Author Archives: paigewolff

ICT4D Professional Profile: Noble Kelly

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“You don’t need our permission to make a difference. It’s up to you!” -EBB

Noble Kelly is a thought leader in the ICT4D sector of education who has done extensive work in Canada and Africa.  Kelly entered the education field in 1991 as a high school teacher and later earned a post-baccalaureate degree in Education Technology.  Over time, he has become increasingly involved in advocacy, policy development and capacity-building, which is reflected in his non-profit NGO called Education Beyond Borders (EBB).

EBB, founded in 2007, sets out to close the achievement gap “…through teacher professional development and community education,” focusing on “…self-reliance, health, and capacity.”  According to EBB, “If the key to economic development and our young people’s future is education, then teachers should have resources, tools, and access to the Internet, as well as each other.”  Well aware that “Information and communication technologies are drivers of globalization and hold enormous potential for access to free content and the training of in-demand skills, but their rapid development runs the risk of further widening the digital divide as developing regions struggle to get connected,” Kelly ensures that his organization strives to avoid the latter situation.  Kelly’s appreciation for ICTs is also evidenced by his praise of the use of mobile technologies “…to support the work that we are doing in the field,” as “Isolation can be a huge detriment, or a huge obstacle, to much of our work.”

Though Kelly is busy with EBB, he has also been a teacher trainer and mentor through the Teaching and Learning in an Information Technological Environment Post Baccalaureate Program at Simon Fraser University.  Additionally, as a “….member of the Peace and Global Education action group for the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation…” he has been active in policy development, workshop leadership and advocacy for universal safe and inclusive schools.  Internationally, Kelly has worked on capacity-building and development initiatives in South Africa, as well as on “…education reform, teacher professional development and appropriate use and integration of ICT to engage learners within a cultural/local context,” in Ethiopia, Guyana, Tanzania, and Kenya.

To learn more about Kelly, follow him!

Photo Source


Cyber Invasion

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e0GmwMl8FIY (VIDEO REMOVED)

Any fan of The Office is familiar with Michael Scott’s pollyanna demeanor, as evidenced in the first 15 seconds of this clip pertaining to e-mail scamming. A major discomfort with modern cyber-hacking is that people are often unaware that their information is shared and exposed to others whom they did not directly designate access. While e-mail scams have been around for years, and many people have learned to “know one when they see one,” today’s information sharing through ICTs is increasingly less obvious–and thus more alarming. As reported by the New York Times, companies that fall victim to a hack are hesitant to report the situation out of fear of losing face. Check out the following article to see how several nations have addressed cyber-crime and why extensive awareness is necessary. As Chief Inspector Eric Loermans asserted, “There’s no crime anymore where there are no digital components built in.”


Uganda’s Needs Today


As we’ve been following up on the KONY 2012 campaign, we’ve learned that the extreme violence portrayed in Invisible Children’s YouTube video has not been a reality in Uganda for over half of a decade. This afternoon, somebody made the point that such portrayal dilutes the public image of a country that is, indeed, enjoying relative peace and growth. By the same token, it was also noted that the people of Uganda are facing true difficulties and that attention should be paid to current issues rather than issues of the past.

One issue highlighted on ugandaspeaks.com is nodding disease, a neurological disorder that causes consistent and debilitating seizures. One woman whose children have been afflicted with this illness explained that they are not only stigmatized in the community and unable to care for themselves, but that “When I go off to farm I tie them to the tree so they don’t get injured. If they walk off they don’t know where they are going they just keep walking and get lost.” There have been many cases of children seizing near cooking fires and becoming horridly burned because they cannot get themselves out of the fire.

While there is no known cure for this disorder, medical treatment is in its early stages and widespread coverage of this issue through social media & the Internet could just bring the necessary pieces of the puzzle together; “We see many people coming now to try to investigate,” said the mother, “So we have a little bit of hope. We are praying that these children will be cured.” Rather than KONY 2012, why not spread the BBC report on nodding syndrome through this site?


