Author Archives: marklabadorf

ICT4D Professional Profile: Paul Currion

Paul Currion is a very influential man in the field of ICT4D. Although he does a lot of things, he mainly focuses on working towards post-conflict and disaster relief by incorporating ICTs into response efforts. He believes that they have the ability to strengthen response efforts when a disaster strikes by collaborating efforts and information. He has a very broad educational background with degrees in both African Studies and Architecture as well as training in Cluster coordination and information management, Logical Framework Analysis, International Humanitarian Law and Media Relations.

Being a disaster relief professional, Mr. Currion does not have a particular geographic area of focus. Thus, he works wherever he is needed during a time of conflict or disaster. He has a very impressive resume working in the field all over the world. He managed Humanitarian Information Centres (HICs) in Liberia, Cyprus, Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Kosovo in order to deliver ICT products and services in these post-conflict regions. He also worked in Georgia and Bangladesh as information manager for the WASH Cluster, a UNICEF project to improve the efficiency of water, sanitation and hygiene. When he is not abroad, Mr. Currion still continues to improve ICT4D in disaster and post-conflict relief. His ICT work specializes in the use of social media and networking because he believes that the sharing of ideas is essential for the most effective implementation of relief efforts. Some of his most impressive social media work has been helping to create the Aid Workers Network which is one of the first social networking sites for aid workers used to share ideas, advice and resources with each other. He also helped to create ISCRAM, which is a social platform used in the academic community focusing on technology in disaster response.

Paul Currion represents a true thought leader and user of everything he promotes, as he uses social media as a way to share many of his ideas. His main thought platform is one of his blogs.  He blogs about many things concerning the humanitarian sector of ICT4D and gives his opinions as well as advice on how organizations can better their tactics in order to implement projects more efficiently, sustainably, and in a more dignified manner. Mr. Currion is also a vivid user of twitter. He uses his twitter to tweet about his personal take on music and popular culture but also tweets about things relating to his blog as well as re-tweeting other important ICT4D professionals. All in all, Paul Currion is a great man who has done amazing things in the use of ICTs with disaster and post-conflict relief. Judging by the amount of work he has done in the past, there is no doubt that he will continue to do amazing things in the future.

Apple Increases App Store Security

Use of mobile phones has been drastically increasing, especially throughout the developing world. In more recent times, the use of smart phones has been at the forefront of this drastic increase, even in the developing world where it is happening slowly but surely. The use of Apple iPhones and iPads are some of the most common types of smart phone technologies that have been exploding everywhere. With the growth of this use there has also been a dramatic growth in use of Apple mobile apps. Because of these apps, people now have the ability to do many things. Amongst some of these things, is the ability to store massive amounts of very important information in a single handheld device. Therefore, because of this extreme increase in use, there has also been a rapidly growing amount of attacks aimed at Apple users in attempts by hackers to take over their accounts. A prime example is that these accounts are being used by hackers to purchase expensive apps.

As of only a few days ago, Apple launched a new security campaign to tackle this issue and further increase their measures to prevent an account from being compromised. These new security measures now asks users to choose from three security questions and answers in order to download an app from the app store. Also, they are now requiring a back-up email to be created just incase the primary email is in any way compromised. For all you Apple users out there, if this has not happened to you yet do not fret because so far this additional security measure is only aimed at accounts that may have previously triggered a red flag for some reason.

This new security measure that is beginning to be launched throughout Apple products may at first be viewed as extra precautionary and kind of annoying and at even times confusing to users. However it is essential that companies take heed to Apple’s example and begin to set up security measures like this as well. Security with mobile phones use is an ever increasing concern as use of mobile phones, especially smart phones, is expanding all over the world in both developed and developing countries alike. Hopefully other mobile phone companies will begin to develop measures such as this in order to protect mobile users as much as possible.

