Tag Archives: Colombia

Colombia ICT4D Resources


1) National ICT Policy: Vive Digital

Colombia’s national ICT policy is outlined through El Plan Vive Digital,  an initiative sponsored by the Ministry of Information and and Communications Technologies (MinTIC). This link includes a short introductory video, an outline of the plan, policy goals, Colombia’s demand for ICT etc. A pdf of the government publication outlining the plan is availble here

Data is from 2011

Content language: Spanish

2) The Ministerio de Tecnologías de la Información y las Comunicaciones is responsible for overseeing Vive Digital. Link to their website here (content is in Spanish)

3) Here is a link to a study (in English) conducted by the Center for Information & Society at the University of Washington  and the Instituto de Estudios Peruanos that discussed the impact of ICT training programs in Brazil, Colombia, and Mexico. The Colombian programs highlighted were through the Centro Juan Bosco Obrero, Teleton Colombia, and Cirec (site of the latter is currently under construction).

4) Additional Resources:

Colombia Digital: information on Colombia’s policy (English)

Pro-Ideal: Colombia ICT summary and policy overview (English)

Latin Lawyer: Information on ICT legislation and rights (English)

5) Due to the popularity and relative success of Vive Digital, it is fairly easy to access information on Colombia’s ICT policy. That being said, the most up to date content is often only available in Spanish.


E-Government and Connectivity at its Best: Colombia, Uruguay, and Panama

Governments live under constant pressure to meet the growing needs of their citizens with limited resources available. Countries around the world have addressed this issue by modernizing government management through the implementation of innovative e-government programs. Colombia, Uruguay, and Panama were recognized as e-government champions by the 2013 version of the World Economic Forum’s Global Information Technology Report. In Panama, thanks to PanamaEmprende, entrepreneurs can set-up a company in 15 minutes. Internet connections have more than tripled in Colombia in less than three years. In Uruguay technology exports have more than quadrupled in a decade thanks to the support the government has provided to small and mid-size tech enterprises.

Colombia’s political investment in ICTs initiated 14 years ago with the release of the National Council for Economic and Social Policy’s policy agenda for the 21st Century. The strategic document became a road map for the development of the Colombian Knowledge-based society. Colombia’s e-government success is the product of a.) Strong political support, b.) The use of ICT as a state policy, c.) Sufficient Financial Resources, d.) Addressing Citizens’ concerns, e.) International Cooperation, and f.) Institutional and workforce capacity. Uruguay also started investing in ICTs in the late 1990s and its ICT success can be attribute, among other things, to the nurturing of tis local ICT businesses. In the case of Panama, e-government success is the result of extraordinary political support from the president and cabinet members.

Despite the astonishing progress Colombia, Uruguay, and Panama have achieved in terms of e-government, many challenges still remain visible: a.) millions of people still can’t afford to access the internet and b.) funds to expand the digital infrastructure of these countries are limited.

For more information about e-government in Colombia, Uruguay, and Panama, please refer to Chapter 2.3 of the World Economic Forum’s Global Information Technology Report available here.

OLPC in Colombia: A Different Perspective

In class this week, we discussed many of the criticisms of the “One Laptop Per Child” program, which gives sturdy, affordable laptops to children in developing countries. Some of these criticisms include the fact that the model is entirely dependent on the computer itself, which could break, the fact that the teachers are almost completely left out of the equation, the financial instability of the project, and the fact that the local historical context is rarely considered in the implementation of OLPC. Studies have shown that the program has caused very little improvement in learning benchmarks or economic indicators in most cases.

However, there are other voices on the ground who argue that OLPC is making a big difference. For example, Maureen Orth, an award-winning journalist, Peace Corps volunteer, and founder of the Marina Orth school in Medellin, Colombia states that OLPC is “the most wonderful tool they could possibly have.” In an isolated region plagued by gang-related and drug violence, Orth says that One Laptop Per Child is making a big difference to children’s education. According to her, computer and English skills are essential to helping children compete in the global market. She also says that the laptop keeps children interested because they view activities as a game, and it teaches them responsibility because they take it home.

