Author Archives: mjurczuk

Democratic Republic of Congo ICT4D Resources

1. Developments for a National ICT Policy**

Autorité de régulation de la poste et des télécommunications du Congo, or ARPCT, acts as the ICT regulation authority. The official website link has been broken for a while (which speaks to the country’s level of ICT development), but the World Bank’s DR Congo Country Report offers a brief description.
Last update: June 2007
Published by infoDev
Language: English

The Global Information Society Watch describes the DRC’s main ICT challenges in this country report.
Last update: 2007
Published by Global Information Society Watch
Language: English

NEPAD e-Africa Programme
Last update: 2012
Published by The New Partnership for Africa’s Development
Language: English (also available in French)

2. Government website
Since the government does not officially support any ICT initiatives, it has a limited government website that seems to only be available in French.

3. Case Studies

DRC joins WACS
Organization: Alcatel-Lucent (French global telecommunications equipment company)
Project: West Africa Cable System
Time frame: N/A

4. Non-governmental resources

Author: The World Bank
Development Indicators for DRC

Author: Global Information Society Watch
DRC’s Access to Online Information & Knowledge

5. Notes
Finding reliable information about the DRC’s ICT status was difficult because the sector is very underdeveloped. A lot of my conclusions were drawn from this lack of information as well as ICT success theories.

**Since the DRC does not have an officially established national ICT policy, the resources listed here are from the private sector programs that have been pushing to establish effective rules and regulations for ICT usage and implementation.

Lessons Learned from ICT4D

After a semester of studying various ICT4D initiatives, including specific case studies and theory, it is clear that a multi-stakeholder approach must become the basis for any successful undertaking. One of the conclusions drawn from the World Summit on the Information Society that met in Geneva in 2003 and in Tunis in 2005 is that an information society cannot be built without collaboration, partnerships and solidarity among all stakeholders based on values of transparency, accountability and respect. My research on the ICT status of the Democratic Republic of Congo supports this supposition. The DRC does not have an established national ICT policy even though the private sector has been working on programs that would make up the components of such a policy. The public sector (the government) has failed to support these programs (financially or otherwise) arguably because of a lack of understanding of the importance of ICTs for economic and social development. They are skeptical that investing in technology will reap any benefits. I have learned that this government opposition is a widespread issue from reading blog posts on other countries. First and foremost, all the stakeholders in an ICT implementation must be well understood. The private and public sectors, non profit organizations and the targeted population need to not only tolerate each other’s practices but also be supportive of them. Creating an atmosphere in which these programs can sustainably thrive is essential. Sustainability is inherent to successful development initiatives and this is especially true with ICTs since technology is constantly evolving.  The government needs to go online and thereby become more transparent to its citizens to instate the trust and respect critical to a symbiotic partnership. The targeted population needs to be well-trained in the new technology, preferably by a fellow citizen and not a foreign development worker. On that note, effective methods for training targeted populations should be an additional topic for exploration. I would be interested to find out if there is a program or organization that recruits a few willing citizens of a particular developing nation, trains them to a professional level on a particular piece of technology, and then sends them back with the equipment to train the rest of the community.

Muslim feminists online

While doing some general research on social media activism, I came across an article about social media platforms dedicated to the efforts of Muslim feminists. With images of Muslim women wearing burqas and the tragically inspiring story of Malala Yousafzai in my mind, I do not readily associate feminism with having a significant role in the Muslim religion. It turns out that there are numerous blogs written by Muslim women trying to reinterpret their religion with a feminist point of view. Sadia Ali wrote this blog post about her discovery of Muslim feminists online and how she went on to create pages on several social media platforms for these women to be able to collaboratively study the role of their gender within Islam. She reports that the conversations that ensued between women on these sites are harmonious, empathetic and genuinely curious. Some reject the idea that social roles should be based on gender while some do not. Most basically and most practically, ICTs contribute to development improving access to necessary information. However, I believe that  the ICT of social media can go beyond these basics. Allowing a marginalized population to virtually come together can redevelop cultural values and preconceived notions, with time potentially leading to a widespread lifestyle change. I know this sounds overly optimistic, bordering on naive (unless I’m already there), but a culture’s reconsideration of its treatment and perception of either gender must begin with an honest conversation, particularly revolving around the original source (whether it be a holy text, constitution, etc.). Although cyberactivism is not completely understood and is widely criticized for not making a significant impact, it does have the ability to open up such conversation, as exemplified by Ali’s Muslim Feminism Facebook page.

