Author Archives: twkelly

Mexico National ICT Resources

Government Websites (ALL IN SPANISH):

e-Mexico: This is Mexico’s e-government website. You can use it to link to some of the resources that the government offers. The site does not offer an abundance of data/statistics, but it is useful to look around the site to see what e-Mexico is used for, how it could be improved, etc. Created by the Secretary for Communication and Transportation.

AMIPCI is sort of a home base for Internet services in Mexico. This is possibly the most difficult source to navigate because there are a lot of branches from the website. However, that also means that it has the most information out of most government sites that I found and will most likely be really useful if you can successfully navigate it!

Visión 2030 is a very basic government website that lays out Felipe Calderon’s goals for Mexico in the coming decades. This is a useful source to use in order to identify the direction which the government is working towards. It also highlights some of the key areas that need to be addressed for the development of Mexico. Published by Los Estados Unidos Mexicanos.

The CompuApoyo website is very basic, but offers a general understanding of the goals of the CompuApoyo program with a few links to other organizations that work with CompuApoyo and the government of Mexico for this project. Created by the Secretary for Communication and Transportation.

The majority of the sources that I used for my country projects were in Spanish and I would highly discourage anyone from choosing Mexico as their country if they are unfamiliar with the language. That said, it was a very interesting developing region to study because of its proximity to the United States and the current issues that we hear in the news regarding the War on Drugs. A lot of the conclusions that I made in my papers were the result of analyzing small pieces of information on the websites listed above. For example, the videos on the CompuApoyo website show that the program is targeted to improve education. This mindset must be applied throughout your studies of Mexico, because a lot of facts/statistics are not laid out clearly on the government websites.

A lot of sources that I used for specific numbers are organizations such as the World Bank and the reports given in class (WSIS, EIU, WEF Global Info Tech Report, etc.). There are also a lot of short news articles available with updated numbers and descriptions of the ICT setting in Mexico. For example, I used this article (in English!) a few times for specific data about CompuApoyo, since it was hard to find the data on official government websites.

I also used YouTube videos as a source of information (all videos are in Spanish).

“Espera SCT que Compuapoyo se manege major en segunda etapa”: This is a video of a meeting during which the progress of CompuApoyo and the obstacles that it faced are discussed.

“Lanzamiento del programa Compuapoyo”: The speech given by President Felipe Calderón when CompuApoyo was introduced to the Mexican public.

“Programa Compuapoyo”: An interview during which the changes to the CompuApoyo requirements are explained.

For my sector-specific paper, I focused on the drug war. These two sources were invaluable (and also pretty interesting!). The second is particularly useful because it goes into detail about the connection between ICT and the War on Drugs.

Bonner, Robert C. “The Cartel Crackdown: Winning the Drug War and Rebuilding Mexico in the Process.” Foreign Affairs 91.3 (2012): 12.

“The Americas: The Spider and the Web; Mexico’s Drug War and the Internet.” The Economist 400. 8752 (2011): 49.

Good luck!

Lessons Learned in ICT4D

This semester’s focus on ICT4D expanded my understanding of international development significantly. Until this class, I had not considered the detailed concept of ICT4D and its importance – and obstacles – in the developing world. It is a field that must be considered for project development, and being able to spend a whole semester picking ICT4D apart to really understand it was a great experience. I really enjoyed the classes that we spend learning about ICT4D and how it is applied in different sectors. This was a great way to not only get a great understanding of one sector in particular – to which our group was assigned – but to also learn about other development sectors and the versatility of ICT application.

Some concepts that I had never associated with ICT are cybersecurity and the theory behind ICT4D. Cybersecurity was of particular interest to me because it is an issue that we could both relate to our own lives and to the cases that we studied. For example, I had not considered the possible dangers – such as theft and fraud – of giving Internet banking programs to developing countries with poor infrastructure. There are a lot of back-office efforts that must be considered when implementing ICTs. We saw this in action with the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) program. It was a great concept, but it could have been far more successful if support began in the back-office gaining government and teacher support. This was a really interesting part of the course because we were able to interact with the ICT and think about what we would consider its flaws if given the technology.

