Tag Archives: HCD

Lessons Learned

I feel that there are many lessons to be learned in ICT4D both through practice and innovation that comes naturally with time. ICT4D by nature is a field that is always changing but I feel that there are some salient lessons that are realtively constant.

1). Make sure that the  goal of your project aligns the needs of the people who will be effected by it and that they want it. It is crucial to a project that the community wants it, can use it, and that they have the infrastructure to maintain it. No matter how great an idea is a community will not adopt or maintain a project if they do not agree to it, it strains them, or they do not have the correct skills.

2). Pilots are important. Another factors that can greatly impede a project is if the actual hardware is faulty or does not work according to plan. This links with my previous point that if someone cannot use something since it strains them they will not. This could be if something is hard to charge, breaks easily, or is not viable for the environment of the community.

3). ICT4D is important as is innovation but sometimes simpler is better. User interface issues are pretty prevalent and so easy to prevent. Many times it is easy to forget that not everyone is as comfortable with technology both physically and culturally as we are in developed nations. Having simpler ICT’s can sometimes be not only cheaper but also more effective (like the radio!)

All these lessons are very much linked together and reflect on the core nature of ICT4D and development…it is for the people and they should be the primary thought. An example that incorporates these three lessons is the XO laptops. This project failed (in my opinion and many others) even though it had a great core idea. The company did not pilot it nerarly enough, they did not manufature it well so it strained the users, and it was slightly complciated to the extent that it took our class 5-10 minutes to even pry one open!

After taking this class I learned many things but something that stood out to be was the way one can use different lenses to look at different situation and problems. Many problems do not have one sole root and can be seen impeded by cultural, social, economic, and political differences. During the country case studies I studied South Africa and I feel that this country is a great example of this thought. South Africa is a dynmaic country full of potential that is special in a sense since its extremes. Some cities like Cape Town are very technology savvy and other more rural parts are extremely not. This also showed me that things like language differences and cultural practices can be a big issue for ICT4D. Many communities and groups have specific customs and could see  some techniques and technologies as insulting or opposing to them.

I feel that a really useful framework that we have talked about in class that can be used to think about and implement ICT4D is the HCD process. This also circles back to my lessons as “hear, create, deliver” simplifies the core idea. Organizations must make sure they know what the community or people want, create it and do it well, then deliver it and make sure that it is sustainable. This is a great framework and could loosely fit with most organizations and projects as long as the steps are done properly.

All in all ICT4D (the class) was quite interesting and I learned a lot about a sector that I too feel is the future of development. It would have been cool though to learn more about cyber security and how developing nations are transitioning into developed nations in relation to technology and the growing cyber sphere. I wonder how governments can control the cyber sphere while trying to keep the economic and social sphere stable.This is a question I feel our class and other classes would have enjoyed finding the answer.


The Best Technology Is Invisible

In preparing for our class presentations on ICT4D applications in the health sector, one challenge that came up time and time again is interface design of the ICT. Some challenges in interface design such as having an illiterate and multi-language language target group represent a problem removed from the technology itself. Meaning, the fact that an individual isn’t able to read the words on the ICT is not the consequence of the ICT design, rather the consequence of an insufficient education system, government, ect. However, some challenges in applying ICTs are far less daunting and interwoven.  The unnecessary complexity and large learning curves required of some of the ICTs implemented in the health sector is a challenge that can be simply solved by smart design.


In a blog post  by Ajay Kumar on User Experience (UX) design in ICT4Ds, he urged future ICT4D projects to design solutions based on a lower barrier to entry with a decreased learning curve, that require minimal to no training to use it. Ajay focuses on efficiency and usability- designing solutions that decrease the time and effort needed to train individuals to use them. To do this, he suggests that the design should


“…include existing skills that have already been trained to them (by their own self or otherwise). If they know how to make a phone call using their mobile phone – let’s try to think if we can do something using their mobile phones which just involves making or receiving a phone call. If they know how to write an SMS, maybe we setup an SMS system and interact or communicate with them using that. What if the staff only knows how to use Excel and to check their email? Then maybe, I’d design a web form simple enough to do their task.”