Apple Ratchets up App Store Security 

Social Media Use in the Developing World

The social media explosion that has sucked in the lives of a large population of the developed world, has also recently been rapidly spreading throughout the developing world. A study done by Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Project from March 21-May 15, 2011 shows that use of social media is growing much more rapidly in the developing world than it is currently in the developed world. People in low income nations (in areas that have access to internet) use social media sites at rates as high or even higher than people in high income nations. For example, according to the study, Russia and Indonesia had the highest rates of social media users amongst their internet users with a rate of 86 percent. This is much different from the US in which less than 60 percent of internet users use social networking sites.

This is an extraordinary phenomenon as social media has the power to do many amazing things. Social media outlets such as Facebook or Twitter enable the rapid spread of events and ideas throughout the entire world. The world is becoming much smaller as people from every corner are able to share with each other their ideas as well as their cultures. This spread of ideas has the capacity to greatly improve the livelihoods of populations throughout the developing world. People can use social media outlets to share their own ideas and form a common ground to improve situations. More recently, during the Arab Spring, people have been turning to social media to communicate with each other and start revolutions to improve their lives. The Pew Research Center’s study even showed that in events of political unrest, social media usage greatly increases. Both Russia and Egypt, countries which both have experienced recent political movements, saw an increase of ten percent in social media usage. This portrays the fact that people in the developing world are actually using social media outlets in times of strife as a way to collaborate efforts with others.

The results of this study have shown that usage of social media is truly growing exponentially throughout the developing world. This growing usage has the ability to enable populations throughout the world to communicate with each other and share their ideas at very fast paces in order to improve their livelihoods, especially during times of conflict. This usage is only going to increase as mobile usage, especially that of smart-phones, and internet become even more accessible to people throughout the developing world within the near future.

Pew Research Center Report

All over the world, people are using the internet as a way to communicate and share information. However, over two-thirds of the world’s population still do not have access. This is due to the digital divide that exists between urban and rural areas. In the developing world, the impoverished  living in rural areas do not have the infrastructure or money needed to gain access to the internet. Thus, they are not able to access the information available on the internet that would improve their livelihoods. Also, many development organizations are not able to reach these marginalized areas because of geographic difficulties, lack of reading and writing proficiencies, and other language barriers.

An innovative software program,, allows development organizations to connect with these poor, rural and marginalized communities by providing on-demand information access through mobile phones. These organizations use to host voice-based information portals, forums for discussion, classifieds, and to broadcast market prices and weather reports to help with crop cultivation. The only thing the members of the community will need to do is to know how to use a phone. They have to dial a regular phone number through their mobile phone and navigate through an automated message board to listen to messages about the particular information that can benefit them. This program is very beneficial for these communities because it allows them to access similar types of information that other people in the world have through the internet.

This development initiative represents a very well thought out plan as it is very human-centered. It takes the wants and specific needs of these rural communities to help improve their livelihoods. The use of voice content makes it much easier for these people to use it because it is conducted in their native languages and they do not have to worry about their literacy. So far, is implemented in six states throughout India. So far it is working out really well and hopefully it can be implemented in other parts of the developing world very soon.


Mobile Midwife

One of the largest problems facing the developing world is the lack of access to medical care. This poses a very large issue for women in developing countries when it comes to pregnancy and childbirth. In the developed world where there is easier access to healthcare and health knowledge, women go through the process with much greater ease. Women in the developing world do not have nearly the same access to books, internet, or regular visits with healthcare professionals. Thus, they do not have the same access to health knowledge which is very important while going through a pregnancy.

Although these women in developing countries have very limited access to medical care, a very high portion of them have mobile phones. This can open up a whole new world for them when it comes to increases in ICTs in the health sector. Through a mobile phone, there are many ways women can seek the particular healthcare they might not otherwise have access to. If they have access to smart-phones, which is a growing trend in the developing world, their access to this mobile healthcare can increase even more through mobile apps.

Through collaboration with the Grameen Foundation, BabyCenter, Columbia University, and the Ghana Health Service, a new mobile app called the “Mobile Midwife” has been created to help women in developing countries go through pregnancy with much more knowledge and ease. This initiative has the objective “to promote healthy pregnancies by encouraging women to seek prenatal care, debunking myths about pregnancy and childbirth, and offering advice on topics such as delivery, breastfeeding, immunization and good nutrition.” This app has the ability to do great things and help women throughout all stages of pregnancy and even afterwards. Once more people in the developing world gain access to smart-phones, this app can do a lot more for an even greater number of people.

