Author Archives: skaplan9190

ICT4D Course Lessons

I think that in ICT4D, it is always important to remember that context is everything. With that being said, in certain areas it is important to consider how current/existing technologies could be used in innovative ways rather than looking to new ICTs for the solution. Richard Heeks’ ICT4D 2.0 model is useful to think about ICTs because of its focus on making the best use and practices out of what is available and making those applications as effective as they can be, such as the phone.

As a framework for implementing ICT4D I see the Human Centered Design approach as highly effective along with using Heeks’ ICT4D 2.0. Instead of using a top-down model or pilot projects, this framework is more about effective planning and taking into consideration local needs while designing ICT projects. It places importance on input from locals while conducting a needs assessment. This enables collaboration with the target population and induces them to take more active roles in all stages of the project, thus making the project more effective and sustainable while using minimal resources. This framework should be used more in all development projects, not just ICT4D, because after all – if a school in rural Africa has just one outlet for the entire school, it’s probably not a great idea to hand out laptops to all the students. Know local needs=more chances for success.


Kenya Launches National Cyber Security Strategy and Master Plan

The arrival of extensive undersea fibre optic cables in mid-2009 have spurred a major ICT revolution in East Africa with Kenya in the lead and Tanzania following close behind. The transition to broadband has spurred rapid growth in the number of Internet users and increased access for many to cheap Smartphones. Kenya has also been able to achieve faster broadband connection than their counterpart in South Africa. IBM even chose Nairobi for its first African Research Lab.

So, what does all this rapid progress mean for exposure to cyber attacks? More is at stake.

Cyber attacks could be devastating to a developing country on the path to a better future like Kenya. With the ever-increasing reliance upon and use of ICTs to enable more development, comes greater risk. Security problems like the defacement of government websites offering important services as well as attacks on the Banking sector, plus many others can be devastating in developing countries. “The use of ICT in many industries means that national infrastructure such as water companies, power infrastructure, banking and payments are exposed to ICT threats.” (Dennis Mbuvi, CIO/East Africa)  For these reasons, Kenya just recently launched a National Cyber Security Strategy and Master Plan in February of this year:

  • In a nutshell, the Strategy will enable the government, private sector and Chief Security Officer to “[come] up with a national cyber security assets inventory and [establish] approved cyber security vendors.” (Mbuvi)
  • A data protection bill is also in the draft
  • a consultant behind the plan, Tyrus Kamau, says “that its implementation will see better cyber security in the country, which will in turn lead to confidence in electronic transactions, resulting to economic growth. The move will also ensure confidence as the government rolls out various eGovernment services.” (Mbuvi)

Since I wrote my paper on the role of eGovernment in Tanzania, especially with regards to its role in establishing trust among citizens, I see huge potential in the implementation of a policy like this, especially in the rapidly developing ICT sectors in East Africa. I also think it’s interesting how what Kamau said is clearly where the benefits of employing an early plan for cyber security can be seen in developing versus developed countries.  In countries like Kenya and Tanzania there is the need to establish  trust and confidence from consumers who have been living for so long without these services, whereas in more developed countries like the U.S., the biggest threats are less of a concern to the public who is generally unaware so far of their [cyber attacks’] potential consequences. In my opinion it speaks volumes on the need for both developed and developing countries to establish comprehensive plans because regardless of their development levels, cyber threats/attacks can be detrimental to both of their economies, peoples’ livelihoods and overall safety.

Professional Profile: Jon Camfield

I found Jon Camfield via a blog post from by Wayan Vota, in which the subject was, “What are the best practices in ICT4D?” The post was sparked by this tweet from Jon Camfield:

Screen Shot 2013-04-20 at 3.05.21 AM

Clearly, that sparked my interest given the subject of our lecture Thursday with our guest, Wayan Vota himself.

Upon checking out Camfield’s LinkedIn, I was able to get a lot of info on the guy, and it’s fair to say he has a pretty impressive background. So I will just give a brief overview of his work history/education and what he describes as his interests and how that relates to the paths that I believe many of us will soon be finding ourselves on in the next couple of years.


  • finished undergrad 1999 from University of Texas at Austin with Plan II Honors, degree in Technology/Literacy/Culture, Philosophy and Spanish
  • grad school: George Washington University – completed in 2005 in International Science and Technology Policy

Work Experience: 

  • IT Manager at CrisisLink from 2005-2007
  • ICT and Social Media Director at Youth Service America from 2007-2009
  • Technology Strategist at Ashoka Changemakers from 2009-2012
  • Technologist, Internet Initiatives Program at Internews from November 2012-present

In addition to his education and formal work experience, Camfield was a Peace Corps “ICT” volunteer in Jamaica, has been working since 2008 on the platform, has published a number of articles such as “It’s Time to Start Judging Nonprofits Like For-Profits” and the presentation, “Scaling Social Enterprise.”

