, it can be used as an “enabler of development goals.” The report then describes ten areas where the introduction of ICTs has had a major impact on development, ranging from good governance to more productive agriculture.

Finally, the report delves into the specific case of the African continent, examining country case studies and how ICTs might help to meet the MDGs in African nations. The report includes not only examples of programs and strategies, but also the very important “lessons learned” that will help future practitioners gain insight into the successes, failures, and potential replicability of these programs. These case studies and strategies are useful not only to African nations; they might also provide clues as to how ICTs can be implemented in other regions of the world where the MDGs have yet to be met.


The 50×15 Foundation: An Organization Working to Bridge the Digital Divide

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The digital divide describes the gap between those who have access to information and communication technology and those who do not. The gap can be based on many factors: age, geography, economic status, etc. It plagues not only impoverished and developing countries, but also affects wealthy countries where, for example, the elderly may have much lower access to use of new technologies such as the internet and mobile phones.

There are a variety of organizations working to combat the digital divide. One such organization is the 50×15 Foundation. This organization’s mission is to provide “affordable Internet access and computing capacity to 50 percent of the world’s population by 2015.” By providing these resources to communities formerly without or with costly Internet and computer access, 50×15 provides many people with access to financial services, job hunting, healthcare information, education, and global communication and commerce.

50×15 works with partners around the globe to accelerate the rate of digital inclusion. The organization focuses specifically on high-growth markets. At this time, 50×15 is focusing on initiatives in Africa where only 54 million of 1 billion people currently have access to the Internet. 50×15 has also launched emergency learning labs in the wake of natural disasters like Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. To date, they have launched more than 30 learning labs in more than a dozen countries.

The 50×15 approach focuses on achieving development through economic growth, an important development strategy over the last several decades of Western thought. 50×15 does this by promoting connections between infrastructure providers, government institutions, and consumers. The organization believes that access to technology will fuel economic growth by providing opportunities in manufacturing and product design, service provision, infrastructure development, and entrepreneurship. As 50×15’s website states “bridging the digital divide isn’t just an act of goodwill; it’s good business.”

In order to promote sustainability, 50×15 works with partner organizations and companies, focusing on the following six areas of development:

  • Power: grid-based, solar, or manual power generation
  • Connectivity: wired, wireless, or satellite service providers
  • Devices: servers, personal computers, thin clients, smart-phones, and other tools to help people access the internet
  • Financing: government programs, financial institutions, and foundations that provide micro-loans and other means of helping local people afford Internet access tools and services
  • Content: locally relevant software applications and information available in multiple languages
  • Expertise: training, repair services, and general ecosystem support
  • Structure design: pre-planning for technology when designing a building

50×15 is an interesting example of a public-private entity working to bridge the digital divide. 50×15 has demonstrated success. As Flavio Pimenta of Brazil states, “Our collaboration [with the 50×15 Foundation] has put us on a path to creating a beautiful future, building something together that will deliver fruits for our children and also be completely self-sustaining.” However, despite success stories like this, many might argue that 50×15’s focus on generating economic growth is an oversimplified, neoliberal agenda. Economic growth is, without a doubt, one aspect of international development. However, many, including myself, would argue that other factors such as quality of life, reduction of inequality, and empowerment are equally important development goals. 50×15 seems to have a fairly one-dimensional approach to the issue of the digital divide and, because of this, may be missing out on opportunities to make an even greater impact.