Category Archives: Rural Development

ICT4D Resources for Indonesia

ICT Program, Policies and Research Priorities-Strengethening Cooperation on ICT research between Europe and Southeast Asia-2011

Development of E-Governance– Research and Strategies

Kretek Internet-International Telecommunication UnionCase Study for ICT Development through Internet Access

Rural ICT Access Policy Advocation-2011

United Nations Development Program for Indonesia-Poverty Reduction Strategies through ICT-UN-

Empowering Local Language through ICT- Cross-Language Resource Sharing-National Electronics and Computer Technology- 2008

Development Strategy of ICT Human Resources Country Government Paper on Human Capacity Building-provides needs and recommendations- 2008

Mobile Banking For Everyone

Mobile banking has become very popular in the developed and developing world. It is especially beneficial in the developing world because it addresses many of the problems they are facing when dealing with cash currency. Before the use of mobile banking, small business owners and customers were forced to physically walk to each other to transfer payments. This became a problem, especially for women business owners because of the risk of theft. Another issue people living in a rural community face is distance from a bank; in many cases there are not banks within walking distance,making it difficult to withdrawal and deposit money. Because of these issues, along with others, mobile banking has boomed in the developing world.

M-Pesa is a very popular mobile banking program that started in Kenya, with 43% of their current GDP flowing through this system. (ITpro) M-pesa works with any basic mobile phone. It allows users to pay for goods or even withdrawal money from a M-Pesa office or ATM, with a simple text message and without a debit card. M-pesa has become so popular that this payment is accepted at a large variety of places including local markets, and by street vendors. It has also facilitated the transfer of money. Many Kenyan’s send money to their relatives. Before mobile banking, they would send their payments with someone going in the same direction, and many times their money would never reach the recipient. With M-pesa, transferring money to love ones is as easy as sending a text message. Some businesses even pay salary through M-Pesa. There are transfer fees as well as ATM fees, but they are comparable to other bank fees, but much simpler.

This video shows how M-Pesa has been impacting the lives of Kenyan’s.

One Laptop per Child: Quality Primary Education for All?

Eight years ago, MIT graduate Nicholas Negroponte developed a hardware, software, and worldwide organization to target widespread primary education around the world. This initiative, entitled One Laptop per Child (OLPC) is one of the boldest technology and ICT4Edu initiatives the world has ever seen. The laptop, called the XO, and the software it comes with, Sugar, are distributed to countries and school districts in bulk to make sure each student in a school or community has a laptop. Negroponte believes that in our modern society and with the unstable, unreliable school systems of many rural and underdeveloped areas, the best way for a young child to receive a quality education is through the use of a laptop, not only allowing the students to teach themselves the software, but also how to utilize its programs for positive educational outcomes. He has faith in students around the world, more so than he does on teachers’ abilities to provide them with the education they deserve.

This program has definitely received a fair amount of criticism, often described as a one-size-sits-all utopian program that does not effectively address the target issues nor is it worth the cost for the outcomes it may produce. In Mark Warschauer and Morgan Ames’ article “Can One Laptop per Child Save the World’s Poor”, they highlight four main issues with OPLC: affordability for targeted countries, flawed expectations and effects of implementation, design issues with the XO, and the reality of student usage. An interesting topic they brought up was Negroponte’s purposeful decision not to test out the product before implementing it. He believes that there is no need for a pilot program, staged implementation, and a designed monitoring and evaluation program. This is somewhat of a development taboo, for all development literature stresses the importance of such ailments in any project or program. I believe that his philosophy of intentionally neglecting these aspects of a project were interesting, yet flawed, for though it takes more time and money to test out a program in a smaller scale environment, it is still important to get an impact assessment before making a project widespread in order to prevent any potential detriments it could inflict on targeted populations.

Just a few days ago, OPLC News released an article entitled “Goodbye One Laptop per Child” announcing that the initiative is essentially history. Though there have been advancements in the XO hardware, few are still coding for Sugar, the software. Offices are declining and OLPC organizational support has been dying out. However, this does not mean that the goals and vision of OLPC are dead, for the energy in using technology to for educational development is a continued effort. In my opinion, many of the flaws of OLPC overrule the positives, and its outcomes were not necessarily what were expected. Thus, this fading out of OLPC has the potential open other opportunities for educational reform worldwide, especially if OLPC enabled countries want to attempt to stay sustainable.

Visa and MasterCard Boosting Services In Developing Economies Via Mobile Banking

Our class on Tuesday focused primarily on various effects of and issues with usage of mobile phones in the daily lives of some in developing nations. While we talked more about the basic effects of having a mobile phone on economic development, mobile phone access can influence connections to financial information and services. This past week, Forbes came out with an article about two major companies in the financial services sector and their plans involving growing developing economies. MasterCard and Visa see the growing mobile phone usage in developing nations around the world as an opportunity to increase their reach in such economies. While full financial services will not be available, the usage of mobile banking and mobile payment technology certainly has the potential to create great financial opportunities for people in those developing nations- whether they already have access to traditional financial services or not. These changes could lead to even greater economic development than already projected for many of the developing economies.

Mobile Phones for Women’s Empowerment

It’s amazing how prevalent the use of mobile phones has become in the developed world as well as the developing world. In communities where people may not have access to clean drinking water or electricity, you can still see mobile phone usage. It is estimated that there are around 3.9 billion mobile subscribers worldwide. (Informa Telecoms & Media 2011). What is even more amazing is what an impact these mobile phones are having on the developing world, especially the women.