Source: Mobile Midwive

Farming with Facebook in India

In most of the developed world, using ICTs to increase productiveness and stabilize business markets is an everyday practice. ICTs allow for different businesses and different sectors within a business to communicate with each other at all times so that they can ensure the maximum benefit. In more recent times with innovative ICT4D initiatives, many places in the developing world have been beginning to catch on to this trend.

Much of the developing world is beginning to use cell phones as a way to better communicate with each other. However there are also many other platforms for communication that are being used. In the Maharashtra state of India, turmeric (a spice very popular to Indian cuisine) farmers have been facing many problems. Because the competing farmers were not in communication with each other, they all saw a dramatic drop of prices in the turmeric market. Thus, they created a Facebook page called the “Turmeric Farmers Council of India” in which farmers from all over the region were invited so they could decide together how much to produce in order to maintain a steady demand. The Facebook page also provides a platform for them to get in touch with farmers in other regions so that boycotts can be planned when they feel that certain prices in particular markets are not right.

The majority of these farmers have greater access to mobile phones than they do to computers. Thus, many of them are using their smart phones to connect to Facebook rather than their computers. This allows them for greater mobility when they are out farming so that they can be more effective when communicating with other farmers. This use of Facebook is a very innovative solution for these Indian farmers and hopefully can start to be greater employed in other parts of the world to regulate markets.

Boom Mobile Banking

In many rural areas in the developing world, certain family members leave the rest of the family to go to a big city or even sometimes an entirely different country to find work. While in these cities, they make money that they send back to their families in rural areas. This practice is known as remittances and is used quite frequently among people in Latin America who have a family member living in the United States making money. It is a great way for families to make money however this transaction can by troublesome because of fees attached to the different mediums along the route.

Boom Mobile Banking has come up with an innovative way of making remittances both easier and cheaper in the Americas. This new system allows family members (usually the ones working in the US) to create an account with Boom Mobile in which they can go to a participating 7-Eleven store or call Boom Mobile customer service to load money into their account. Through a SMS, the company will send a text message to a participating family member on the other end (in this case rural Latin America) letting them know that they can go to a merchant location to use a Boom Mobile debit card to get cash.

This new system makes the practice of remittances much more accessible and easier to people in rural areas. Besides being cheaper, it also puts recipients at a safer position as they do not have to worry about the risk of holding a lot of cash. Currently, Boom Mobile Banking is working between the US and Mexico, Haiti, and Guatemala. Hopefully once this becomes more popular, this system can be used in more developing countries throughout the world.

For more information you can visit this MobileActive blog.

Powering Education in Remote Papua New Guinea

OLPC is a very innovative and powerful way to effectively bring technology to children in developing countries, help connect them with the world, and improve ICT4D in education. However although it may seem like an amazing tool, the implementation has come across many problems and the OLPC initiative has realized that there is much more work to be done. In many rural areas of developing countries, electricity can be extremely hard to get to. If access is even slightly available, it is usually very expensive. Thus, many schools in these areas do not have much access to electricity. Just like any other computer, the XO laptops need to be charged. In remote Papua New Guinea, inaccessible electricity is the case for both schools and homes. So when it comes to charging their laptops, what are the children supposed to do?

In many areas where OLPC has been implemented, there have also been solar power designs that would give power to a centralized AC unit and thus providing affordable and usable energy for the power of the XO laptops. However, it is very problematic to try to charge many laptops at once. This is a huge problem, especially in remote Papua New Guinea because since most children do not have access to electricity at home, everyone of them needs to be able to charge their laptops in school in order to use them as apart of the classroom experience. If they would all try to charge their laptops to one centralized AC unit, the inverter would burn out and nobody’s battery would charge.

