Author Archives: nsaqer

ICT4D: Most Important Lessons

Core lessons in ICT4D

I think that the most important lesson we learned this semester throughout this course was best practices. I feel that all of the case studies we looked at were diverse in: problems the projects addressed, geographical regions, and ways it incorporated ICTs in the program. However, one key similarity between all of these case studies was that they demonstrated the best [either through example or through mistakes] ways to incorporate ICTs in development projects. It illustrates the fact that, no matter what type of development work you do, certain concepts are universal, such as: incorporating the population in decision making, gathering research and data on the population, and coming up with a good monitoring and evaluation system to have check points.

Personal Lessons Learned

I think on the personal level, alongside learning about best practices, I learned the most through the short papers that we wrote this semester. We had to focus on one country and both analyze ICTs and their national capacity, along with come up with our own solutions to problems we saw. I focused on the health sector and Egypt. I think that it was a challenging assignment because I learned how data collection works, and the issues that can arise through data collection. Having to come up with our own solutions made us think critically of real life issues that are happening right now in the developing world and ways to incorporate ICTs to solve them. These are two skills that I hopefully will continue to take with me as I further my education and pursue a career in development. The most useful theoretical framework that will help me accomplish this is the IDEO Human Centered Design Toolkit. This work basically gives you the framework you need to design your own project that focuses on incorporating the ideas of the target population. It is definitely a kit that I plan to use for any project I wish to create.

Social Media and the Arab Spring: A New Revolution

This week in class, we discussed how social media can affect development. We examined how ordinary people were becoming activists during the Arab Spring through the use of social media, such as Facebook and Twitter. We also discussed how in Syria, ordinary citizens have transformed into amateur journalists through uploading content onto the internet. Upon examining these concepts further, I found this interesting YouTube video, that shows viewers how to livestream content with slow internet. 

The Arab Spring has created a new wave of internet content, that focuses social media in a way that is not merely for entertainment, but as a news source. Not only has this created new content, but it has globalized the protests in the Arab Spring. For example, famous activist/hacker group Anonymous helped keep the internet online in Syria, despite the Syrian government’s attempts to shut it down.

Social media has personalized the internet through adding a human factor that can connect millions of people from across the world, or just thousands in one country–as seen in the Arab Spring. This revolution of communication begs the question: what happens next?

World Bank Blog: How to Design an ICT Program for Education

In a blog post posted on EduTech, a World Bank blog on ICT use in education, author Michael Trucano, a senior ICT and education specialist, relays tips for how to plan an ICT program that will make an impact in education. Trucano first establishes that the country in which a program would be implemented needs to have the infrastructure to implement and maintain it. He emphasizes that the students and teachers both need to see the benefit of using computers and technology in the classroom.

On that note, if this technology does not exist in the classroom already, how should it be introduced and monitored over time?

According to another blog post by Trucano, giving students computers is not enough. As the post cites, a paper by Felipe Barrera-Osorio, a World Bank Economist and Leigh Linden of Columbia University, after analyzing 97 schools in Colombia, they found that computers had little impact on performance. The issue is that the programs “[fail] to incorporate the computers into the educational process.”

Profile: The International Telecommunications Union

The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) is a branch of the United Nations that specializes in ICTs. Founded in 1865 in Paris as the International Telegraph Union, ITU adapted its current name in 1934. In 1947, with the founding of the United Nations, it became an agency within it that specializes in ICTs. The ITU is an agency that works with both countries and the private sector to coordinate with its agenda. According to its website, ITU currently has “a membership of 193 countries and over 700 private-sector entities and academic institutions.”

ITU focuses on development projects, initiatives, and new technologies to fulfill its vision.

ITU focuses on:

  • development projects [such as telebanking and telemedicine]
  • cyber threats to provide security to the world
  • social media
  • many more

ITU vision: “committed to connecting the world”

Bridging the Gender Digital Divide: A Closer Look at Nigeria

This week in class, we discussed differences in gender access to ICTs in the developing world.  Known as the gender digital divide, studies in Africa have found that in most cases men have access more than women, especially in more urban areas, where access to ICTs is more common in general.

So, in what ways can these developing countries begin to close the gender digital divide in ICT4D?

One article from January 23, 2013, explores the significance of the Internet in recent social movements in countries like Cambodia, Nigeria, and Egypt. According to this article, Internet access is correlated to economic growth and increases economic opportunities.  However, studies have found that although growth is being achieved through access to the Internet, women and girls are overwhelmingly being left behind in this trend.  Helping women move forward too can lead to greater economic growth. Other studies have found that women who have access to the Internet have increased access to education, jobs, and improved health opportunities.

Through all of these studies, one country—Nigeria—recognizing the importance of the Internet in its economic growth, is planning on having countrywide access to the Internet. Through its current initiative, Nigeria will be focusing on broadband Internet, which is of better quality than narrowband capacity. Studies have also shown that there is a very close correlation between economic activities and broadband capacity at all levels of the state. Nigeria is setting an example by trying to implement broadband capacity in its entire country. Nigeria knows that it can afford to be a country where a gender digital divide exists—or any digital divide.

ICTs: The Spread of Grants

This week in our ICT4D class, we have been focusing on past theories for developmental approach, and current theories that are being discussed. One of the main barriers to the use of ICTs in development is the capability issue that Erwin Alampay outlines as a factor into how individuals use technology. However, before you can focus on how an individual uses technology, they have to have the technology, which leads us to ICT4D projects.

Recently, the Information Society Innovation Fund [ISIF Asia] received approximately $350,000 [in US dollars] for ICT projects. The funds are a record-breaking amount of money for ISIF Asia, and they will allow them to grow and expand many projects that they are working on. ISIF Asia will be taking this money and distributing it as seed grants to 11 projects that have applied to receive the grants. What is most interesting about these projects is that they mirror what Heeks describes as “ICT4D 2.0” and focus on different types of access to the developing world. For example, one program in India is called Smart Phones for the Deaf Blind, Bidirectional Access Promotion Society. This program fits Heeks definition of ICT4D 2.0 because it is focusing the spread of mobile phones in a program that can actually have a long-term impact in Indian society. Other programs will be focusing on different perspectives of ICTs, like rights in regard to the internet. Whether or not these projects are moving in a direction that will establish best development practices for ICTs is still to be determined, but the only way to find out is to implement the programs.

Barriers to Closing the Digital Divide

This week in our ICT4D class, we discussed different indicators for ICTs, such as accessibility. One of our main focuses was on the fact that technology is a dynamic field, continuously changing. These changes lead to what is known as the digital divide, or “the growing differnces in access to and use of ICTs at a range of scales, from local to international” (Unwin, p. 26).

What contributes to the digital divide that can lead to hindrances in development programs based around ICTs?

Countries around the world have been developing programs based around ICTs to improve their countries. However, a number of skeptics are asking whether technology can create progress in development. For example, last week, in the Philippines, their Department of Social Welfare and Development launched a program that uses tweets from users to find kids from the street. This program is an innovative way for the government to be more aware of what is going within their cities. However, the main issue that the department has been having is that the citizens do not trust the government. While these kids probably are homeless, without a means to get by, and do need help, users have sent tweets in that illustrate their belief that these children will not be helped, but rather hidden from the public view. If the users do not trust their own government, how can anything be changed? If they did trust the government, would this program actually succeed in helping people?