Author Archives: kbruce2016

About kbruce2016

Junior studying Public Health and International Development, interning at the UNHCR this summer!

South Africa ICT4D Resources

National ICT Policy:

National Integrated ICT Policy Green Paper

Language: English

Published By: Ministry of Communications

Date: January 24, 2014

 

Government Websites:

Ministry of Communications

Language: English

 

Case Study:

SIMPill Medication Adherence System

Agency: SIMPill, in partnership with Tellumat

Time Frame: June 2006 to April 2007.

 

External Resources

Understanding What is Happening with ICT in South Africa

Authors: Alison Gillwald, Mpho Moyo and Christoph Stork

Organization: International Development Research Centre, Ottawa, Canada

This paper gives a great overview of ICT in South Africa, what areas have already improved, what challenges still exists and what efforts are currently being made. The executive summary gives a general overview and specific sections provide really useful and comprehensive information.

 

South Africa: Internet, Computers and ICT

Organization: Stanford University

This is a great compilation of useful and reliable resources regarding ICT in South Africa. The page has reports, articles and studies on everything from ICT in education to e-Business in South Africa. Includes titles, source information and hyperlinks. 

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Lessons Learned: ICT4 Effective Development

Taking Information and Communication Technology for Development this semester has made me realize how little I knew about ICT4D going into the class. Obviously technology is completely changing development, as it is changing all other aspects of life. Yet surprisingly, I hardly looked into this field of development before this class in either my international development or my public health courses. I think it is a really valuable course, but I’m surprised this topic is barely even mentioned in my other classes as it is such an integral part of development.

It has been most valuable for me to learn about different eHealth services, which fall right in the intersection of my two areas of study. ICT technologies have already completely changed the medical world, especially with digital health records and online information sharing. Many of the most successful ICT4D projects are related to eHealth. In fact, the Clint Rogers video  that I posted earlier in the year eHealth Service Improvements as one of the five greatest opportunities within ICT4D. There is so much potential in eHealth and I think this will only keep improving health care and health information accessibility in both the developing and the developed world.

The other most valuable realization I have come to this semester is that we need to change the way we think about failure in ICT4D. We have spent so much time talking about best and worst, practice in ICT development projects. We spent so much time discussing why such a huge proportions of ICT4D projects fail to some degree. But in order to put this information to use, we need to find a better way for ICT projects to be able to acknowledge their failures without losing support so they can come up with effective solutions. We like to talk about ICT4D projects as “successes” or “failures”, but in practice it is not that black and white. Most projects have some successful or positive elements but failed because not every part of the project was perfect. For example, One Laptop Per Child successfully found a way to make incredibly low cost laptops. However, they failed at making them user-friendly and didn’t provide a framework to educate the recipients on how to use the laptops. Not everything about the project was a failure, and I don’t think the project should be completely abandoned. The model needs to be adjusted, not thrown out. In ICT4D, and in development in general, we need to support effective and transparent monitoring and evaluations with an open and honest acknowledgement of failure if we want to see real change.


Are oil companies really upholding a social responsibility?

When Dr. Ward from DigitalGlobe Intelligence Solutions was speaking today, he mentioned that their program was used to identify points where oil was being stolen specifically in Nigeria. He said that the program wasn’t there to get people in trouble, but instead to help the oil companies identify which groups were stealing the most so the oil companies could work with the communities stealing the most oil to provide them with jobs, support the local economy and improve their relationships with these communities. Without meaning to sound rude, I asked him if there was any evidence that these companies were actually helping these communities move forward. He actually had personal experience with this, having lived in Nigeria while his father worked for a major oil company and collaborated with the local communities. I was interested in learning more about this topic, and I’m glad he touched on it for a bit.

In looking into it further, I was surprised about the number of articles discussing the positive impacts of the oil companies. It seems that there is an increasing expectation of oil companies to uphold their social responsibility to the countries in which they work. This article, for example, discusses how Chevron is partnering with Baylor Global Health Corp. to provide medical training and support research on child mortality in Liberia, where they are also looking for oil. The article says, “Altruism is part of it. So is business”. However, there is no way that this article is telling the whole story. It is great that oil companies are starting to take their social responsibility more seriously, but I was surprised there weren’t more articles describing the damage that big oil companies can do on developing countries.

