Author Archives: vcahen

About vcahen

Hello all! I have been blogging for a couple years now not really for the sake of the readers but for the sake of writing. I have been writing in diaries since I was a little girl...maybe Matilda influenced me as a child, who knows?... but in recent years I have discovered the art of blogging. While studying abroad I tried to write my blog pretty regularly but with limited wifi access in Ghana that wasn't too successful. I am currently doing a year of service with AmeriCorps VISTA and we are required to write a monthly blog. But instead of writing just for them I have decided to expand my blog writing to write reviews on restaurants throughout the world as well as describe in detail my traveling stories. I hope you enjoy and feel free to leave comments!! Carpe Diem, V

ICT4D; Most Important Lessons Learned

When first learning about International Development I had no idea what aid truly meant. Originally I believed that throwing governmental money towards development projects in some of the poorest countries would further help them tackle the main problems associated with poverty. However, this is false, money isn’t the solution to all of the problems. Prior to taking the ICT4D course I had never truly thought about technology as an enabler to development. The world we live in, especially in developed countries, has continuously evolved with an increasing amount of new innovative technologies and software being introduced daily. I had never realized that as technology develops in the western world it could further help develop the developing countries. There are a variety of lessons I learned that would remain relevant to a development professional and mind track but there are a few that powerfully stood out to me.

First off learning what ICTs were in the first place was a new topic. Information and Communication Technologies involve a large amount of tools from your basic radios and computers to Open Street Mapping and GIS technologies.  Looking at the target population’s basic needs and desires should be the start of all development projects. Similarly to all development initiatives the target population being addressed is the most important factor of a project. In this class we looked at the Human Centered Design, which discusses the purpose of focusing on the needs of the people.  If a development team is attempting to start an ICT based project in a small rural village in Eastern Kenya, it is important to evaluate all risks and factors such as access to technology, access to infrastructure such as electrical outlets, as well as access to Internet and other broad-bands. This notion of understanding what is already present and available to a project is what I grasped as being the most important. Not having Internet and electricity are just a few of the challenges and obstacles that development professionals face when trying to involve ICTs with development projects.

Secondly learning about development by different sectors was definitely a new approach I had yet to study. I had never split up education and health and business and economy versus government but looking at different ways and usages of ICTs individually in different sectors and talking about the “front- office usage” and “back- office usage” was definitely very intriguing. I think if I were to pursue a development profession I myself would focus on two sectors, Economy and Education because as my own personal belief I do believe that education is where approaches to development should begin. Thirdly, the project we were assigned on HOTOSM, JOSM, and Open Street Map in collaboration with the Red Cross might have been one of the most valuable skills I have learnt all year. Not only did I get to practice first hand ICT usage but I also got to witness and experience how emergency and disaster relief professionals work with the community to help prevent and improve disaster aid and relief. This project not only gave me hands- on marketable experience but also allowed me to learn how to trace and use such software.

Other interesting topics discussed were the various case studies we learned about. However one in particular that related to my sector; education, was One Laptop Per Child. One part I found interesting was how they adopted this strategy and it’s success and challenges. As well, when Wayan Vota came to as a guess speaker and he discussed it he said it wasn’t a very successful project in the end. Seeing such cases where technology was introduced but the success wasn’t as visualized really demonstrates the challenges that await development professionals especially those in the field of ICTs. It was also very interesting to see how big of an effect ICTs have on disaster aid. I definitely think that this is an area that is very influential to overall development challenges.

For my own personal advantage I definitely think learning how to use JOSM, tweeting, and creating weekly blog posts has allowed me to become more ICT efficient. It has also changed my point of view on social media as I now follow more resourceful and influential people on twitter, and I now have created my own blog as well as created a LinkedIn profile as advised by the guest speaker. I believe I now have a more Human centered approach and that ICTs have made a permanent mark on my ideas and perspectives about development.  Nonetheless, although I learned a great amount of new information I wish we had discussed more unsuccessful projects that may help us as future professionals. Learning about the failed attempts to introduce ICTs in the developing world could be very beneficial to individuals like me who seek to create a project in the future. However, overall bringing the right ICT tool to the right population is the principal point I gathered from the lessons.


