Tag Archives: developing countries

Author Profile: Anita Kelles-Viitanen

Anita Kelles-ViitanenAnita Kelles-Viitanen is the Secretary General of the Advisory Board for Relations with Developing Countries in the Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs.  Our class read an article by her for our 1.10 class on Poverty Reduction.  This article, named “The Role of ICT in Poverty Reduction” shows Kelles-Viitanen’s long background as a supporter for ICT4D.  She is a former manager of Social Development at the Asian Development Bank (ADB), whose new mission is to reduce poverty.  According to this article written by Kelles-Viitanen on Project Syndicate, ADB changed its objective from “economic growth: to “poverty reduction” in the late 1990’s; this may be the reason Kelles-Viitanen left.  As with many NGOs participating in micro-finance, who discard NGO status to become true banks when the costly to operate program incurs high transaction costs.  Although ADB still seems to be considered an NGO, their current motto of “an Asia and Pacific region free of poverty” seems mere invention. Kelles-Viitanen is an accomplished writer, and you can find many of her books on amazon, many on international development in Asia.   In my Google search of her, I found two more articles written for the Indigenous Peoples Assistance Facility (IFAD) Innovation Mainstreaming Initiative (and the Government of Finland).  One, titled “Custodians of culture and biodiversity: indigenous peoples take charge of their challenges and opportunities”, I talk about here, the other you can find here for further reading.  From the executive study, I deduce that Kelles-Viitanen is a strong believer in climate change, and approves of the mitigation approach versus adaptation.  For this article, Kelles-Viitanen went through 1095 proposals submitted for funding, proposed by the indigenous peoples and their organizations (from NGOs, CBOs, business organizations and companies, exporters’ associations, ministry departments, state institutions, municipalities, trade unions, university departments/academic institutions, church associations, and co-operatives to consultancy organizations).  These organizations, from Asia, Africa, the Middle East, the Pacific, the Caribbean and Latin America, suggested solutions to solve indigenous poverty.  On the cover of this article is a Chinese painting, taken from her collections, showing she not only has the dedication to read through copious proposals, but that she also truly is a “custodian of culture and biodiversity”.

Social Media Use in Developing Countries

Our class discussion this week made me nostalgic for the simple, old technology we grew up with. It seemed like we grew up in a time when technology was developing at lightning speed. It made me wonder if technology around the world is moving as fast. This article from LiveScience.com talks about social media use in developing countries versus the US. The data shows that while the US has the highest population percentage that uses the internet, 17 developing countries outrank the U.S. in the proportion of internet users who log on to social sites. In both the U.S. and Brazil, 73% of Internet users regularly access social networking sites. Egypt, Russia, the Philippines, Tunisia, Indonesia, Jordan, Venezuela, Nigeria, Turkey, Ghana, Mexico, Chile, Malaysia, Kenya, Argentina, El Salvador and Senegal all report social media use greater than 73% of Internet users. I thought this was very interesting because it seems like our society is obsessed with social media but apparently we aren’t the only ones.

The article also mentions that cellphone use is increasingly widespread outside of the US. Unlike us, however, most cellphone users don’t have smart phones. In China, for example, 95% of people have a cell phone but only 37% of those have a smart phone. In Pakistan, 53% of people have cellphones and only 3% use smartphones. Nearly every person I know in the US has an iPhone, so its interesting to see that not every society is obsessed with having the newest technology out there.

Thailand ICT Policy: A Country on the Rise

Thailand’s Information Communication Technology policy has three key components which it hopes to achieve within the next ten years. These components are 1.) Building knowledge-based on human capital, 2.) Promoting innovation in economic and social systems, 3.) Strengthening information infrastructure and industry. Thailand hopes to become a knowledge based society, where the use of ICTs helps boast the economy and is accessible to all of its citizens.

