Tag Archives: Aid

The New Airpower: More than Warfare

When thinking about disaster relief and humanitarian aid, we often see NGOs as the major players. In addition, we often see governments and militaries as the bad guys in the field of development work. It is important to keep in mind, though, that the military is no longer confined to linear warfare. In the late 20th and early 21st centuries, militaries dealt increasingly with natural disasters, humanitarian relief operations, resource conflicts, terrorism, small-scale conventional conflicts, and insurgencies. Some of the most prominent forces in disaster relief are militaries.

According to an article from the International Relations and Security Network in Zurich, the United States Air Force (USAF) recently modified its definition of airpower. In the past, airpower was limited to war-faring aircrafts and pioneering spacecraft. The definition of airpower now includes cyber power. It is important to note that USAF does not see cyber power as a channel for carrying out operations but rather an enabler that facilitates improved operations.

This new take on military operations just goes to show the increasing importance of ICTs. If the military is becoming increasingly involved in disaster relief and humanitarian aid, while it’s broadening its definition of airpower to include cyber technology, it sets the stage for utilizing ICTs in disasters. ICTs are not only useful in their own respects (early warning systems, government alerts on iPhones, locating missing persons, mapping, etc.), but they can be used to improve existing operations. ICTs could help the military, and NGOS as well, manage their soldiers/volunteers, track distribution of aid materials, improve efficiency of aid delivery, and the list goes on. If you needed a reason before to consider ICTs a crucial part of humanitarian work, take a look at the United States Air Force who is restructuring itself to include natural disasters as a part of its duties and ICTs a part of its anatomy.

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.

Development Assistance Database (DAD)

This online database is developed by Synergy Systems Inc. as a tool for government to coordinate development efforts with regards to countries, NGOs, multi-lateral organizations or other such organizations. According to the Synergy Systems website, the tool is an “implemented solution for aid management, public investment and national budgeting” which can be used for good governance, public accountability and transparency. Thus, this system works closely with UNDP. This system was first implemented in Afghanistan in 2003. This system has been implemented in more than 35 countries, and each country has its own database with a website. Anyone can access the data online. This is an online data entry system that has analytical reporting, charting and mapping. The database incorporates a lot of visual representation, which one can tell how much each donor committed and actually donated. It also integrates financial management, since it is accounting publicized online. One can also see what projects or sectors donors specifically pledged to. The company modifies the system to meet each country’s needs, and the system also has multi-lingual capability.

The system is often implemented after a disaster such as the tsunami in Southeast Asia, the earthquake in Pakistan and Haiti. The system is easy to use and navigate. It is a great resource and if used correctly, the data should be used and analyzed to manage aid.  However, some negative aspects of the system are if the system was put in place before or after a disaster. For example if implemented following a disaster, information may significantly lag in time and  thus, provide no use. Also, if there is compliance and incentives for parties to use the system. Government may demand too much information from parties, which may actual deter donors. Overall, the flaws of this tool is more external with regards to the implementation of the system by the government and if the government is ready to use it.

Germany withholds Payment for Global Fund

This Al Jazeera article explains that Germany is withholding its annual payment of 270 million dollars to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, all of which are diseases that primarily affect developing nations. Germany is withholding its money until an investigation is made about where billions of dollars may have gone.
The issue of corruption in developing countries that make use of aid organizations is a big obstacle for international development. On the one hand, the Global Fund has delivered treatment to many people, and this reduction of funds will adversely impact their ability to continue doing so. However, it is also not fair to ask wealthier countries to continue to pump money into organizations that are meant to help, but that fall victim to corruption and fraud.
Original Post by Eliza Arnold