In his summary on LinkedIn, Jon says: “I believe in the power of social networks — both off- and on-line — to empower communities. Technology is an enabling force that can strengthen these networks as well as connect them globally to peers, partners, knowledge resources, as well as social innovations and development opportunities. I am interested in ICT projects that further international empowerment / development projects.”

thoughts . . .

One of the questions the class asked Wayan Vota was what kinds of things we needed to do to really get into the field of International Development or ICT4D. He pointed out a few key things like getting a LinkedIn, for starters, as well as a Twitter, and really working on establishing our networks. I now realize that in our world of such fast-paced technology and change, the only real way to keep up and stay involved is by moving with the direction of the current trends. Reading Jon Camfield’s profile on LinkedIn was not just eye-opening for the amount of experience he has that is surely ahead of all of us, but was also indicative of how important social networking is for all aspects of peoples lives today–as exemplified by his 500+ connections on LinkedIn.

Bamyan Media: Reality TV for Social Change

In light of the readings about how simple technologies can go a long way in development, I found this project I stumbled across very interesting. Since radio was pointed out as being able to access the most rural/illiterate segments of a country’s population, I was curious as to what TV could do. This organization, Bamyan Media, has as their mission: Through producing locally relevant popular television programs, Bamyan Media inspires marginalized people in the developing world to lead change and create prosperity in their communities by building social enterprises.

Founded by Anna Elliot in 2009, the project’s pilot series in Afghanistan proved a success. The program has been working in Egypt since 2011 when it was awarded a contract with USAID and is also working to support the development of productions in the Middle East, South America, East and South Africa.

The project focuses on two formats: one focuses on celebrating social entrepreneurship and promoting green, socially-impactful organizations, environmental responsibility and leadership; the other targets youth unemployment by showcasing entrepreneurs and their business models to drive mass small and medium enterprise creation at the base of the economic pyramid. They work with local broadcasters and businesses to develop each series.


For more info, visit their website.

UNICEF’s Knight News Challenge – Voices of Youth Maps

These past couple of weeks we have been introduced to some interesting and (at least for me) new things. The open street map assignment made me aware of something I never knew existed until now. I think it’s a really interesting component of what role ICTs can have in impacting development, especially when taken into context with disaster response. Along these lines, I found this really cool project that is part of a challenge put on by the Knight Foundation, the “Knight News Challenge” with the subject “How might we improve the way citizens and governments interact?” Here is a brief video giving some context to the project:

UNICEF, as part of this challenge, is working on a project geared towards empowering youth in cities to map their neighborhoods in order to facilitate the communication between government and citizens, as well as improve response measures taken in disaster prone urban areas. The project focuses for now on the cities of Port-au-Prince and Rio de Janeiro.

Their project in one sentence: “Digital maps created by young advocates establish a collaborative space for municipal government and community to work together towards safer neighborhoods.” 

In February 2013 they trained ~300 youth mappers to cover 11 favelas in Rio and 2 neighborhoods in Port-au-Prince. These ‘youth reports’ have already led to bridges getting fixed, flood walls being reinforced, and playgrounds cleared of stagnant water according to their description.

youth mappers in action - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

youth mappers in action – Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Their approach uses a workshop which employs the UNICEF- Geographic Information System (UNICEF-GIS) which is a smartphone app. It allows the users to collect and “share location sensitive reports in a simple, private and secure manner.” The app creates a map of all reports filtered depending on the hazards, etc. Voices of Youth (the UNICEF moderated youth-friendly public platform) allows the mappers to turn their reports into “powerful advocacy materials, which they can promote collectively through other social and local media channels.”

Why Youth Mappers? “because young people bring a truthful first-hand and real perspective to the program, making our maps extremely compelling. If [the government] ignores maps by youth, then they are denying the needs of their most vulnerable and innocent citizens who are the voices of the future, as well as potential community leaders.”

Between March 1st and July 1st?

1) Prototyping an “Urgency Rank System”. The number of reports are increasingly growing, and in response we are devising a system to label and rank                          reports based on severity and urgency.

2) An administrative system that will allow users to create profiles and trainers to customize the layers on their maps.

3) A widget that will allow for a new interlinked Voices of Youth Maps to be embedded easily into any website for sharing youth posted multi-media reports.

4) Various upgrades to capacity and usability for UNICEF-GIS app and website.

5) A “Voices of Youth Maps and Civic Media How-To Guidebook” for streamlining trainings and project implementation as we scale to new cities.

EIU Digital Economy Rankings 2010

The EIU Digital Economy Ratings of 2010 have taken countries which the study sees as having achieved some degree of ‘e-readiness.’ The report changed its title to “digital economy rankings” in order to reflect the challenge “of maximizing the use of information and communications technology (ICT) that countries face in the years ahead” (EIU,2). The indicators used in the report are also reflective of how ICT adapts and changes over time. For example, one of the modifications in this report is an indicator now measuring the “quality” of broadband and mobile connections as well as their prevalence. By modifying these types of indicators, the report saw certain countries decline in their overall rankings and others rise. The top performers must demonstrate:

  • a high degree of connectivity
  • score well on the quality of their business and legal environments
  • score well on social and cultural drivers of digital progress
  • have a sound public policy on ICT
  • score well on the levels at which consumers and businesses actually use digital services

The report also claims that the digital divide is narrowing in terms of comparative scores, which have declined between studies. The report goes on to argue that mobile data tools and services are “one area where the emerging world equals or outpaces the developed world in usage habits” (EIU, 3).