Checking the Checklist

ImagePlan International’s checklist for ICT usage in development programs and projects is as follows:

  1. Analyze Context
  2. Define Need
  3. Choose Strategy
  4. Assess Beneficiary Profiles (Undertake Participatory Communications Assessment)
  5. Choose Technology
  6. Adjust Content
  7. Build & Use Capacity
  8. Monitor Progress
  9. Maintain Sustainability
  10. Learn From Others’ Experiences & Disseminate Acquired Knowledge

While I agree that all of the steps are vital to the success of a program or project, I question their given sequence.  Typically, a need is identified before its context is understood.  (After Hurricane Katrina, I’m quite sure that the founders of lowernine identified the need for home reconstruction before anyone fully understood the context in which that would take place.)

Secondly, is it wise to decide on a strategy before assessing the way in which it may impact the community?  While the text does note that the assessment may, indeed, occur earlier in the process, I would find it illogical and inefficient to do it as step #4.

Lastly, why is learning from the experiences of others placed at the bottom of the list?!  Should that not be one of the preliminary steps?  One of the greatest issues with ICT4D projects and programs is that collaboration between projects and programs is so limited that inefficiency–and sometimes harm–is incurred in the process.

In short, my greatest issue with the checklist is the apparent lack of planning before implementation.  Call me crazy but I think it’s ridiculous to pick a place on the map –> learn all about the area –> figure out some issue –> come up with a plan of attack before considering intended impact –> consider intended impact –> throw in some technology –> decide whether or not that technology is actually helpful –> grow capacity –> see how things are going –> ensure that the project or program is maintained –> check out what others are doing in the field & let them know what you’ve been up to!


“Gender equality and empowerment of women through ICT”

Though several years old, the UN’s “Gender equality and empowerment of women through ICT” clearly explains the issues that women all over the world face today in regards to ICT. As the article very clearly states, “While there is recognition of the potential of ICT as a tool for the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women, a “gender divide” has also been identified, reflected in the lower numbers of women accessing and using ICT compared with men. Unless this gender divide is specifically addressed, there is a risk that ICT may exacerbate existing inequalities between women and men and create new forms of inequality,” (3). Nevertheless, what I prefer to share in this post is an example of how ICT has been used to benefit the position of women in a LDC.

As a preface, this article highlights real examples from Brazil, Senegal, India, Malaysia, Korea, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Ghana, Fiji, Slovakia, Malawi, etc., which I urge you to look at for ideas. The case that I will highlight is this one: In Costa Rica, there is a feminist program called FIRE, which is transmitted both through the radio and the Internet. Through FIRE, women can access vital support regarding “…sensitive issues, such as violence against women, women in conflict areas and child abuse,” (11). Additionally, “…the website contains written information and a photo gallery of events where women are key actors,” (11). I’ve also hyper-linked FIRE’s website, so check it out; there are some articles available in English for those of you que no hablan español. =]


“Video-Mediated Farmer-to-Farmer Learning for Sustainable Agriculture”

In October of 2011, the organization Agro-Insight conducted a study prompted by The Global Forum for Rural Advisory Services (GFRAS), the Sustainable Agriculture Initiative (SAI) Platform, & the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) to identify the recipe for success in common or open exchange video platforms for farmers in developing countries. The study found that 8 in 10 respondents had, indeed, used the Internet to find and learn from agricultural videos. The 2 in 10 that had not done so struggled with A) successfully navigating the WWW, B) finding videos pertaining to relevant information, or B) finding videos in the appropriate language. Thus, 85% of the respondents asserted that accessibility of videos in local languages is “very important.” Beyond that, videos in local languages, but of poor quality, were not preferred to high quality videos made in foreign languages & translated into local languages. Farmers indicated the need for information regarding “crops and trees, water management, plant health, soil health, and farmers’ organizations.” If anything can be said for these results, it is that ICT4D must be pertinent to local needs and customs in order to be successful.


MOBILE PHONES: WHAT FOR?

In this TED presentation, a researcher from Nokia touches on a common use of mobile phones in Uganda–a use that is essentially unheard of in the United States. This is exemplary of the manner in which ICT has a multitude of potential functions that designers or original users may never have thought of or believed to be pertinent. If ICT is to be implemented truly 4D, the potential benefits of the consumers in developing regions must be considered, regardless of the utility of a given application in external contexts. Take a look at the video and see one way in which mobile phones are used in Uganda–I think you will be surprised!


