Author Archives: ohaberer

ICT4D End of Semester Reflection & Final Rant

When I initially signed up for this class, I had no idea what to expect. I had never viewed development in the context of technology. I did not dismiss the significance technology could play in everything-“development,” from building resilient communities to poverty alleviation, I just tended to divorce technology from the underlying solutions to many of the world’s problems or put it on the so-called “back-burner.”

It also seemed to me that Information and Communication Technology for Development or as we labeled it ICT4D is such a broad topic that it would be impossible to cover it over the course of one semester. And it was. What I gained, however, was a well-designed and concise overlook at all the most prominent topics in the field and the most popular models and approaches. I learned the indispensable use of radio in the most remote of places, and I learned the step-by-step of designing the most human-sensitive models to development (AKA Human-Centered Design model).  Surely, this knowledge will help me in any development project I tend to pursue in the future.

I was introduced to technology that I was not well versed in before such as Open Street Mapping and Twitter (and in terms of JOSM or crowd sourced mapping, not well-versed is putting it lightly. I had absolutely NO idea what I was doing.” I realized that a non-proficient use of many of the technology we were introduced to including simply maintaining a blog would inhibit any progress in becoming development professionals or working in most development situations.

Information and Communication technology are becoming every-increasingly integrated into our society. Put it simply, it has undeniably become the lifeline of our society, the fabric that connects all the sectors and all the individuals working within them. It is no longer a question whether we should employ it, but rather how can we most effectively do so? And in this class, the notion I already held for a long time, was constantly reenforced. It could only be done in a manner that is very sensitive to and well–informed about the communities for which the technology is introduced.

I learned that ICTs have the power to spark revolutions, promote the most basic human dignities, empower a wide range of individuals from women to farmers, and mitigate the most devastating of disasters. I also learned that they have the power to rapidly spread false information or be dangerously misused in many ways. The most important thing I learned was that I know nothing close to all I should know in the field, and that I have to orient myself with all the countless emerging technologies and applications being created every day.


Government Employees Need to get Schooled on Cybersecurity

This week, both our classmate Annie Mellon and our guest speaker Professor Ralph Russo, briefly discussed the pressing issue of cyber security and cited examples from different security breaches including worms that invade control systems in nuclear plants to mobile applications that hijack airplanes. Russo mentioned that he fears the government does not know how to cope with many of these serious threats. After researching the matter, it turns out they don’t.

According to an article by CBS (http://goo.gl/KZd3L), no organized, across-the-board computer safety training is offered for employees even though electronic data theft from governments among other issues are unquestionably on the rise. One would think at least Wikileaks or Anonymous would be a wake-up call.

Information technology experts view training as an integral component of cybersecurity and D.C. officials admit their own employees should be more educated on computer use (yet seem to have a hard time acting on it), especially as governments face sophisticated cyber-threats such as those referenced above and as human errors have contributed (and will continue to contribute) to widespread data breaches.

While government officials have legitimate points when they argue that developing internet security through new products and tools come first, others argue that it should be the other way around. What do you all think? Should training be put on the so-called back-burner for now?

One might have to consider what Eric Chapman, deputy director of the Maryland Cybersecurity Center at the University of Maryland, has to say:

If you have one user who’s fundamentally unaware of what a spear-phishing email looks like, the entire enterprise is vulnerable

If US employees are incompetent at dealing with these rapidly emerging issues, government employees in the developing word certainly are not equipped to dealing with them. Will basic training even suffice to combat many of the issues? Hacking into the cyber space has become more sophisticatedly performed with every day. These are ill-intentioned uber-geniuses we are dealing with.


Social Media & Social Etiquette, Boston Tragedy brings issue to light

In class this week,we addressed the social media frenzy that followed the unfolding of the tragic events that occurred in Boston earlier this week (two explosions went off near the finish line of the Boston Marathon). As we mentioned in class and as Sarah references in her blog post, the reaction was quick and in many cases inaccurate. Individuals were arguably disrespecting the horrific tragedy by spreading false information and fabricating mythical iconic characters that died in the horrific event.