Dr. Ward also talked about how a big challenge for oil companies in supporting the well being of local citizens is that often when these companies give money as part of their social responsibility, they have to give it through the local government. This means that they have little control over how the money is actually used, especially in developing countries where corruption is an issue and money is rarely allocated as it should be. This article discusses that many developing countries rich in oil face paradoxically face high and growing levels of poverty because of this kind of corruption. They also outline policy measures that international oil companies should take to begin to address these issues. Suggested measures include “Requiring companies to make public what they pay to governments to extract natural resources,” and “Increasing the transparency of extractives contracts and strengthening government officials’ ability to negotiate contracts that are beneficial to the country and its people.” Though the article does not talk about the role of ICTs in achieving these goals, after Dr. Ward’s presentation I think ICTs could play a huge role in implementing these measure. For example, they could be used to increase transparency of extractive contracts by making these contracts available online. As energy becomes a scarcer resource every single day, it will be important to keep in mind the impact of this scarcity on the developing world.


OLPC in Kasiisi: Successful, or just more successful?

In 2009 when I was in Kibale, Uganda, I saw the first 100 laptops being distributed to the Kasiisi School as part of the Kasiisi Project. After our class discussion, I wanted to learn more about how OLPC worked out in Kasiisi. This video gives a brief overview of OLPC in the context of the Kasiisi Project:

There were a few key differences between the way OLPC was implemented in Peru and the way it was implemented in Kasiisi that I was excited about. To start, the very first thing the video says is that it is about giving a kid a laptop and teaching them how to use it. Originally, OLPC seemed to think that for the most part, if you give a kid a laptop they should be able to teach themselves how to use it. As many of the children receiving these laptops have never had any sort of experience with this kind of technology, this is a pretty unreasonable assumption. I’m glad that Kasiisi valued teaching the kids how to use the laptops, ignoring the assumptions of OLPC. Second, they included teacher training as a part of implementing OLPC in the Kasiisi Schools. This gets teachers involved in the process of implementation, another major issue with OLPC. If teachers are involved, the computers can actually be used in the classrooms for educational purposes. If teachers don’t even know how to use the computers, there is no way to incorporate them into the classroom and it is unlikely that they can serve any significant educational purpose. Finally, the students were so excited about using the laptops that the program actually improved school attendance because students had to go to school to use them.

At the same time, the video points out a few of the issues that were also seen in other places that OLPC has been implemented. These first 100 laptops would follow the P5 class, but the incoming class would probably not be able to receive laptops. The first laptops were part of a very generous donation, but clearly this donation could only benefit a select group of students. Another issue that I witnessed that wasn’t mentioned in the video was the worry that if the children brought home the laptops, they would be stolen or sold. Also, at the time that this project was implemented, the school did not have main electricity. The computers had to be powered through a generator, which was incredibly slow and meant that their use was very limited. While Kasiisi had more success than Peru, it is clear that some major issues still need to be addressed before the project can be successful.


Excessive Failure with Outstanding Potential

In the field of international development, we like to think in the mindset of “doing good”, creating positive change and making the world a better place. This makes it very difficult to acknowledge that often this isn’t actually the case. This conflict is especially relevant when it comes to ICT4D. I knew there was not a very high success rate, but I was surprised to learn that 70% of ICT4D projects fail. In this video, Dr. Clint Rogers shares insight from professionals across Africa about why ICT4D doesn’t work. The 7 reasons they come up with are:

 

#1 Idea/result not directly tied to improving economic condition for end user

#2 Not relevant to local context/strengths/needs

#3 Not understanding infrastructure capability

#4 Underestimate maintenance costs and issues

#5 Projects supported only by short term grants

#6 Not looking at the whole system

#7 Project built on condescending assumptions

 

There are a lot of smaller issues within these 7 that make ICT4D projects challenging and unsuccessful. The problem that I believe umbrellas all 7 reasons is this: ICT4D is the newest and therefore least practiced method of development. Consider an international development project in a more practiced field, such as public health. People have been working in this field for many years. Doctors are now aware that there are many barriers to implementing public health projects in developing regions of the world. There are now decades of research and data on public health projects around the world that guide new global health projects around the world. In implementing new ICT4D projects, there is much less to go off of. Because ICT4D is so knew, problems like the 7 listed above are just now being recognized.

