Author Archives: vceaser

Guatemala ICT4D Resources

1. National Plan of Science, Technology, and Innovation

Link  (click on link, then to pdf file)

**note: it is in Spanish

2. Government Website: Construyendo la Sociedad del Conocimiento

3. Case Study

Organization AND Project:  Ajb’atz’ Enlach Quiche

Time Frame: 2006-Current

4. External Resources 

BBC News: Guatemala Country Profile 

Information Economy Report: Promoting Livelihoods through Telecentres]

Global Information Society Watch: America Latina y el Caribe (in Spanish)

Harvard: Guatemala Report 

5. Notes 

Information is difficult to attain, but out there. The national policy is very long, dense, and exclusively in Spanish.

So I suggest only choosing this country if you can speak/read Spanish.

 

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Lessons Learned

I think one of the most salient lessons I learned from ICT4D is that information and communication technology can be used as a tool to expedite process from developing nation to developed, when implemented properly. It is also important to remember that ICT is not necessarily complex, expensive software and programs but can be as basic as a mobile phone. ICTs that provide access to the internet hold vast knowledge and information that, when available to developing nations, holds the potential to educate those that lacks alternative, feasible access to education. ICTs can not only provide knowledge and information, but can be used as a tool for harnessing the knowledge of individuals through crowdsourcing.

Because of this, I think the most useful theoretical framework in ICT4D is the people-centered approach. I’ve discussed this approach in several blog posts and don’t think its importance can be stressed enough. In development, we deal with these complex, vast issues that face such large numbers of people. It is easy to get wrapped up in the statistics and logistics and forget that it is the people we are trying to serve. ICTs can be used to empower individuals and increase their capacity for economic and personal growth. While it is nice to consider the large-scale effects of programs, it important to remember that one empowered individual will create a positive rippling effect throughout the community.

For me, this class reinforced the importance of addressing the needs of a community and their cultural context in IDEV initiatives. The instillation of thousands of laptops to a community is meaningless if the people do not have the knowledge to utilize them or if there exists a cultural blockade that would hinder use. This applies to all development programs. Access, supplies, tools, and money are not enough on their own. At the beginning of the semester, I was a bit scared to take an ICT4D class when I’m technologically stunted. Being forced to use new platforms such as WordPress and Twitter empowered me, in a sense, to begin becoming familiar and utilizing other available platforms.

 


Redefining Activism

“The marvels of communication technology in the present have produced a false consciousness about the past—even a sense that communication has no history, or had nothing of importance to consider before the days of television and the Internet.”

 

These words articulated by Malcolm Gladwell in a 2010 article for The New Yorker describe our generation’s tendency to praise the communication of the day-especially social media-in shaping the course of history. Gladwell eloquently persuades the reader that social media’s role by activists in implementing change, particularly revolution, is not all it’s cracked up to be. Activism today can be seen in the case of the “Twitter Revolution” in Iran. Indeed, most of the tweets were coming from the West, in english.  Counter this with the sit-ins that helped spark the civil rights movement, in which individuals faced grave threat to physically stand up for what they believe in.  These days, one can make their facebook status a petition to stop puppy mills and they consider themselves an activist. Movements need some serious risk takers.  Another issue lies in the networking structure of social media, where decisions are based on consensus and there lies no central authority. Gladwell believes systemic change must be driven by a hierarchical organization capable of reaching consensus and setting goals.

Is Gladwell right? Yes and no. Yes, social media has redefined what we consider activism, what I like to call “activism for sissies.” I agree that systemic change, like a revolution, probably needs to be spearheaded by a hierarchical organization. But social media is a vital tool in amounting followers and communicating events.  It’ networking structure enables the sharpening, spreading and building of knowledge. Knowledge that can ignite a revolution.


Can One Laptop Per Child Save The World’s Poor?: A Summary

      In Mark Warschauer and Morgan Ames article “Can One Laptop Per Child Save the World’s Poor?”, they critique the OLPC (One Laptop Per Child) educational reform initiative. The program, launched in 2005 by MIT’s Nicholas Negroponte, aims at the proliferation of hundreds of millions of low-cost laptop to children worldwide. In 2005, the goal was to deliver 100-150 million laptops worldwide by 2008. In 2010, only 1.5 million has been dispersed, 80% of which were to middle and high income countries. The authors delve into an exploration for why the program panned out the way it did.

       A principal flaw, they argue, is the deterministic assumption that only the technology is needed and that students will teach themselves and spread what they have learned to their family members, with or without a teacher. Because of the urgency in getting the laptops to the kids, the initiative shuns pilot programs, stage implementation, monitoring, and formative evaluation.  In middle and and high income nations, the authors believe that children would certainly benefit from laptop computers, but that infrastructure development, teacher training, and curriculum development are also required to maximize reward. Meanwhile, the poorer nations are often to poor to purchase these laptops, at 188$ per laptop in bulk and an estimated 75$ per year per student for use. Because of the price, it also hard to receive funding from donors without any cost benefit analysis or guaranteed results.

     Another flaw is the design itself, a newly designed laptop called XO and corresponding software called Sugar. However, the customized design makes maintenance and repair extremely difficult and expensive, with studies suggesting that majority of the laptops are rendered unusable after only 2 years. It also has a small memory and short battery life.