I particularly enjoyed reading and discussing ICT4D case studies. My favorite particular class lesson was the day that we discussed fisherman in India, peacebuilding in Afghanistan, and phone use in rural Africa. By studying these cases, we were able to have a better understanding about barriers to access, challenges, and triumphs of ICT4D projects in real-life scenarios, rather than just theoretical discussion. Some more of my favorite topics were barriers to access. I thought this was particularly interesting because there are obstacles that can be easily overcome if given appropriate consideration. It stressed the importance of understanding a culture and population that you are trying to develop – a concept that we have been taught since our introduction to international development. However, getting a better, more specific understanding of this more general concept was a great way to think about how detailed every aspect of this field is.

Digital Exhaust

In this article, Todd Papaionnou, CEO of Continuuity, a big data application company, discusses his previous role with Yahoo and the news personalization of the Yahoo homescreen. He defines “digital exhaust” as any input that is sent to the Internet, whether it be via Twitter, Facebook, etc. This data is then organized behind the scenes in order to prevent clogged networks with the vast amount of data that is sent to the Internet every day. Papaionnou suggests the introduction of computerized programs to organize this “digital exhaust” in real-time. This then can be used to organize features such as personalized home pages, as Yahoo has used to determine which images, advertisements, and news appear for each individual user. There is a video at the bottom of the article of Papaionnou explaining how much data processing actually takes place behind the screens that we view.

Check out Continuuity’s Website to learn more about the company and how it works to improve efficiency on the Internet.

The Importance of Cyber Security in Developing Regions

On Wednesday night, Tulane Hillel and the World Affairs Council of New Orleans invited Professor Ralph Russo of Tulane University and Mark Liggett of Tulane University’s Technology Security Services team to discuss the threats of cyber security and how to make oneself less vulnerable to cyber attack. They shared some of their personal experiences working with technology security and informed the listeners, many of whom were previously uneducated on the subject, of the behind-the-scenes effort that IT security analysts and our government take part in to ensure our safety. The stress that Professor Russo and Mr. Liggett placed on behind the scenes regulation and protection made me wonder about the security of the ICT that is being implemented in developing countries.

This topic in relation to Erik Hersman’s article about ICT4D as condescending made me think, does he have a point? As a developed country, we can afford the security measures that are required to maintain secure ICT networks. However, do developers think about this aspect when creating ICT initiatives for developing regions? Developing regions are already vulnerable to threats and forcing ICTs into their societies may only open another gateway through which they may be weakened. It is important that ICT4D project designs include cyber security measures to protect potentially weak and already vulnerable populations.

Prior to this weeks lessons, I had not considered cyber security in ICT4D projects  to be a top priority. However, it is key to the sustainability to the success of a project and to the development of a region.

The American Red Cross iPhone Application for Hurricane Relief

While researching this week for examples of social media that was used during Hurricane Sandy I came across an iPhone application that was created recently by the American Red Cross to provide resources for iPhone users in the path of a hurricane. The application offers resources such as:

  • “Safe and Well”
  • Food, Water, and Gas Locations
  • Warming Stations
  • FEMA Disaster Center Locater
  • Tips on how to prepare and recover

The application also has a Hurricane Sandy branch that is specific to the Northeast region. In this part of the application, users can track Sandy, find region-specific advice such as where to locate warming stations, and even address the emotional health issues that can come with being a victim of a natural disaster.

The most interesting part of the application addresses communication during disaster. The “Safe and Well” feature was created by the American Red Cross prior to the release of the iPhone application, and was available on their website. People can enter their information into the program so that others that may be searching can locate other displaced peoples. This is a great tool for older generations that may not use tools such as Facebook and Twitter to update their information and communicate with others.