According to the World Bank, the research and development expenditure consists of only 2.21% of Thailand’s overall GDP and high technology exports were only 21% of all manufactured exports. There was no information regarding the technicians in R & D (World Bank). These numbers make it clear that ICT production has very little impact in the economic landscape of Thailand. Thailand is a country on the rise, one that is trying to become more developed, more technologically advanced and make more efficient use of ICTs to help its economy and the day-to-day life of its citizens.  Although Thailand has a long way to go until ICTs are being used successfully, to their full potential and when they will truly have an affect on the countries economy, Thailand is on the right track. Hopefully we will continue to see these numbers rise and that Thailand will continue on this track. Furthermore,  we hope to see ICTs benefit the country tremendously in the near future and that they successfully reach their goal of becoming knowledge based society.

For Thailand’s Full ICT policy click here.

For more information about Thailand from the World Bank click here

Khan Academy: Can Online Education Fix the Lack of Education in the Developing World?

In the following video Salman Khan, the founder of Khan Academy, explains why education today is faulted. He utilizes the analogy of learning how to bike stating: “ Imagine learning to ride a bicycle, and maybe I give you a lecture ahead of time, and I give you that bicycle for two weeks. And then I come back after two weeks, and I say, “Well, let’s see. You’re having trouble taking left turns. You can’t quite stop. You’re an 80 percent bicyclist.” So I put a big C stamp on your forehead and then I say, “Here’s a unicycle.”

His solution for this problem was creating Khan Academy, an online database with instructional videos of various topics. With this method students can learn at their own pace and whenever they have time. However, what if this new technology could be used to provide education to children who lack access to it? What if instead of trying to force kids to go to school we could make school accessible to them at any time.

I believe that even though free online education resources are not a panacea for the education crisis in the world they can be a very useful complements to programs such as One Laptop Per Child. Khan explains this in his own words when describing the potential for Khan Academy “ Imagine what it does to a street kid in Calcutta who has to help his family during the day, and that’s the reason why he or she can’t go to school. Now they can spend two hours a day and remediate, or get up to speed and not feel embarrassed about what they do or don’t know”

Khan academy is just one example of how education is changing, and it is important to understand and take advantage of the potential that this new education can bring to the development world. Those working in improving education in developing countries should be actively trying to incorporate ICTs into their work and not only try to build more schools.



InfoDev Knowledge Maps for ICT Use in Education

InfoDev, a company that promotes technology in developing countries, has created comprehensive knowledge maps relating to ICT in education. The maps construct a resource base of knowledge gaps in ICT use in developing countries in the domain of education. It allows for stakeholders and policy makers to see areas of focus and where improvements must be made.

The themes—impact, costs, current implementation of ICT in education, and planning—are a product of key findings identified before the compilation of the project. InfoDev attempts to narrow down the broad nature of ICT research by highlighting vital conclusions of the nature of ICT In education. Under each category, some key findings are as follows:


  • Disassociations between rationale for the use of ICTs in education and their actual implementation
  • Lack of standardized methods for ICT use


  • Little data or guides presently exist


  • ICTs are popular in education in developing countries, despite the difficulties they may face


  • Practices and lessons are not easily accessible as of now
  • The argument is being made that ICT use in education is a good motivation tool for students

Due to the nature of the inclusive report, which emphasizes the issues and priorities of developing countries and of stakeholders and policy makers, organizations and governments can begin to make changes that address these needs to make ICT implementation more effective and useful in the classroom. 

Mobile Banking: A Brief Overview

ImageOne of the most promising technological tools in the developing world is the mobile phone. Although there is still a significant difference in levels of mobile phone access and mobile phone usage, banking and money transfer has emerged as an area in which mobile phone technology can be useful and effective. This article gives a brief overview of the extent to which mobile banking has become a widely used technology. While in Eurpoe and North America, online banking is the norm, mobile banking is gaining more and more users in Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America, where people do not have as easy access to computers. While we generally talk about developing countries benefitting from The Leapfrog Effect, it seems like in this case, developing countries have leaped right over online banking and found a solution more fitting to their needs. According to a Swedish industry research firm, mobile banking is expected to reach 894 million users by 2015. That would be a sixteenfold increase from 55 million users in 2009. Many companies in the developing world are looking to be the first to invest in mobile banking technology, and this field could perhaps become a booming global industry.

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.