The image shows how the rankings are calculated based on different categories and how much each one weighs in the calculation. Screen Shot 2013-03-01 at 5.48.13 PM

The “Process” Approach to ICT4D Projects

The main discussion yesterday was regarding the reasons for ICT project failures (a wopping 70% according the the World Bank Stats). Well on the ICT4D blog, Richard Heeks did a post about an approach that appears to be more effective in the success of projects. He defines this as a “process” approach, which according to Heeks came about as a reaction to the “blueprint”/top-down approach that we had discussed in class.

The following are five examples of elements that must exist in order for this approach to bring about success:

  • Beneficiary participation
  • Flexible and phased implementation
  • Learning from experience
  • Local institutional support
  • Sound project leadership

Heeks also points out questions that the process approach allows ICT4D practitioners to pose while designing a project:

  • What is the role of beneficiaries throughout the project’s stages?
  • What is the mechanism for changing direction on the project when something unforeseen occurs?
  • What is the basis for learning on the project?
  • What local institutions can be used for project support?
  • What is the nature of project leadership?

So with this information, I find it curious why more people haven’t employed such an approach? Why the continued top-down method when it obviously isn’t working? I guess maybe people are shifting towards approaches like this one, once it is now highly evident that the “blueprint” model no longer works – or never did to begin with. But still, it seems that good intentions end up causing more harm than good, as is the case with many development projects. Hopefully more focus will be given to M&E and project planning, which will in turn help with the success of projects.

Tunisia: e-activism and the role of ICTs

Last week’s discussions pertaining to policy development and strategic planning got me thinking about a very unique country insofar as this topic is concerned. Tunisia, a small North African country, is best known for having undergone a revolution that ignited the ‘Arab Spring.’

Well, last spring I had the pleasure of studying abroad in Tunisia almost exactly one year after the country had just become newly independent from the former dictator Zine ben Ali. Almost every Tunisian I met is connected in some way as far as social media is concerned – most commonly with facebook. It is now understood that had it not been for these social networking tools, Tunisians would not have taken to the streets and demanded for change. Ironically, the government used these tools as ways to keep the public quiet – but obviously that was not enough.

After the revolution, there has been a tremendous boom in how Tunisians communicate and debate about the future of the country. ICTs have enabled doors to be opened to groups previously unable to participate in social activism. Groups in the southern part of the country who were the marginalized poor are now making their voices heard, thanks to ICTs that before were only accessed by select groups of people who were well educated and trained to navigate the murky waters of a censored internet.

In a report titled “Tunisia: From Revolutions to Insitutions,” authors Zack Brisson and Kate Krontiris cite this phenomena as “e-activism” which is evidence of a newly robust civil society. Many of these activists seek to change the political atmosphere in the country depending on their platforms (ex: traditional versus progressive, islam versus secular), and are using the internet as their tool. In response to these individuals and groups, the Tunisian Internet Agency, TIA, (which before was the agency responsible for censoring) is now engaging with – rather than harassing – activists.

The report covers a broad range of topics related to post-revolutionary Tunisia and where it is headed, but the one overarching theme is the role that ICTs have had in transforming civil society. This is just one example of what having the infrastructure and development in place can do for a country’s ability to use ICT as a tool for democratization.

Coal Discovery in Mozambique Leaves the Poor Behind, Enhancing the “Digital Divide”

An article in the NY Times demonstrates just how difficult it is for those living in rural areas of an already extremely impoverished country to improve their standards of living. The article discusses the recent discovery of coal in Mozambique and how such a discovery will provide a massive economic boom for the country. However, the money that would flow in from the mega-project ($6 billion) will hardly help improve the livelihood of its residents, according to a report by USAID that was addressed in the article.

The untapped coal was discovered in an area where already many people were living. In order to extract the coal, all of the people living there had to move. Most of the villagers thought this project would bring jobs and a brighter future. Instead they were moved 25 miles away and are faring worse than they were before.

While I was reading the article, I kept wondering how people who live so far below the poverty line in countries rich with resources can use ICTs to their benefit. In the case of Mozambique, it seemed almost intangible for many communities to ever reach a point in which they could seriously benefit from ICTs. It also begged the question of how we can exploit the natural riches of a country and then channel the resources derived from such in order to benefit those who most deserve it – something that seems is taking a very long time to actually happen.

Even though the article didn’t directly address ICTs, it was nonetheless a serious indicator of some of the obstacles facing ICT4D, especially in the “bottom billion” countries. After having discussed the digital divide in class, it was clear that there are still so many places not even close to being able to close the gap – especially the rural and marginalized.