In reference to this problem, the OLPC initiative has worked on a novel solution to overcome these challenges. Referred to by the name DC Share, the new system uses solar panels once again. However this time, instead of going through an unstable centralized AC unit, DC power is shared directly to the laptops from the solar panels with no inverters or anything in between. The system uses an eight meter cable which connects up to four very thin and flexible solar panels on one end and up to four XO laptops on the other. Since these panels are portable, they can be stored in the classroom over night and in the morning the children can lay them outside in the sun or on the roof and have the eight meter cable come in through an open window. This allows for much more accessibility to electricity to charge the XO laptops and therefore much greater use amongst the children. Initially when I first read about the OLPC initiative, I was very skeptical because of all of the implementation flaws and challenges that surrounded its success. However OLPC has really stepped up their game to try to overcome these challenges and do what they can to insure sustainable use.

Powering Education in Remote Papua New Guinea 

Adapting to risk: Communities use GIS and GPS to assess climate risks in the Cook Islands

The Cook Islands, located in the Pacific Oceania region, is not an area usually typical to the center of development initiatives. However they are in necessary need. Because of their location and physical geography, small islands completely surrounded by ocean in a tropical area, they are very prone to natural disasters. With the recent global climate change, their vulnerability has drastically increased. Also, the climate change has caused much social, economic, and environmental pressure amongst the islands due to water shortages, deforestation and soil erosion. Yet there is a general lack of information and awareness of the effects of changing weather patterns that exists amongst locals.

Recently a local NGO, Te Rito Enua (TRE) has partnered with the government as well as the Asian Development Bank to implement an initiative that would educate locals of the harms they face with the changing climate and what they can do to lessen the effects. They held training for four communities on two different islands that would enable them to develop tools and skills needed to asses their own specific climate risk. They were trained in mapping, climate models, GPS and GIS, and map interpretation. After training, members of the community realized the many vulnerabilities that existed such as the poor location of disaster shelters and the growth of invasive plants. The information that they were able to retrieve was integrated into existing government files so that each community would be able to receive a map showing all vulnerability areas. With this information, the project formed Climate Change and Disaster Committees. These allowed locals to voice their own opinions about what was going on. Through these committees, community members identified traditional practices such as organic farming and the traditional building practices and styles to combat the increases in extreme heat. The community discussions also touched on deeper issues such as loss of language and culture and unsustainable resource use.

This was a bottom-up approach to development used by TRE. Strategies were developed from the family to the community to the island and then even up to a national level. This development technique proved that community-based participatory approach is essential to the project’s success because local knowledge that was given was unavailable to high-level planners. Community participation and input from a local level really does place the reality of the climate change issues at a level more relevant to the community.

Assessing Climate Risk in the Cook Islands

Closing the Gap in Indigenous Australia with Mobile Journalism

Throughout the world, there are many digital divides that exist both between developed and developing countries as well as between different subgroups within countries. Although more commonly digital divides exist within the developing world, there are many instances existing in the developed world such as between different marginalized groups of a population. More recently, there has been a large digital divide between the marginalized indigenous people of Australia and the rest of the population. Many of these people live in remote villages in the Northern Territory of Australia where acces to more mainstream aspects of Australian culture are limited.

A new project funded by the Australian government, partnered with Burum Media and the Batchelor Institue of Indigenous Tertiary Education, is working to fight against the growing gap between the indigenous Australians and the rest of the population. The NT Mojos project’s goal is to increase the number of mobile journalist (Mojos). To do this, the project goes into remote villages and picks multiple candidates that will be trained to use the technology which is through an app on the iPhone 4. These trained reporters will be able to create and then share stories about things going on in their communities with the rest of Australia by posting them on a government website. This in turn will hopefully lessen the marginalized view of indigenous life that most Australians hold of them.

Another issue faced within indigenous societies is lack of education and literacy. The NT Mojo project will also fight to increase literacy rates. They have stated that the project will teach “story-telling first and technology second.” People will begin to think about stories and issues in their communities and have a chance to think of creative ways to convey them. This innovative ICT directed towards helping the indigenous people has many benefits such as increasing literacy rates and publicizing the daily life of indigenous communities to the rest of Australia. Hopefully this will bridge the widening gap and help to decrease the profound digital divide.