2012: The new year of cybersecurity

In this week’s lecture we discussed cyberspace and cyber security strategies.  To begin I will differentiate the two terms. According to the ITU National Cybersecurity Strategy Guide written by Dr. Frederick Wamala in 2011, the term cyberspace is used to “describe systems and services connected either directly to or indirectly to the Internet, telecommunications and computer networks”. Cybersecurity on the other hand is a term used to describe a strategy of defense that is crucial to all governments for it ensures that cyberspace (internet) continues to work efficiently and maintain social order if it is attacked unexpectedly by and external threat. Secondly I will discuss an article that illustrates the true importance of cybersecurity.

In an article 2012: Year of War Against Cyber Crime written by Arthur Coviello published in early 2012 in The Economic Times he discusses the negative side effects of a technological emerging world and how shared private information has the possibility of becoming public. In 2011 there were various attacks on large corporate companies such as Sony, Epsilon and Google in which their software information was hacked and stolen. Thus in 2012, these companies have decided to “focus on key areas of improvement and innovation”. According to the author he believes that both private and public sectors should collaborate and establish a common framework to share information. According to the article “today’s attackers are better at sharing real- time intelligence than their targets”. As ITU suggested in their guide for national strategies and similarly in the article, education and training of our cyber workforce will become the priority. It is not only important to create a government programme dedicated to cyber security but also support cyber security programmes “that graduate more individuals in computer sciences and risk assessment.” ITU suggested this national strategy plan in 2011 and this article claims that the US federal government is enforcing and renewing its cyber security workforce plans and is anticipating to spend nearly 13.5 billion on cyber security initiatives by 2015. Organizations as well will begin to change the way they incorporate security into their systems. While our society has made huge innovations in the field of technology it is vital to our well being of individuals and nations that our cyber information is protected and safe.

Thus as the article claims and ITU suggested and seems to be in the United State’s interest and future strategic plans, cybersecurity needs to be incorporated into a national programme and policy and should work along side private companies such as the one listed above to ensure full capacity security.


Plan’s Checklist and the Education Sector

In this past week’s class discussions and readings we have looked at different sectors in the developing world for which ICTs have been introduced as a tool for development growth. My sector, Education, which I closely explored and analyzed the use of ICTs in that field has left me with some interesting questions about how to correctly use information communication technologies.  Fortunately one of the readings assigned this week gave me a clear outline of how to correctly see if ICTs can be successful in a developing country, for a target population, and a specific sector.

The report ICT Enabled Development: Using ICT strategically to support Plan’s work written by Hannah Beardon is part of an ongoing process directed and supported by Plan Finland and USA to support offices located in a variety of African countries in an effort to promote ways to apply ICTs in a more resourceful and strategic way. While the organization Plan’s work details a variety of priorities in different countries they are however all founded on the principles of rights- based approaches with a focus on capacity building and participation awareness. They attempt to reinforce people’s “access to information and opportunities to participate in decision making” (Beardon    5).  While their projects do involve the learning of children it doesn’t solely focus on the education sector. However in this report they introduce a checklist developed to thoroughly suggest key steps that are involved when enabling and implementing an ICT program in development. I found this checklist very crucial and extremely beneficial to looking at projects in the education sector.

