Author Archives: julianguelig

About julianguelig

Junior at Tulane University

Case Study: The Residential Capacity of Above-Sea-Level New Orleans

My case study is not on an organization or agency in New Orleans. Rather I explored research done by Richard Campanella, a geography professor at Tulane University. As a geographer, Professor Campanella does a wide variety of research that incorporates geography in some way. I chose to discuss his research on elevation and population capacity of above-sea-level New Orleans. The goal of Campanella’s research is to locate vacant lots situated at, or above, sea level and to determine how many people could relocate to higher ground using historical data of population densities. LIDAR elevation data shows that contrary to what many believe, over half of New Orleans lies at, or above, sea level. Since New Orleans is so prone to flooding and hurricanes, elevation is a natural resource that residents should utilize for protection from such disasters.

Professor Campanella discussed how a Geographic Informations System (GIS) is simply the most appropriate technology for his research. He uses GIS to help organize and analyze data and claims it really is the only technology he would consider using (however, he did alter it to suit his needs to some extent). As an expert in GIS mapping, Professor Campanella was extremely pleased with the results of his investigation and views it as a success.

This case study did not have any real stakeholders because Professor Campanella does all of his research for independent reasons. In this type of research, it is most logical to work solo or with a few people, as this creates the most efficiency. Professor Campanella had the assistance of two summer interns on this project, which totaled several weeks long. The beneficiaries of this study would include you, me, and everyone else living in New Orleans; Campanella’s paper was even featured on the cover of the Times Picayune to help bring attention to the issue. Professor Campanella commented that if he published his paper before Katrina, it would have gone unnoticed; Katrina was definitely a wake-up call. His conclusions show that, if developed for residential purposes, the vacant parcels of land located at, or above, sea level would allow for somewhere between 9,000 to 21,000 people to relocate to higher areas. While this discovery could potentially save citizens from having their homes destroyed in future disasters, collective action to relocate seems unlikely. Professor Campanella however, recommends implementing policies to encourage this migration.

Lessons Learned: ICT4D

One class that really influenced me was the class on the role of social media in development in week 10.   As someone who intentionally chose to avoid Twitter (due to my tendency to waste too much time on such websites), I was shocked to see how much intellectual information was circulating and how beneficial and easy it is for individuals, projects and companies to collaborate and connect with each other. My brother currently works for a start-up non-profit organization called Burn Design Lab that focuses on developing and distributing sustainable clean cook stoves in Africa. After playing around on Twitter after class, I found that there are many other organizations working with cook stoves and discussing them on social websites. Being a very small and new organization, I realized that Burn Design could benefit by networking and connecting with possible partners through these resources. I immediately called my brother and convinced him of the many reasons Burn Design needs to begin taking advantage of the free social media and networking available.

In the future, I definitely see myself working in some sort of NGO or non-profit organization in development. Before, I was oblivious to the critical role ICT plays in the developing world. After taking this class, I’ve realized how important it is to have knowledge and background in such technology in any sort of developmental project as well as international development as a whole.

In another class I have learned about an important social program, Oportunidades, in Mexico that emphasizes the importance of assessing and evaluating their success and actually dedicates a portion of their budget to evaluating the project. The importance is that not all localities will respond to the implementations the same way, therefore it is important to see if adjustments need to be made. I think it would be very beneficial to add a lesson on the methods and techniques of evaluating ICT projects.

Fast IT and Telecommunications Emergency and Support Team (FITTEST)

FITTEST is an IT division of the World Food Programme (WFP) consisting of IT technical specialists from the UN that provide IT, telecommunications and electricity infrastructure to support humanitarian aid operations around the world. These experts are trained to work in high demanding and hostile conditions and work to provide most effective and efficient solution for the operation. fittest responds to emergency requests, such as wars, earthquakes, floods, or tsunamis, and can be ready to operate within 48 hours of the occurrence. Created in 1998, they have completed missions in 130 countries. In addition to responding to disasters, FITTEST also explores and documents how new and alternative solutions can be adopted for use for humanitarian needs.

In the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, FITTEST was present within 24 hours of the earthquake.  Their primary focus was to establish basic voice and data communications for immediate relief. FITTEST remained in Haiti 6 months after the earthquake to establish connectivity in Haiti.  The WFP now has shifted their focus to investing in the human capital in Haiti.