Jazz musician Charles Mingus said, “Making the simple complicated is commonplace; making the complicated simple, awesomely simple, that’s creativity.” This quote is often used in online discussions of the great visual theorist, such as Edward Tufte, and in forums focused on topics ranging from infographics, graphic design to interface design. Creativity in design is not exhibited by making the interface itself a conspicuous visual statement, with loud decorations and heavy styling. Rather, creativity in design is the ability to create an interface that makes the complicated simple without distracting users from the content.


Cyborg anthropologist and UX designer Amber Case studies the interaction between humans and technology. As a usability theorist, she believes that, “the best technology is invisible”. Below is a video of her keynote address Cybrog Anthropology and the Evaporation of the Interface



For ICT4D, when designing solutions for problems in developing areas, the interface design must be creative–creatively simple, requiring minimal time and effort to learn and implement into daily life.

ICT4D End of Semester Reflection & Final Rant

When I initially signed up for this class, I had no idea what to expect. I had never viewed development in the context of technology. I did not dismiss the significance technology could play in everything-“development,” from building resilient communities to poverty alleviation, I just tended to divorce technology from the underlying solutions to many of the world’s problems or put it on the so-called “back-burner.”

It also seemed to me that Information and Communication Technology for Development or as we labeled it ICT4D is such a broad topic that it would be impossible to cover it over the course of one semester. And it was. What I gained, however, was a well-designed and concise overlook at all the most prominent topics in the field and the most popular models and approaches. I learned the indispensable use of radio in the most remote of places, and I learned the step-by-step of designing the most human-sensitive models to development (AKA Human-Centered Design model).  Surely, this knowledge will help me in any development project I tend to pursue in the future.

I was introduced to technology that I was not well versed in before such as Open Street Mapping and Twitter (and in terms of JOSM or crowd sourced mapping, not well-versed is putting it lightly. I had absolutely NO idea what I was doing.” I realized that a non-proficient use of many of the technology we were introduced to including simply maintaining a blog would inhibit any progress in becoming development professionals or working in most development situations.

Information and Communication technology are becoming every-increasingly integrated into our society. Put it simply, it has undeniably become the lifeline of our society, the fabric that connects all the sectors and all the individuals working within them. It is no longer a question whether we should employ it, but rather how can we most effectively do so? And in this class, the notion I already held for a long time, was constantly reenforced. It could only be done in a manner that is very sensitive to and well–informed about the communities for which the technology is introduced.

I learned that ICTs have the power to spark revolutions, promote the most basic human dignities, empower a wide range of individuals from women to farmers, and mitigate the most devastating of disasters. I also learned that they have the power to rapidly spread false information or be dangerously misused in many ways. The most important thing I learned was that I know nothing close to all I should know in the field, and that I have to orient myself with all the countless emerging technologies and applications being created every day.

ICT4D Lessons Spring 2013

One of the most important lessons that I learned in ICT4D was the need for varied approaches to development. Introduction to technology alone is not enough to spur development, nor should technology simply be an add-on to other development initiatives. Rather, technology needs to be incorporated in a way that makes it a tool to achieve the desired development goal. In order to make this possible, a project team needs people from different perspectives of development (tech, human rights, economics, etc.) to be able to produce a well-rounded and feasible result. In his talk, Wayan Vota said that ICT is ceasing to be its own department in many development agencies. Instead, ICT4D professionals are incorporated into teams with people from other fields as well.  He also said one of the absolute keys to working in the development field is having an open mind. You need to be willing to sacrifice whatever specific ideas you might have for a project if the target community wants to go in a different direction. This, in my opinion, is perhaps the most important thing to remember as someone in the development field. The work is not about the success of a specific personal project, but rather the betterment of lives in the way that the community feels would best achieve their development goals.

