Author Archives: rwoolworth

Pakistan National ICT Resources

National Policy/Strategy Document:

  • Here is Pakistan’s National IT Policy! It was revised in June 2012 by the Ministry of Information Technology, the state Planning Commision, the Pakistan Technology Industry Association (P@SHA), and local and expatriate Pakistanis. The report is written in English and is very detailed and helpful.

 

Government Websites:

  • Here is the Pakistani Ministry of Information Technology’s website, updated in 2012. It is all in English and provides many helpful links, including public comments on the National ICT Policy.

 

  • This is the website for the Pakistani Planning Commission, which is working on rethinking “the country’s growth strategy with a view to developing policy and reform ideas for achieving a sustainable growth acceleration.” The Commission helped co-author the National ICT Policy.

 

External Resources:

 

 

  • This overview of Pakistan’s media access in 2010 by AudienceScapes has lots of interesting information on ICT penetration in the country. It also discusses the Pakistani government’s censorship of the media.

 

  • The CIA World Factbook has a very informative page on Pakistan, updated in 2012. It is a great site to get familiarized with the country, but also has a detailed summary of Pakistan’s communication sector. 

 

Pakistan is a great choice, its ICT industry is currently one of the fastest emerging in Southeast Asia. They have a very detailed National IT Policy and though it is quite overreaching it gives you lots to work with! Additionally, all the resources are in English. This is a pivotal time for Pakistan both economically and politically–I would definitely recommend choosing it to research throughout your semester!

 


Lessons Learned: The Future Sustainability of ICT4D

The importance of sustainability in ICT4D projects is of the most salient lessons to be learned in the field. Just as any other development project, ICT initiatives are not one-shot deals, they are continuous and complex. Many factors must be considered in ICT projects from infrastructure needs, to education of local populations, to the complexity of ICT devices, to continued funding in future years. Many ICT4D projects have failed to adequately consider such factors, leaving the field with an exponentially high failure rate. For example, the One Child Per Laptop project failed for many of these reasons. Internet access was limited in many of the communities, teachers were not adequately trained on how to use the devices, and the computers ended up being more expensive than promised.

Richard Heeks discusses the field’s past failures and lays out a formula for the future of ICT4D in The ICT4d 2.0 Manifesto: Where Next for ICTs and International Development? Heeks believes ICT4D is moving into a new phase (ICT4D 2.0), which will be more sustainable than the “quick, off-the-shelf solutions” of the past. ICT4D 2.0 will do so by emphasizing existing technologies, allowing organizations to focus on the actual application of ICTs. As Heeks discusses the most effective ICTs are also the simplest — radio and mobile phones. More complex and expensive technologies like computers and telecenters are much less successful in development initiatives. Looking past flashy technologies to the most practical ICTs is essential to the future sustainability of the field.

Including local stakeholders in the ICT4D project development is also essential to the sustainability of projects. As discussed in class, there must be demand from a local community for an initiative to be successful. The community should identify a preexisting need before it is detected by an organization. The local community must also hold a sense of investment in the ICT endeavor; they should be financially and intellectually linked to the project. Locals should be trained in the ICT to ensure sustainability and should understand what the technology has to offer, how it can better their community. Though I think the field of ICT4D is a full of promise, its future is threatened by projects that ignore these basic principles.


“How Social Media Can Make History”

After hearing Adam Papendieck speak this afternoon I decided to check out Clay Shirky’s TEDtalk he mentioned, How Social Media Can Make History. Shirky’s talk is fascinating; he articulately synthesizes many of the themes we have discussed this semester, as well as a host of new information.

Shirky begins his talk by discussing how social media is often used as an avenue for social capital, the idea that we are all in it together and will collectively gain from helping one another out, from cooperating. He sites the example of VideoVote, an application in 2008 that allowed people to look out for voter suppression, ensuring the sanctity of the vote by visually documenting polling places.

He then titles the age we are living through as “the largest increase in expressive capability in human history,” classifying it as one of the five media revolutions of human history. Shirky lists these revolutions in chronological order: the invention of the printing press, the creation of two way communication through telegraph and telephone, the documentation of recorded media in photos, sound, and movies, the harnessing of the electromagnetic spectrum in radio and TV, and the Internet. What he finds most revolutionary about the Internet in comparison to these other media revolutions is its “many to many pattern,” that users can act as producers and consumers. The audience can now talk back to the producer, as well as to other audience members.