StatPlanet Interactive Mapping

StatPlanet is an interactive mapping application with over 3000 indicators of data of the Millenium Development Goals. It’s aim is to “better visualize and communicate information to support evidence-based decision making”. It first came it to the public eye after winning the World Bank Apps for Development competition. It was developed independently by Frank Van Cappelle (a PhD student at the University of Melbourne). Since it gained public attention, the application has been used thoughout the world. While it was intended for non-profit organizations to map and visualize their data, it is now used by a wide variety of international organizations, global companies, education systems, governmental organizations, and UN organizations—including everything from the World Bank, and NASA to Dell, and Harvard.

This application was designed to be especially user-friendly to facilitate exploration and analysis of the indicators. The user has the ability to customize and compare the maps and graphs in many aspects and can even upload their own information and create your own maps. This feature is exceptionally beneficial because it allows other independent researchers or organizations to use and analyze their own data. Another very beneficial aspect of StatPlanet is that it is available in a wide variety of languages (including in Bahasa Indonesia, Danish, Dutch, English, French, German, Greek, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish), and can easily be copied and shared.

StatPlanet can be applied in the assessment and decision making in developmental projects. It’s extremely viable even in places with slow internet connectivity or no internet at all. It’s beneficial because it is very easy to use and visualize the data. Independent organizations can even upload their own data to assess and share. However, one problem with StatPlanet is that it obtains its data from such a wide variety of sources, that there is bound to be inconsistencies and incorrect findings. For example, one source listed was even Wikipedia! I feel that it would be more accurate if it obtained the data from just one source, or listed the source on the virtual map.

Overall StatPlanet is without a doubt an extremely useful tool that could be used to better implement development projects, or implement projects in the future.

China Fights to Silence the Social Network

Despite China’s stern attempts to forbid social networking, the population of China has caught on to the mainstream trend and is taking advantage of this unfamiliar freedom of speech opportunity.

China’s Communist Party is doing its best to monitor and punish those who speak out against the government on social networking websites. After banning the standard version of twitter, the Chinese created their own version of twitter, Sina Weibo in August 2009. Sina Weibo has hired 1,000 staff to monitor the inflow of messages and will suspend the accounts of anyone posting controversial content. It seems quite unrealistic with China’s massive population and a rapid increase of users that they expect 1,000 people to be able to monitor such an exchange of information. People accused of spreading false information are put under “administrative detention”, consisting of usually 15 days under arrest. Quite a controversial move of the Chinese Government.

Despite their attempts, they have encountered many difficulties in successfully monitoring. The article states that, “as quickly as they delete individual messages, they find that they have already been spread by hundreds or thousands of others”.  It is not only difficult to censor the messages, but also is especially difficult to scan all the messages for a certain Chinese character to weed out.

Surprisingly, the government has made claims that it doesn’t view social networking as completely bad. They have admitted that it actually has more benefits than drawbacks. It allows the leaders to know what the people are thinking and talking about. This seems to be a way for the people in China to make their voice heard in the government, even in the absence of democracy. Hopefully China will use these monitoring methods to actually take into consideration the opinions of the citizens, and act accordingly to the opinions of the grass roots.

E-Learning Tools: UNESCO releases two CD-ROMs

UNESCO has created two CD-ROMs to be used as e-learning tools. One of the CD ROMS is directed to younger children from ages 3-13 and focuses on more basic language skills, mathematics, arts and graphics, computer literacy and Geography/astronomy. The second CD-ROM, which targets high school students, university students, educators and teacher trainers, concentrates on similar topics but on a more detailed level.

While this article doesn’t talk explicitly about the planned projection of this project, it could be easily implemented in any developing country that has access to computers. These tools could easily help facilitate learning, in places where other resources may be scarce. They could also be used to assist in teaching the students. Another benefit is that the CD-ROMs can be directly installed to a computer, therefore don’t require internet access and can be easily transferred to other computers.

To learn more about these CD-ROMs, click here.

Female Entrepreneurship in Bangladesh

Originally Posted on Blackboard by Julian Guelig

A Gulf Times article (no longer available online) highlights how Rural Development Academy (RDA) is currently implementing the “Good Seed Initiative” and “Women in Seed Entrepreneurship” in rural Bangladesh to help ultra poor women use ICT to start producing and processing quality seeds and connecting with the formal seed market. The learning process of these two projects is based on a digital system, where the women are shown a series of videos that educate and demonstrate the production, processing and marketing of seeds. The women are also provided with financial assistance from Swedish Development Co-operation. The programs further focuses on using the profit from selling the seeds to send their children to school in hopes of a brighter future.

This project stood out to me for its simple approach in using ICT. According to the article, the ICT used was simply a “digital system” and a series of videos to educate these women. This is a great example of the fact that ICT4D doesn’t necessarily need to be advanced in order to foster development. It is incredible that something as simple as producing and selling seeds can change the life of a woman living in rural Bangladesh.