Author Archives: jnicolo

China ICT4D Resources

China is not a country that has explicitly laid out its plans for information and communications technologies development, but they have published a few documents that outline some of the ways they plan to improve these areas of development. The closest document they have to a ICT4D policy is called, “China’s Informatization Strategy and its Impact on Trade in ICT Goods and ICT services”, was published by the General Office of the CPC Central Committee and General Office of the State Council of China in 2006. China’s 5 year plans published by the National People’s Congress, most recently published in 2010, also contain some information related to ICTs.

Government Publications:

China’s Informatization Strategy

China’s 12th 5-Year Plan can be found by searching for it, but is only available in downloadable .pdf files

Other Agency and Organization Publications:

Rural Informatization in China can be downloaded from the World Bank. This is a working paper, so new versions are published when major changes need to be made.

IDC’s Top 10 Predictions for China’s ICT Market in 2014 and Beyond is a press release from a data analysis company highlights some of the more important indicators and what they might mean for the future.


Remember that the Chinese government is not keen on publishing documents that are clear in their intentions or expectations. So, market trends, data indicators, and other sources of information are the best way to understand China’s relationship with ICT4D’s.

Tim Unwin: Profiling an ICT4D Heavyweight

Although our class has read many things this man has written, used his concepts to develop an understanding of what ICT4D is, and grown to talk about him like a Tulane Professor, before researching for this post I knew very little about Tim Unwin (@timunwin).

Tim Unwin @timunwin

As it turns out this now big name in ICT4D started his academic career as a geography professor with a love for wine. His early works focused mainly on geography, some even being about wine ( “Wine and the Vine” ), but for the past decade or so his focus has shifted to the world of ICT4D. His recent research has focused on helping out of school youth and the disabled in the developing world, specifically how ICTs can be used to do so.

Currently holding title as Secretary General of the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation (CTO), Chair of the Commonwealth Scholarship Commission in the UK, and Emeritus Professor of Geography and UNESCO Chair in ICT4D at Royal Holloway, University of London. His previous titles are also impressive and exhaustive.

His views and experience come across in his blog, so to leave you with a few words of wisdom from the man himself:

“Try not to worry about things over which you have little control; concentrate on those things about which you can have the most significant effect.”

-Tim Unwin

Mobile Money: Development’s New Banking System?

One of our classes this week focused on mobile phone case studies and some of the impacts of mobile phone implementation in rural populations. One of the studies, “Mobile Phones and Economic Development: Evidence from the Fishing Industry in India” by Reuben Abraham, was about Indian fishermen using mobile phones to check market prices of fish, coordinate with buyers, etc. The study concludes that there is some positive effects on reduced waste of fish, and a small increase in profits for fishermen, but overall the impact of the phones in the studied community was nothing super amazing. Abraham also asserts that information gaps in markets can be remedied by the creative use of technology, which inspired me to find some creative uses of mobile phone technology that might have a serious impact on development.

When I found the Mobile Money for the Unbanked program from the GSMA, I thought there might be some real potential in it. The basis of the program is to support mobile providers in rural and undeveloped areas to offer banking services to their subscribers. The reason that this is such an intriguing idea is that it uses the mobile platform to provide a service that is already so established in its standard form. The banking system in the US has adopted credit cards, debit cards, and even apps that allow you to check your accounts, but this program is a form of banking that is very new in is conception.

Mobile Money allows subscribers to load money onto their SIM card and use the money to pay for things like taxis or groceries. They can also withdraw cash from it at one of their provider’s locations. This is a great solution to the lack of banking in rural areas, and because of mobile provider recognition many people already trust these companies. The program also gives GSMA great data measuring tools for financial indicators, which is otherwise very hard to collect from people without any documented transactions. The website provides a really cool tracker tool that shows where they have employed the program and where they are planning to.

The Mobile Money for the Unbanked program is one of the really cool and successful examples of taking an existing technology and using it in a non-traditional way to improve ICT4D. I am really excited by the potential for mobile banking, and though there are now apps like Venmo, which allows people to make quick bank/credit transfers, making the mobile providers the bank is a very different approach all together. I will be interested to see if this catches on in the West, or remains in the developing world.

Brazilian Start Up Brings Education to the User

Descomplica is a Brazillian start up that aims to bring education to students through computers and phones in a big way. Last year alone the company had three million students users and half a million students watch the live online lessons. In the latest series of raising funds the company received $5 million, which brings their total funding to $7 million.

The company’s co-founder Marco Fisbhen (@marco_fisbehn) says that the company is lessening the inequity in the education market because it is an alternative to the very high priced private tutoring market. The company is putting its library on SMS platform, which gives access to even more students. With internet penetration in Brazil rising from 9% in 2002 to almost 50% in 2012, some Brazilians are finding great ways to utilize the population’s new internet access.

Descomplica is showing the education is a market that can use new technologies in successful ways, and investor confidence implies that the technologies market in Brazil has a lot of potential.

ICTs and e-Health for Women’s and Children’s Health

On Oct. 2, the UN’s ITU (International Telecommunication Union) will hold a workshop in Bangkok that explores the role of ICT and e-Health.

This workshop is one of the many attempts to get developing countries to reach the Millennium Development Goals set by the United Nations for 2015. As the closing year of the MDG program nears, UN agencies are doing what they can to help countries make the final push to reach the goals they had set a few years ago.

Southeast Asia: The ‘New World’ for E-commerce

As mobile phone penetration, and especially smartphone penetration, in Southeast Asia increases at a rapid rate, e-commerce companies are moving in to take advantage of the newly opened markets. Smartphone ownership in Indonesia is nearly double what it was were in 2012, and similar numbers are being seen around the region.

These countries are boasting a very young online population (below 35), and surveys show that people are doing more and more of their shopping online. Companies like Groupon, Rocket Internet, and Nova Founders are flooding the region with new options for online shopping, mobile apps, and social media.

Entrepreneurs are banking on the young and plentiful online users of Southeast Asia, and as internet penetration continues to rise, so do the opportunities for new businesses in the e-commerce sector. Locals are benefiting from the injections of foreign investment, and investors are able to turn profits in a snap of the fingers.

The current state of e-commerce in Southeast Asia shows that people in the developing world are willing and able to incorporate new ICT platforms into their day to day lives. It is not only an exciting trend for tech-savvy entrepreneurs, but it shows progress for success in ICT development. If this trend spreads to other developing parts of the world it will surely lesson the digital divide.

Southeast Asia E-commerce trends