Author Archives: Paige Boetefuer

Egypt National ICT Resources

The Arab Republic of Egypt’s Ministry of Communication and Information Technology  has a detailed and easy to find description of the National ICT Policy on their website, which can be found here.  The ICT for Development strategy is one aspect of the overall national strategy that can be found using the “ICT for Development” hyperlink on the main ICT Strategy page or by clicking here.  These resources are all available in English, which is extremely helpful.  I found it quite easy to find information regarding Egypt’s national ICT strategy by utilizing the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology’s website.   Additionally, the Ministry makes publications regarding national ICT plans available to the public on their website.  In 2003, they country published a report entitled “Egypt’s Vision of the Information Society.”  In 2005, the Ministry published a report outlining “the initiatives implemented to bolster Egypt’s transition into a fully-fledged information society , in a report entitled “Egypt’s Information Society.”   The next edition of the ICT strategy  was published in 2007: “Egypt’s ICT Strategy 2007- 2010.”   All of these reports are available in English.  However, the most recent ICT strategy publication – “Egypt’s ICT Strategy 2012-2017” – is only available in Arabic.

I found the Ministry’s website to be the most useful resource regarding Egypt’s national ICT strategy.  Unlike many other students, researching my country’s ICT plan was relatively easy (especially because the information is available in English).  The United Nations also published an ICT Policy Review of Egypt’s national ICT strategy, which is another helpful resource.


Lessons Learned and Skills Developed This Semester

 

This semester, I learned many valuable lessons about ICT4D, but I also learned some very important skills that will help me as a development professional in the future.  Class assignments such as blogging and tweeting for the class blog and from the class twitter account have allowed me to develop social media skills and better understand how to utilize these tools for academic and professional purposes.  Prior to this course, I had utilized social media mainly for personal reasons, connecting with friends and family, and sharing information for non-academic purposes.  Although I followed some official news sources on Twitter from my personal account and connected with international development organizations via Facebook, this class has allowed me to expand my social media networks, find new development experts to follow, and exposed me to new ways to use social media in a professional and academic way.  Living in a world where almost every organization and company participates in social media, these skills are extremely valuable.

With the final project, I was also able to engage in open source mapping and gain a first hand experience working with one of the ICT4D tools we have discussed in class.  We were also given the chance to use a One Laptop Per Child computer earlier in the semester.  This allowed us to see first hand how the laptop works (as well as gain a new perspective of the laptop’s limitations and unique interface).  Being able to take a hands on approach and actually use the technologies we discuss in class has allowed me to better understand problems that may arise and common flaws of ICT4D projects, as well as the positive aspects of these technologies.

 

 

In most International Development courses, we are only able to discuss concepts and projects in theory.  However, in this class we were able to use the ICT tools that we are discussing.  Not only did we engage in conversations via social media with other development experts and learn the value of academic social media uses, but we also had the chance to  struggle through the process of learning a new technology (ie. OSM).

Throughout this semester, we have emphasized the importance of taking a bottom-up or people-centered approach, working with the target population from the beginning, recognizing the needs and capabilities of the population, and understanding the importance of user interfaces, ICT support and training, and user-friendliness.  Being able to access the same technologies that are used in the field allows us to understand why these best practices are so important and have solidified these lessons in our minds.


Evgeny Morozov & the dark side of ICTs

During our class on Tuesday, guest lecturer Adam Papedieck mentioned Evgeny Morozov and encouraged us to check out his TedTalks about the “dark side” of ICTs in developing nations.

Check out the TedTalk by Evgeny Morozov, How the Net Aids Dictatorships, here!   This video greatly compliments the other videos and writings by Morozov and Clay Shirky that my peers have analyzed this week in response to Papedieck’s suggestion.

Morozov criticizes the view that we can promote democracy through the spread of ICTs and the Internet.  In class and many blog posts, we have highlighted crowdsourcing, blogging, Internet access, and the social media as means to promote development, democratize information, and empower marginalized communities.  However, Morozov points out that the Internet perpetuates authoritarianism in many developing nations and defers democracy.

It’s important that consider both the positive and negative outcomes of ICT proliferation.  While we focus on positive uses of ICTs and potential development outcomes, we must be sure not to ignore potential unintended consequences.  This TedTalk is not meant to present a pessimistic view of ICT or to discourage optimistic ICT4D efforts, rather it is meant to encourage realism and encourage us to take consider all possible outcomes.  Morozo ends with this great quote: “We have to stop thinking about the number of iPods per capita, and we can start thinking about ways we can empower intellectuals, dissidents, NGOs, and the members of civil society.”


Cyber-criminals Took Advantage of Civil Unrest in Egypt

” Today our guest lecturer discussed cybercrime and various implications for security in the U.S. and international implications.  I decided to investigate issues of cyber crime and related problems in Egypt, the country I am focusing on this semester.

I found this interesting article — “Cyber-criminals taking advantage of Egypt unrest”  — about cyber crime in Egypt during the democratic revolution and civil unrest in recent years.  Although cyber crime is a problem at all times in the digital age society infiltrated by technology, cyber criminals (like any criminals) look for strategic points of entry and weaknesses.

In this article, James Lyne explains,”over the last year we have seen so many occasions where Anonymous [hacking group] and alike have attacked online services for political reasons. The reason for the increase is simple, we are all putting more of our lives online, governments and general public are putting more of their critical infrastructure online so it is an ideal way to attack. It is more anonymous than storming physically, it is less of a risk and it is as, if not more disruptive than a physical protest because so many of us rely on those services.”  This very much resembles the main points made today in our lecture.