I think that maybe the key to OLPC’s success at Orth’s school in Colombia is that they design their own curriculum and put a lot of emphasis on teacher training. These are traits that make Orth’s school different from other places where OLPC has been implemented. Despite One Laptop Per Child’s many flaws, Orth’s on-the-ground perspectives shows that it can be successful in improving children’s education in developing countries if it is implemented in the right way, such as keeping the emphasis on teachers and being aware of the local context.

Co-Crea Colombia: Young People as Drivers of Development

During one weekend this past May young Colombians got together to solve community issues in an increasingly familiar venue–online. The event, organized in conjunction with the World Bank, connected young people working to develop applications to tackle security, risk management, transportation and health issues.  Teams from each of the three participating cities competed for three winning spots and a chance to present their ideas in Bogota. Top finishers included:

“Ciclomundo” to let cyclists know which streets are the safest. ( Coco Locos Team, Cali),

“CIUDAPP Cuida tu ciudad” to enable citizens to use mobile devices to notify the responsible agencies for problems with public facilities and infrastructure. (Nerdcore Team, Barranquilla), as well an application from the Emgenia Team from Manziales that gives people points for adopting healthy habits which can then be converted to food donations for community kitchens.


The World Bank quoted María Isabel Mejía, Colombia’s Deputy Minister of Information Technologies and Systems, who said, “this type of activity is spectacular because it promotes innovation, creativity, cooperation and citizen participation to help solve the city’s problems.”

Mejía’s enthusiasm is well-placed. In channelling the energy of the younger generations, countries may harness an eagerness to stay abreast of new trends in communication tools and greater technological literacy for effective development. This way, countries can hope to circumvent the digital divide that prevents them from best taking advantage of information and communication technologies.

Indeed, the 2011 ICT “Facts and Figures” report published by ITU indicates that, across the board, younger people are spending more time online than their older counterparts. Perhaps even more exciting are the people who have yet to join the conversation. 70% of the under-25 demographic in developing countries are not online, and thus present a potential windfall of future online activity.


Events like Co-Crea Colombia provide an opportunity to link socially-minded young people, from the aspiring social entrepreneur to the new kid on the block (with a smartphone), and empower them to develop plausible solutions to community problems that they encounter in their daily lives.


Colombia ICT Resources

National ICT Policy:

1) FORESTA ICT Policy Analysis Report

Report Published by FORESTA in 2010, analysis of Colombia ICT policy starts on page 29. English.

2) Global Information Technology Report 2012

Published by World Economic Forum, English

External Sites

3) Latin Lawyer Business Law Resource

Overview of telecommunications capabilities, English.

4) Difficult to find any official government portals regarding ICT policies, but the Foresta report was a very detailed analysis of the history of the policies and was an invaluable resource for research.

OLPC in Colombia

After reading the Warschauer & Ames article on One Laptop per Child, I was inspired to research Colombia, my country of choice for my paper, to see what kind of progress the program has made there. OLPC has had a presence in Colombia since 2008. I found an interesting video in which Nicholas Negroponte discusses bringing the project to Colombia:

The interesting thing about the way the program was initially implemented is that it was a partnership with the Colombian Ministry of Defense. A big object in the way of development in Colombia is the civil war that has been waged there almost constantly since 1964 between the government and various guerrilla groups. The government has been accused by many of committing human rights violations throughout the conflict. For this reason it is a good sign that the Ministry of Defense would attempt to fight its image problem by redeeming itself with participation in the OLPC program. However, it also raises skepticism at whether or not the Ministry is doing it for the right reasons or rather as a tool for propaganda or other hidden agenda.