The Improper, Hazardous, & Unconscionable Disposal of e-Waste


I’m not going to write much, as the visuals from this FRONTLINE report do more justice to the situation than my words ever could. I urge you to witness, through this video, the detrimental & irresponsible ways in which electronics from developed countries are dumped into developing countries, placing the worst cons of technology onto the people who rarely–if ever–experience its pros.


The Downfalls of Broad MDGs

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We noted yesterday that “Universal Education” potentially means nothing for development if explicit criterion for said education are not put in place.  In recent years, this has been the case in some of the world’s poorest countries.  While primary school enrollment has increased significantly since the turn of the century, universal educational attainment has not made similar strides.  

Two weeks ago, New York Times contributor Tina Rosenberg reported that “Schools in poor parts of Latin America, Asia and Africa often have no books or teaching materials other than a chalkboard…Teachers sometimes don’t speak the same language as their students. Absenteeism — among teachers, not just students — is astronomical, and some teachers just never show up at all…governments have not been able to add teachers and new buildings at the same rate as they are adding new pupils.  There are schools in Malawi with 175 children per class.  And the children coming to school for the first time now are the least likely to make progress, because they are starting late and are disadvantaged by the same factors that kept them out of school before — they are from the very poorest households, their labor is needed, their families neglect girls.”

While some of the rationale lacks full explanation (i.e. not that the students are disadvantaged because they are poor, but rather that they are, for example, more susceptible to illness because they don’t have fiscal access to nutritious food, proper healthcare, sanitary living environments, etc.), I do think that Rosenberg called attention to several points that should have been outlined in the MDGs; availability of resources, language of instruction, attendance rate, class size, physical school conditions, etc. all have major impact on the success–or failure–of a school and its students.  It’s not enough to strive towards “Universal Education” if “Universal Education” may be considered an overstuffed class with upwards of two hundred children that is conducted in a foreign language without teaching materials or even, in some cases, a teacher! 

While it may sound nice on paper, affirming that education has improved significantly over the past twelve years is detrimental to the millions of students that have, indeed, started attending school but still have been deprived of learning; if such is the case (which it seems to be, with the UN tooting its own horn) less attention will be paid to these disadvantaged children, under the false assumption that they are receiving a sufficient education that will lead them down the path of a promising, more developed and prosperous adulthood.

Tina Rosenberg’s “A Boost for the World’s Poorest Schools”

 


Combating the Digital Divide: An Example in Practice

Neighbors Link Computer Class

In the midst of a seemingly endless civil war, which ultimately lasted 36 years, many Guatemalans made the heart wrenching decision to leave the only land they’d ever known and seek out a better life in the United States. While the journey was dangerous and uncertain, it seemed better than the alternative: remaining a war-torn nation “marked by abductions and violence, including mutilations and public dumping of bodies,” where “the vast majority, 93 percent, of human rights violations perpetrated during the conflict were carried out by state forces and military groups.” According to Heifer International, “The Guatemalan Civil War claimed 200,000 lives and chased 1.5 million people from their homes.”

Incidentally, in the 1980s, a small number of Guatemalans began immigrating to New York and settling down in Mt. Kisco, a town some 40 miles north of the city. With continued violence, lack of economic opportunities, and social injustice in Guatemala, emigrants increasingly set forth to this town.

Today, over 1 in 4 residents in Mt. Kisco are Latino immigrants, some of whom had very limited access to education and are illiterate. Ironically, others were teachers in their homeland.

In 2000, a community center called Neighbors Link was established “To strengthen the whole community by actively enhancing the healthy integration of immigrants” through education, empowerment, and employment. Amongst the many programs offered at this center, there are “Skills Development” courses, one of which combats the digital divide that we’ve recently addressed. Regardless of prior knowledge–or lack thereof–students receive “personalized instruction in basic computer skills” while their children are looked after in the next room over.

I’ve had the pleasure of volunteering and interning at Neighbors Link, so I’ve seen first-hand the impact of these development classes. I think it’s important to remember that, while we talk about ICT4D in the context of developing nations, there is also a tremendous digital divide within “developed” nations that should not be overlooked!

References:
PBS
Heifer International
Neighbors Link