As far as I am concerned, the most salient lessons to be learned in ICT4D is that the applications of ICT needs to be localized in order to meet the actual needs of resolving concerned issues. A lot of times, we don’t actually need such advanced high technologies which are actually not human-centered. The focus of ICT4D should always on the people in targeted areas. On this point, I agree with pkrause439 that technology should be treated as a tool not a solution, especially in the case study of OLPC that we’ve learnt in class. This is something that I think I should always keep in mind as I learn to be a development professional in the future.
Besides, the concept of crowdsourcing has impressed me a lot. I personally believe it is a great tool in the trend of cloud computing to be applied and implemented more in our daily life, especially in the area of ICT4D. For example, if we combine this idea with the safety issues at Tulane, it could be a great initiative. By text messages and e-mail just like what Ushahidi did, everyone in the Tulane community can contribute to the virtualization of crime rates around campus, which would allow more protective action taken by the administration.
Learning from this class, I have gained the sense of how I can engaging in the field of development with the tool of technology. I’d love to learn more about crisis or emergency alert plans with ICT4D in the future semester.
I just read an article about the application of thin clients at Queen Margaret University as a green ICT case study. In this case, the project team used access to a remote desktop service, leveraging the thin-client infrastructure as an incentive, allowing users to log on from any computer, anywhere, and access all of their files and applications. They had made a successful major changeover of student PCs to thin-client and the remainder of staff PCs were migrated prior to the campus move in summer 2007.
Even though some educational resources such as complex audio editing cannot run on the thin client while the cost of building this infrastructure of thin clients is similar to standard PCs, overall it is a success in the long term because the lasting time of thin clients doubles the standard one and it saves the electricity at a huge amount.
I’m wondering if this idea will be applicable at Tulane. Because I don’t think it is wise to use the Mac computers with huge storage space just for daily browsing at the library. Since once we log out, all the files will be erased. Why do we need 250G for every single computer? Introducing thin clients may be a trend for the college technology advancement.
As we read this week that President Obama on Wall Street Journal suggests that we should take cyberattack threat seriously, I notice there is another concept called cyberwar. So when I look at some news articles, I notice that many U.S officials talk about cyberwar as well. They claim that a cyberwar is looming, which indicates that a catastrophic attack that would bring down power plants, derail trains, force airplanes to fall out of the sky and wreak massive havoc on the United States. Nevertheless, more and more security experts say that the threat of a “cyberwar” on the scale of a Pearl Harbor (which Mr. Ralph Russo also mentioned in class) is just cyber-hype. Cyber security is a booming business with billions of defense contracts at stake. And skeptics warns that the cyberwar doomsday scenarios intentionally hyped up by a coalition of major arms manufacturers, the Pentagon, and Internet security firms greedy for profit. So who is telling the truth? Do we, as individuals need to prepare for the cyberwar? From my experience of being a Internet geek with strong sense of cyber security, I see most of the time it is the lack of education in cyber-defense that makes individuals venerable to the expose of personal privacy and being used as part of the botnet. It is also some field where we can explore with ICT4D to make the internet benefit us instead of bringing a mess and another dangerous environment.
Recently I read a blog post saying that Chinese social media users are ‘happier’ and write ‘less political’ messages on their profiles than Westerners, according to a major new study by the computer scientists at the Delft University of Technology in Holland and the Shanghai Jiaotong University who studied 46 million messages posted on Twitter and the enormously popular Sina Weibo.
I think this is interesting because I use both Twitter and Sina Weibo very often. Here are some differences I came up with from my personal experience.
1. Identity verification: On Sina Weibo, most of the users have to submit their real identity to the Sina company in order to use more functions. A lot of Weibo users who have a large number of followers, such as celebrities, websites, and organizations, have already used their real name as account names, which encourages more new users to be identified to get certain badges beside their profiles. For example, I gave out my ID number to get verified so I got a new badge to show off.
2. Function of social media: Most of the time I see Weibo as a tool for entertainment merged with commercials because there is plenty of information regarding sales, constellation, comics and daily personal posts. Besides, it has been developed more like a Facebook in that there is an app and game center for users to connect and participate in this type of social media. On Twitter, on the other hand, the content created by users is more narrowed down. People tend to retweet more about political and other news without sharing too many personal stories or feelings.
3. Censorship: Obviously, corporations in mainland China such as Sina, for survival have to compromise to the censorship policies implemented by the Chinese government. Users create “happier” contents with the guidance and direction of Sina. Any inappropriate user content will be detected by the Sina system and deleted by the staff in charge. Sometimes, users’ accounts get blocked or the users get tracked down for posts that are considered sensitive. It’s hard to say Twitter has this similar implicit trend from my observation so far. But anyway, “less political” is sort of a condition for users to continue their rights of speech.