 

This list is pretty discouraging in thinking about moving forward in ICT4D. However, seriously considering this list is exactly what will allow ICT4D to move forward. Too often, projects do not want to share their failures at the risk of harming the reputation of their organization. Beyond images, projects often can’t share their failures because if they do they will lose their funding. I think ICT4D needs to take a new stance on failure. We need to be able to acknowledge failures, share them between different projects, and discuss what can be done to address them. Though there are clearly a lot of problems with ICT4D, modern technologies also hold great potential for positive change in the developing world. In this video, Dr. Rogers and a group of students at Maseo University in Kenya talk about the 5 greatest dangers of ICT4D, but also address the 5 greatest opportunities. The 5 greatest opportunities they list are:

 

#1 More Educational Resources & eLearning

#2 eHealth Services Improvements

#3 International Access and Connection

#4 eCommerce Opportunities

#5 Info Access, Sharing and Multitasking

 

Clearly, there is a lot of opportunity within the field of ICT4D. We just need to figure out how take advantage of that opportunity in a more effective way. If we are not willing to talk about problems, problems cannot be addressed and ICT4D will continue to fail.  But if we put time and energy into dealing with the challenges of ICT4D, it has the potential to change the world.


Gender and ICTs: Alampay doesn’t go all the way

The relationship between gender and ICT use is interesting to me because it shows how ICT4D can both promote and detract from progress. In one section of Beyond Access to ICTs: Measuring Capabilities in the Information Society, Erwin A. Alampay discusses this relationship. He first discusses how ICTs can be beneficial for women in the developing world. In most developing regions, women are expected to take care of the children; if something happens to a child, it is the mother’s job to deal with it. ICTs can make this job a lot easier, as they can allow a mother to call for help in an emergency situation. Alampay also talks about how the introduction of ICT4D created more jobs for women. For example, Grameen Bank’s microcredit program “became a springboard to using women as village phone operators” (Alampay, 13), thus providing many more women with employment. Finally, he mentions that ICTs are beneficial because they allow working women to check on their children while they are at work. I particularly liked this point because it is so relevant in the United States as well. As a working single mother, my mom had to figure out how to take care of her kids while having a full time job. She still talks about how getting a cell phone made it all possible because it enabled her to contact us when she was at work, and work when she was home.

Alampay then talks about how women often have fewer opportunities to access ICTs than men do. While he merely mentions this in two sentences, I think that there is much more to be said about this divide. First, he doesn’t provide a sufficient explanation of why women have less access to ICTs than men do. He says that women don’t get equal access because they are expected to stay at home, while men begin to use ICTs in the workplace. This is true, but it isn’t the whole story. Alampay fails to consider other obstacles that might prevent women from getting the same access to ICT use as men. For example, lets say an ICT4D project decides to install computers in a school and teach kids how to use them. If there were a gender gap in education, as there often is, fewer girls than boys would get to use these new technologies. This is just one of many potential examples, and I think Alampay should have gone further in investigating this topic.

Furthermore, Alampay doesn’t address how ICTs can sometimes be an obstacle for development in terms of gender equality. If, as he suggested, women do not have the same access to ICTs as men do, wouldn’t this increase the gender gap overall? ICT use can be a vital job skill. If men gain these skills while women lag behind, don’t the chances of women being employed get even lower?

While overall I think ICT4D reaps more benefits for women in the developing world, it is important to consider disadvantages as well. Alampay’s analysis is interesting and valid, but it is incomplete. Many more arguments can be made for both the positive and negative effects of ICT4D on women’s development, and I think Alampay’s two paragraphs don’t do the topic justice.


Why do we tend to skim over ICT?

I’ve spent quite a bit of time reading development reports and researching development indices. In one of my international development courses I had to read several different development reports throughout the semester. As I read over the Global Information Technology Report I was shocked that this kind of report was never even mentioned. I had to define and use over 15 different development indices throughout the semester. I wrote on economic indices, environmental indices, gender indices and several more. Yet I was never told to look into something like a Network Readiness Index. I was never required to look into how information and communication technologies directly impacted development within a given country.

After using the 2013 UN Human Development Report as a reference in countless papers, I decided to go back to it and see what it included about information and communication technology. I was surprised to find that there was no section that focused on this topic. It was simply mentioned in the context of other major topics. For example, the report states that “as countries are increasingly interconnected through trade, migration, and information and communications technologies, it is no surprise that policy decisions in one place have substantial impacts elsewhere”. ICT is mentioned in a series of causal factors, but the topic is never investigated in depth. This sub category plays an underlying role in almost every other category, from education to economics to health care, but is never discussed in isolation.

By now it is clear that information and communication technologies are a vital tool in all sectors of development. Recognizing this, I think it is important that we spend more time and energy focusing on how this technology becomes accessible throughout the developing world. I look forward to focusing on this in ICT4D throughout the coming semester. I think this topic needs to carry more weight in many other development courses, and I hope to use my new understanding of ICT in the context of all my further development research.