Author Archives: jessicarschofield

Lessons Learned: ICT4D

Throughout the semester there has been one theme we have  seen throughout many of our lessons that has  really struck a chord with me. There are lots of great ICT tools out there and people have amazing ideas of how they can improve work done in the  field  of international development, but many of the times these tools are not being used to their full potential. Two big examples of this are Ushahidi and FEWS. Most of their funding goes towards creating technology which highlights a problem, but they do not have the funding to actually respond to the problem and fix it. They rely on other NGOs to apply their technology to the work that they are already doing. Unfortunately this means that many of the problems that have been highlighted go un-mitigated.

I think that this problem relates back to what we have learned about the Millenium Development Goals. The last goal  is to form a global partnership for International Development. We have seen how useful a partnership such as this could have been in disaster situations such as the 2010 Haiti earthquake or the 2003 Indian Ocean tsunami where tens to hundreds of organizations were working separately to solve the same problem when a coordinated effort could have been much more effective. I think that creating a partnership such as this would also be extremely helpful for the field of ICT’s in development. Oversight tools and field-level action organizations could work better together and technologies created to solve one type of problem could be shared and transformed in order to work well for others.

In the future I think it would be exciting to look further into emerging ICT’s and consider problems that we see in development and how ICT’s could be used to fix them. I also think that we criticized the practicality of a lot of the different technologies we looked into but we all know that it is impossible to understand the situation in the field until you are actually there. I think that in the future it would be beneficial to have a guest lecturer who has used ICT’s in the field to speak for their practicality.

One Laptop Per Child Evaluation

Chris Blattman recently posted an excerpt from an Evaluation of One Laptop per Child in Peru. Unfortunately the link to the actual evaluation has been disabled, so I am not sure what type of evaluation it was or who preformed it but I still found the excerpt interesting:

…teachers report frequent use at school and about half of students report to take it home. Students in general master basic operation of the laptop.

Results indicate no impacts on students’ attendance and time use. Similarly, expectations by teachers and parents about students’ future educational achievements have not been altered.

Unexpectedly, the program seems to have reduced motivation by students related to traditional school activities.

There are no impacts in Math and Language learning, an expected result given the short exposure (three months).

I find it extremely interesting that it was reported that students using laptops were less motivated to do regular school activities. I think that this laptop phenomenon could be seen at Tulane as well.

Famine Early Warning System

The Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWSnet) is a network that monitors several different factors in order to predict food insecurities that may result in a famine so that adequate resources can be moved into the region in a timely fashion.

Unlike most disasters which occur rapidly, famines take years to develop. FEWSnet monitors factors such as food prices, weather, and crop yield to predict whether the area will have a secure supply of food resources to feed their population.

Just as famines take time to develop, resources to combat the disaster take time to produce as well. Food must be located and purchased from an area that has an excess of supplies for their own populations, transported to the afftected area, and then fairly distributed evenly among the effected population. If the dire food needs have not been recognized until the problem actually begins, it is going to take a much longer time to attain the resources necessary to releive the area. FEWSnet aims to see the problem and mitigate the damage before it starts.

Social Media in the Developing World

This article by a former Facebook intern does a great job of showing how facebook and social media has transformed the lives of us in the developed world and can similarly transform lives in the developing world. We may use facebook for trivial activities such as, “to send dumb links to friends, to keep tabs on exes, to look at pictures of others (and, let’s be honest, ourselves).” But the access and networking facebook provides can also be used in much more productive ways,

One example of these uses is a Facebook Page—“Cambodian Women in Business”—with nearly 2,000 fans. “Women in Business in Cambodia have created this page to share experience in doing business and working in the Kingdom,” the page description reads. “We also hope this page will be a good platform to network, support each other’s activity but [as well] to celebrate our success.” Women are able to discuss issues they face, strategies for dealing with common problems like misogynistic bosses and sexual harassment, and to make connections that have real professional value.

If facebook has been able to transform the lives of college students so much by providing instant access to a network of friends, it is sure to be able to change lives with these tools as well. With the number of mobiles in the developing world rising and the increasing accessibility of the internet from mobiles this may be something we see more of in the near future.

Mobile Money

This relates back to last week’s topic of mobile money etc. but I found it very interesting and still wanted to share. Apparently mobile money is changing the way people recieve disaster relief funds. A program called “ZAP” collects funds from donors and distributes them directly to those in need via mobile money. This will cut down on administrative costs and allow more of the actual funds to go directly to disaster relief.

In Chris Blattman’s Words from his blog post:

After a drought in Niger, some households got cash transfers via mobile money (called zap), one-third got manual cash transfers, and one-third received manual cash plus a phone.

the zap-based program strongly reduced the variable distribution costs for the implementing agency, as well as program recipients’ costs of obtaining the cash transfer.

The zap approach also resulted in… more diverse purchasing, a greater diversity of diet, fewer depleted assets, and a greater diversity of crops grown, especially marginal cash crops grown by women.

…lower costs and greater privacy of the zap mechanism—as well as changes in intra-household decision-making—explain the advantage.

Full paper here.

I have been a skeptic of ICTs and development, but the mobile money business will probably make me a believer.

TRACnet in Rwanda

I recently wrote my second short paper for our ICT4D course on TRACnet, which is a tool that was implemented in Rwanda in 2005 to keep electronic records for HIV/AIDS. The tool has been very useful in ensuring that proper supplies of medicines are stocked at rural clinics so that all HIV/AIDS patients can receive continuous treatment and the possibility of developing drug resistant strains from intermittent drug use can be minimized.

This has been extremely successful because the database can be accessed by either phone or the internet. Over 80% of entries come in by phone, an important feature of the database’s success.

Mobile Banking in Senegal

Originally posted on Blackboard by Jessica Schofield

Here is a post about how mobile banking has been successful in Senegal. The technology was widely used to pay for satellite service to watch World Cup games. The article also explains that, since bank usage is so minimal, it isn’t cost effective for banks to have ATM’s in rural villages, so many transactions are done in cash and if you want to give money to a family in another village the money actually has to physically be brought there. Not only is this an example of how business can be improved through ICT4D but it is also another example of leapfrogging. Mobile banking is just beginning to be widely used in the United States with Chase offering check picture deposits and banks offering mobile transaction alerts. It looks as though Senegal is completely skipping over the bank branch/ATM models we traditionally saw and moving straight to mobile banking technology.