I just saw something on the news several days ago saying that the first online marketing system for livestock in Zimbabwe just came out last month. Now Zimbabweans can now buy and sell cattle online, which has brought farmer with more efficiency to trade animals at an industrial level.
The portal founder, Allister Banks said, “I have over 20 years’ experience in the livestock marketing industry and I know that I am up against a hundred years of tradition. The industry has relied on live cattle auctions but we are saying that does not have to be the case anymore, thanks to improvements in technology.”
Before that, the buyers had to physically go to farms or auctions to purchase livestock, and then transport the livestock on their own. Now they can just put up their cattle for sale on the website through a cellphone. From this case we see similar applications in Kenya about the mobile technology use in banking and business. Likewise, payments are also transferred through mobile payment systems.
I found an article “Africa Calling: Can mobile phones make a miracle?” on Boston Review by the economists Jenny Aker and Isaac Mbiti. Besides mentioning about the relationship between mobile phones and literacy, they talk about how mobile phones can promote the economic development in Africa.
Prior to the introduction of mobile phones, farmers, traders, and consumers had to travel a long way to markets. Lack of infrastructure, they needed to get over roads with poor conditions only for obtaining useful information such as price. Obviously, this kind of travel is time-consuming and costs a lot of money as well.
With the introduction of mobile phones, the information cost is lessend greatly. People can use SMS via mobile phones to get better and in-time information to take advantage of arbitrage opportunities by selling in different markets at different times of year, migrating to new areas, or offering new products.
Furthermore, mobile apps provide opportunities for disseminating market information, monitoring health care, and transferring airtime and money. In most cases these apps are developed by the private sector and then adopted and adapted throughout the development process. Projects in agriculture, health, education, and governance increasingly rely on the services uniquely available via mobile phones.
About OLPC that we discussed today: When I check the wiki on OLPC, I find that the penetration of information technology channel in Zimbabwe is still lacking because of the current financial difficulties in the country, so the project of OLPC remains to be communicated with the new minister of telecoms and science and technology
Even though economic, social and political turmoil in Zimbabwe has a debilitating effect on its already declining education system, Zimbabwe national ICT policy does make significant references to the promotion of ICTs in education including pedagogical use in educational institutions.
Zimbabwe has a vibrant civil society sector that promotes ICT for development and education as well. For example, organisations such as World Links Zimbabwe has played a pioneering role since the late 1990s. Its mission is ‘to improve educational and employment opportunities for youths and teachers through the use of information and communication technology.’
One of the projects that draws my attention is Teacher Professional Development (TPD). It empowers teachers to use ICTs as a tool for better teaching and learning. They train a national team of master trainers who will be able to provide training to theory counterparts around the broad theme of using ICTs to enhance teaching and learning at all levels. Continual training will assist to achieve their capacity-building goal, one of the policy recommendations for ICT implementation. The program includes the Strategic Literacy Initiative (SLI) and Quality Teaching for English Learners (QTEL), comprehensively addresses teacher learning, from preservice through teacher leadership in grades 2-14.
Unlike OLPC, this project focus more on the human factor to education. Its continual training enables the sustainability.
I read Economics of Linux Adoption in Developing Countries according to this week’s topic. This article talks about one of the most controversial issues under the background of software globalization, which is the expansion of Linux, an open source operating system, into software development efforts in developing countries.
This article examines the positive and negative effects of adopting Linux in both microeconomics and macroeconomics level, and ways to achieve the greatest benefits for developing countries and policy makers. Linux communities and Linux-friendly companies can also help promote diversity and flexible options by working to make proprietary and open source operating systems more interoperable.
This week we talked about gender and ICT in class. Access to ICTs vary not just from gedner but from different income, prices in infrastructure available and education in developing countries. How can we focus on the gender equality issues from different ICT aspects? I looked up online and found a unnamed document on the website of World Bank. Basically, it shows the specific key ICT concerns and provides a checklist user to help identify relevant gender equality issues. For example, on the aspect of technology choice, the table lays out the following bulletins:
• Affordability of service is a key issue to women. If technology choices are limited this can restrict new entrants from the market and limit the introduction of technologies that might bring down costs (for example, many developing countries ban Wi-Fi Internet and VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) telephony.
• Limiting the choice of mobile standards (for example, GSM, CDMA) can prevent fragmentation of markets during the initial stages; however, continued insistence on such standards can block the entry of mobile technologies that are cheap and effective for underserved areas.
• Assessments need to be undertaken to determine appropriate technology choices: who will use the technology and for what purpose.
• It is important to promote and support user-friendly technology, particularly in the context of low literacy levels.
Other than this, it also contains regulation, radio frequency spectrum, E-government and so on. This checklist is really and clear and helpful and I recommend it to you all.