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Studying abroad in Ghana for the semester, one wonders how this will pan out?

It’s Already Over??? ICT4D Fall 2012 Reflection

Initially I was not thrilled to be enrolled in Information and Communication Technologies for Development. It is a required class, with only one section that cuts right into my nap time. I have never been too technologically savvy and I figured this would just be the kind of class that would spotlight my lack of skill.

The class wound up being extremely interesting, flitting through a wide array of topics in the ICT4D field that before I had not even realized existed. It has made me realize how interconnected our whole society is with technology today and how this is also affecting the development sphere. We briefly covered many many different tools, interfaces, designs, and challenges that face ICT4D around the world. I took away the most from the ideas of leapfrogging technology in the developing world, and how this leads to exponential growth as well as unforeseen consequences. Themes like cyber security and regulation that we worry about here, also need to be put into motion in developing nations, along with sustainable and environmentally solid technology tools. Finally just the wide amount of innovation we are not exposed to that is happening in the developing world. By exploring the twitter and ict4d blogs that exist I enjoyed posting each week about related topics from class.

I found the sector projects to be the most useful to me personally. I really enjoyed getting to choose something I was interested in (egovernance) and do independent research and a group presentation, while also hearing briefly about the rest of the class’s other sectors. The national ICT policies and the implementation of egovernance and egovernment are fascinating to me in that it is not necessarily a drastic change in poverty etc, but something that is setting the stage for greater efficiency, communication, and transparency.

Finally the theme I took away most from class was that technology is not the solution. This was mentioned constantly throughout the semester by our professor, guest speakers, and the readings. It is clear that ICT is a great benefit, but we must really think through its implementation and challenges before just throwing it at communities in need. There is so much potential for this field I am excited to keep up with ICT4D in the coming years.

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Ghana National ICT Resources

1. The Ghana ICT For Accelerated Development Policy is the National ICT policy that was passed in 2003. The government states its main goal is “A policy statement for the realization of the vision to transform Ghana into an information-rich knowledge-based society and economy through the development, deployment, and exploitation of ICTs within the economy and society.” The policy is written in English and the Ministry of Communications is the major stakeholder.

2. Ghana Ministry of Communications is in charge of implementing much of the ICT reforms and regulations that are happening in the country. This is the homepage which branches off from the National government website.

3. Global Information Technology Report 2012: Living in a Hyper Connected World by The World Economic Forum provides detailed data on Ghana and the entire world.

An overview of Ghana’s media and technology is a brief explanation and data collection for ICTs in the country and their use. Not produced by the government, but by Audience Scapes

Will Ghana be able to fully utilize ICT is a great article written for a Ghanian news site by Stephen Atta Owusu.

4. Because Ghanians speak English it was relatively easy to find their policies, reforms, and news about ICT. There is a very real movement to improve ICT in the country, so there is a large amount of writing on the subject.


Data Mining: Efficiency on the Over-Crowded Internet

This week we discussed with our guest speaker, Adam Papendieck, some of the new frontiers in ICT and important innovations to improve technology. One topic that I had not heard about before was Data Mining. Data Mining is the process of using technology such as computers to sift through the trillions of data sets to pick out actual important and useful information.

In today’s age there is so much raw data being stored in databases every day that clogs up usable space and makes gathering information a challenge. For businesses, research organizations, and customers it is an extremely useful task to organize and limit what is stored. One frightening example of the amount of online data piling up is “databases are now measured in gigabytes and terabytes. (One terabyte = one trillion bytes. A terabyte is equivalent to about 2 million books!)”(Data Mining, Alexander).

 

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Data mining is useful for industries from retail to healthcare, but can also help for ICT4D. It looks for patterns and trends in more data than is humanly possible to study. This can locate root problems, potential areas of famine, disaster relief needs and assistance. Papendieck showed how Ushahidi has used data mining and crowd sourcing to pinpoint disaster results. The long term possibilities for data mining are incredible, and as our world becomes increasingly reliant on digital information and data it will lead to an even greater need for data mining. Obviously privacy concerns will need to be taken into account, but this truly is a great use of technology.

Information from Data Mining by Doug Alexander

and Class presentation by Adam Papendieck


Twitter and Blogging in ICT4D

This week we followed a recent ICT4D debate between several prominent development professionals. Although the theme of the debate was fascinating what I thought was more telling about the field and today in general was how this disagreement was taking place. All of those involved in the debate were on Twitter and followed each other. They actively blogged and commented on each others blogs. This created a virtual community of people with many different backgrounds and specific knowledge, but all investing, creating, and promoting international development. Image

The importance of twitter in ICT4D is outstanding. As a social media it is not often thought of as a high brow source of information, but #ICT4D leads to all the most recent news about the field, studies, information, and commentary. Twitter has allowed a global network of people to quickly, effectively, and intelligently discuss, comment, and interact together. ICT4D is the stronger because of it, as these professionals can bounce ideas off one another, develop a better understanding of what is happening around the world, and communicate with the public. Another benefit is that twitter adds a human voice to development. I personally follow a number of development professionals and am always impressed by the breadth of their knowledge, what other things they are interested in, their opinions, and some are very humorous. Obviously twitter in ICT4D suffers the same problems as we previously discussed, like unchecked facts and biased opinions, but regardless it has come to be a dominant factor in the field.

