Author Archives: mpavlin

Final Thoughts

This week our class had Wayan Vota, the Senior Manager at Development Gateway, skype into class and answer some of our questions. One of the major themes we have seen throughout this semester has been failing projects. Mr. Vota told us that he is currently hosting a fail festival, where the main topic of discussion is projects that failed and why they seem to fail.  Their is currently about 500 people planning on attending this conference in Washington DC. This concept of having a festival where people only discuss their failures is really interesting to me. Typically, it is really hard for people to discuss their failures. In the field of ICT4D, I truly believe that discussing failures is crucial. This way people can learn from other people and can incorporate what actually works into their own projects. Failure is part of the process and can be part of possible future solutions.

The fact the projects fail in ICT4D world is something that I will take away from this course. As a senior IDEV major who is graduating in may, people expect you have some big, earth shattering idea that you will pursue after you graduate and will help the lives of those in the developing world. You never think that this idea will fail but in reality, majority of projects do and it is okay to fail. What isn’t okay is to not learn from your failures. I believe that this is what Mr. Vota is trying to do with the fail festival, making sure the same type of failures don’t happen over and over again.

A second thing I will take away from his class is the fact that technology really does have the potential to help develop all sectors of societies.  In today’s world the countries that are the most developed also happen to be the most technology advanced. Because technology plays such a large part in today’s modern world, developing countries need to also become technological developed in order to be considered “promising” and no longer in the “developing” category.


Can Social Media Help Build Up Governments and Nations?

This week in class we discussed social media and how it has the ability to help create real change. One example which we discussed was how social media, especially facebook and twitter, were utilized during the Arab Spring. We discussed how social media was able to change the speed and nature of this revolution. Ideas were spread more rapidly and reached a broader base of people. Everyone with access to a computer or Smartphone was able to share their ideas through the use of twitter and facebook. In the Arab Spring, specifically, social media was able to spread democratic ideas across borders, shape political debates and a large usage of online resources often preceded major events which happened on the ground. In these ways, social media played a large role in the Arab spring.

But the real question is can social media play a role in building up nations and governments, specifically Arab governments which have just been overthrown. The article in the Huffington Post titled Social Media Can Help Build Arab Governments Too states that “the Internet offers a new platform for people to collaborate and think seriously about what kind of government they want. Enabling people to discuss political issues openly, without fear of retribution from the top, would help to build the active political culture that is vital for a workable democracy. It’s an essential first step toward an election, and along the way it can bring into the discussion people who have been excluded so far.”  Like during the Arab Spring, the internet and social media sites can be used as a tool to mobilize the people and involve more people than ever before.

The article then proposes an idea of how social media could help build up a nation, specifically Egypt. It states that Arab speaking scholars would use radio, twitter, facebook and television to discuss different types of democracy and governments around the world and the advantages and disadvantages of each system. Then using social media, all Egyptians could post their thoughts on which type of government they believe would be best for Egypt. Although this might not come up with a perfect solution, it would allow the public to be more informed and allow them become more involved. It would allow the public to have an open dialogue about what form of government would be most successful in Egypt. It will be interesting to see if this becomes a system which is actually used and whether is creates successful, positive change.

For the full article click here


Internet Freedom in Decline Around the World

Freedom House is an index which ranks many different categories of freedoms across many nations around the world. One of the categories they assess is freedom of the net. This is an index which ranks internet freedoms around the world. From 2012-2013, 60 countries were studied. Digital media, interviews, and testing the accessibility of websites were some of the methods used to gain results. Each of the 60 countries received a number, 0 being the most free and 100 the least free. Countries which were assigned a number from 0-30 were considered free, 31-60 partly free and 61-100 not free.  A couple examples of countries that were labeled free include the Philippines, the United States, Kenya and Germany. Some examples of countries which were ranked partially free include Morocco, Thailand, Egypt and Jordan. Countries which were ranked not free include China, Sudan, Ethiopia and Cuba. What was found overall was that internet freedom worldwide is in decline, with 34 out of 60 countries assessed in the report having a negative trajectory from 2012 to 2013. There is also an decline in internet freedom over the past year. The report states that this decline is due to new laws controlling web content, the growing arrests of social media users and broad surveillance have been.

Having restrictions on the internet may cause some problems for developing countries which are just starting to actively use the internet, especially in the government, business, health and education sectors. These countries do not want to be controlled and limited to what they can a can and cannot do while surfing the web. It will be interesting to see if this negative trajectory continues in the future and how this affects developing countries and ultimately the digital divide.

For more information check about Freedom House rankings view the website here


TBT: How Technologies Have Shaped Our World

Because today is Thursday, also known as TBT (Throwback Thursday) according to a popular Instagram phrase, I decided to bring us back in time to Egypt from the years of 1870-1919. During this time period, the British occupied Egypt, and like most occupations the Egyptians felt repressed and like they didn’t have control over their own country. Although there was no Internet, computers, Twitter or Facebook at this time there were other types of technologies. The types of technology that were popular around this time were the radio, the printing press, and the recording industry. These types of technologies became key tools for the rise of Egyptian nationalism and eventually the revolution in 1919, which led to Egyptian independence in 1922.

