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.