Tag Archives: connectivity

ICT Usage, Economic growth, and Gender Equality in India.

In “Connecting the first mile:  a framework for best practice in ICT projects for knowledge sharing in development”  we see a framework set up for the best practices in ICT projects for knowledge sharing in development, centered around debates related to: Top down versus participatory solutions to development problems, global versus local solutions, technological versus social solutions, and optimism versus pessimism about the role of ICTs in development. Based upon this article there are essentially three success factors that determine the efficiency of ICT development: the environment, the project level, and the first mile. I am going to focus on a country in which we success in all three of these areas; India. As noted in the infographic below, India is the winner for the most growth “in terms of mobile users in the past 20 years”. Instead of looking at only where this success was driven from, I am going to look at what this success in growth and technological innovation has done for women in India in the ast few decades.

Mobile Usage Worldwide

A study published in partnership by the International Center for Research on Women and the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women entitled: “Connectivity, How mobile phones, computers, and the internet can catalyze women’s entrepreneurship; Case Study: India”, part 2.2 takes time the analyze the information and communications sector in India, finding major success including:
1. New policies and business opportunities, especially in wireless communications and products, inspiring growth of the new government ministries, regulatory agencies, state-owned corporations, and private sector companies.
2. The expansion of sought out market space in the mobile and internet services industry from companies such as state-owned BSNL and MTNL, Bharti-Airtel, Reliance Communications, as well as Nokia and Motorola.
3. The growth of the ICT sectors contribution to GDP from 3.4% in 2000-2001 to 5.9% in 2007-2008.
With the staggering economic and political success of ICTs in India, I am asking how this success has worked to improve the lives of women in India, and the answer is, it has, and in a big way.
Gender Disparity in India

The graphic from the ICRW report notes the rise in economic social and educational success for women. This success is due the residual effects of ICT development including GDP growth, job creation, and social change. Barriers to women’s business success in India that remain include: social norms, time, capital and financing, skills and training, access to markets, and business networks. While these barriers exist, they are similar to issues we would find in a fully developed country such as the United States.

These challenges will continue to exist around the world, but what all developing nations can learn from the success of India is the wide range of positive benefits the expansions and successful implementation of mobile phone strategy can have. The more connected the population, the more likely we are to see success and growth spread.

The World Bank: Capturing Technology for Development

In 2011, The World Bank had a group of independent evaluators compile a comprehensive report on the growth of ICT Access in developing countries via interventions by the World Bank. The report notes that although mobile phone technology has been instrumental in ICT development in poorer countries, other technologies (internet, connectivity in general) have been neglected. This neglect has led to an ever widening digital divide. Throughout the last decade, the World Bank has been the largest financial backer of ICT projects. Their overall strategy has been to focus on “support for sector reform, increasing access to information infrastructure, and developing ICT skills and applications.” However, part of this report details areas in which the World Bank should focus more attention. These are just a couple of examples:

  1. Place more emphasis on technologies that support broadband and internet access by supporting investments that seek to build up national infrastructure
  2. Further utilize the growing worldwide mobile network to update data in real-time.
  3. Sponsor more programs that relate to the development of ICT skills by the local populations

The report also details their rationale behind past interventions and successes and failures of other programs. It is a very complete look at their failures, their overall mission, their current strategies and why they feel it is time to refocus. I believe it is a great resource for many different people. For example, someone looking to receive funding from the World Bank could tailor their projects around one of their new strategy objectives. Additionally, another person who is planning an ICT project can look at some of the World Bank’s experiences with similar projects because they are involved all over the globe with a myriad of different cultures and situations.

chart from the World Bank report, showing the disproportionally large number of mobile subscribers compared to internet, broadband, and landline phones

Link to the full report 

OLPC Applications in Burkina Faso

Warschauer and Ames’s article, Can One Laptop per Child Save the World’s Poor?, provides insight into the many flaws of the OLPC initiative. Though the program has good intentions, “the poorest countries targeted by OLPC cannot afford laptop computers for all their children and would be better off building schools, training teachers, developing curricula, providing books and subsidizing attendance” (Warschauer and Ames, 34). In February of 2008, three years following the launch of the OLPC initiative, the national knowledge sharing platform on ICT4D (NTIC) in Burkina Faso held a workshop to discuss the possible implementation of the program in Burkina’s education sector. The workshop provided sector experts the chance to demonstrate and discuss the usefulness of the specialized XO computer. After much heated debate, it was decided that the OLPC could not successfully be integrated into the education sector at that time.

On the surface, the XO computer seemed like the perfect solution for connecting kids in developing countries– it was cheap, small, rugged, and efficient. Very little power was needed for it to run and it could withstand the harsh environmental conditions of countries like Burkina Faso. The open source software and content meant that users could alter programs and expand on existing software, but what the program failed to account for was the lack of capacity in the targeted countries to support, maintain, and rebuild various parts of the XO computers when they broke down. The problems encountered with this top-down distributing laptops approach brought about many questions for the Burkina NTIC to focus on. Would the OLPC meet the needs of the schools and people in the educational sector in Burkina Faso, what were the pros of the system, what were the cons, how would the program be introduced, and when would be the right time to introduce it?

It was determined that even though the laptop would increase access to knowledge, enable people to take part in the information society, introduce children to technology at a young age, and withstand harsh environments better than an ordinary computer, the OLPC could not be successfully applied in Burkina Faso because it needed to be adapted to local needs.