The first point of the checklist looks at the Context Analysis, which really focuses on what is happening with ICT4D in the country or region of choice. Thus if I am looking at Uganda I will have to gather information about existing ICT projects in the education sector as well as current stakeholders and potential collaborators as well as current conditions (policy or market) in the city or country itself. The next point on the checklist focuses on Defining the Need, which emphasizes what problems can ICT help overcome as well as what kind of opportunities ICTs can introduce. When using this point for the education sector I would have to consider all of the underlying causes of poverty and the effects it has on schools and students. I then have to look into the needs of the stakeholders and see how ICTs can help with development opportunities. The next point on Plan’s checklist is Choosing a Strategy and looking at what kind of ICT4D is needed (direct, internal or strategic). In the case of education I will have to look at what kind of technical and training support is needed in the target schools as well as how to give equal opportunities and reduce inequalities between the rural and urban students. The fourth claim involves Undertaking a Participatory Communications Assessment, which further examines who will benefit most from this introduction of the ICT. This point is very important as ICT for development is used as a tool to reduce poverty and inequalities and in education children in rural areas are the hardest to reach. It is important to thoroughly pick a right form of technology that can help build the capacity needs of the target students. The fifth checkpoint on this checklist emphasizes the importance of Choosing the Technology. Technologies can already exist within a sector and a region however when creating an ICT development project you will need to assess which technology tool will be most useful to improve the quality life. In education, computers are by far as of today the most useful technology however there come some problems affiliated with using computers such as illiteracy (language barriers) as well as knowledge of how to use the computer itself. The sixth point again relates to Adjusting the Content, which in term relates again to language barriers. In most developing countries children have yet to see or use computers thus when they are introduced into classrooms they need to be guided into how to use the computer and understand the content. Teachers as well need to be taught the skills and content necessary in a language they comprehend. Number 7 on this list looks at Building and Using Capacity which further emphasizes the skills teachers and students will need to keep a project sustainable. The eighth point on the checklist involves Monitoring the Process. A crucial aspect of all development projects involves a Monitoring and Evaluation plan for which they measure the positive and negative affects of the project or in this case the ICT that is being implemented.  For example in education testing and enrollment rates aren’t the only outcomes that should be measured, they should measure quality of teaching via ICTs. If the introduction of an ICT has no positive effect than it is important to reconsider how the project is being implemented. The final two points of this checklist focus on Keeping the Project Going (Sustainability) and Learning From Each Other and coincide with each other. By learning from each other, previous projects and the community, one can overcome the challenges and risks that may interfere with your ICT project. Thus it is important to continuously learn and adjust factors of the project to keep it sustainable.

This checklist created by Plan if followed correctly has the potential to help any organization or individual create and implement an ICT4D project correctly and sustainability. This checklist does not solely apply to the education sector as it is a guideline to overall programs and I believe should be used when trying to implement a project.


The evolution of social media in Hurricane Sandy

Throughout the semester we have discussed the multipurpose of Information and Communication Technologies as it can be utilized in a variety of ways in efforts to promote development.  This past week we have focused on Social Media and its effect in the developing world. While we have studied articles about social media in time of war as well as social media as a tool to deliver a message trans-nationally, we have also discussed social media in times of a natural disaster. It is well known that natural disasters are a huge component of international development as they have the ability to endanger a population and impede progress. According to a report released by the World Bank, “natural disasters can wipe out development gains and eclipse years of development investment. While they occur worldwide, their economic and social impacts have been increasing and are generally much greater in developing countries than in developed ones” (World Bank   2006). In recent years, while many ICTs have been used towards disaster relief in developing countries, we have also observed an increase of the tool in developed countries such as the United States.

In an article discussed in class, written by Sara Estes Cohen and published in Emergency Management, the reader apprehends a greater understanding of the use of Social Media in Disasters. In this article Sandy Marked a Shift for Social Media Use in Disasters, the author discusses how Hurricane Sandy displayed a shift in the use of social media. “More than ever before, government agencies turned to mobile and online technologies” (Cohen  2013).  Prior to the hurricane as well as after government official utilized social media tools such as Twitter and Newsrooms to deliver the public with crucial information in order to maintain awareness of the community. The mayor of New York as well as the Emergency and Evacuation agencies continuously kept contact with the public. The staff members provided immediate responses to the questions asked via Twitter accounts as well as Facebook.  The public of the city of New York had an option to subscribe to text messages released by the Mayor’s Office Twitter account that allowed people to still receive information once individuals lost power along with access to Internet. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA also held a twitter account dedicated to live updates on Hurricane Sandy. According to the article, “on Oct. 29th, the day Sandy made landfall, FEMA reached more than 300,000 people on Facebook and reached 6 million Twitter users with one message” (Cohen   2013).  The American Red Cross also used social media tools to receive donations as well as promote relief.  After the Hurricane it was evident that social media became the major source of information for the general public.

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The author of this article also discusses the challenges present with the use of social media such as rumors that spread around. She explains that rumors become a dangerous aspect of social media and can harm the public.  She thus concludes her article by claiming that while Hurricane Sandy did represent a significant evolution in the usage of social media it is important to introduce “standardized methods, new funding streams, and guidance. It is important to address the challenges so social media can be a tool for public safety in the future” (Cohen   2013).  This article is a perfect example demonstrating that social media can be used world wide in combined efforts to help all societies not just developed or developing countries.


