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.
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.
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.
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.
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.