Tag Archives: blogging

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.

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Twitter and Blogging in ICT4D

This week we followed a recent ICT4D debate between several prominent development professionals. Although the theme of the debate was fascinating what I thought was more telling about the field and today in general was how this disagreement was taking place. All of those involved in the debate were on Twitter and followed each other. They actively blogged and commented on each others blogs. This created a virtual community of people with many different backgrounds and specific knowledge, but all investing, creating, and promoting international development. Image

The importance of twitter in ICT4D is outstanding. As a social media it is not often thought of as a high brow source of information, but #ICT4D leads to all the most recent news about the field, studies, information, and commentary. Twitter has allowed a global network of people to quickly, effectively, and intelligently discuss, comment, and interact together. ICT4D is the stronger because of it, as these professionals can bounce ideas off one another, develop a better understanding of what is happening around the world, and communicate with the public. Another benefit is that twitter adds a human voice to development. I personally follow a number of development professionals and am always impressed by the breadth of their knowledge, what other things they are interested in, their opinions, and some are very humorous. Obviously twitter in ICT4D suffers the same problems as we previously discussed, like unchecked facts and biased opinions, but regardless it has come to be a dominant factor in the field.

Blogging too is important as it allows for at least a brief introduction into what the development professionals are doing, feeling, and hearing about. It keeps everyone on the same page and is more informative than twitter (many people link their blog to brief tweets for further explanation). I enjoy getting to hear real life opinions that are not diluted in academic wordiness and correctness.

I will certainly begin to follow more of these leaders in development on twitter and on their blogs. I highly recommend everyone check them out. My personal favorite is Chris Blattman, but there are many others out there. Here is an aggregated twitter feed of professionals in ICT4D. Educate and Enjoy!


Activist Bloggers in Vietnam

This article from Bloomberg Businessweek opens with a personal anecdote from one of Vietnam’s growing number of activist bloggers using social media and online resources to criticize the Communist government and its human rights abuses. Activists like Le Quoc Quan can face up to 12 years in prison for their “crimes” against the government, but the article discusses how a burgeoning “thirst for democracy,” growing online civil society, and the government’s flimsy censorship firewall prevent their deterrence.

This blogger activist example closely parallels the themes from the article we read for class on the “Zapatista Effect,” and it demonstrates how imitating that model is even easier now than before because of advances in social media. There is a growing consensus that regulating anti-government activity on the internet is outside the capacity of a small developing country like Vietnam, and activists are realizing the organizing and mobilizing capacity of online networks.

Because I (and many development practitioners) personally view communist policies and oppressive regimes as a worthy enemy of activist bloggers, its easy to applaud the ICT as a great tool for progress. I am concerned however that it is one which could just as easily be harnessed to destabilize and compromise the legitimacy of burgeoning democracies (with little verifiable evidence against them) which might otherwise contribute to positive human and economic development.

Its also interesting that the article mentions how some Western countries, (the U.S. included), are quietly supporting the activist bloggers  by criticizing proposed laws meant to restrict them, and at the same time attempting to form economic partnerships with the government working against the activists. This case highlights how state self-interest and human rights agendas continue to come into conflict, on or offline.


Malala Yousufzai: Blogger Activist and Inspiration

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Malala Yousufzai

Malala Yousufzai is a 14-year old girl from Pakistan. Unlike many 14-year olds, however, Malala does not simply spend her days complaining about homework, whispering secrets to her best friend, or flirting with her crush. Instead, Malala has become a blogger activists, advocating for girls’ education in Pakistan. She lives in a conservative region of Northwestern Pakistan where the Taliban tightly restrict female education. Malala’s frustration with these restrictions caused her to begin speaking out via the internet. For her courage and activism, Malala was awarded Pakistan’s first National Youth Peace Prize.

However, Malala’s story is not only one of accolades and courage. Sadly, in early October, Malala was shot by Taliban extremists. Pakistan’s President and Prime Minister both condemned the attack. Today, doctors say Malala is making progress, but the road to recovery is slow. She is currently in the UK receiving medical treatment after an initial surgery to remove a bullet lodged in her neck in Pakistan. Her story is inspiring people around the world to take action, with thousands signing a petition to nominate her for the Nobel Peace Prize and November 10th will mark “Malala Day.”

Malala’s story demonstrates the great power of activist bloggers. Malala’s blog about the horrors of life under the Taliban and her desire to promote girls’ education earned her international attention and scared Taliban militants enough for them to attempt to kill her. If she survives, they promise they will try again. Malala is a strong young woman, however, and vows to return to Pakistan eventually to continue advocating for education and life free of Taliban rule. Blogging and other social media have propelled her story from the rural Swat Valley of Pakistan to international attention and will hopefully help to further her goals, as well as recognize her courage.

You can learn about a few other youth activists using social media in this article.


Thought Leader Profile: Patrick Meier

Patrick Meier is currently serving as the Director of Crisis Mapping at Ushahidi. He co-founded the Stand By Volunteer Task Force and was publicly recognized by Bill Clinton in 2010 for his leadership and contributions. He recently served as co-director at the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative’s Program on Crisis Mapping and Early Warning.