An Overview of why Radio is so Important in the Developing World

In this week’s assigned readings we focused on why Radio is such a crucial ICT to the field of development. One of this week’s reading “Why Radio Matters Making: the case for radio as a medium for development” written by Dr. Mary Myers and commissioned by Developing Radio Partners, emphasize the importance of radio for many different aspects of life and development. According to Myers, Radio is by far the most prevalent mass- medium throughout the developing world. Myers discusses the impact of radio in times of emergencies, education, and empowerment. According to her in emergency and disaster situations “radio is an invaluable tool” (Myers   2).  With the help of the radio survivors can sometimes be informed of their loved ones whereabouts as well as different locations to access food, shelter and medical aid. Radio’s can also help evacuate certain areas that may be affected by a natural disaster. Certain radio shows, even one’s that are fiction based, can have a strong impact on helping reduce trauma caused by disasters. According to the author UNDP supported a radio program after the tsunami in Indonesia. “The trauma radio show had 30 counselors who worked closely with the community and had one of the highest audience ratings in the region” (Myers   3).  Topics would vary but would mainly direct mental trauma such as how to control your emotions.

Although in the developing world radio is considered a device for entertainment it can also very easily educate. In this paper, Mary Myers describes various ways radio is used to educate throughout the world. One example she uses to support her claim is an example of a radio program used as a strategy to teach farmers in rural areas new farming methods. Certain studies showed that there a lot of farmers listening to the broadcast listened to the advice that was given on the show and indeed did improve the agricultural fields in the country discussed.  Radio shows can also educate individuals especially women about certain health risks and factors.  A fiction radio soap opera has the power to educate women listening to their show about several issues regarding sexual and reproductive health as well as child and parent relationships. According to a study 85% of respondents who listened to such a program have implemented changes in their lives as a result of the knowledge they learned by the radio show (Myers   7).  Myers does indeed justify her statement that radio really does matter.

In response to Dr. Mary Myers paper I further researched radios and development. I found an organization that focuses on using radio technologies as a mode to help improve education in the developing world. This grass- root humanitarian organization Ears To Our World (ETOW) specializes in the distribution of radios primarily to children and teachers. In their mission statement ETOW claims that their mission is “ to enable children and their support networks in the most remote, impoverished parts of the world to receive educational programming, local and international news, emergency and health information as well as music and arts programming through the use of shortwave radio receivers. While our primary focus is on schools, our reach now encompasses other community facilities, the visually impaired, and, when required, disaster relief ” (ETOW). Ears To Our World is just a few of several non- profit organizations that focus on using radio and other ICTs as a tool to further development.


The Importance of ICTs in Disaster Relief: An example of Japan’s Earthquake

In the past few weeks we have been discussing the usage of ICTs in times of emergency aid due to natural disasters. As a class we have been assigned squares to trace buildings and streets as an additional help to the Red Cross and the mapping services. Information Communication Technologies are a crucial aspect to helping disaster relief. With the help of radio satellites, disaster humanitarians can pick up signals and try and help avoid prominent damage by evacuating future affected populations in the areas that are being hit by a natural disaster. If the population has access to mobile phones, the Internet, TV and Radio they can communicate and help themselves in time of crisis by planning their escape routes. The transmission of SMSs have allowed for emergency messages with crucial information to be communicated to family members and emergency crews.

In an article written by Izumi Aizu a research fellow at Tama University the author describes the role of ICTs in a disaster as an example Japan’s earthquake.

In the article “The role of ICT during the disaster – A story of how Internet and other information and communication services could or could not help relief operations at the Great East Japan Earthquake”, Aizu discusses the role ICTs can play on disaster relief by showing that with information communication you can help prepare the affected area for what is coming. He claims that a majority of the population is connected via broadband and 3G network. However according to official data after the quake “telephone operators blocked 90% of calls in the most devastated areas” which is supposedly a standard measure to ensure that emergency services would go through (Aizu  2). However this affected thousands of citizens for they were refused the right to contact their friends and families.

