Author Archives: hesmalley

Communication transforming villages

This article is about how as contributions to the GDP from Indian villages are increasing, the technology for communication specifically for villages are also increasing and helping with production and development. The ability for rural villages to connect with each other and with larger cities are enabling for the first time, the creation of rural companies. In addition farmers are now able to share videos and new explorations in different farming techniques. There are still many challengers that hinder development, but the new and improved, easy to use technologies that have been translated into the native languages have helped to bridge the gap and bring the country of India closer together.

Hannah Smalley

VolunteerMatch

VolunteerMatch is an online site that matches potential volunteers with volunteer sites.  This site targets uses of all ages across America. This website allows individuals, companies and NGOs to create profiles that state where they are located and what they are looking for, either in terms of recruiting or opportunities. Often time’s people want to volunteer but they don’t have the time to look around and contact organizations to find events, this makes it easy to volunteer anywhere nationally. It is a simple matter of clicking a button of interest and then the organization emails you the information. Their vision is:

“What if, somewhere on the internet, there was a community of people who believed in the power of volunteering to enrich our lives and the world around us?”

“What if, somewhere on the internet, millions of good people and good causes could come together to form relationships that serve us all?”

“What if, somewhere on the internet, technology was being used to advance the values and partnerships that strengthen our civil society?”

This vision seems to come to fruition with their website. The site enables individuals to search for opportunities by location or interest or both

The tool can be very beneficial to many people around the country who want to do community service, but do not have the time to go looking for events. This website brings a plethora of varied activities to each persons fingertips. Being able to put in your interests into a search may also open up your eyes to an array of types of events that you previously didn’t know existed. There are flaws, such as the lack of international service opportunities and that lack of accountability held to the volunteers. Additionally, there needs to be more advertising, because regardless of how great the opportunities are, or how many organizations are posting, if individuals do not know to look there, the whole system is useless. That being said, the site is a work in progress and it seems to be progressing well.

http://www.volunteermatch.org/search/index.jsp?r=msa&l=70792


Greater New Orleans Homeless Management Information System

My final case study is on the ICT Homeless Management Information System (HMIS), a program set up by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and is used all over the country. The local branch is the Greater New Orleans HMIS, or GNO HMIS. This online program is a data collection program intended to help the homeless around America. There are extensive surveys given to the homeless and loaded into the system, which can be accessed by any organization on this network. This means that if a person goes to a homeless shelter, the shelter should be able to look up their information and check them in, then keeping track of any progress, and keeping tabs on the homeless population. The questions collected ranged from name and age to previous shelters they attended, to income and sources of possessions. Basically it keeps track of their history so that their future can be helped by whatever organizations are in the area to the best of the organizations abilities.

UNITY of Greater New Orleans is an organization that has been making great use of this ICT. UNITY is a nonprofit that works with over 60 agencies to help provide housing and services to the homeless. Because they work with so many organization, GNO HMIS is incredibly helpful because it allows all the organizations to keep their information in order and up to date. The goal in New Orleans is to have real time client information, which means that as one system is updated, the whole system is automatically updated so that all information is continuously corrected at all times. This will allow for services to know what they need to prepare for, and will help greatly in policy making. It essentially is a daily census. This information will be an especially important asset to Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s 10 year “plan to end homelessness” that was just announced on November 29, 2011.

It is hard to see how successful the ICT has been thus far because it was revised in 2009 and so has only been up and running for a short period of time. There are a few cities that were chosen as a trial for this program and due to New Orleans high rate of homelessness, this city was one of the first to implement it. Ideally this means of data tracking will be put into action in every city eventually to get the problem of homeless eradicated in time. If this program succeeds it could also be applied to developing countries, where homelessness is one of their largest problems. Often the term ‘homelessness’ is too broad a topic to address effectively or in a sustainable manner, however this program pinpoints and analyses the largest problems and therefore can help with budding programs and policies.

There is currently no public website for GNO HMIS, however the website for UNITY is wonderful:

http://unitygno.org/about/programs/housing-services-collaborative/

And the government website for HMIS has pretty extensive information on the surveys themselves:

http://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/HUD?src=/program_offices/comm_planning/homeless/hmis


Lessons Learned: ICT4D

I have learned a variety of important information that I will need as a development professional. First of all, as globalization continues to expand and the world in technology continues to progress, the understanding of ICT4D will become crucial when dealing with both international and national development. I have always shied away from technology because I assumed that everything would prove too complicated for my limited knowledge of current technological developments. However this class has been eye opening; I have realized that simple technology such as social media, that is easily accessible, has such an immeasurable impact on both disaster relief and international development. I really enjoyed week 9 (Governance, Social Movements and Social Change), 10 (Participatory and Citizen’s Media), and 12 (Disaster Response and Humanitarian Aid) because they all taught me about technology that I felt I could have a grasp on and utilize when I start my work in the world of development.