The OLPC would not be useful in Burkina Faso for many reasons. Foremost the current infrastructure, ie. bad connectivity, lack of energy, etc., could not support the OLPC. There are no resources available for technical maintenance of the laptop, and there are other problems within the educational sector that are much more pressing (lack of school rooms and bad working conditions for teachers).

In the end, the workshop led more to discussions about how ICTs might be used in the Burkina education system; the focus was on changing teaching methods rather than on the use of the OLPC itself. It was concluded that substantial efforts must be made to improve infrastructure, teacher training, curriculum development, and technical support networks before a program like OLPC could be successfully introduced to the nation. For the OLPC to work, both teachers and students should be trained to work with the software/hardware. OLPCs should first be distributed through community centers rather than just among children aged 6-12, and the content should be adapted to existing educational curricula. Further, the maintenance and life-expectancy of the computer parts also need to be improved.

Even “developed” countries do not have the means to buy a computer for every single child, so how do we expect the OLPC to reach everyone among the poorest of the poor? Only a few years ago, people did not ever think that a mobile network could be successfully implemented into countries like Burkina Faso, but look where we are today. Over 90% of people worldwide now own or have access to a mobile phone– maybe someday that same 90% will be able to own or access a computer and internet. It may be far off, but with some much-needed changes and re-considerations, the OLPC could provide a platform off which to grow connectivity around the world.

For more information and specific findings for the Burkina NTIC conference, follow this link.

BOSCO Uganda

This blog is for BOSCO Uganda: Battery operated systems for community outreach. Their project is focused on, “providing innovative information and communication technology (ICT) solutions using a collaborative and Internet approach to foster socio-economic development and peace building in rural communities in Northern Uganda” (Bailey).

Their main goals are:

“1 .Managing all Internet sites in the Amuru and Gulu Districts in Northern Uganda

2. Developing content, with a focus on education and peace building, for BOSCO’s Intranet system.

3. Supporting the expansion of BOSCO Uganda through new proposals and partnerships

4. Managing communications between local, regional and international stakeholders in partnership with BOSCO USA” (BoscoUganda)

Recently Bosco has joined with different organizations in order to further pursue their goals.  They aim to, “bring solar powered micro grids, Internet connectivity, and entrepreneurial training to a number of sites in northern Uganda” (Bailey). Efficiency is an important aspect of ICT, if an ICT being integrated into a developing country is not efficient the people might abandon it out of frustration (ie if internet connectivity is constantly down) . In order to avoid this issue, these solar powered micro grids will provide internet connectivity with , “clean and efficient renewable power” (Bailey). The idea of the power being solar is also a very important aspect here, now the communities will not have to rely on power via infrastructure their country may or may not have.

In the reading for Tuesday Unwin stresses that, “all communication systems require a physical infrastructure to be in place to provide energy and to generate and receive signals. Without such infrastructure, none of the complex systems of computers, radios or mobile phones that exist today would be able to function” (92). He mentions a program that introduced computers to a school but this initiative failed because the school did not have sufficient electricity. BOSCO provides a possible solution to the absence of electricity in developing nations: the use of solar power.

I think that this initiative sounds very forward thinking and progressive, yet the question of cost comes into play. Solar powered micro grids are extremely expensive. They are being donated through a grant program in this specific place in Uganda, but what happens when they break for instance? How can other developing places gain access to them? Is there a way to produce them at a lower cost, so that their positive ICT4D affects can be further reaching? Additionally, I’m curious about the power range of these solar powered micro grids are, how many people are these micro grids actually going to provide with solar power?

Overall, I think that this initiative could be very successful in the future and could possibly be the remedy for poor physical infrastructure + electricity problems in developing nations, if somehow the challenge of cost can be confronted.

Satellite Technology: a growing alternative

The Unwin reading pointed out that satellites are quickly becoming a large part of connectivity around the world, especially in developing countries. Satellites are a good alternative to providing connectivity to rural populations, instead of building a lengthy cable-based infrastructure. However, satellites can also be an expensive option, especially in their development and the subsequent launching. Despite this, there are major benefits of using satellite technology: reception is possible with a small antennae, connection can be established almost instantaneously (without wires), consumer equipment is generally inexpensive, and Internet, tv and radio can all be provided through satellite (Unwin, 97).

In conjunction with Unwin’s points, this article outlines the reasons, and problems, faced by developing nations who are becoming increasingly involved with satellite technology. The main focus of these countries is to rely less on externally collected data and build up their own individual capacities. These countries are “seeking more control over remote-sensing data to map and forecast disasters, monitor crop yields and track environmentally driven diseases such as malaria,” among many other things. This article points out how, in recent decades, companies and universities began attempting to make satellites cheaper and smaller (around 10-30,000 dollars). Today, the main company located in England, has offered training to countries such as Nigeria and Algeria. They educate the engineers from the developing countries who, in turn, return home and educate more people. For example, since the training, South Korea has created its own satellite program and now teaches other developing countries in the region. Innovations such as the “cheap” satellite, and the training offered in England, will help build up the human capacity as well as the technical capacity of these developing nations.

The article also points out that countries adopting satellite technologies will face many technical and social debates. For example, they will decide what they would like to measure which will dictate what kind of technology they will need to develop. Additionally, these countries may choose to partner with neighboring regions or developed countries in order to receive training or share knowledge.

I believe that satellites are the future of ICT technology. As innovations make them increasingly affordable, more people living in rural regions will have access to connectivity. In addition, building the human and technical capacity of a country will allow it to become a player in the global economy. It will also increase interconnectivity between countries and regions, which I personally think helps create a more prosperous and cooperative world.

a satellite in a remote Sudanese region