In the coastal areas, the Tsunami destroyed a majority of the infrastructure including telephone lines. Although the Japanese government has over 1500 radio and satellite devices it did not meet the demand for communication and many could not be distributed to certain affected areas. While many people tried to send messages in hopes of receiving food and other aid via social networks such as Facebook or Email, the actual usage of ICTs were very low. Because there was such a low access to ICTs and the government and aid agencies weren’t focusing on improving the ICTs many areas remained very damage for several months. After a number of volunteer ICTs professionals inspected the areas they concluded that they needed to bring in more technologies such as computers and phones in order to help rebuild the area.

However after several months of helping citizens recover with the use of ICTS, iSPP , a pro- bono information support platform, conducted a survey by sending out an online questionnaire which received 2,815 responses and personal interviews with 185 interviewees. The main questions asked were which tools were useful, what information resources did people rely on and many others. The numbers that resulted from the questionnaire showed a severe reduction in ICT usage after the disaster.

In conclusion from the results, many of the people accentuated the importance of power supply in the emergency situation and that with ICTs disaster relief teams can bring the resources needed in time as well with help for preparedness. In response to this article I agree with the article that ICTs is an important aspect of disaster relief and that it is crucial to start now to help future disaster relief.


ITU “Measuring the Information Society” a summary

In 2012 the International Telecommunication Union released it’s fourth annual report “Measuring the Information Society” which monitors innovative tools developed by ITU to monitor information- society development worldwide. According to the director Brahima Sanou claims that this report “ presents the ICT Development Index (IDI), which ranks countries’ performance with regard to ICT infrastructure and uptake, and the ICT Price Basket (IPB), a unique metric that tracks and compares the cost and affordability of ICT services” (ITU   5). This edition features a new way to measure the world’s telecommunication capacity.  According to the report this past year has seen a strong growth rate in ICT uptake with an increase in all key indicators. ITU and it’s partners are collaboratively working towards achievement of the goals and targets emphasizing the need for access to broadband infrastructure and the need to bridge the digital divide. According to the overview of this report its main objective is to “identify the recent global and regional trends in ICT development and uptake on the basis of internationally comparable ICT statistics” (ITU   27).   This report provides the public and researchers with valuable data on several countries IDI and IPBs.

Two key featured tools used for data throughout this report is the ICT Development Index (IDI) and the ICT Price Basket (IPB). The results of these two metrics can further help policy makers identify current trends as well as notice which actions need to be taken as well as compare various ICT development tracks in different regions. The data provided is supposed to provide an unbiased overview of ICT trends. The data used throughout the report is primarily statistics collected by ITU however they do receive additional data from “the United Nations Population Division (population statistics, the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (statistics on literacy and school enrollment), the World Bank (data on GNI per capita and PPP dollars), and UNCTAD, OECD and IMF (data on revenue and investment)” (ITU   27).   While this report focuses primarily on the IDI and the IPB it also proposes new approaches to study and examine ICT development.

The ICT Development Index is an index combined of eleven indicators into on benchmark measure to compare ICT developments across countries. It was first development by ITU in 2008 and demonstrates the level and evolution over time of ICT developments as well as it’s progress. It also exhibits differences between countries referring to the digital divide as well as future development potentials. The ITU ICT Price Basket is a tool that delivers intuitive information on the cost and affordability of ICT technologies further explaining the development of ICTs in the developing world. It is composed of three prices for fixed – telephones, mobile phones, and fixed broadband service and computed as a percentage compared to the GNI. According to the repot “the price of ICT services has a significant impact on the demand for and spread of ICTs, prices strongly influence how many people are able and willing to subscribe to a service” (ITU    81).  For my short paper I studied Cambodia in South East Asia and explored their ICT development throughout the past several years.

Cambodia is considered to be one of the United Nations Least Developed Countries. It is in the bottom thirty list for this reports IDI index for 2010 and 2011. From 2010 to 2011 their ICT IDI index rankings increased by 2 however they still had a low score of 1.96. In every sub- category Cambodia was towards the bottom of the list. Accordingly to the IDI for the IPB Cambodia is ranked 130 out of 161 countries with a score of 24.3 in 2011.  Cambodia has one of the highest prices for broadband infrastructure, which limits the access and creates a larger barrier along with a larger digital divide. Because of Cambodia’s high prices this report shows that it is one of the least developed countries for ICT development. With the information provided by this report, hopefully policy makers can further create policies and propose valuable ideas that can help further develop the ICT access in countries such as Cambodia.