The biggest overarching lesson that has been impressed upon me even more than I had known before is that before trying to fix large problems in developing countries it is very important to come up with achievable and sustainable smaller goals and projects. Sustainability may often not come with the cheapest price tag initially, but overall a sustainable project is more economically friendly and socially sound. It is necessary to work from the ground up; every project must be looked at individually. There are some wonderful new technological advancements that can help many people, however if people do not know how to use basic computer programs, or don’t have the fundamental infrastructure to support such technology, it doesn’t matter how great the new findings are, they will not make an impact where they are most needed. This means that local participation and input is required for a project to succeed. It is important to give populations what they need, not what countries thousands of miles away believe that they need. The trickle down effect may work in some situations, however in an area where even the most basic infrastructure is lacking, it is just the wealthy that benefit from the technology. It is important to focus on small goals in education, such as introduction to the Internet, or word processing, rather than unleashing E-government or E-governance before the population can understand that language.

I think this class was really successful in making people with no technological background interested in, and less intimidated by, the technology that will inevitably be a part of our lives now and in the near future.


How Social Media is Changing Disaster Response

http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,2076195,00.html

Social media is changing disaster response drastically and in new and innovative ways. For the first time the public has the ability to help each other right after a disaster, rather than relying on the government for all of their needs. This is a fundamental change seeing as the government often takes time to respond, and even then is much more concerned with the big picture of getting the disaster under control, rather than finding individual people. The internet tends to be much more stable than phones post-a disaster because phone lines are easily knocked out, and the flush of calls generally will clog the system and peoples calls and reception will be dropped. However, even if internet connection is minimal, it takes very little time to send a tweet, make a facebook status or a facebook page. People can post pictures or track names to see if their loved ones have been spotted, and that type of individual participation and attention has never been possible before.

In April (2011) the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Department of Homeland Security and Federal Communications Commission (FCC) implemented social media strategies into their emergency-management plans. An example is the Department of Homeland Security made an addition to their terrorism-advisory system that will send out alerts via social networks. The disaster this year have been an example of how much social media can help disaster relief, and it is only a short period of time until social strategies are a large part of relief for all large organizations.


Social Media and Humanitarian Organizations

This video was filmed at the AID & INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT FORUM in June 2011- it was a panel on ICT and the humanitarian social network. The speaker begins by discussing the current ICT trends, which are all available due to the ‘near infinite reach’ and low cost of internet access across the world. I don’t know if I agree with this statement because there have been many examples of neither of those claims being true.

That being said, the list of what social media is doing well and its short comings seem fairly accurate. His doing well list is comprised of: frequently updated news and results, “integration of various media in the communication, more interactive communication with supporters and donors”. The shortcomings are the inability to cut through the noise- meaning there is so much posted online it can be hard to see what is real and to get to the facts and important information. He also says that communication is not really social since organizations have ‘no faces’- NGOs have a logo as their face, but it is not a person, and he claims that makes it not truly social. These international development organization constantly updates their social media outlets such as twitter, however because there are no human faces associated with it people are less likely to always pay attention or get engaged with the tweet or update. He argues that NGOs and organizations need to start putting faces to names, people and logos are very different and social media has almost made them equal and they are not.

He then introduces ‘It’s One Humanity’ where individuals come and creates a profile using their face and name and then on their profile their NGO will be introduced. This creates more transparency and trust. These individuals can update the work that they are doing and that their organization is doing in terms of humanitarian work.


Social Media is Rural Development’s Best Friend

Social media is clearly a wonderful communication tool. It allows people to access information from anywhere in the world and its interactive features are making the world smaller, and it easier for people in developing countries to participate in globalization and development. Not only can organizations and governments get their information out to the population, but social media allows the common person to have their opinions and feelings heard by important people making important decisions. During the panel discussion on “From summit resolutions to farmers’ fields, Climate change, food security and small-holder agriculture,” questions were taken from farmers via twitter. Never before have people been able to engage so directly with high level professionals. Now people can’t be ignored because it could have a negative snowball affect.

For more information, click here.