Meier also has an incredible educational background. He holds a PhD from The Fletcher School at Tufts University where his dissertation research focused on the intersection between nonviolent civil resistance and digital activism in repressive environments. He also has a pre-doctoral Fellowship from Stanford University as well as an MA in International Relations from Columbia University. To top all of these, he was a Research Fellow at the Peace Research Institute, OSLO and holds advanced certificates from the Sante Fe Institute and the New England Complex Systems Institute. But wait, I almost forgot to mention that he was born in Africa, must help a little in terms of shutting down the white savior label!

 iRevolution is a blog designed to empower individuals through radical self-sufficiency, self-determination, independence survival and resilience. The blog features short thought pieces on how innovation and technology are revolutionizing this process of self-empowerment. Blog topics address civil resistance, crisis mapping, crowd sourcing, digital activism, early warning, humanitarian technology, satellite imagery and social media. The blog encourages information sharing, which has become a key feature to all areas of development, not just ICT4D. The website holds an incredible wealth of open source information that will undoubtedly be incredibly useful to many.

I was able to get in touch with Mr. Meier to ask for some of his input in this profile. When asked why he started iRevolution, Meier responded, “ some friend and I had just launched a group blog on technology, and I soon found myself hooked (while my friends did not blog as much). So I struck off on my own and have enjoyed blogging as way to collect my thoughts, bounce of ideas and get feedback”. I also asked him exactly what he was looking for in students coming out of ICT4D educational programs, and got a surprising response. Rather than suggesting that they receive a high degree of professional training, Meier replied, “students who are pro-active, reliable, creative and team players”. I was also curious about that Meier felt students should do to prepare themselves for the ICT4D field, and what university programs should be addressing. To this he suggested that students read up on ICT4D as much as they are able, to speak with as many professionals in the field as they can contact and to “blog blog blog”. As per university programs, Meier advocates more hands on experience both inside and outside of the classroom, and volunteering for groups such as the Standby Volunteer Task Force (I like how he slipped this little advertising ploy in here).

So, though Meier is quite the academic scholar himself, he seems to be more an advocate of self-education than university and post-graduate programs. I find it very interesting that he prefers this approach, and feels that it speaks to his confidence in the inherent capabilities of people to educate themselves to achieve their ends, whether in development or otherwise. His projects empower people to help themselves solve their own problems. This refreshing approach is most certainly the future of development; I hope more organizations will begin to follow his lead. He truly is an innovative and admirable thought leader in the field of ICT4D.

Please visit his blog, iRevolution.net, I promise you won’t be disappointed!


ICT4D Professional Profile: Linda Raftree

Linda-Raftree

In a previous class period, we all broke down a blog posted by Linda Raftree on her blog “Wait…What?” Exploring her website sparked my interest and I came to find many interesting things about Linda Raftree. First of all the logistics; Linda has experience in a wide array of sectors from disaster response, youth engagement, translation, grant writing, development education and much much more. This life full of international development however, did not begin with a sure fire passion for the field. Linda received her degree from USC for anthropology. It was not until she moved to El Salvador with her husband that she by chance received her first job as a translator at a local NGO.  After this she began moving up in the IDEV world, something she contributes to her listening and writing abilities along with her organization and efficiency in completing tasks. Since her initial job, she has had positions with UNICEF, Oxfam, Lutheran World Federation and Department, and currently Plan International. At Plan, her main focus is on youth, especially girls and ICT. Linda wants to help youth be at the “forefront of their own processes rather than have outsiders dictating what they are doing with their lives.”

Some of the best information I received from Linda over our email interview was her advice for aspiring IDEV professionals. Linda personally looks for individuals with good writing and interpersonal skills who also show a sense of respect, humility, humor, and a willingness to jump into things. One of her biggest pieces of advice is that we must allow ourselves to become invisible and be willing to lead from behind. Sometimes our best role is in being facilitator and not the owner of a development project.  For ICT4D professionals specifically, her greatest piece of advice is that ICT is not always the best answer and should never be forced into a project.

Linda can be found all across the internet. Primarily this is through her personal blog “Wait…What?” which provides her take on all things Development and ICT happening in today’s world. She also has a prominent Twitter page that is worth checking out. Both of these resources give you a better glance into Linda Raftree’s personality but also has a wide variety of information about all thing ICT4D.


ICT4D Professional Profile: Kim Stephens

Kim Stephens is the lead blogger of iDisaster 2.0, a popular word press account (iDisaster2.0) that aims to inform subscribers of topics such as emergency management, communication technologies, homeland security, social media, and a plethora of additional topics.  Kim is assisted by Claire B. Rubin–the founder of Claire B. Rubin & Associates–where the pair worked together as research associates for two years.  The firm specializes in research and consulting in the fields of emergency management and homeland security, working to serve clients in the public, private, and non-profit sectors.  It has produced a series of educational products, books, and services.  After leaving Claire B. Rubin & Associates, Kim was appointed senior associate at ABT Associates, where she works on a team that strives to help customers via research, technical assistance, and consulting services.

Kim was lead to a career in ICT4D because of her interest in how “social media and information technologies will change emergency management for the better,” according to her twitter page.  She has over a decade of experience as both a researcher and as a practitioner in the field of emergency management and has worked with federal, local, and non-governmental groups.  After earning her master’s degree in Public Administration from Texas A&M, Kim focused on the “application of social media to the practice of emergency management in the public sector.”  She focuses on the challenges that those in this sector may face when “employing new information communications technologies before, during, and after a crisis.”  Kim recently developed social media training for the 2011 Readiness in Emergency Management for Schools (REMS) grantees and has been in correspondence with several emergency management groups at universities in efforts to research the use of social media for crisis communications in a collegiate setting.

Here is her LinkedIn.

Here is her Twitter account.