Author Archives: sarahmingli

NolaStat

NolaStat is an advocacy campaign aiming to implement better transparency and accountability policy reforms in the City of New Orleans. Brian Denzer is the founder and is the only one who works for this advocacy campaign. The people and government of NOLA is the targeted group. Specifically, NolaStat advocates that the city should do the following: 1) improve public access to information by publishing city data on a web portal 2) improve government responsiveness to public needs with a performance management process 3) institutionalize reforms exercise best practices by creating an office staffed with technical personnel and performance management professionals 4) close the feedback loop between government and citizens by engaging the community to ensure that performance goals and data needs are satisfactorily being answered.

Brian Denzer used to work for the NOPD and started Crime Watchers before Katrina. After Katrina, he found that there was a need for government transparency and accountability He started a website before the 2010 Mayor campaign in NOLA. The website was supposed to be a place to accumulate knowledge about evidence placed practices, and references to other innovative reform efforts. This website is set up like a blog. My biggest criticism is that Brain is the only contributor to the website. I believe if he got more outside opinions from people like neighborhood leaders, the website would be more effective.  Although the city has adopted NolaStat as city policy, it has made modifications.


Lessons Learned: ICT4D

I think one of the most interesting lessons I got from this class was that sometimes the simplest technology is the most useful, even though it may not seem tech savvy and appealing. Throughout the class we talked about radios, a very old technology. Radios are very reliable, durable and user-friendly. With more high-tech technology being used, there is probably a bigger chance of something going wrong. Thus, there must be infrastructure/knowledge to know how to use and fix the ICT. I think simplicity is important because those projects seem to be the most successful. Talking to the constituents is very important because they can give you inside knowledge that outsiders may not have known before. For example, the One Laptop Per Child seems like a very appealing project. However, as our class dove into it, this project proved to be more and more unrealistic and set unattainable goals. Plus, there was no pilot project.

This class exposed me to a lot of neat and interesting case studies that I would have never thought of. I think the leap frogging effect is really interesting, because I personally really believe in building an economy from the bottom up. However, there are instances of technology, where the older technologies/ways of communicating are irrelevant or expensive. When we were discussing cell phones, it makes total sense that developing countries would quickly adopt these because mobile devices required less infrastructure. Again, cellphones were essentially more simple that land-lines. Thus, development in  ICTs sometimes become less costly, and simpler overtime.


Humanitarian Early Warning System

The goal of the Humanitarian Early Warning System is “to bring together and make accessible in a simple manner the most credible early warning information available at the global level from multiple specialized institutions.” Basically, it is a early warning system for all natural hazards. It is developed and maintained by the UN World Food Programme,  HEWS has services dedicated to floods, seismic (earthquakes), storms, locust, volcanoes and weather.  This tool is user friendly, and a great example of Geographic Informational System (GIS).

I think a lot of other early warning systems while I was quickly researching focused on everything included in HEWS but the locust. The locust took me by surprise, although it does makes sense in the context of Africa. The website says its 70% dynamically updated with real-time information, which still leaves 30%. This is obviously a significant number that leaves stakeholders in question of the data. I think this is a better system for NGOs and multilateral organizations that focus on disaster management, rather than the actual targeted citizens affected by the disaster because I think people usually get their information fro news sources or some may not have access to the internet to check this system.


Development Assistance Database (DAD)

This online database is developed by Synergy Systems Inc. as a tool for government to coordinate development efforts with regards to countries, NGOs, multi-lateral organizations or other such organizations. According to the Synergy Systems website, the tool is an “implemented solution for aid management, public investment and national budgeting” which can be used for good governance, public accountability and transparency. Thus, this system works closely with UNDP. This system was first implemented in Afghanistan in 2003. This system has been implemented in more than 35 countries, and each country has its own database with a website. Anyone can access the data online. This is an online data entry system that has analytical reporting, charting and mapping. The database incorporates a lot of visual representation, which one can tell how much each donor committed and actually donated. It also integrates financial management, since it is accounting publicized online. One can also see what projects or sectors donors specifically pledged to. The company modifies the system to meet each country’s needs, and the system also has multi-lingual capability.

The system is often implemented after a disaster such as the tsunami in Southeast Asia, the earthquake in Pakistan and Haiti. The system is easy to use and navigate. It is a great resource and if used correctly, the data should be used and analyzed to manage aid.  However, some negative aspects of the system are if the system was put in place before or after a disaster. For example if implemented following a disaster, information may significantly lag in time and  thus, provide no use. Also, if there is compliance and incentives for parties to use the system. Government may demand too much information from parties, which may actual deter donors. Overall, the flaws of this tool is more external with regards to the implementation of the system by the government and if the government is ready to use it.


Brunei’s First Social Media Meet Up

Brunei is a very small country located in Southeast Asia. Note it has only a tad over 400,000 people. Even though it is such a small country, social media is clearly becoming popular. According to some tweets quoted on the article, blogging is a way to connect the community. One of the session focused on enterprise with blogging. Dato Timothy emphasized the importance of connecting with the young people in Brunei because they will lead the country one day. The conference also seemed to have a very different vibe about it as one blogged:

“Another thing that thoroughly impressed me was how unlike normal conferences, where people just sat, listen, took notes and asked questions, this conference was where most sat, eyes on their smart devices (laptops, phones etc), tweeted what struck them throughout the sessions and asked questions ONLINE! Oddly enough, on this day when everyone had their fingers glued onto their keyboards/keypads/touchscreens, they weren’t being anti-social! In fact, it was pretty interactive as the questions posted and the number of votes were projected for all to see.”

For more information, click here.


Interactive Radio Instruction (IRI)

http://bit.ly/17GXlOL

This project’s goal is to bring curriculum and teacher training to least developed countries. This project is implemented by the Education Development Center (EDC) , an international NGO. Unlike radio broadcasting, participants must follow questions (like answering questions, having a discussion). Radios are very affordable and require little infrastructure. Broadcasts can reach isolated villages where access to education can be very limited. As the article mentions, schools may have a lack of resources that the program requires ( school supplies, adequate school buildings, etc). Thus, local support and funding is essential because the project will not be able to stand alone. This program has been implemented throughout Africa and South America.  Right now, the program is focused on primary education. For example in Paraguay, there is a math broadcast geared towards 4-6 years old children.  I think another barrier may be how serious the students take the radio programming. As the student get older, the technology may seem “less” exciting and has no authoritative figure. Clearly adequate and consistent teacher training is essential in maintaining order and attention in a class, and there is so much a radio can say. This project actually has mentors to help train teachers, but, as the article mentions, consistent training and time implemented in lessons is a barrier in this project.


Startup Africa

Originally posted on Blackboard by Sarah Levine

http://www.startupafrica.com/about/

This is a really neat blog dedicated to entrepreneurship in Africa, focusing on technology. Although I wish this website had more posts, blogging about small start ups in Africa to promote such business and give some advice is a great way to network and get a perspective on entrepreneurship in Africa. I really find the interviews interesting because it gives outsiders a more personal understanding of the entrepreneurs. This blog has great potential but could be expanded a lot more.