    The project implementation has other flaws. Many schools lack electricity and internet access and if they do have, it is quite limited. In addition, evaluations have found that parents are reluctant to let kids take home the laptops, fearing any repercussions if something goes wrong. They did find success in the program in Uruguay, where they have the infrastructural capabilities for technical support and free repair, however. This suggests that the project could be successful in developing nations with additional infrastructural support and subsidized costs.


Needed: A Paradigm Shift in ICT4D

In the world of ICTD, failure is widespread and results are controversial. One of the reasons behind this widespread failure is the need for the organizations to always look good, dubbed the “Oscar Night Syndrome.” Because of this, there doesn’t exist a solid (arguably any) Monitoring and Evaluation culture in ICTD. It’s been proposed that targeting the Oscar Night Syndrome requires revamping the M/E culture. While this is an important aspect, I think what we really need here is a complete paradigm shift in the way we approach ICTD.

One of the reasons driving this need to always look good is the need to impress donors to receive project funding. But what if instead of expecting clean, cookie-cutter results, donors wanted the real picture? What if they were more impressed with honesty and detailed results from intensive monitoring and evaluation techniques than with masked lies and feigned success? Furthermore, the nature of these grants are often on the short-term, meaning there is little time to let the entire project play out and positive results to come through. If grants were extended, a project that seems to be faltering at the beginning would have time to use effective m/e techniques to tweak and improve the project as it goes.

To come to this place of non-judgement and openmindedness in terms of failure, there must be an open discussion between all involved in the projects: the donors, project coordinators, recipients. If projects are failing simply by a superficial desire to not let anyone down, we have a very easy solution at hand: not demand that no project ever fails. If a concerted effort was made to hold workshops and seminars at the ICTD conferences worldwide, we could begin to open the discussion and expectations to one of honesty. Once everyone is one the same page-that it is better to admit a project’s flaws and learn from them than to cover it up-the widespread failure of ICT projects wont be so widespread.


Cultural Identity and Capabilities

         In Alampays article, he discusses the application of the capabilities approach to ICT development.The capabilities approach is a theoretical framework to development that claims the freedom to achieve well being is dependent on one’s capabilities, meaning their real opportunities to to do what they value.  In an ICT context, this translates into the fact that access to ICTs alone is not enough in a developing country, but we must also take into account the ability of people to actually make use of the ICTs available. This is often a matter of their education, training, skills, and exposure to ICTs. However, one must also take into account the the cultural and experiential backgrounds of the people.

        Alampay argues that cultural identity and and heritage are factors just as important as, say access to internet or availability of cellular phones, in determining the uptake of ICTs. Several studies illustrate these differences based on just one factor: whether a culture leans to the collectivist or individualistic spectrum of humanity. In an Italian study, researches singled out the exceptional individualism and flexibility developed in the workforce that coincide with the individualism as factors determining the rate of ICT adoption. Compare this to Korea, where researchers believe the notoriously collectivist nature of the culture greatly affect ICT usage over uptake. For instance, computers are often familiar over individual possessions. And in young people, calls from parents are much more common than calls from peers in a form of “mobile affection.” In the West, these same technologies are often used as means to forge independence from parents. Within the context of the Capabilities approach, ICTs can reinforce cultural identity.

         The Western world tends to take a more ethnocentric world perspective, viewing developmental policies and implementation in terms of ourselves. It is possible that we could equalize the playing field when it comes to ICTs: providing equal quality and access across the globe. But we will never be able to bridge the digital divide if we implement these ICTs grounded on the mistaken beliefs that the responses will be homogeneous. ICT uptake depends on the cultural backgrounds and individual difference among the population, coupled with specific policies and programs that either encourage or discourage uptake. But as the research in Korea shows, ICT will be used in different ways in different countries. And this is something we must embrace as the beauty of diversity amongst the nations and peoples of the world.


Personalized Development

A recent article in the Washington Post discussed the new use of mobile information technology in revamping the health care system. Ritu Agarwal, founder and director of the Center for Health Information at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business, suggests an alternative to the current system. He suggests the creation and implementation of mobile technology that tracks and maintains the users information regarding health and their behaviors, ultimately serving as a constant reminder to stay on track. He calls for a restructuring of how Americans do health care to “personalized medicine,” where medicine, prevention, and treatment is entirely tailored to the individual.

In the American system of scientific medicine, doctors take a passive role in responding to patient’s systems as they arise. The holistic approach involves the individuals lifestyle and emphasizes prevention over treatment. So is it possible that the advent of mobile information technology can actually create a more holistic approach to healthcare? Could technology be used to help return the ways of our world to its more natural roots?

I believe so. But I also believe it could be used for much more. In many developing countries  the current health care systems are so inefficient and poorly managed that the implementation of “personalized medicine” would be meaningless. However, the International Telecommunications Industry’s 2012 report gives evidence that mobile technology is on the rise. Globally, active mobile broadband subscriptions increased nearly 40% from 2010 to 2011. This growth jumps to nearly 80% in the developing world in the same year . With the ubiquitous of mobile technology, couldn’t this “personalized healthcare” approach be transformed to “personal development.” Imagine software that helps an individual track their budget, warns them when an area has becomes dangerous, informs a woman on methods to confront her husband regarding contraception. Development, as we all know, is not one size fits all. What if we could tailor development to the individual?