Although Tulane makes us take a number of development classes, this was the first time I had the opportunity to learn about ICT4D. I found it interesting how, while projects may be different, the overall concepts are still the same. The concepts that we discussed related to ICT4D projects and why they fail will be very helpful with anyone’s future professions, but especially in the development sector.
When we discussed the reasons why ICT4D projects fail, I felt like the reasons were so obvious and questioned why more people weren’t listening to them. Two of these that really stood out to me were that the projects weren’t relevant to local context/ strengths/needs and that projects were supported only by short-term grants. These ideas are important to apply to development jobs as well as any other job that you choose to do. The most important concept is to focus the project on the group that you’re doing it for and give them a say in the matter. Many people in the development world think that they know what is best for the people that they’re trying to help. However, without asking them what they want, you have the potential to spend a lot of money on something fails miserably. Second, it is important to always think about something in the long-term. It is great if you are given a grant to build a computer center in a rural village, but it is important to think about what will happen to the project when you leave. It isn’t just whether it looks good when you leave, but about whether it makes a difference in the long term.
In the future, I want to work internationally in the health sector. For health projects, it will be important for me to create a project that will make a real difference in a community. That means I need to create a project that will be accepted in that culture and will make a difference in the long term, not just when I’m there with my grant. Many organizations create health projects that don’t work with cultural norms. For example, handing out condoms for men who have sex with men in an area where being gay is not allowed. This automatically creates problems with the culture and results in no progress being made. I also know that just giving someone a project with my grant money won’t make a difference in the long-term. Health projects that go into a community and build a health clinic to stop people from dying of disease don’t consider what will happen to that health clinic when they leave. While the failures were originally related to ICT4D projects, I think that no matter what sector you choose to go into, they are important to keep in mind to create a sustainable, beneficial project for a community.
Maternal mortality rates in India have been high over the past several years. This resulted in the government providing free maternal health services from governmental health facilities. However, there has been a problem with women being charged informal fees. This means that when a woman goes to a health facility, she is still getting charged for services that are meant to be free. This has especially been a problem in Utter Pradesh, a state in northern India. As a result of these informal fees, a campaign called Mera Swasthya Meri Aawaz (My Health, My Voice) has been launched. This program uses mobile phones to monitor informal payments in the Azamgarh and Mirzapur districts. People just have to use their mobile phone to call a toll-free number and report an out of pocket expense. These reports are then reported on a map, a deployment from Ushahidi, showing the facilities where informal payments were demanded, the amount charged, and the types of services that the informal payments were charged for. This information is being used collectively by community based organizations, women’s groups, and government health officials to try to end the practice of charging informal fees.
Before reading about this program, I had never heard of using mapping in this way. While this is not a disaster situation, it is important to stop the charging of informal payments in order to reduce maternal mortality in the long run. Not only will this map allow the government to track facilities that are charging informal payments so that they can put a stop to it, it also allows women to avoid going to facilities where they can see that informal payments are being. While it is already a big step that there has been reporting about informal fees, I hope that the government and community organizations will be able to use this map to put a stop to informal fees for good.
Intersexions is a TV show from South Africa that deals with HIV. It looks at how the HIV virus affects people’s lives, either by contracting the virus or how their relationships are affected by it. The show is shown in the local language and also has English subtitles in order to allow to it. Intersexions is produced by Curious Pictures in partnership with USAID and Johns Hopkins Education South Africa.
In order to see the effect that Intersexions has had on the people of South Africa, a survey was conducted in 2012. In response to this survey, it was concluded that nine million South Africans watched Intersexions. The survey also found that Intersexions decreased positive attitudes towards having more than one partner, increased attitudes towards condom use, and increased discussion about HIV testing.
Intersexions is an example of a very positive health intervention. It is shown in the local language with English subtitles because of the diverse culture of South Africa. It also doesn’t feel like the producers are lecturing. Instead, information about HIV is included into a story that is engaging and keeps watchers entertained. While creating similar TV shows may be expensive, it is no denying that there have been positive results in South Africa. More countries should jump on the bandwagon (with South Africa, Gambia, etc) and create these interesting shows that teach about tough subjects!
One Laptop per Child (OLPC) recently discovered that there was another market for ICTs and education – tablets! This new tablet aims to help children learn information and skills that will help them reach their aspirators and dreams. In addition to being able to find these tablets in pilot programs such as in Uruguay and Cambodia, you can find them at your local Target, Walmart, and online at Amazon for $150! My first concern with these tablets is why are they being sold at places in the US? I originally thought that it was similar to the give a tablet get a tablet idea (or in this case buy a tablet give a tablet), but this isn’t the case. As OLPC says on their FAQ page, “Proceeds from the XO Tablet purchases will be used to further develop the XO learning software and enhance it to address the needs of a larger population of children.” This shows it is definitely not directly impacting children in the developing world. Also, Walmart and Target must be making some sort of profit off of selling these tablets in their stores, which makes me wonder how much of this money is actually being used to work towards OLPC’s goal. Another concern that I have is the “dreams and aspirations” component. While in the United States (where this concept started) it may be easy to come up with universal dreams and aspirations, I can’t imagine this being so easy for other countries. The tablet opens up with “I want to be…” and examples such as astronaut, musician, artist, and mathematician. These just aren’t the same dreams that children in the developing world have. For example, in an article about children in Ethiopia getting tablets, a girl says that when she grows up she wants to be a truck driver. While OLPC says they are going to change the goals and aspirations based on country, I wonder how they are going to incorporate a dream like truck driver into their platform.
