Robert Munro is a computational linguist in the area of communication technologies and works largely on less resourced languages. As a graduate fellow at Stanford University, much of his research involves topics such as crowdsourcing and machine learning. Mr. Munro originally came into the field through his previous research experience. After graduating from University of Sydney in 2004 with majors in Linguistics, Computer Science, Information Systems, and English and Film Studies, he proceeded to work on the Hans Rausing Endangered Languages Project at the University of London. Mr. Munro worked as the project’s software developer – designing digital archives, working with multimedia development, and researching into computational linguistics.
Author Archives: msingh2
Many aspects of ICT4D must be taken into account before an initiative is implemented. One such dimension are the stakeholders as discussed in Tongia & Subrahmanian’s article from class. This includes everything from service providers, ICT developers, governments, NGOs, etc. These stakeholders work backstage by providing funding and supporting a program. Without them, a project would not be sustainable in the long-run!
An example of this was seen in Nigeria where the stakeholders in the ICT sector urged the President, Goodluck Jonathan, to use ICT implementation as a way to target the nation’s impeding challenges. In fact, the President of the Institute of Software Practitioners of Nigeria, Dr. Chris Uwaje, even went on to argue that “anything done by the President that is not ICT-related would fail” (allAfrica). Dr. Uwaje believes that all sectors of development, including agriculture, manufacturing, banking, and many others, can highly benefit from ICTs. Furthermore, one of the most important points he argued was that the President should work with stakeholders in creating broadband projects in Nigeria. Especially when arguing the need for better and a more sustainable power supply within the country, he argued that liberalisation should occur. In other words, the government should realize that throwing money around is not the answer; the government has to work together with stakeholders and a network of individuals to make a change happen. I thought these points were very interesting in the article. The need for stakeholder’s in ICT initiatives is clearly evident, yet, as noted through Tongia & Subrahmanian’s article, one of the main challenges of ICTs is ensuring that stakeholders in various different groups communicate and agree with each other. For example, in the case of Nigeria, the government may feel as if spending money on ICTs may not be necessary at the moment whereas Dr. Uwaje, who is directly involved in providing ICT services believes that development cannot happen without ICTs. Just through this one example, it’s evident that all different stakeholders must have some form of a communication system and agreement on a project in order to ensure the project achieves success!
Source: Tongia & Subrahmanian “ICT4D: A Design Challenge?” ; allAfrica Article
ICTWorks is an Information, Communications, and Technology company located in South Africa that is owned solely by women. In fact, according to ICTWorks, the staff represents the demographics of South Africa and encompasses over 70% of the previously disadvantaged population. The organization began in 1999 when Xoliswa Kakana decided to create a new organization that would give IT services to the population. Currently, she serves as the Chairperson for the organization. The rest of the highly qualified executive team includes Sindile Ncala (Chief Executive Officer), Margaret Sibiya (Executive Director), and Maretha Britz (Executive Director). While these consist of paid positions, the company offers their employees and family members free access to their services through the ICT-Cares Welbeing Programme. The executive team and the employees work together to achieve the goals of the company — “to use extensive skills and experience to create wealth for clients, business partners, and employees and to lift the profile of women and PDI’s [previously disadvantaged individuals] in the world of IT” (ICTWorks). Overall, the company hopes to make a great impact by increasing the livelihoods of the population of South Africa.
The company is partnered with many other organizations world-wide including Oracle, HP, Fujitsu, Deloitte, Vixerg, Software, Belay, ICAS, Ordained IT Solutions, Eon Consulting, and Maternaips. These organizations allow the company to expand their horizons and offer more resources to the population. For example, through an alliance with Oracle and its partners, the company was able to set up an internship program that gives students the opportunity to learn skills necessary in today’s IT industry through specific training and hands on experiences in various businesses. In this way, the organization is not only helpful for providing funding, but also is committed to training individuals about IT. Ultimately, with the support of this many partners, ICTWorks is able to make an even greater impact on the South African communities. Furthermore, since it’s beginning, the company has also connected with a long list of clients, some of which include Sasol, South African Department of Defence, Post Office, MTN, South African Department of Land Affairs, National Research Foundation, FIFA, South African National Treasury Department, etc.
The company provides these clients with various consulting services to help with development and implementation of projects. One of these includes change management services through which the company performs a “change readiness assessment” of your organization and then develops a “change management plan” to ensure sustainability of an initiative. The plan targets all issues including leadership coaching, communication planning, stakeholder management, etc. Beyond the initial planning, ICTWorks provides “project management services” which look more closely at the objectives and make sure they are clearly linked to the goals of the project. Furthermore, the service looks closely at the framework of the project and tracks its status over time through evaluations. On a more broad spectrum, the company also offers “ICT strategy services” to look at the overall vision of a business. Some of ICTWorks business solutions include systems providing vehicle scheduling for public transport companies and applications for their business partner Oracle. Also, some of their ITs include SMS services, web and portal development services, security solutions, architecture development applications, software services, and sensor-based ITs such as radio frequency identification.
From my assessment of this company, I believe it is a good resource for ICT projects that are just getting started or are having trouble with the sustainability of their project in the long-run. When searching for ICTWorks current projects, many were linked with Inveneo, an enterprise dedicated to providing ICTs to those who need it. The difficulty in finding specific ICTWorks administered projects lead me to believe that the company worked mainly with other organizations. In this way, the company is largely dedicated to providing the behind-the-scenes services necessary for a project!
Source: ICTWorks Website
CrowdFlower is a crowdsourcing platform that was initiated in 2007 by Lukas Biewald. Recently, it has been ranked as one of the best crowdsourcing services and is a great solution to large projects requiring a considerable workforce. Crowdsourcing is defined as “the practice of obtaining needed services, ideas, or content by soliciting contributions from a large group of people and especially from the online community rather than from traditional employees or suppliers.” CrowdFlower does just this. It takes projects containing a wealth of information and breaks them down into manageable tasks that are them distributed around the globe to the various subscribers. The information these contributors provide are then analyzed and revealed.
The large-scale platform not only provides reliable information but also allows projects to be completed at a fast pace. One way in which the quality of the information is assessed is through gold stand units which are questions clients must answer and get correct in order to initially participate in the platform. Also, many contributors examine each data point in order to ensure accurate results. CrowdFlower products have the ability to categorize products into categories, quickly obtain access to relevant online information, convert handwritten information into digital data, and create quality website content. The platform is essential for eCommerce companies, online media companies, data providers, brand managers, etc.
As discussed in class, CrowdFlower was able to use text messaging services after the Haiti earthquake to help individuals with whatever they needed. It has also helped with the 2010 Pakistan flood and the refugees in Kenya. In fact, recently CrowdFlower was used to identify drug resistant TB cells. A group of highly qualified contributors were asked to mark and identify each cell from the cortex slides — a 3 month job made possible in 3 days through CrowdFlower. In this way, by using a crowdsourcing method, CrowdFlower has been able to make a major impact.