Tag Archives: best practices

Three Lessons Learned, One Shared Goal

In studying ICT4D this semester, three things really stuck with me throughout every reading and every class discussion. The first was to be unwavering or relentless in your efforts to affect change. The second thing I learned was to be humble and be hungry for knowledge, not to become complacent. Finally, I learned to plan with the future in mind.

Working in development and aid, it is very easy to become burnt out. We devote a lot of time and energy, both physical and emotional, to causes we really care about and are often unsuccessful or unrecognized. Granted you can’t expect to be incredibly successful on your first attempt, and if you are, people may see it as a fluke. Don’t get discouraged. It’s important to work for causes that we’re really fervent about. As a class we developed an extensive list of best practices. It’s not like we don’t know what we’re doing and or what to expect. But successful projects/programs come from experience, so don’t be any less enthusiastic about a project because it failed the first time. Keep revamping it and adapting it until you have the results you want.

That being said, once we have seen success in our efforts it’s important not to become complacent. After a ton of hard work and resulting success, pat yourself on the back but don’t be smug. I’m not saying we should be overly critical of ourselves, but keep in mind that complacency leads to stagnation. Constantly interact with other development professionals and hear what they have to say. For the most part, a lot of our projects involve people. So if we can’t hear each other out and take others’ opinions into consideration, our projects will never evolve and we’ll be remembered as “one hit wonders.”

Finally, plan for the future. Even if it’s only a pilot program have a vision for 5 years down the road, 10 years down, and so on. Think of the greater impact that your proposed changes will have on the society as a whole and not just your target population. With most grants only valid for a year or two, we often find fault with the way in which projects are funded. Instead of faulting the funders, though, we can adjust our own practices. Have some kind of grant proposal template that you’re constantly revising and editing. When you plan your project and you write proposals for your first grants, you should already have your next proposals planned out for when the first grants run out. Also plan for the future of your target population. Will your project be obsolete in 5 years? Or even less? Have a good idea of what your project will look like 5 years out before you even think about 1 year out.


ICT4D: Most Important Lessons

Core lessons in ICT4D

I think that the most important lesson we learned this semester throughout this course was best practices. I feel that all of the case studies we looked at were diverse in: problems the projects addressed, geographical regions, and ways it incorporated ICTs in the program. However, one key similarity between all of these case studies was that they demonstrated the best [either through example or through mistakes] ways to incorporate ICTs in development projects. It illustrates the fact that, no matter what type of development work you do, certain concepts are universal, such as: incorporating the population in decision making, gathering research and data on the population, and coming up with a good monitoring and evaluation system to have check points.

Personal Lessons Learned

I think on the personal level, alongside learning about best practices, I learned the most through the short papers that we wrote this semester. We had to focus on one country and both analyze ICTs and their national capacity, along with come up with our own solutions to problems we saw. I focused on the health sector and Egypt. I think that it was a challenging assignment because I learned how data collection works, and the issues that can arise through data collection. Having to come up with our own solutions made us think critically of real life issues that are happening right now in the developing world and ways to incorporate ICTs to solve them. These are two skills that I hopefully will continue to take with me as I further my education and pursue a career in development. The most useful theoretical framework that will help me accomplish this is the IDEO Human Centered Design Toolkit. This work basically gives you the framework you need to design your own project that focuses on incorporating the ideas of the target population. It is definitely a kit that I plan to use for any project I wish to create.


infoDev and Wayan Vota

This week, we will be having a very important guest speaker leading our class discussion, Wayan Vota. As one of the prominent experts in the field of information and communication technologies for development, Vota is currently the Communications Manager at Development Gateway. However, he has also worked as the senior director of Inveneo, and as a consultant for infoDev, which will be the focus of this post.

infoDev, which is short for Information for Development Program, is “a global partnership program within the World Bank Group which works at the intersection of innovation, technology, and entrepreneurship to create opportunities for inclusive growth, job creation, and poverty reduction” (http://goo.gl/gRVQZ). Since its founding in 1996, infoDev has been infiltrating various markets in over 50 developing nations around the world by providing them with the technological innovations and support needed to solve their toughest problems. Partnering with governments, non-profits, other World Bank programs, and small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs), infoDev works as coordinator between donors and local stakeholders in order to ensure effective creation and implementation of ICT4D programs. In 2004, infoDev transformed to become more of a “think tank” on ICT4D issues, utilizing their sponsorship of research and analysis in order to advise best practices. The program operates on three main themes: innovate, connect, and transform.

Innovate:

By supporting ICT-focused innovation by investors and social entrepreneurs, infoDev seeks to amplify the impact of those looking to do make one. The program accomplishes this tier through their network of incubators in developing countries, where partners can brainstorm innovative solutions and models.

Connect:

infoDev acts a resource for both developing nations, and the agencies looking to work with them. The program also serves as support system to connect these two entities, and ensure that any progress that is made will be sustainable. infoDev places a huge emphasis on enabling access to “information infrastructure, applications, and services” for all in a way that can be maintained in the long run.

Transform:

This partnership program conducts work in all sectors associated with ICT4D, be it health, education, business, or agriculture. infoDev acts as a consultant to stakeholders, guiding them through the best practices associated with deploying ICTs effectively. The program gains this knowledge through extensive field-based experimentation, evaluation, and research.

While I’m sure Vota will mention, even if only briefly, his work with infoDev, I would like to open up discussion about the context of a comment made about him on the infoDev website:

“Wayan is critical of the historical impact of technology on education for two reasons: First, the expense of piloting a new technology, and second, the major emphasis on the technology.”