One Laptop Per Child Criticism

I’d like to discuss the implications of The One Laptop Per Child advertisement we saw in class on Tuesday. We discussed as a class how it was not only uninformative but also infuriatingly transparent. It targets the kind of “activists” that click buttons and make Facebook statuses about humanitarian causes after hearing strategically worded sentences similar to the ones mentioned in the first fifteen seconds of the commercial. It made me think back to an article I read recently which delineates what is commonly known as “the white savior complex,” and how often times, people that might mean well end up doing more harm than good because they have no idea what they’re doing. This One Laptop Per Child campaign could  fit under this category because as we have seen in class, there have been no significant improvement in education after the implementation of the program. Since the laptops are given to the governments to distribute to the children, corrupt leaders may not go through with the distributions at all, and the technology fuels their corrupt activities instead. After taking a class about writing grants last semester, I have an understanding of how difficult it can be to receive funding for a particular project. All the bases need to be covered and every possible pitfall must be considered. This campaign does not seem to have considered all the implications and is feeding only on people’s emotions and consciences. The concept is great, but the implementation needs serious work to be effective and not detrimental. 

Improving ICT Efficacy with the Arts

In every IDEV course I’ve taken thus far, we’ve discussed that the definition of development is not universal. This has posed a myriad of issues in terms of what exactly needs to be done and how. Our ICT4D textbook by Tim Unwin also brings up this problem and discusses how this inconsistency in what development is affects information communication technologies. Personally, I have a problem with the top-down approach of development ICTs: bringing information from those who know (the developed countries) to those who don’t, the ignorant (the underdeveloped countries). There is a great flaw with this patronizing perspective, because the transfer of information cannot go one way and neither side can be thought of as “ignorant.” Development organizations, nonprofits and countries need to implement ICTs that allow for a mutual transfer of information and they must not assume to be all-knowing of the needs of the underdeveloped populations. The lines of communication must be both open and effective. Together, developed and underdeveloped nations have all the information necessary for sustainable, successful development. Efficacy is a matter of working together, which means that there needs to be a sense of community. Unwin discussed how implementing ICTs into development work is not a new idea and cannot be treated as such. More technologies cannot be thrown at underdeveloped nations, but instead the type of information being shared needs to improve. In chapter 4, Unwin brought up incorporating theatre, dance and music media into development ICTs, and how these in particular have been successful in creating a sense of community and in helping come up with local solutions rather than relying on external “expert” advice. Personally, I believe the arts are extremely influential in bringing people together, and it is a concept that has been studied for years and widely supported. Conversely, a shared perspective between development organizations and the stakeholders is essential for success. Therefore, a more widespread integration of the arts into development ICTs is vital for maximum success of development ICTs.

Approaches to Bridging the Multilateral Digital Divide

In class we discussed the various dimensions of the digital divide. It is not only defined as the vast differences in technological development between developed and developing countries. Many of us experience the digital divide when interacting with older family members, people who speak another language, or those from different levels of education. Personally, I’ve grown up with the digital divide. My parents grew up in a small town in Poland and moved to the States in their twenties. They never used computers in Poland and once they moved here, they only bought one because my elementary school education required it. Eventually, their jobs required it too, and consequently, my responsibilities began to add up. As a junior high tween, I was the most “tech savvy” in the house. When my dad needed to type up a contract for work, I typed up and formatted a word document that would have taken him hours. I can type fast, copy and paste and use the internet quickly, so they think I’m a genius.

In my experience with my parents, language is the most difficult barrier to cross, second to intrinsic obstacles like a lack of motivation, distrust of the technology and stubbornness. The primary language of the web is English. So how can we get more of the populations of developing nations (especially those non English-speaking) to trust new technologies, to realize that it’s helpful and essential to their economy and livelihoods? The Guardian posted an article today about how more creative measures are being taken in Africa to bridge the digital gap, like the use of “digital intermediaries,” a concept that makes a lot of sense to me. These intermediaries are local people, who help their communities “overcome barriers of illiteracy, innumeracy, and language to effectively reach the poor who are otherwise invisible and disconnected.” Read the full story here: Access to information: bridging the digital divide in Africa