While this issue is very strongly argued to be breaking the rules of social media etiquette, there has been another, more subtle violation  to one’s “online manners.” Many active social media users were alarmed by the prevalent apathy that seemed to plague many Facebook and Twitter uses in the past few days following the event. Rather than publishing content that payed respect to the victims of the incident or at the very least refrain from posting happy, trivial statuses, many users were observed posting Spring Break Photos and complaining about having too many great summer music festivals to choose from.

This all raised the fundamental question: what isn’t appropriate to digitally talk about during a national tragedy?

“There are no concrete rules about these things, but you want to think about who it is affecting, how many people, the scope and scale before you share and as you move into sharing other things,” Jodi R.R. Smith, author of “The Etiquette Book,” told ABC News in an interview. (http://goo.gl/m95nL)

It seems that users need to recognize the larger context they are in, their posts much reach a wider audience than they initially expect them to, and they could be linked to someone who was affected in some manner by the tragedy.

However, some argue it’s ultimately the choice of the one who has been personally affected by the incident. Since they have no control over all the users they are linked to on these sites and all the potential content they may post, it is wise for them to remove themselves from the social media for the time being. Someone is ought to post something that will make them feel uncomfortable in this sensitive time.

I personally agree that on both ends, users must be conscious of the other users. Since one might be in a fragile state of mind, it is important that they are not connected to such a large and overwhelming social network. At the same time, if something so tragic happens, it is pretty justified to ask users to hold of their daily junk for another time, so they don’t distract individuals from important updates.

How would you all define social etiquette? In the scenarios provided, was social etiquette violated?


Kony 2012: Social Media Impact One Year Later

In class, we discussed the countless positives that have resulted from the rapid use of social media, from the Arab Spring to inside leakage on corrupt regimes. We also, however, mentioned the negatives of social media, which were epitomized by the example of KONY 2012, the viral video produced by Invisible Children that topped 100 million views on YouTube.

The video that called for the arrest and international justice of the leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army Joseph Kony was criticized on many different accounts: (1) it oversimplified a very complex issue (2) it advertised misleading & some arguably false accounts of the situation (for instance, Kony’s army by then was almost entirely in the DRC (3) it had paternalistic undertones and seemed to breed a new modern type of “trendy” colonialism (4) the organization was asking for funds that for the large part were not going to the cause at hand & (5) it put too much faith in the corrupt Ugandan government. The dangers of social media were beginning to emerge: the information was moving too rapidly for any of the misinformation to be cleared up and for American youth to comprehend that simply sharing a video would not solve the issue at hand and could be considered insulting to the population at hand.

So with all the backlash were there any positive outcomes?

Well, let’s get back to the negatives. There was an outrage from the Ugandan public after viewing the film, many of which went on to throwing rocks at Invisible Children members. The founder of the campaign was so overwhelmed by the criticism that he had a public breakdown (which likely would not have happened if the video hadn’t garnered such mass attention)

However, according to a LA blog (http://goo.gl/JPjUf), the viral video did elicit some of the anticipated outcomes (how much of which was actually the product of the short film is yet to be determined):

Two of the LRA’s top commanders have been removed from the battlefield and more fighters defected from the rebel group last year than in the previous three years combined, according to Invisible Children.

It’s ultimately up for everyone else to decide. Let me know what you think.

Meanwhile, the video that received a lot of attention and equivalent backlash was made into a non-stop online joke about the naivety of the American public.

Here are a few for your entertainment..

 


Radio Tackling Corruption in the Remote Areas

I have long been inspired by the potential of radio to enhance community and transparency in non-tech-savvy communities. It’s so simple, yet so powerful. The readings this week have reaffirmed this notion. From the use of the radio in information sharing in Agriculture to addressing community concerns and needs, the radio brings people together to overcome critical issues.