Being fairly technologically unconnected for my generation, the use of social media is something that I believe will benefit me later down the road as a development professional. I did not have a Twitter account prior to this class (I made one during the semester), and I believe that knowing how to effectively and appropriately use Twitter, especially in relation to natural disasters and big news stories, is an essential new skill. I had also never blogged before, and frankly didn’t trust blogs as a source of information, but using WordPress has educated me on the world of blogs, which might come in handy again someday. Finally, the OSM crowdsourced mapping exercise equipped me with a very useful knowledge and skill. Learning how to operate JOSM and deal with both software and conflict related troubleshooting was a good experience, and with crowdsourced mapping is on the rise, knowing how it operates is key in the development field.

For me the Human Centered Design was the most useful framework that we discussed this semester. It is specific, so I felt that I gained some real guidelines for actual implementation. It also reiterates the point I made above, that development professionals need to be open-minded and allow the communities ideas shape their own.

ICT4D; Most Important Lessons Learned

When first learning about International Development I had no idea what aid truly meant. Originally I believed that throwing governmental money towards development projects in some of the poorest countries would further help them tackle the main problems associated with poverty. However, this is false, money isn’t the solution to all of the problems. Prior to taking the ICT4D course I had never truly thought about technology as an enabler to development. The world we live in, especially in developed countries, has continuously evolved with an increasing amount of new innovative technologies and software being introduced daily. I had never realized that as technology develops in the western world it could further help develop the developing countries. There are a variety of lessons I learned that would remain relevant to a development professional and mind track but there are a few that powerfully stood out to me.

First off learning what ICTs were in the first place was a new topic. Information and Communication Technologies involve a large amount of tools from your basic radios and computers to Open Street Mapping and GIS technologies.  Looking at the target population’s basic needs and desires should be the start of all development projects. Similarly to all development initiatives the target population being addressed is the most important factor of a project. In this class we looked at the Human Centered Design, which discusses the purpose of focusing on the needs of the people.  If a development team is attempting to start an ICT based project in a small rural village in Eastern Kenya, it is important to evaluate all risks and factors such as access to technology, access to infrastructure such as electrical outlets, as well as access to Internet and other broad-bands. This notion of understanding what is already present and available to a project is what I grasped as being the most important. Not having Internet and electricity are just a few of the challenges and obstacles that development professionals face when trying to involve ICTs with development projects.

Secondly learning about development by different sectors was definitely a new approach I had yet to study. I had never split up education and health and business and economy versus government but looking at different ways and usages of ICTs individually in different sectors and talking about the “front- office usage” and “back- office usage” was definitely very intriguing. I think if I were to pursue a development profession I myself would focus on two sectors, Economy and Education because as my own personal belief I do believe that education is where approaches to development should begin. Thirdly, the project we were assigned on HOTOSM, JOSM, and Open Street Map in collaboration with the Red Cross might have been one of the most valuable skills I have learnt all year. Not only did I get to practice first hand ICT usage but I also got to witness and experience how emergency and disaster relief professionals work with the community to help prevent and improve disaster aid and relief. This project not only gave me hands- on marketable experience but also allowed me to learn how to trace and use such software.

Other interesting topics discussed were the various case studies we learned about. However one in particular that related to my sector; education, was One Laptop Per Child. One part I found interesting was how they adopted this strategy and it’s success and challenges. As well, when Wayan Vota came to as a guess speaker and he discussed it he said it wasn’t a very successful project in the end. Seeing such cases where technology was introduced but the success wasn’t as visualized really demonstrates the challenges that await development professionals especially those in the field of ICTs. It was also very interesting to see how big of an effect ICTs have on disaster aid. I definitely think that this is an area that is very influential to overall development challenges.