Mobile phones are being used to empower women worldwide. In a article “Woman’s Empowerment? There’s an APP For That” the author, Alice Newton, recalls her time working in Madagascar, and how the women used their mobile phones to empower themselves. She saw mobile phones as “one of the most powerful tools for development” especially for women. Mobile phones allow women more economic opportunities. In many rural countries, women have very particular family commitments. By using mobile phones, these women can do their family duties and still have time to work. Without mobile phones, to communicate with customers, these women would have to walk long distances. Business owners can now receive mobile payments, without neglecting family duties. She also states that communicating through mobile phones improves the safety of these women because walking to meet customers can be very unsafe for women. They can also utilize mobile banking which allows women to save money and build credit.

Mobile phones are also great ways for women to receive information. There are apps and games that teach women’s health. They give information on pregnancy and sexual health. Women are often time unable to receive this information and can not care for themselves and their children as well as they could. They are also able to receive information on politics. This information keeps women from having to rely on others, and allows them to be more self-sufficient. Another important role of mobile phones for women that Newton mentioned was the use of mobile phones to combat domestic abuse. Domestic abuse is a common problem, and now women can connect directly with authorities.

Though there has been an increase overall in phone usage in the developing world, there are still gender gaps. Newton states that “women are 21% less likely to own mobile phones, rising to 37% in some regions.”

Do You Have The Power?

New and old technologies, from mobile phones and computers to radios and lighting, are all connected by an essential common thread: they require power.  ICTs might have the ability to improve networks, reduce poverty, or empower women, however, without an energy source the use-value of these technologies are rendered ineffective and irrelevant. Importantly, access to a power supply can be an extreme factor within the digital divide, and more specifically, rural residents often face the burden of this divide. The combination of my five-month experience in Ghana and this week’s ICT4D class has allowed me to raise a few important questions: what do you do when you can’t just “plug it in”? Further, how does ICT become relevant when power and electricity in and of itself is needed?

According to an article written by experts at Linkoping University and the University of Nairobi, the biggest barrier across Africa to ICT is power and electricity. Importantly, they explain that what will improve the livelihoods of many residents, particularly those in slums and rural areas, is not a new piece of technology, but access to energy. This finding echoes a publication from Rural21, the International Journal for Rural Development, titled Without Energy no ICT!. As exposed by Rural21, technologies cannot be useful to the daily lives of people if power and electricity are unavailable. I bring these articles up in conjunction with each other because it is imperative to listen to these needs in the development arena if ICT is ever going to be a realized factor in the lives of these marginalized communities.

Even more, as Rural21 pointed out, inventive and renewable energies might be the power solution that makes developing countries capable of utilizing ICT. Instead of expanding the power grid, why not harvest wind from the “windy coastline” or build new businesses from new environmentally-friendly battery sources (as seen in case-study of Zambia pay phones)? Ultimately, I want to emphasis the need for the ICT4D community to step back and see the real needs of people before simply implanting a flashy technology. While we can always find a power supply for our phones and computers, not everyone can. Therefore, let’s find the energy to power development, for this first step has the potential to empower more people in the long-term.

Author Profile: Anita Kelles-Viitanen

Anita Kelles-ViitanenAnita Kelles-Viitanen is the Secretary General of the Advisory Board for Relations with Developing Countries in the Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs.  Our class read an article by her for our 1.10 class on Poverty Reduction.  This article, named “The Role of ICT in Poverty Reduction” shows Kelles-Viitanen’s long background as a supporter for ICT4D.  She is a former manager of Social Development at the Asian Development Bank (ADB), whose new mission is to reduce poverty.  According to this article written by Kelles-Viitanen on Project Syndicate, ADB changed its objective from “economic growth: to “poverty reduction” in the late 1990’s; this may be the reason Kelles-Viitanen left.  As with many NGOs participating in micro-finance, who discard NGO status to become true banks when the costly to operate program incurs high transaction costs.  Although ADB still seems to be considered an NGO, their current motto of “an Asia and Pacific region free of poverty” seems mere invention. Kelles-Viitanen is an accomplished writer, and you can find many of her books on amazon, many on international development in Asia.   In my Google search of her, I found two more articles written for the Indigenous Peoples Assistance Facility (IFAD) Innovation Mainstreaming Initiative (and the Government of Finland).  One, titled “Custodians of culture and biodiversity: indigenous peoples take charge of their challenges and opportunities”, I talk about here, the other you can find here for further reading.  From the executive study, I deduce that Kelles-Viitanen is a strong believer in climate change, and approves of the mitigation approach versus adaptation.  For this article, Kelles-Viitanen went through 1095 proposals submitted for funding, proposed by the indigenous peoples and their organizations (from NGOs, CBOs, business organizations and companies, exporters’ associations, ministry departments, state institutions, municipalities, trade unions, university departments/academic institutions, church associations, and co-operatives to consultancy organizations).  These organizations, from Asia, Africa, the Middle East, the Pacific, the Caribbean and Latin America, suggested solutions to solve indigenous poverty.  On the cover of this article is a Chinese painting, taken from her collections, showing she not only has the dedication to read through copious proposals, but that she also truly is a “custodian of culture and biodiversity”.