Blogging too is important as it allows for at least a brief introduction into what the development professionals are doing, feeling, and hearing about. It keeps everyone on the same page and is more informative than twitter (many people link their blog to brief tweets for further explanation). I enjoy getting to hear real life opinions that are not diluted in academic wordiness and correctness.

I will certainly begin to follow more of these leaders in development on twitter and on their blogs. I highly recommend everyone check them out. My personal favorite is Chris Blattman, but there are many others out there. Here is an aggregated twitter feed of professionals in ICT4D. Educate and Enjoy!


The US Military Uses Syria to Study Social Media

After reading about social media and the Syrian Conflict in class and on the blog, I was curious as to what was being done with all of this information. I found an article detailing how students at the Naval Postgraduate School are working two projects that deal with categorizing and corralling information from social media.

The first is a software known as the Dynamic Twitter Network Analysis (DTNA) that has the ability to pull data from twitter by topic or hashtag and group it together. This is similar to how marketing has used twitter to follow trends, but could be harnessed to follow the potential uprisings and threats to security (because we have noted that twitter activity proceeds mass protests in this article)

The other program is specific to Syria, because the vulnerability of a number of sites containing weapons of mass destruction. The program similarly take information from not only twitter, but google, youtube, facebook etc. and looks for any indication that these sites could be in jeopardy. It is important to monitor because President Obama “plans to keep from entering the Syrian civil war unless chemical weapon stockpiles are exposed to danger” (Davis,1).

Syria has proved an excellent study for these tools because so much of their information is on social media. “It was unusual because unlike conventional war, these organizations don’t have funding or resources,” Lucente said. “There are no secure communications radios” making it very easy to access their information. (Davis,2) The rebels have also embraced social media to communicate with supporters, they have 647,000 likes on their facebook page and 78,000 people following their twitter which posts updates on progress and locations. They even update a Google maps detailing day to day strikes, movement, and videos.
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These are new tools being used by the military, which are more efficient, but some question the legality of privacy rights and potential storage of information. This project represents some of the first Sentiment Analysis studies for the military and opens up a whole new age for military action. This also reminded me of the Disaster Relief technology that our guest speaker Sara Estes Cohen discussed, and how that is permeating throughout all of the departments in the government, albeit much more slowly in some.

Here is a video that further explores these projects at the Naval School. This article was found on Network World and written by Kerry Davis on November 9th 2012


Electronic Birth Registration in Bangladesh

E-government projects have a success rate of only 15%. Thus far, these development initiatives have been Imagechallenging to implement in countries that lack ICT infrastructure and overall stability. One of the rare successes was a project in the Rajshahi City Corporation,the fourth largest city in the country, that allowed for birth records to be added electronically making them much easier to access and more uniform. The birth records then not only served as identification but could also be used by other departments to possibly record immunizations or school enrollment.

The direct cost of implementing this system was 20,000 US dollars, with only a 200 per month fee to maintain the system. There was improvements in both enrollment and vaccinations after the program, as well as a reduction in statistical errors based on registration. The new system is much more organized and efficient and a great example of how just a small project can have last effects.

The factors that allowed for this project to be a success seem to be its small nature, many projects are too ambitious and wind up failing because of this. The project also was simple, but effected many areas, which allowed it to have growing returns. It is easy to maintain and also easy to replicated. It does not require teaching of technologies except to a very few data entry personnel and requires no great shift in organization which makes it easy to understand. More egoverment projects like these will lead to more efficient government.

case study by Moshtaq Ahmed


Further Information on M-Pesa

I read an article about the economic benefits of M-Pesa for Kenya that gave great further detail to what we had learned in class about mobile money banking. I am fascinated by how powerful of a tool this system has quickly become and the prevalence of its use in Kenya.

In the Beginning- “cell phones have been adopted more than five times as fast as fixed line telephone services”(Jack,3) especially in Africa this leap frogging of technology has created thousands of new mobile phone users. Safaricom, Kenya’s largest mobile phone provider, created in 2007 through donor funding the idea of M-Pesa which allows transfers and deposits of money via cellphone. The service quickly took off and is the most successful mobile banking in the developing world.

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The Banking- M-pesa works by taking the deposits made by costumers and depositing them in Safaricom’s bank accounts. Initially the company only used the central bank of Africa, but they have diversified now to minimize risks.

Issues include that most of the deposits are uninsured against bank failure, the potential use of e-float as currency could lead to increased money supply and inflation, and there are still many regulations regarding withdrawals lacking.

Benefits include that people don’t have to carry as much money around, it decreases travel costs, it is efficient, easy, and quick. It also led to an increase in savings.

ImageSurvey– The writers of the paper conducted a representative survey throughout Kenya that showed the promising results of M-Pesa. It showed that 44% of household had at least one member who had used M-Pesa, typically the households that had were wealthier and more educated compared with households that hadn’t used the service

The survey also showed that more than half of the people gave their experience the service a 10/10 and more than 80% agreed it was at least 8 or above. Most issues were resolved within one day if there were problems and users saw increased savings.

This report was written two years ago and we have seen the great continued success of the service. It was announced recently that M-Pesa will be expanding to 35 more countries, a great achievement for the developing world in making banking more affordable and easy. Increased savings and the economic benefits are clear, and this leads to growth and development for nations.

The report used for this data was written by William Jack and Tavneet Suri.