Technologies played a large role in nationalism during this time period because it was an important tool in uniting the people. Newspapers allowed people to speak their thoughts, raise awareness to the Egyptian cause and bring people together from all over the country. Many people believe that information is power, and newspapers and songs were able to spread information all across Egypt.  In the book Ordinary Egyptians by Ziad Fahmy

“Modern Egyptians mass culture-especially vaudeville, radio and the music industry-transcend the bounds of literacy and gave room for (Cairene) colloquial Egyptian culture to develop a common, increasingly national forum for comprehensible, universally accessible and socially relevant public discussion about political community, the state and the British imperialism. It is totality of these media, working together as a media system, that entertained, and, in the process provided new shared discourses about nationhood and identity.”(168)

Technology has played a key role in shaping the world that we live in today. It is important to remember the roles that these now semi “old” technologies have played in the past. It will be interesting to see how new and more modern technologies shape the future.

Fahmy, Ziad. Ordinary Egyptians: Creating the Modern Nation Through Popular Culture. California: Stanford University Press, 2011. 168.


ICT Challenges in Education: Firsthand Experience in Rural Thailand

In the fall of 2012 I studied abroad in Thailand. During my time there, I not only attended a university located in Northeast Thailand, but I also was able to spend days in multiple elementary schools and observe their schools. Many of these schools were in very rural parts of Thailand where many people were farmers and were also very poor. These schools had very limited amount of computers, access to the Internet, interactive whiteboards, or any other forms of information communication technologies. During my time at these schools I noticed that although some technology tools were present, they seemed to be relatively ignored and majority of teachers taught the traditional way, without any help from technology. In these schools I was able to see firsthand the challenges of ICT development in the education sector, in the developing world. It was very clear in these schools that not only students, but also teachers were inexperienced and weren’t really aware of how to use the technology and how to teach the students to use it. The computers were very old and outdated. Schools had little money to replace them.

This week in class we discussed teacher needs. I believe this is one of the greatest challenges facing the educator sector in the developing world. There needs to be more professional development programs, continuous technological support for teachers, cooperation and leadership of school principals and more engagement of community and family. The UNESCO website states that “Information and Communication Technology can contribute to universal access to education, equity in education, the delivery of quality learning and teaching, teachers’ professional development and more efficient education management, governance and administration.” Hopefully with more support from teachers, families and even the government, technology will play a larger parts in schools like these and will really help make lasting changes,

For more information about education in the developing world check out the UNESCO website here.


TalkBackTV-Your Webcam Is Now A Weapon Of Mass Communication

Everyone at some point talks back, maybe even screams at their TV. But for last 50 years TV has been a passive experience. We sit and we watch. TalkBackTV is the next step in web-video engagement, content creation and community building. TalkBackTV will turn TV into a two-way conversation because it allow users to create a virtual, web driven conversation. TalkBackTV gives the public a tool to engage the powers that be, in a way never before possible. This new service will allow everyone to become their own John Stewart, using the Fair Use laws to record copyrighted shows and insert your own comments. It lets everyone to skewer the days video events and expand the cultural conversation. Users access a video-database of the days TV events and record their comments via webcam. These comments and the TV clips they accompany are edited into finished “Rants,” hosted on TalkBackTV.net and are able to be embedded across blogs, Facebook and mobile devices. TalkBack is all about empowerment, interactivity, and leveling the playing field to give a voice to those who until now have not been heard from. It brings the casual TV watched in from the sidelines and gives them a role to play in the pop-culture conversation.

TalkBackTV, although currently not up and running, is a good example of a new and innovate piece of technology. For first time this website will allow people who are just sitting at home at their computers have a say. With more voices heard, there is more potential for change. In countries around the world where censorship exists, this website could allow people to speak out against oppression, legally or illegally. It will be interesting to see what becomes of TalkBackTV in the future.


Thailand ICT Policy: A Country on the Rise

Thailand’s Information Communication Technology policy has three key components which it hopes to achieve within the next ten years. These components are 1.) Building knowledge-based on human capital, 2.) Promoting innovation in economic and social systems, 3.) Strengthening information infrastructure and industry. Thailand hopes to become a knowledge based society, where the use of ICTs helps boast the economy and is accessible to all of its citizens.

According to the World Bank, the research and development expenditure consists of only 2.21% of Thailand’s overall GDP and high technology exports were only 21% of all manufactured exports. There was no information regarding the technicians in R & D (World Bank). These numbers make it clear that ICT production has very little impact in the economic landscape of Thailand. Thailand is a country on the rise, one that is trying to become more developed, more technologically advanced and make more efficient use of ICTs to help its economy and the day-to-day life of its citizens.  Although Thailand has a long way to go until ICTs are being used successfully, to their full potential and when they will truly have an affect on the countries economy, Thailand is on the right track. Hopefully we will continue to see these numbers rise and that Thailand will continue on this track. Furthermore,  we hope to see ICTs benefit the country tremendously in the near future and that they successfully reach their goal of becoming knowledge based society.

For Thailand’s Full ICT policy click here.

For more information about Thailand from the World Bank click here