I think I speak on behalf of most of the class in noting that this was my first exposure to ICT4D. I don’t consider myself a tech-y person (I must admit I even struggled to navigate around the new blackboard page at the onset of the course), but as I browse through the blog and Twitter page, I am impressed by the how much we have explored–both in an individual and collective sense. As many of my peers/fellow bloggers have noted in their reflective posts, it has become a concern to focus on not just what projects are implemented, but why and how. As I browse through our reading list for the course on Blackboard, I am impressed by just how much we were able to cover. ICT4D is a multifarious and dynamic field. I think many of the most salient lessons to be learned reflect ways in which the ICT4D field can be managed and improved. This has concurrently prompted me to consider the field of development at large. We have talked about infrastructure a great deal in this course, and a repeated pitfall of development projects is that infrastructural barriers undermine larger development goals. There are many lessons to be learned from ICT4D, and many of these lessons can be applied to other development classes.
While I have encountered a degree of concern pertaining to the way the IDEV curriculum is managed here at Tulane, I do see the relevance of this class, as ICT has, and will continue to shape the world. As Coby mentioned in his own post, we learn by doing—blogging, tweeting, and mapping, prompted us to new challenges while concurrently allowing us to assert ourselves in the field and witness/participate in a valuable dialogue that exists on the web. When we first started blogging, I must confess that I struggled to find resources. Tweeting prompted me to see all the information bouncing around on the internet, and explore the compelling voices of many of the members of the ICT field. For instance, the week we explored Linda Raftree’s work (The Field [formerly known as?] ICT4D is messy) opened my eyes to the larger debate. As we explore her intricate and dense post, we are prompted to consider an overflow of opinions. I think the discussion that followed in the wake of Hersman’s ‘blog bomb’ was productive and dynamic.
There are many challenges to consider in the context of ICT4D-and this we are all acutely aware. We had the opportunity to explore specific challenges in the context of our specific counties, deepening our understanding and relationship to issues that can at time seem too large to grapple with. In all development projects, understanding the target group is key. It is also is key to see ICT4D t not as a quick fix for development projects, but as an opportunity to reevaluate the system of aid. ICT projects commonly fail because of lacking communication between project organizers and the target group, and understanding from both sides would make projects more successful. This is itself is a large goal. The HCD toolkit reaffirms the idea that the need for better communication is essential; both sides must fully understand what the project is intending to accomplish and what can be expected of it.
Another challenge is showing how the Internet can be a tool for development in various developing contexts of the world. In their work, Can One Laptop Per Child Save the World’s Poor, Warschauer and Ames articulate that the OLPS deployments that simply tried to hand out laptops have failed because they ignored local contexts and discounted the importance of social, as well as technical support and training. This seems to reflect a larger pattern in technology and development, in which new technologies generate excitement and optimism to be eventually deconstructed by disappointing realities; according to Warschuer and Ames. “it is not the computer that brings benefit, “but rather the social and technical support that surrounds the computer that makes the difference VOA’s focus on the training component reflects a fortunate contrast from the failures of OLPS. I think this is important to reflect upon.
ICTs have the power to change the way we practice development throughout the world. I am very interested in further exploring barriers to access. Information is a tool and access to information is a process for building self-reliance, empowerment, civil society, participation and gender equality.