Those that were hit by Hurricane Sandy reviewed and criticized the application, listing it as “indespensible” during the storm, but also listing areas of improvement. For example, some said that after the storm hit, information was not updated often enough. This is a crucial time for users to recieve constant updates while suffering the effects of the storm. Furthermore, there is the issue of the device requiring the GPS locator to be activated on the phone. This drains battery much faster than normal, and this could present an issue especially in a recovering region that may not have electricity to recharge the battery.

I think that this application would have been very useful during Hurricane Katrina. Katrina hit prior to the surge of Facebook and Twitter, and therefore the significant amount of displaced peoples would have greatly benefitted from easy access to the Safe and Well feature. The application also offers a communication tool for those that are affected by the disaster. Users can write about their experience, offer bits of advice for others suffering from the same storm, and provide support. I think that with improvements made after critiques from Sandy users are addressed, applications such as this may play a vital role in future disaster relief.

To learn more about the Red Cross iPhone app, click here.

Struggles of Integrating Aid in Humanitarian Crises

During my research for our group presentation this past week about disaster and humanitarian relief aid, I came across a case study focused on humanitarian aid in Chad. Instability in Chad came to the forefront of international news with the media focus on violence in Sudan, particularly in Darfur, in 2004, and the increase in refugees that fled into Chad. The international exposure for the crisis resulted in a rapid increase in volunteers, private and public donation, and, consequently, a more chaotic issue. The World Food Program (WFP) attempted to establish a commodity tracking system referred to as COMPAS as a response to the influx of aid and donations that were being sent into the country.

The first stage of COMPAS, as expected, encountered a few problems. Many workers within the WFP were not open to the idea of a new, more advanced system – spreadsheets were a more simple way to track data. It also became a struggle for some workers to use COMPAS due to language issues. In order for the system to work long term, WFP hoped to integrate local workers. However, the majority of the population in Chad spoke French or Arabic, and the COMPAS system manual was written in English. Furthermore, only five days of training was offered to the workers who, at the end of the introductory course, often felt unprepared to properly use the system.
Commodity tracking is extremely important for an organization such as the WFP, and a failed first attempt did not mean the end for COMPAS. WFP realized that simply introducing COMPAS into the regional offices in Chad was not enough: it had to be integrated and accepted by everyone in order for it to be a success. The first step was to “dissolve existing networks”; meaning the possible use of reverting to old methods of using spreadsheets had to be completely eliminated. Changes were made to the language of the manual to better suit the workers, and the training course became more comprehensive and included language and IT lessons to complement the use of COMPAS.

COMPAS is an example of the kind of back-office aid system that is vital for humanitarian disasters. While some may wonder what the WFP was doing in Chad, as its efforts were not directly visible, it can be argued that their work introducing the COMPAS tracking system was one of the most significant contributions that could have been made in such a scenario.

You can learn more about the World Food Programme’s presence in Chad at their country website.

Mobile Phone Improvements in the Lives of Rural Mexican Farmers

Mobile technology has recently provided opportunities to developing countries that may otherwise not have proper communication infrastructure. For example, Mexico’s population is extremely dispersed; the large agrarian sector is based in rural regions that may not have access to ICT Infrastructure. This is where mobile technology has stepped in not only to provide an easier means to communication, but also to facilitate agricultural business.

One particular program, Zaca, has targeted the Mexican state Zacatecas to allow them to connect with other farmers and businesses to improve their income and potentially expand output. This article, “A Phone is Not Just a Phone“, mentions the possible spread to fishermen and other trades in similarly rural regions. This seemed to have a similar focus as that of the Indian fishermen using cell phones in this weeks reading. One issue mentioned in this article, that was not mentioned in the Indian fisherman article, was bank access and ability to retain and organize an increasing income.

This video goes into much greater depth about how Zaca functions in Mexico.

Mobile Rural Market Prices – Zaca: Tech Milestone 2 from nextlab on Vimeo.

To counter this issue, the NextLab program with MIT will introduce the Dinube system to Mexico as a way for the rural farmers to transfer funds. We read this week about Afghanistan money transfers and the risk that they pose for fraud and security. The main problem that led to fraud was the sharing of cell phones, so it would be important that each farmer have his or her own phone to prevent theft. Dinube is an international program that has also been used in America and Europe to facilitate secure banking.