It was relatively easy to find the Philippines’ National ICT policy but additional resources were not as easy to find. It didn’t seem like there were too many other resources available related to ICT in the Philippines.
National ICT Policy:
The Philippine Digital Strategy
- Written by the Commission of Information and Communications Technology in collaboration with the government, the private sector and civil society stakeholders.
- A roadmap for 2011-2016
- Written in 2011 as an update to a previous ICT policy that was created by the National Information Technology Council in October 1997.
- Language: English
Information and Communications Technology Office
- Provides information about all of the Philippines’ ICT projects/ information
- Last updated 2012
- Run by the Department of Science and Technology
- Language: English
Freedom on the Net – Philippines
- Updated in 2012
- Part of Freedom House
- Discusses obstacles to access, limits on content and violations of user rights
- Language: English
ICT in Education
- Created by UNESCO Bangkok
- Updated in 2013
- Links to education and projects about ICTs and education in the Philippines
- Language: English
Millennium Development Goal 3 is to promote gender equality and empower women. This is very important because 50% of the world is women and they deserve to have the same power and opportunities as the men of the world. Empowering Women through ICT, a paper written by Stockholm University, discusses some ICT projects done in various countries throughout the world with the goal of empowering women. One project that I found particularly interesting was Casa de la Mujer. Casa de la Mujer is a consulting service for battered women in Bolivia. Because many women were too self-conscious to discuss their situations in person, Casa de la Mujer created an online component. This allowed women to anonymously share their stories without having to share them publicly or talk to authorities.
Casa de la Mujer created 6 telecenters in the Santa Cruz region. 100 women were trained in legal issues related to domestic violence in order to help with the site. This project allowed women to feel secure sharing their experiences. One woman even said “I have more knowledge on how to defend myself and to assert my rights as a person”.
Casa de la Mujer had some positives and negatives. First of all, the Internet can be beneficial and allow women to feel comfortable discussing sensitive topics but it can also lead to cyber bullying and cyber stalking. In addition they realized that people who cannot read and write would have difficulty accessing the information. For this reason, they created audiovisual materials to integrate everyone.
I think this project was well thought out and an amazing idea. It is difficult for women in many countries to feel comfortable discussing sensitive topics, especially when they are worried about being judged or ostracized in their community. In addition, even if women didn’t want to share their personal stories, they would have been able to read what other women were saying and know that they weren’t alone. However, while this project was using the Internet to provide help to a lot of women in an anonymous way, it was not allowing more women to access the Internet. Therefore, many women in Bolivia who may have needed the help the most may not have even seen this site at all. Since the site was such a success and funding was extended in Bolivia, I believe that other countries should start using a similar program to empower women in their communities as well.
The Digital Divide is a in the developed world as well as the developing world. Within the US there are still millions of people who do not yet have access to the Internet. Connect 2 Compete is a non-profit organization that is working to close the Digital Divide in the US. The mission of this organization is to connect every American to the Internet. Instead of giving everyone Internet for free, which would be unrealistic, Connect 2 Compete makes low-cost options available. It simply asks you to enter your zip code and answer a few other questions to see if you are eligible for these options. The internet companies that give low cost options through Connect 2 Compete are FreedomPop, Comcast, Cox, Wilco, Bright House, and Mediacom. All of these companies require you to live in one of the 14,000 zip codes in which they work to be eligible for low-cost Internet. In addition to the zip code, all of the organizations with the exception of FreedomPop and Wilco require a child in the household to be eligible to receive free school lunch through the National School Lunch Program.
In addition to low-cost Internet options, Connect 2 Compete sells refurbished computers to qualifying users for $150 and allows everyone to find free Internet and computer training classes in their area. This helps people overcome barriers to not using the Internet, such as not having the money or not understanding how to use a computer or the Internet. I like that Connect 2 Compete is helping people within the United States get access to the Internet and computers. Although the Digital Divide is a problem internationally, there has also been a Digital Divide within the United States as well. Allowing everyone in the US to have access to the Internet may be able to increase the online market, increase work that small businesses can do, as well as make it easier for recent graduates or the unemployed to find jobs.
As Connect 2 Compete started nationwide in the Fall of 2012, evaluations about whether or not the program has been effective are not yet available. Time will tell if they have been able to make progress towards the goal of Internet access for all Americans. As of now, the only criticism that I have is that until I read about the organization in an article, I had never heard of it. Although there is supposedly a campaign to get the word out, I do not believe that the scope of the campaign has been big enough. Connect 2 Compete has a great mission and it is important for everyone to have the opportunity to become a part of it.