For my own personal advantage I definitely think learning how to use JOSM, tweeting, and creating weekly blog posts has allowed me to become more ICT efficient. It has also changed my point of view on social media as I now follow more resourceful and influential people on twitter, and I now have created my own blog as well as created a LinkedIn profile as advised by the guest speaker. I believe I now have a more Human centered approach and that ICTs have made a permanent mark on my ideas and perspectives about development.  Nonetheless, although I learned a great amount of new information I wish we had discussed more unsuccessful projects that may help us as future professionals. Learning about the failed attempts to introduce ICTs in the developing world could be very beneficial to individuals like me who seek to create a project in the future. However, overall bringing the right ICT tool to the right population is the principal point I gathered from the lessons.

ICT4D Lessons

I believe that information and communication technologies in and of themselves represent the process of development. Much like developing countries, technology continues to advance and grow with each new day. But through this class, I have learned that ICTs are not solely enablers of the knowledge economy. They are also major engines for growth and job creation, as well as agents of social change. The existence of such varied range of ICTs– each one multifaceted in nature– is very promising, since ICT-enabled development comes in many shapes in sizes.

Like it has been in other IDEV courses, the importance of becoming familiar with the target community’s specific needs was a topic that was heavily stressed in this class- and rightfully so. With any kind of development initiative, it is extremely important to have a thorough understanding of the issue your endeavor is attempting to solve, and the context in which this issue is placed. However, the past few months in this class have demonstrated to me that ICT-based initiatives in particular must make this a priority. Technology is expensive, and aid funding is already scarce, so any projects centered on ICTs as a means for development need to pay serious attention to ensuring that the chosen solution is not only appropriate, but sustainable.  The notion of “back-office” versus “front-office” strategies was also something this class brought to my attention. The field of development has historically been driven mostly by humanitarian beliefs and moral imperatives, which have given rise to countless initiatives that focus solely on acute needs rather than making lasting, structural change in a community. This is where I have learned that ICTs have the greatest potential. Introducing the proper ICTs, in the appropriate context, and with careful follow-through can not only accelerate development in all sectors, but also provide a framework and foundation for these other types of development to succeed.

As a future development professional (I hope!), this shift in focus away from aid that superficially appears more rewarding to “less-popular” aid that can actually have a lasting impact, is a vital piece of professional guidance that this class has provided me with. As far as theories and frameworks, this class has not necessarily taught me anything new. However, it has demonstrated to me the importance of them more than any other class I have taken. For example, human-centered design (HCD) is, in my opinion, ideal for ICT-enabled projects. Many unsuccessful ICT4D initiatives have failed due to ignoring this HCD framework. As I previously mentioned, the technology chosen needs to fit the end-user, benefit them, and leverage the skills and resources they already possess.

Finally, the only area of interest I wish we could have discussed in greater detail is the environment. I believe now, more than ever, is the time to begin discussing what we are going to do to rescue our planet. Even though they are commonly thought of in opposition, I think technology and the environment are two entities that could, if applied correctly, mutually benefit one another. It would have been interesting, and extremely relevant, to learn more about ICT-enabled environmental solutions.

ICT4D Course Lessons

I think that in ICT4D, it is always important to remember that context is everything. With that being said, in certain areas it is important to consider how current/existing technologies could be used in innovative ways rather than looking to new ICTs for the solution. Richard Heeks’ ICT4D 2.0 model is useful to think about ICTs because of its focus on making the best use and practices out of what is available and making those applications as effective as they can be, such as the phone.

As a framework for implementing ICT4D I see the Human Centered Design approach as highly effective along with using Heeks’ ICT4D 2.0. Instead of using a top-down model or pilot projects, this framework is more about effective planning and taking into consideration local needs while designing ICT projects. It places importance on input from locals while conducting a needs assessment. This enables collaboration with the target population and induces them to take more active roles in all stages of the project, thus making the project more effective and sustainable while using minimal resources. This framework should be used more in all development projects, not just ICT4D, because after all – if a school in rural Africa has just one outlet for the entire school, it’s probably not a great idea to hand out laptops to all the students. Know local needs=more chances for success.