OLPC: Mexico

This past February the state of Sonora, Mexico, with the help of an NGO, The New Sonora Generation, announced the introduction of the One Laptop Per Child initiative. The goal set out by the state is to provide the 350,000 tablets to children in Mexican elementary schools during the next three years. Due to Mexico’s rich and diverse history, there are up to 62 indigenous languages still spoken in Mexico (according to MexConnect). Both the Mexican government and OLPC producers have acknowledged the difficulty that this might present to the entire population working with the tablets – not only that of the project in Sonora – and they are working to adapt the tool to overcome this obstacle.

Sonora is not the only Mexican city to push for OLPC. Rather, it is an initiative that has been supported at the public level across the country. Public universities have offered programs to familiarize teachers and students with the new technology to ensure that it is used to its fullest capacity in schools. The private sector has also played a significant role regarding the introduction of OLPC into Mexico. In 2007, Carlos Slim, the owner of the mobile network provider Telmex, purchase 250,000 XO laptops – over half the amount of laptops Sonora hopes to attain in a three year span. OLPC does have a competitor in ClassmatePC – a similar laptop initiative in the region – which has experienced greater success in South America.

This PDF File “Infrastructures for Low-cost Laptop Use in Mexican Schools” provides a much more in depth look into the programs’ development in Mexico.

Development Through Mobile Phones in Africa

In this article, “Seven Ways Mobile Phones Have Changed Lives in Africa”, the increasing usefulness of mobile phones in Africa is addressed and divided into seven categories. Each category is supported with reasons and data as to why is was chosen and added to the list. It is as follows:

  1. Banking
  2. Activism
  3. Education
  4. Entertainment
  5. Disaster Management
  6. Agriculture
  7. Health

I found this list both interesting and encouraging because it addresses both the capacity of this technology to facilitate some tasks of every day life(such as the ability to use mobile banking) and its ability to improve the quality of life (through themes such as entertainment and education). I find that oftentimes in life we take advantage of the abilities of our cell phones, without realizing how dependent on them we truly are. The majority of people that I know own either an iPhone or a Blackberry, which goes above and beyond the powers of an average mobile phone. The use of smart phones in Africa is even becoming more affordable, therefore increasing the likelihood for their purchase and benefits seen through development.

I also like how this article addresses mobile phones in Africa, rather than the Internet or other technologies which require infrastructure that may be difficult to disperse throughout the continent. Although the article doesn’t discuss this aspect of increasing mobile phone use, I think it is important to point out why mobile phones have become more widely used in Africa than the Internet.

Five Key Components to Success in ICT4D: The Process Approach

After reading Richard Heeks’s article ICTs & the MGDs: On the Wrong Track? for class this week, I became curious to learn more about his ideas regarding the success of ICT4D. During my search, I came across a blog post he wrote last year titled “Can a Process Approach Improve ICT4D Project Success?”. While we have recently focused on the measurement of ICT in developing countries, I thought this blog post offered refreshing insight into the conceptual how of ICT4D.

            In this blog, Heeks offers the five points to the “Process Approach”:

1.     Beneficiary Participation

2.     Flexible and Phased Implementation

3.     Learning from Experience

4.     Local Institutional Support

5.     Sound Project Leadership

Heeks chose these five points because they are among the most common themes that are lacking in failed ICT4D projects. He highlights the role that these factors play with one another in the process – referring it to a system similar to the wheel:

Image I agree with Heeks’s analysis of the Process Model. Each of the five points seems not only helpful, but necessary in order to successfully implement an ICT project in a developing region. In relation to the article mentioned above, “ICTs and the MDGs”, and his criticism of the usefulness of ICT in the MDG process, I think the Process Model would significantly impact the achievement of the goals. In this article Heeks criticizes donors dumping money into seemingly hopeless projects that will not hold. However, if a project had a strong base and follow through with the Process Approach, it seems as though success rate would be significantly higher.