However, there is another point made in the article that we did not discuss in class…

The article points out: “When Michael Jackson passed away, the top three hits on Google for a period of time were fake anti-virus sites, above CNN.com who spend an astronomical amount of money trying to do search engine optimisation, so be very cautious of the links you click online whether you are from Egypt or not. Whilst this is a hotspot of press activity, the bad guys will be looking to use you.”  This is a great tip to add to the list of ways to avoid viruses or other forms malware (along with not clicking on links in emails and maintaining up-to-date anti-virus software on your computer).  It is important to be aware of potential targets for cyber crime.  With millions of people across the world searching for news stories and updates about the situation in Egypt, cyber criminals look at this as the perfect opportunity to reach a new victims.

Hactivism was another major issue throughout the revolution and unrest in Egypt. The article notes that there have been “many occasions where Anonymous [hacking group] and alike have attacked online services for political reasons,” and goes on to explain that “the reason for the increase is simple, we are all putting more of our lives online, governments and general public are putting more of their critical infrastructure online so it is an ideal way to attack.”

This is a great article that touches on many of the topics we discussed today in class, and it broadens the conversation to a more international focus and to include important current events that have effected part of the developing world.  It’s definitely worth reading at length.


Tweak the Tweet

Yesterday during class, our guest lecturer, Sara Estes Cohen, mentioned a social media tool called “Tweak the Tweet.” I had never heard of Tweak the Tweet before, so I decided to investigate and find out exactly what it is.  I found this website that explains what it is.

According to this source, Tweet the Tweet is “a hashtag-based syntax to help direct Twitter communications for more efficient data extraction for those communicating about disaster events. Use requires modifications of Tweet messages to make information pieces that refer to #location, #status, #needs, #damage and several other elements of emergency communications more machine readable.”

Click on this link to see a live map of the U.S. with geolocated tweets.  Tweak the Tweet geolocated tweets with hashtags such as #snow #shelter #damage.

Tweak the Tweet utilizes Twitter as a two-way communication channel for information during emergencies, crises, and disasters. This is a great example of how social media can play a role in development, especially in regards to disasters and crises.


Pinterest for Education

Although we discussed some of the most basic and widely used ICTs for education during our class presentation, there is another interesting ICT tool that is used by many teachers in the US that may be useful in other areas of the world.  Pinterest is a very new and unique ICT tool that allows people to share links to blogs, images, and various resources available online in an organized way.  People use pinterest to find and organize internet resources that are of interest to them and to share them with their social networks.  Recently, teachers have discovered the amazing benefits of using pinterest.  If you go to pinterest and search for boards entitled “teacher” you will see all of these results. Teachers use pinterest to share teaching methods, lesson plans, multimedia teaching resources, and links to teacher blogs.  This is a unique and interesting use of an ICT to improve the quality of education and skills of teachers through collaboration, communication, democratization of information, and technology.  Now, there are even blog posts on well-known teacher blogs — such as this one on edutopia.org — that provides an overview of how to use pinterest for education, so that teachers who aren’t familiar with pinterest can learn how to take advantage of this new tool.  This new type of collaboration has greatly helped teachers in the U.S., and I wonder if this is an ICT that could be used to improve education and teacher training in the developing world.  Obviously internet penetration and computer access, language barriers, lack of culturally relevant material, and the considerations that are important for any ICT for education project would need to be addressed.  However, this certainly an interesting possibility for the future once the primary technology needs have been addressed.


More from Dr. Robert Munro on Tracking Epidemics, Emergency Response, Crowdsourcing, and Natural Language Processing

Today in class, we had a guest lecturer – Dr. Robert Munro – that led the class via a telecommunications source.  His discussion of crowdsourcing and natural language processing was extremely interesting, but there were a few concepts that I did not fully understand.  I decided to do a little more research about these topics online, and  I found this short video that features a brief talk given by Dr. Munro, which gives a great overview of the topics discussed in today’s lectures.  Click here to watch it!

Today’s lecture was extremely insightful and provided us with an example of how ICTs can have a hugely positive impact on development, especially in regards to epidemics and disasters.  The video is a nice supplement to the classroom lecture and gives a brief overview of some of the important topics and an extremely helpful explanation of some of the key terms and concepts discussed in our lecture today.

Here is a video of another lecture given by Dr. Munro: click here to watch this video! This video is longer and provides a more in depth description of the topics discussed today, as well as some topics and examples that Dr. Munro did not have time to cover today.

I wanted to highlight these videos in my blog so that people who were  not able to be in class (ie. non-Tulane students who are interested in the material we cover in our ICT4D course) are able to learn about these interesting ICT4D topics.  This blog is meant to serve as a forum to share information and create a public forum for discussion of ICT4D initiatives.  These initiatives and ICT tools are amazingly interesting and innovative examples of how ICT can be used for development.  I think it is important that these tools and success stories be shared among the development community.

I also think that the fact that the lecture today was presented through telecommunications (which allowed Dr. Monru to present a lecture to our class from a distance location) and the fact that these videos are available to the public on youtube are excellent examples of how ICTs can be useful for education.  Telecomm improves communication capabilities, and forums like youtube allow for information and knowledge to be made available to anyone with internet access for free.  Lectures available on youtube are an excellent example of the democratization of information and knowledge.