Author Archives: meredith8754

Yemen ICT4D Resources

1. There is no official national ICT policy for Yemen. However, there is a national ICT policy for higher education. The most recent version I could find is from December 2004 and is written in English. The documented was created during a Future Search Conference and was compiled by stakeholders from several Yemeni universities. www.academia.edu/5029849/ICT_Policy_in_Yemen

2. Since there is no national ICT policy, there is no administrative organization directly responsible. However, there is a website for the Yemeni Ministry of  Communications and Information Technology. http://mtit.gov.ye/ The website is in Arabic.

3. My case study was on NetHope, an ongoing communication initiative for humanitarian organizations. Their website is full of useful information. http://nethope.org/

4.  http://www.acit2k.org/ACIT/index2.php?option=com_content&do_pdf=1&id=245

http://unpan1.un.org/intradoc/groups/public/documents/apcity/unpan046335.pdf

5. The lack of an official national ICT strategy posed a lot of difficulties. There is good information about access to technology and related statistics, but information about government involvement is difficult to come by.


ICT4D Spring 2014 – Lessons Learned

Reflecting on this course, I can’t help but think that the class, and ICT4D itself, isn’t quite what I expected.  Every other class I have taken in my college career that discussed technology has painted it as an amazing tool, and that there was never enough of it. It was a go-to problem solver. Problems with technology or its appropriate use were never touched upon, and that is the perspective I had at the beginning of the semester.

Now, having learned so much about technology’s role in development, I have to say that that perspective has drastically changed. Before, I had never considered technology as being ‘appropriate’ or not. Of course technology was appropriate! It was innovative, sleek, and multifunctional. It was always relevant and acceptable. But walking away from the class, the biggest thing I think I’ve learned is that technology is not always the answer, and that there can be negative consequences if it is not used appropriately. Giving laptops to every child in a school in a developing country means nothing if we don’t also give those children the proper set up to use them. Who will teach them how to use the computers? Who will fix them if they break? How will they charge their batteries? Simply dumping technology into developing areas is not the answer, and I can clearly see that now.

I’m in no way saying that technology hasn’t completely changed the development landscape, but with its rise has come new challenges to consider. Using it wisely means more resources for more people, but if it is not monitored and used carefully it can have a myriad of negative consequences. This is a lesson I wish I had learned earlier and is something I will definitely be using in my future.


MAMA: An mHealth Initiative

mHealth, an abbreviation of mobile health, is a broad term generally used to describe health programs and initiatives operating primarily through mobile devices.  Mobile device use is on the rise, and it is now estimated that up to 85% of the world’s population is covered under some mobile subscription. In rural areas with limited access to physical clinics, doctors, and resources this type of program can have far-reaching benefits. Because of the nature of mobile devices, applications, etc. mHealth initiatives are able to cover a wide range of health topics including general health information, diagnosis, and disease tracking.

To me, mHealth has a huge potential for use in developing nations. While researching the topic, I came across MAMA (Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action). This program operates mainly through SMS messages and simple voice reminders.  MAMA currently operates in 69 countries and reaches nearly 141 million women. Their messages are based on WHO and UNICEF guidelines and provide information about what to expect from their babies at certain ages and reminders to get checkups or vaccines. To learn more about MAMA, check out their website below.

http://www.mobilemamaalliance.org

This is just one of many examples of mHealth initiatives focusing on developing nations. Of course maternal health has always been a focus, but what other ares do you think mHealth could have a major impact in? Do you see any challenges for these initiatives in the future? I think they are a wonderful example of just how much potential technology has in developing nations.


Is Radio Tuned in to Our Needs?

There are estimates that say between 80-90% of family households in Africa have access to a functional radio. Radio, in many aspects, has been an amazing tool for development in many countries, particularly for those in Sub-Saharan Africa.  In an area where large percentages of the population are illiterate, radio is often the main way in which people receive current information. The information given through radio broadcasts can include weather reports, news reports, or other pertinent information. Electricity in many of these rural areas is also often very limited or nonexistent, giving battery-powered radios another major benefit.  But there are some important aspects to radio use that can’t be ignored.