Another factor Shirky discusses is that all forms of media are now on the Internet. The Internet is now not only a type of media itself, but a site of coordination for all media. Shirky believes the Internet has forever changed the nature of media, stating “we are increasingly in a landscape where media is global, social, ubiquitous and cheap.” He sees the current role of the media as less about crafting a certain message for individuals, and more as a way of creating an environment for convening and supporting groups.  The future of the Internet and media itself, depends on the masses, not the few.


An Overview of the Debate Over Wikileaks

After discussing cyber security and homeland security this week I thought it would be interesting to investigate Wikileaks and its future in the world. In doing so, I read Transparency and Secrets by Jason Pontin, discussing both the mission behind Wikileaks, how it works, how it should be defined and what it means for the world.

The mission of Wikileaks is a matter of much debate, differing greatly depending on the party asked. Julian Assange, founder and mastermind behind Wikileaks, sees the organization as a way to undermine states and corporations by “interfering with their ability to think.” He believes it is a 21st century mercenary whose weapon is transparency, the answer to ending modern conspiracy. Assange writes that “we can split the conspiracy, reduce or eliminating important communications between a few high weight links or many low weight links.” Assange hopes Wikileaks will not just act as a whistle-blower, but as a de-stabilizer.

So how does Wikileaks work? How does Assange hope to bring justice to the world through a single website? The site permits the anonymous transfer of files over the Internet through using the TOR network and encryption, disguising their content. It is the ultimate “secure drop box,” a platform anyone can participate in and cannot be traced from. So far Wikileaks has published around 20,000 files — all uploaded to the site voluntarily by anonymous contributors.

Wikileaks has a controversial and notorious resume. To name a few Wikileaks has uploaded the emails of Sarah Palin, many allegations of bank fraud, U.S. Army protocols from the Guantanamo detention center, and most famously U.S. Army files from the Afghanistan War. So the question remains, is Wikileaks criminally accountable for uploading these classified documents for the world to see?

It all depends on how we define the organization. At Wikileak’s founding Assange envisioned a crowdsourcing organization, one that would survive through average citizens sorting through the thousands of documents, organizing and interpreting the published documents in their free time. Yet when that failed the organization turned the wiki functions off and began to employ editors to decide what was important enough to publish. After this step Wikileaks relies upon professional media organizations such as the New York Times and the Guardian to sift through documents. Assange now classifies Wikileaks as a media organization that publishes journalism.

Yet the U.S. Department of State and other opponents to the organization claim that Wikileaks is not a media organization. They emphasize that it does no reporting, publishes no original writing and employs no journalists. Pontin finds a middle point between these two viewpoints. He believes Wikileaks should be defined as a “stateless, distributed intelligence network, a reverse image of the U.S. National Security Agency, dedicated to publicizing secrets rather than acquiring them, unconstrained and answerable to a single man.” These difficulties in defining the organization and its mission will continue to cloud the debate over and mission of Wikileaks for years to come.


“Syria: A War Reported By Citizen-Journalists, Social Media”

This article, written by David Arnold explains that ordinary Syrian citizens are the cheif reporters of the Syrian conflict. Because President Bashar al-Assad has prevented international media from providing on-the-ground coverage of the conflict, Syrian citizens have filled their role — using social media websites to interact with the world. Arnold cites hundreds, if not thousands of Syrian activists as using ICT devices such as smartphones, cameras and video cameras to visually document events. Such anonymous citizen-journalists then post their footage to Facebook, Youtube, Twitter and more, enabeling citizens to show the government’s atrocities to the rest of the world and make their voices heard, despite Assad’s international media blackout.

In addition to posting visual documentation to social media sites, these citizen-journalists often directly inform international news sources of recent events. For example Liz Sly, the Washington Posts’s Baghdad bureau chief who is in charge of reporting on the Syrian conflict, depends on over 100 Syrian amateur journalists to inform her newspaper’s articles. Though verifying their information is difficult, there is no other alternative.

