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.


Mobile Phone Initiative in Pakistan for Women

In 2010 the Bunyad Foundation, UNESCO and Mobilink Pakistan joined together to laungh a mobile phone program in Paksitan, described here. The project aimed to narrow gender divides in the country by increasing young women’s literacy and ICT competence through non-formal learning. Initially, the project targeted 250 young women who had just finished a basic literacy program providing each with a mobile phone and prepaid connection. After completing a class on how to use mobile phones by Bunyad Foundation employees, the women were texted multiple times a day  in Urdu with interesting and informative information on health and nutrition, religion, economics and more. The women were expected to respond to these texts and were graded on their replies. Results showed striking early gains in literacy, the share of girls that received the lowest scores dropping nearly 80%.

The project encountered resistance from families and communities, but resistance began to soften as people began to see the benefits of the program. Parents could now take advantage of the new knowledge gains of their daughters, use the mobile’s calculator and came to appreciate the increased security a mobile phone brings a young woman. Though 56% of the learners and their families initially had negative feelings towards the program, by its conclusion 80% approved.

Because of its wide successes the Bunyad Foundation, UNESCO and Mobilink plan to expand the program further. The program illustrates how an ICT as simple as mobile phones can be used to effectively carry out a basic education program and overcome societal notions of women’s restricted access to ICTs. In the words of Rashid Khan, President and CEO of Mobilink, “The cell phone holds the key to social development by its very nature and we want to make sure that women are part of this revolution.”

Check out this video!


The Future of Public Libraries in an Internet Age

Though the toll the internet age will take on newspapers is often debated, I’ve rarely thought or heard about the future for public libraries in the United States. As Uwin points out, historically, libraries were the main storage and access point for information across the world, especially for those who could not afford to purchase their own information. However, over the last twenty years the increase in the amount of published material and availability of digital technologies has changed libraries’ role forever.

In Unwine’s ICT4D he sites Klugkist as suggesting that in the future libraries will continue to be a gateway to information, but in particular an expertise centre, physical entity, and collection center for printed material. He reasons that libraries will not be replaced, they will merely transform their ways of accessing information–they will become digital libraries.

In the National Civic Review’s report on The Future of Public Libraries in an Internet Age, Ruth Wooden emphasizes that libraries do have a future in the U.S. Even with the vast amount of information available on the Internet, Wooden is sure that libraries will continue to play a vital role in communities. Strong public opinion surrounds the issue. For example 78% of those interviewed states that if their library were to loose funding they would feel “that something essential and important has been lost, affecting the whole community.” At this point libraries are more than just an access point for information–they are a safe haven, a place for children, a community meeting place. Wooden believes that libraries have been a relic of community engagement in the past and will continue to be in the future, regardless of the Internet. Additionally, most interviewed believed precisely because there is so much information available now (some of which you must pay for), that public libraries are a necessity to provide free information for anyone who needs it. Similar to Klugkist’s thesis Wooden emphasizes that in the digital age public libraries are a haven for low income community members, a resource for those who have no access to a computer or the internet at home. Wooden and Klugkist both believe that the advent of computers and the Internet will not displace libraries, if anything it will heighten a need for them.


The World Summit on the Information Society: The end of an era or the start of something new?

Though we learned about the objective of the WSIS in class–to encourage proliferation of ICT and form a universal network–I was curious about its actual outcomes. In doing so I found this review of the WSIS by the Global Information Society Watch (GIS Watch).

 

The WSIS was the largest global event on ICTs in the past ten years. Organized by the ITU agency of the UN into two separate summits in Geneva and Tunis, the event produced two final documents setting out aspirations for ICT. The Tunis Commitment reiterated the first summit’s conclusions, while the Tunis Agenda summarized the second summit’s conclusions. Though there was much skepticism about whether WSIS’ outcomes would justify the costs, it did provide a general framework for international discussion on ICTs, infrastructure finance and internet governance. In particular the event successfully increased ICT awareness to developing country government officials and NGOs and provided networking opportunities for attendees.

 

Yet overall GIS Watch deemed the WSIS a failure. The event received limited public attention and its impact notably waned with time afterwards. In particular WSIS did little to connect the ICT sector with the mainstream development community, instead it was a meeting place for those already involved in ICT, those already connected. It kept the ICT and development paradigms disconnected. WSIS’ two outcome texts are deemed too vague to act as guidelines for ICT initiatives and actual developing country participation in the event was quite small. Those countries that did attend were mainly comprised of diplomats and telecommunication experts–women and other minorities were underrepresented. Overall the GIS Watch labeled WSIS as not facilitating “capacity-building or change policy-making relationships at a national level.” Though WSIS provided a general framework for the future, it failed to create solutions to the current problems facing ICT throughout the globe.