Tag Archives: case study

Critical Thinking About ICT4D: A Case Study

As mentioned in our lovely textbook, the Intermediate Technology Development Group, now known as Practical Action, is one of the few programs using ICTs to provide the information needs of the poor people, not the donors.  The reason most projects do not focus on the demand side is because “people cannot ask for things of which they are not aware or have not yet experienced.” (Unwin, 57).  The important point to take from this blog post is that there are similarities in the needs of the poor in different countries, but there are also significant local differences in need and ability to gain access.

Therefore, with no further ado, let me introduce you to this organization by asking you to watch this hilarious two minute video on what they do in Peru, then we will move on to a case study in Zimbabwe (my country for this class)!

If you don’t want to watch the video, here is a short description of the organization: it is an NGO that uses ICT to challenge poverty in developing nations.  Enable poor communities to build their knowledge and produce sustainable solutions for things like energy access to climate change to enabling producers to create inclusive markets.

In a rural community in Zimbabwe, residents now have electricity, unheard of in most rural areas of the country. This is due to the implementation of a micro-hydro generator constructed by Practical Action Southern Africa, funded by the European Union.  It has provided life-changing scenarios in basic education, sanitation, and healthcare, not to mention the ease of television to receive the local news.   Before, one farmer had to travel 64 kilometers (39 miles) to find out the current market prices.  What is so very neat about this case study is that it is very sustainable (as well as renewable and good for the environment), meaning that this community can fix the system themselves and enjoy significant improvements in their lifestyles and prosper from their electricity supply.

Empowering poor individuals and marginalized communities is what one main goal of ICT4D should be, and this organization is a good example of an “appropriate balance between supply and demand, between the aspirations of those seeking to implement the initiative and the needs of those who will be using and implementing them.” (Unwin, 70).


ICTs and Australia: A Cautionary Tale

According to recent article in the Brisbane Times, numerous Australian ICT investments and programs have “fail[ed] to meet their objectives, run significantly late or cost far more than planned.” The article, which cites a report developed by Australian NGO Standards Australia, reveals that between 65 and 85 per cent of projects fail in some capacity, with the average cost of overrun between 50 and 100 per cent. This is compounded by a further 30 per cent of projects that are outright canceled after proper investments have been made.

For a nation of the economic size and level of development as Australia, this is a troubling news. While the infrastructure investments and IT programs in Australia are likely more complicated than programs that would be instituted in a developing nation, the relationship between investment and waste is deeply concerning  for such a developed nation. One would imagine that with the numerous benefits that come from operating in a developed nation, contractors and government program leaders would be able to properly manage ICT investments and programs.

In their report, Standards Australia revealed numerous guidelines to leaders in ICT investment on how to combat investment issues. Perhaps nations looking to improve their ICT use can look at Australia as a cautionary tale. The Standards Australia guidelines make a note of encouraging project leaders to take personal responsibility for project success, in addition to several other reforms aimed at combatting waste. Hopefully, by using Australia as an example, developing nations can adopt the crux of the Standards Australia guidelines in order to avoid many of the same issues that have plagued Australian ICT investment.

Better or Much the Same?

I have a pretty limited experience when it comes to my knowledge and involvement with international development related to technology.  In fact, I’m surprised that this is in fact my first class that puts any kind of focus on it.  Technology is clearly an important part of my life as a 21st century student, and it isn’t surprising to learn that technology can also have a huge potential for those living in developing countries.  It brings with it so many conveniences and opens so many doors of opportunity to learn and improve.  Technology makes it as easy as the click of a button to share information with people all over the globe. But is that what is actually happening? Or are there negatives to this technological expansion?

In this weeks readings, there was a case study that talked about the message from Alfred Austin’s line of poetry. It reads, “Across the wires th’ electric message came, “He is no better; he is much the same.” This line of poetry struck me and was very thought-provoking. Is technology actually improving the lives of those in developing nations? Of course there have been endless positives, but this is something we should really consider before it becomes an integral part of our efforts. What do you think? Are there any potential negatives to technology in developing nations? I know for me one that comes to mind is pollution.  Developing nations often are some of the major contributors to global pollution. What other negatives might there be? Is there a way to use technology to change this?

Improving Access to Information in Africa

In a recent article in The Guardian, author Loren Treisman details the struggle to bring access to information to those who are offline or illiterate, and the role that NGOs are playing in fixing this problem. With cell phone usage at nearly 72%, one may be led to believe that the digital divide is not all that great in Africa. However, this statistic tells only part of the story. A mere 18% of mobile phones in Africa are smartphones, and those who use smartphones are concentrated in regional enclaves. Even those with access to cell phones and the internet may struggle to take full advantage of the technology, as the lingua franca of these platforms is typically English.

However, Treisman mentions several organizations that are taking an inventive approach to working with local communities to solve these issues. Many of these groups operate by combining both low and high-tech approaches to assist citizens. In Liberia, iLab Liberia is working to transfer key information found online to murals and information boards throughout busy intersections in Monrovia, the capital of Liberia. These chalkboards are written using photos, illustrations and diagrams in addition to text in order to help those who may be illiterate gain information vital government services.

iLab Liberia, in addition to the other organizations that Treisman mentions in his article, provides a key service to individuals who are outside of the digital world. It is easy to forgot that using technology is not all that simple, and that even when one has access to the technology using it properly can be difficult. Organizations that work to bring online information to individuals outside the digital world by using platforms that may be more palatable offer an interesting take on how to shrink the digital divide. Perhaps we will see an increase in such organizations as their success stories are shared throughout the development community.