The civilian opposition within Syria also relies on citizen-journalists. For example, the Local Coordination Committees of Syria (LCC) depends on hundreds of voluneteers to document protests, strikes, and government attrocities to inform its 24-hour reporting to the international media. Additionally, Rami Jarrah, a Syrian blogger residing in Cairo, recently founded the Activists News Association (ANA) which provides citizen reporters in Syria with training and equipment.

Arnold emphasizes that these citizen-journalists risk their lives daily to communicate Assad’s attrocities to the world and bring justice to their county. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has labeled Syria as the most dangerous country for journalists in the world, listing 13 journalists as killed in the country to date. Yet the overall estimate of killed journalists who were unknown or working for the LCC is likely much higher.  For example, Rafif Jouejati, a spokesperson for the LCC stated “We’ve lost a great many activists detained, arrested, tortured to death and shot on the spot,” said Jouejati. “It is in the hundreds.”

The combined role of  citizen-journalists and social-media in Syria is of the utmost importance. Social media is helping Syrian citizens find their voice amidst utter repression, as citizens capture government attrocities and post their footage for all the world to see. An everyday, individual citizen under severe repression can now influence an international audiences’ opinion–a phenomenon unique to the digitized world of the 21st century.


CAMELTEC: Minimizing the Effects of Climate Variability in Peru

This case study focuses on radio’s contribution to the livelihoods of Alpaca farmers in the Peruvian Andes. Over recent decades Alpaca farmers have seen an increase in climate variability, which has led to a set of cold spells that have killed livestock, reduced birth rates, introduced new diseases, and reduced yields of their herds. In 2008 the Peruvian NGO Desco joined with Oxfam GB to pilot the CAMELTEC project “aiming to address technological, social, political and institutional issues that affected these communities.” CAMELTEC was based around information access–using radio to offer meteorological warnings and advice on how to reduce the impact of climate variability on animal death. Radio broadcasts were provided in preparation of weather events and throughout the events themselves. Additionally, CAMELTEC offered information on market pricing for alpaca wool, institutional support from local governments and more.

Specifically, CALEMTEC applied this information through a weekly radio broadcast called Amanecer Alpaquero (Alpaca Farmer’s Daybreak), provided in both Spanish and Quechua (the most important indigenous language of the region). This program was popular not only because of its informational value, but because of its use of humour and music. The program also offered women a unique opportunity to provide input, giving farming women opportunities for learning which were unavailable before because of cultural and family reasons.

This radio program was very successful, reaching around 2,000 people instantaneously at a very low cost (only $900 a month). More than 80% of respondents said the tuned in weekly to the show and since the start of CAMELTEC the mortality rate of alpacas has been reduced from 18% for adults and 25% for calves to 12% overall, saving about $500 worth of livestock per farmer.


Pakreport: Crowdsourcing for the Pakistan Floods

Pakreport is an ICT initiative that began in response to the 2010 Pakistani floods. The initiative’s case study describes the program as bringing together crowdsourcing companies, crisis mapping organizations, relief agencies, and engineers in a disaster management effort. Pakreport achieved this through utilizing Ushahidi software in two forms of crowdsourcing: the use of people to provide reports from the ground and use of people around the globe to translate, categorise and geolocate incoming messages. Once this information was processed it was displayed on pakreport.org in an online map for all to see.

As seen in Haiti’s Mission 4636 which we discussed in class, the main source of information for Pakreport was from on the ground assessments from local relief agencies. Similar to 4636, Pakreport set up a 3441 SMS code with the message “what you see about floods,” which was spread via the mass media and relief agency workers. This led to an exponential increase in data, most of which needed to be translated from Pashto or Urdu to English. As in Haiti, volunteers from around the world came together to help evaluate these messages. In the end Pakreport collected over 1,500 real time reports from people on the ground through SMS, while crowd volunteers completed over 2,500 categorizations of reports. Additionally, the initiative created general mapping knowledge and information in Pakistan that did not previously exist.

I think crowdsourcing is an amazing way to provide disaster management in the digital age. The ENTIRE cost of Pakreport’s project came to $7,000, all of which came from a fundraising campaign at globalgiving.org. The microtasking platform and technical services were provided by CrowdFlower for free, as well as the time and expertise of three independent engineers. The idea that an undefined public from around the world can spontaneously come together to help a foreign community in their time of need is a really unique concept, one that is endlessly relevant and important to our ditigal age.