Sound familiar? For some reason, the case study on One Laptop Per Child came to mind when I read this, what do you guys think about Vota’s supposed critiques on ICT for education?


ICTs: The Spread of Grants

This week in our ICT4D class, we have been focusing on past theories for developmental approach, and current theories that are being discussed. One of the main barriers to the use of ICTs in development is the capability issue that Erwin Alampay outlines as a factor into how individuals use technology. However, before you can focus on how an individual uses technology, they have to have the technology, which leads us to ICT4D projects.

Recently, the Information Society Innovation Fund [ISIF Asia] received approximately $350,000 [in US dollars] for ICT projects. The funds are a record-breaking amount of money for ISIF Asia, and they will allow them to grow and expand many projects that they are working on. ISIF Asia will be taking this money and distributing it as seed grants to 11 projects that have applied to receive the grants. What is most interesting about these projects is that they mirror what Heeks describes as “ICT4D 2.0” and focus on different types of access to the developing world. For example, one program in India is called Smart Phones for the Deaf Blind, Bidirectional Access Promotion Society. This program fits Heeks definition of ICT4D 2.0 because it is focusing the spread of mobile phones in a program that can actually have a long-term impact in Indian society. Other programs will be focusing on different perspectives of ICTs, like rights in regard to the internet. Whether or not these projects are moving in a direction that will establish best development practices for ICTs is still to be determined, but the only way to find out is to implement the programs.


Lessons Learned and Skills Developed This Semester

 

This semester, I learned many valuable lessons about ICT4D, but I also learned some very important skills that will help me as a development professional in the future.  Class assignments such as blogging and tweeting for the class blog and from the class twitter account have allowed me to develop social media skills and better understand how to utilize these tools for academic and professional purposes.  Prior to this course, I had utilized social media mainly for personal reasons, connecting with friends and family, and sharing information for non-academic purposes.  Although I followed some official news sources on Twitter from my personal account and connected with international development organizations via Facebook, this class has allowed me to expand my social media networks, find new development experts to follow, and exposed me to new ways to use social media in a professional and academic way.  Living in a world where almost every organization and company participates in social media, these skills are extremely valuable.

With the final project, I was also able to engage in open source mapping and gain a first hand experience working with one of the ICT4D tools we have discussed in class.  We were also given the chance to use a One Laptop Per Child computer earlier in the semester.  This allowed us to see first hand how the laptop works (as well as gain a new perspective of the laptop’s limitations and unique interface).  Being able to take a hands on approach and actually use the technologies we discuss in class has allowed me to better understand problems that may arise and common flaws of ICT4D projects, as well as the positive aspects of these technologies.

 

 

In most International Development courses, we are only able to discuss concepts and projects in theory.  However, in this class we were able to use the ICT tools that we are discussing.  Not only did we engage in conversations via social media with other development experts and learn the value of academic social media uses, but we also had the chance to  struggle through the process of learning a new technology (ie. OSM).

Throughout this semester, we have emphasized the importance of taking a bottom-up or people-centered approach, working with the target population from the beginning, recognizing the needs and capabilities of the population, and understanding the importance of user interfaces, ICT support and training, and user-friendliness.  Being able to access the same technologies that are used in the field allows us to understand why these best practices are so important and have solidified these lessons in our minds.


Connecting the First Mile — Reading Overview

Connecting the First Mile: A Framework for Best Practices in ICT Projects for Knowledge Sharing in Development is a study published by Surmaya Talyarkhan which aims to create a framework for best practice for knowledge sharing within the field of ICT4D.

Talyakhan reviewed several case studies, project reports, and evaluations to come to broad conclusions about the best practices in ICT4D, specifically for knowledge sharing.  Here are some of his findings:

Key debates about the subject — the generally favored perspective is bolded (although there is much to be said about the relative value of each perspective and the possibilities of integrated approaches or compromise solutions):

  • Top-Down vs Participatory solutions
  • Global vs. Local solutions
  • Technological vs. Social solutions
  • Optimism vs. Pessimism about ICT4D

Keys to success/best practice — the points most emphasized are bolded:

  • Understand and work within the policy environment (where project is implemented)
  • Make strong connections with policy makers when possible
  • Analyze technologies available and infrastructure limits, then adopt approach or problem solve (bring in more accessible devices)
  • Build good relationships with donors (credibility, influence, legitimacy, and communication are key)
  • Work with the target population (communication is key, understanding their priorities and objectives, involving the target group in the project from the get-go, encourage local participation, build upon existing knowledge systems in place, etc
  • Effective project planning (clearly defined and realistic objectives, target groups, etc)
  • Monitoring and evaluation (be sure to learn and adjust project in response to findings)
  • Strong partnerships are essential
  • Sustainability — economic, social, institutional
  • Build capacity
  • Communicate effectively with target populations (recognize education level, traditions, culture, language, etc of target population and adjust presentation of information accordingly)
  • Use appropriate technologies (affordable and types that population can and will actually use)
  • Informediares must be carefully selected, trained properly, and be provided with the necessary materials and support
  • Two-way communication (local knowledge is important and must be treated as such)
  • Minimize social exclusion
  • Share results/communicate best practices

By integrating these best practices and lessons learned into ICT4D initiatives, we will be able to “connect the first mile,” improving connectivity and access to technologies in remote areas according to the needs and wishes of the people living in these areas.