Inspiring Science Education for Girls Using Information Communication Technology: an ICT for Education Project

In Plan’s 2010 ICT Enabled Development report they focused on a number of challenges and solutions to the use of ICTs in the developing world by using profiles of numerous countries. One country they focused on was Uganda and since I am focusing on Uganda for my research I was inspired to look more into what Plan was prescribing for Uganda’s ICT development problems. Plan’s work in Uganda has centered around four main elements, including children’s participation and ICTs in education. The role of children in ICT work is something that we have discussed in class briefly under the subject of the One Laptop Per Child project but not much in a positive light. After reading about the need Plan identified in seeking greater access for children I sought to find a project that was implementing ICTs in education and having a positive impact. Plan’s report makes a note of the broad improvements of ICTs in the over all education system fore example: the numbers of trained teachers and desktop computers being introduced, but I wanted to see a project and direct application of ICTs in education.

Upon my research I found a project called, Inspiring Science Education for Girls Using Information Communication Technology. This project, founded in 2006, has three major objectives: encourage more girls into sciences, improve girls’ self-esteem and confidence, and improve performance of girls in sciences. These objectives were designed after research on the number of girls enrolled in science programs and the identification of a need to increase these numbers and the overall benefit it could have on the female and overall population. The project works to give girls access to positive mentors in the science fields through ICT camps and individual, well trained, teacher. It also works to provide an outlet to share information and projects through the organization of science fairs. Lastly it increases access to computers (over 1,000 refurbished computers have been delivered) that have networking capabilities. With these computers comes access to research tools and the formation of an online repository of learning resources . This resource is the most interesting aspect of the project and, in my opinion, a large step forward in connecting the girls in the program to past work as well as, indirectly, connecting them to each other.

-Girls at an ICT camp-

Since its inception Inspiring Science Education for Girls Using Information Communication Technology has seen ten more schools wish to participate in the program and has trained more than 100 teachers. This project can be used as a vest practices example and is inline with Plan’s ICT vision and work in Uganda. There was little evidence that spoke negatively of this project and I feel that, from my research, this project has made strides in increasing the use of ICTs in education through internet and computer access.

Using radio to promote safe motherhood: the Taru initiative

In our readings for this week, we learned about the power of a seemingly simple device: the radio. The Mary Myers article; “Why Radio Matters” made a case for the potential that the radio has to save lives and improve health outcomes by broadcasting health messages in form of radio soap operas. This may seem like a weird concept to us, but it has been proven successful in many developing countries around the world. I will share a case study from Bihar, India where a radio soap opera show was used to lower fertility rates, therefore decreasing maternal mortality.

Bihar is the poorest state in India and has the highest fertility rates. The average fertility rate in India is 2.6, yet the rate in Bihar remains above four. Only 34% of single females in Bihar reported using contraception of any kind, according to the 2001 Census in India. High fertility rates contribute greatly to maternal. A local NGO, Janani (which provides reproductive health care), a non-profit “Population Communication International,” and researchers from Ohio University paired up to address the dismal maternal health situation in Bihar. They produced and entertainment-education campaign targeting about 190 million men and women living in rural Bihar and three neighboring states. They reached their target audience through a radio program soap opera that aired once a week for a year. This 52- episode series was about the life of a fictional woman named Taru. As Vijaykumar (2008) states, the campaign sought to, “motivate listeners to take charge of their own health, seek health services, and better their living” (p. 182).

The campaign was a great success. Baseline vs. follow-up surveys of 1,500 households in Bihar showed that there was an increase in awareness family planning and an overall greater approval from people’s social networks about the use of family planning after the radio series. Utilization of family planning services also increased which portrays a great success; not only was this campaign able to educate and inform its audience, it actually caused behavior change which is not always an immediate outcome of mass media campaigns. In addition, condoms and other forms of contraception and pregnancy test sales increased “exponentially,” in several villages according to Vijaykumar (2008, p. 184). The study even found that there was an overall increase in gender equality beliefs among the respondents, which is a huge step in the right direction for maternal health because maternal mortality stems from the general lack of value placed on women’s lives in many developing countries. The fact that there were changes not only at the individual level, but also at the community and service-demand level highlights the extent of the success of this campaign. It was also able to influence social norms and behaviors, which is a huge barrier to public health movements and is especially important in a destitute area like Bihar where traditional cultural beliefs often persist and present themselves as barriers to modern public health campaigns. The only obvious downfall of this campaign in my opinion is that it only used one channel to attempt to reach a population of 190 million, but clearly, it still worked.

Radios can do more than you thought, huh?

Reference: Vijaykumar, S. (2008). Communicating safe motherhood: Strategic messaging in a globalized world. Marriage & Family Review, 44(2-3), 173-199. doi:10.1080/01494920802177378

Bamyan Media: Reality TV for Social Change

In light of the readings about how simple technologies can go a long way in development, I found this project I stumbled across very interesting. Since radio was pointed out as being able to access the most rural/illiterate segments of a country’s population, I was curious as to what TV could do. This organization, Bamyan Media, has as their mission: Through producing locally relevant popular television programs, Bamyan Media inspires marginalized people in the developing world to lead change and create prosperity in their communities by building social enterprises.

Founded by Anna Elliot in 2009, the project’s pilot series in Afghanistan proved a success. The program has been working in Egypt since 2011 when it was awarded a contract with USAID and is also working to support the development of productions in the Middle East, South America, East and South Africa.

The project focuses on two formats: one focuses on celebrating social entrepreneurship and promoting green, socially-impactful organizations, environmental responsibility and leadership; the other targets youth unemployment by showcasing entrepreneurs and their business models to drive mass small and medium enterprise creation at the base of the economic pyramid. They work with local broadcasters and businesses to develop each series.


For more info, visit their website.