I read an article ( http://goo.gl/sgTGD) about an awesome initiative in Madagascar. In the summer of 2012, Transparency International had a radio call-in conference so people could ask questions about corruption.

People complained about a wide of issues dealing with transparency. These issues include local leaders, trafficking, problems with the judiciary. Questions ranged from “To protect myself from the insecurity in this region, I bought a gun from a policeman. The problem is, he did not give me the paperwork to prove I own it. Is this corruption? What should I do?” to “Traffic police keep asking for bribes. How can we refuse?” They asked both how to react to public corruption they have observed and how to evaluate their own actions.

The article stated that the positive influences of the call-in are not just quantitative, but rather also qualitative.

Going on the radio does more than reach a wide audience : it gives people a voice and raises the pressure on authorities to act.

legal-aid-radio

In the developed world, we are more sheltered and protected from major corruption, so we sometimes forget the significance of complete transparency. I personally think that above all the radio is most powerful in exposing corruption both within the government and outside of it. What do you think is the most important use of the radio in the development realm?


The Case of OLPC in Ethiopia

I might be one of the biggest critics of one child per laptop. Yes, there are ideological reasons. I think the traditional way of life in places should be preserved and I want to reduce waste. I also think that there is no magic cure-all solution. It has time and time again failed to increase retention in schools or improve math and language skills. It is also very costly.
I couldn’t imagine it being successful anywhere but after doing some research, I read about a successful experiment in Ethiopia. OLPC dropped 2 boxes of tablets (& of course their solar-powered chargers) in an Ethiopian village where almost everyone is illiterate. There was no instruction and it was pretty much “Hey kids, figure it out yourselves.
According to the article by Good (http://goo.gl/zweVB), amazing results ensued (although it’s legitimate to maintain a healthy dose of skepticism). Here is the description provided by MIT tech lab.

We left the boxes in the village. Closed. Taped shut. No instruction, no human being. I thought, the kids will play with the boxes! Within four minutes, one kid not only opened the box, but found the on/off switch. He’d never seen an on/off switch. He powered it up. Within five days, they were using 47 apps per child per day. Within two weeks, they were singing ABC songs [in English] in the village. And within five months, they had hacked Android. Some idiot in our organization or in the Media Lab had disabled the camera! And they figured out it had a camera, and they hacked Android.

The children gained the skills to ultimately hack the computers, but there are many questions left unanswered. How would they use these skills later? How many of the tablets were used? How many children actually learned to use them? Did they work with the computers independently or communally? How much English did they actually learn.

Thus, it might be asked, can the success of the program be fairly measured by this one outstanding case of success?

 

 

 

 


Palestine National ICT resources

While there is certainly not a wide selection of literature available on the ICT policy in the Palestinian territories, especially published by the government, there is some, and most is in English. There is only one published national ICT policy, and almost no literature published by the government available. The World Bank and Portland Trust reports provide a comprehensive view of the sector in the territories.

 

Government:

National ICT/Telecommunications Policy:

The Palestinian National Authority Statement of National Telecommunications Policy

Language: English

Published by: the minister of Telecommunications & Information Policy

Last Updated: April 2010

****provides a nice outline of plans for the ICT sector laid out by years

 

Prepared by Palestine Economic Policy Research Institute (MAS)

The ICT sector in the Palestinian Territory

Language: English

Published by: The Portland Trust

Date: August 2010

****detailed explanation of challenges facing the development of the sector

 

(Inter-government) World Bank Reports:

The Palestinian ICT Sector … A Three-Year Outlook…Based on Economic Indicators.

Author: Rami Wihaidi

Language: English

Date: May 2009

 

Challenges Facing ICT in Palestine

Author: Palestine Trade Center (PalTrade)

Language: English

Date: August 2010

 

With Gaza and the West Bank undergoing different developments in terms of ICT and facing differing political challenges, information concerning ICTs in Palestine is often inconsistent. While some address each specific territory, others address the territories as a whole.