Radio, in its common and traditional form, is a one-way flow of information from broadcaster to listener. As a consequence, this doesn’t necessarily foster any engagement or communication between the two parties. Imagine having a conversation with a friend where you weren’t able to ask them questions but could only passively listen to them.  While you might gain some valuable knowledge, this kind of communication has its limitations. With the rise of other technologies such as mobile phones and internet, is radio on its way out? There are many other types of ICT that allow for two-way exchanges, but could they fully replace radio? Have you heard of any initiative that attempt to somehow combine the two? Radio has so many benefits including its affordability and its prevalence and availability in these rural areas. I’d be curious to know what other people think about radio’s future role in the ICT4D world.


Sometimes the Answer is Right in Front of You…

In reading Unwin’s chapter this week on information and communication, I was surprised by his discussion of theatre and dance. IDEV classes here at Tulane have stressed to me the importance of including local stakeholders and the importance of demand driven development. However, all development projects we have studied seemed so structured and for lack of a better word, rigid. Theatre and dance come from a completely different perspective. As part of the arts, they seem more personal, expressive, and overlooked as a serious form of communication. However, Unwin brings up a good, and even obvious point, that this type of communication can be very prevalent and important in other non-Western cultures. It can often be a main way in which information is communicated throughout generations. I decided to delve a little deeper and explore a project that was theater and dance based. What I found was surprising.

Wise-Up is an education program based in Botswana. It is is a national campaign being undertaken by the National AIDS Coordinating Agency in Botswana in partnership with UNICEF with a purpose to give young people accurate information about HIV/AIDS, and it does this through theatre.  Through singing and dance, participants express different situations and stories relating to the virus while also giving important, accurate information about how to protect yourself against it. It’s goal is to get young people to ‘wise up’ about the nature of the disease and to arm them with accurate and correct knowledge. To learn more, check out the video below.

In learning about this project, it’s pretty clear that it was designed with a culture in mind such as the one existing in Botswana.  Theatre (dance) and singing are already integral parts of their society, and have been for some time.  They are using this skillfully to combat the threat of HIV/AIDS within their communities. To me, it seems like a perfect match. Would a project like this (TfD) work in the US? What about another developing country struggling with similar issues? I think it would certainly depend on the nature of their already existing culture, which is another point that Unwin stresses in the chapter for this week. I wonder what other development projects are using Theater for Development (TfD) and what sort of communities they are in. TfD can definitely provide a lot of benefits, as it brings a familiar setting of dancing and singing to an important and uncomfortable topic. I hope to see it used in many more projects to come.


Better or Much the Same?

I have a pretty limited experience when it comes to my knowledge and involvement with international development related to technology.  In fact, I’m surprised that this is in fact my first class that puts any kind of focus on it.  Technology is clearly an important part of my life as a 21st century student, and it isn’t surprising to learn that technology can also have a huge potential for those living in developing countries.  It brings with it so many conveniences and opens so many doors of opportunity to learn and improve.  Technology makes it as easy as the click of a button to share information with people all over the globe. But is that what is actually happening? Or are there negatives to this technological expansion?

In this weeks readings, there was a case study that talked about the message from Alfred Austin’s line of poetry. It reads, “Across the wires th’ electric message came, “He is no better; he is much the same.” This line of poetry struck me and was very thought-provoking. Is technology actually improving the lives of those in developing nations? Of course there have been endless positives, but this is something we should really consider before it becomes an integral part of our efforts. What do you think? Are there any potential negatives to technology in developing nations? I know for me one that comes to mind is pollution.  Developing nations often are some of the major contributors to global pollution. What other negatives might there be? Is there a way to use technology to change this?