Despite arguments on the program’s true impact, Colombia has had great success in terms of numbers of laptops distributed. The local governor in Caldas purchased 65,000 laptops to be distributed through the region. Native star Shakira’s foundation purchased 700 laptops for three schools in different Colombian cities. Most recently 11,000 laptops were distributed to public schoolchildren in the city of Itagüí. Colombia currently has 54 educational institutions across the country that implement the OLPC program independently. While we have learned about the detractions of the OLPC program, it is hard to argue that getting that many laptops in the hand of children and providing them with at least the opportunity to learn and experiment with technology is a bad thing. Education is a huge problem that is holding back development in Colombia and the country is desperate for progress of any kind. At the very least the country currently has a greater capacity for ICT4D than it did before the implementation of the OLPC project.

Global Health, Farming, Education, or Climate Change: What Would Apple Do?

Observing Apple’s success in recent years due to innovative and intuitive technological advances, Ken Banks explores how the “Steve Jobs approach” might be applied to conservation and development. A series of blog posts from FrontlineSMS called Mobile Message discusses how mobile phones and other technologies are being used to improve, enrich, and empower billions of people’s lives across the world. Olivia O’Sullivan, the Media and Research Assistant of National Geographic’s news watch, comments on Banks’ approach in the (title mentioned above) article.

The article starts with a quote from Michael Noer’s Forbes article titled “The Stable Boy and the iPad,”

“Two weeks ago, I was staying at a working dairy farm sixty kilometers north of Bogotá, Colombia. I was fiddling around with my iPad when one of the kids that worked in the stables came up to me and started staring at it. He couldn’t have been more than six years old, and I’d bet dollars to donuts that he had never used a computer or even a cellular telephone before (Colombia has many attractions. The vast pool of illiterate poor is not one of them)

Curious, I handed him the device and a very small miracle happened. He started using it. I mean, really using it. Almost instantly, he was sliding around, opening and closing applications, playing a pinball game I had downloaded. All without a single word of instruction from me”

This observation is reminiscent of Sugata Mitra’s minimally invasive education idea as promoted by the Hole in the Wall experiment. If (only) there were funding to provide impoverished children with new technology such as the iPad, the curiosity inspired in the children would provoke incredible learning.

O’Sullivan asks two questions: What would happen if Apple turned a fraction of its attention to solving  conservation or development problems? And secondly, why doesn’t Apple work in conservation or development?

The answer, as presented later in the reading, is that Steve Jobs felt that he was contributing best to the world by focusing his energy on creating brilliant products. He “saw almost everything other than Apple’s mission as a distraction” Further, it is speculated that if Steve Jobs were to take up a philanthropic approach, he would have funded programs that worked in nutrition and vegetarianism rather than technology (according to Mark Vermillion.)

O’Sullivan presents five thoughts on where an Apple approach to ICT4D might be problematic:

1. Consult the User- Apple notoriously doesn’t consult its customers before designing products. Steve Jobs once said,

“Our job is to figure out what users are going to want before they do. People don’t know what they want until you show it to them. That’s why I never rely on market research. Our task is to read things that are not yet on the page.” 

This approach would most likely not fly with the various stakeholders involved in the ICT4D world.

2. Customer vs. beneficiary- Apple sees people as customers and carries out commercial transactions. However, in the ICT4D world, regular business rules don’t apply. Therefore, this mindset would lead to further complications.

3. Open vs Closed- Steve Jobs was against the open-source approach that most ICT4D project employ. Rather, he advocated for controlling all aspects of the user experience, including hardware and software. He believes that open source systems were fragmented while closed source ones were better integrated.

4. Time for the field- As a corporate megastar, Apple doesn’t have the time to get to know the individuals that they are trying to help. Understanding the worldview as well as needs of people in developing countries is extremely important in reaching a sustainable resolution.

5. Appropriate Technology- Apple’s products are generally expensive, power hungry, and reliant on computers. The closed source systems would make innovation around the platform difficult. Opening up the system, which Steve Jobs would (as mentioned above) never want, would most likely lower the standards of excellence in design and usability.

Thus, a Steve Jobs/Apple approach to the ICT4D world would definitely need some fixes. Perhaps a post-Steve Jobs Apple will develop a new philanthropic personality. They have capital, talent, and resources available that could reinvent ICT4D. However, this reinvention would likely have interesting unexpected results.