Our speaker on Tuesday mentioned an interesting fact that most ATMs in the world rely on outdated operating systems. I found this fact interesting and researched it further. It turns out that 95 percent of the world’s ATMs run on Windows XP, a 12-year old operating system. This fact has been in the news recently because Microsoft will stop supporting Windows XP in a matter of days on April 8. The very reason that Microsoft is no longer supporting XP causes concern for ATM users: “XP no longer meets the needs of modern computing and doesn’t have the cyber-security safeguards in place to protect against the current generation of threats.” Banks have had plenty of time to switch over to newer technologies because Microsoft announced the April 8 date back in 2007. While some banks, like JP Morgan Chase, have purchased service extensions, others will let their ATM technology go unserviced. This fact puts banks and their customers at risk for cyber attacks that are becoming more and more sophisticated every day. The average consumer has no way of telling if they are using an unserviced ATM. Customers around the world will be nervous to use an ATM, but few people in developed countries will stop using them. We know that our banks and governmental regulatory agencies insure our money if hackers steal it. But people in developing nations, where there is often little trust in the financial sector or government will be even less likely to trust technology that is meant to make their lives easier. If hackers do steal money from people who use ATMs, there may not be any ways to get that money back. Unserviced ATMs are a vulnerability that hit developing countries especially hard.
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This week in class we studied the One Laptop Per Child organization and had a lengthy discussion about its obvious flaws. As IDEV students, we often find ourselves criticizing the various projects and organizations we study; its rare, however, that we see the beneficiaries of these projects condemning them as well. This article from the Associated Press in July 2013 discussed why a group of Kenyan parens voiced their opposition to President Uhuru Kenyatta’s $615 million plan to give laptops to 1.2 million school children. Parents felt that the money for the computers should be put towards raising teachers’ salaries and feeding impoverished students.
As one member of the Kenya National Association of Parents explained, “the program is bound to fail in a country that lacks enough teachers and where others strike regularly for better pay”. In 2013, Kenya faced a shortfall of 40,000 teachers. Additionally, more than 200,000 teachers in public schools across the country went on strike to protest unpaid allowances that the government had promised 16 years earlier. These parents felt that current teachers did not have the capacity to implement laptops into the classroom due to lack of training and a government-developed curriculum for the project. Additionally, a previous incident where 70 million textbooks in a public primary-school went missing added to worries that many laptops would be lost, stolen, or sold for food money.
One government spokesman defended the laptop project, saying it was crucial to Kenya’s goal of training a digital-savvy workforce. The Consumer Federation of Kenya, on the other hand, said the project had noble intentions but was “not well thought out and was politicized beyond redemption.” Many parents also felt there were better alternatives to how the government’s money should be spent when it comes to public education. In order to meet the population’s education demands, Kenya needs 42,000 classrooms. The money used for the laptops could be put towards building more schools to expand the country’s education system. Alternatively, some of the money would be better used to fund more children in the nation-wide school food program, meant to help poor children to stay in school, improve their health, and encourage nutrition.
As Unwin discusses at the beginning of ICT4D, NGO’s have the potential to greatly impact a country’s implementation and spread of ICT usage among citizens. With the background and intimate knowledge they gather over the years about a specific region’s culture, traditions and religion among other factors, NGOs build up the necessary expertise to understand which methods are best suited for certain environments. Through their work and depending on how long an NGO has worked in a certain community, they’re able to form trusting relationships of respect with locals.
Following in this train of thought, an article was recently released about how NGOs in Sri Lanka are being connected by an ICT focused non-profit called “Sarvodaya-Fusion.” Their aim in this project is to unify Sri Lankan NGOs by arming them with the power of ICTs, making their work more effective and efficient. Whether they are focusing on rural economic development or environmental conservation, all NGOs can benefit through the advancement of their ICT knowledge. In fact, Sarvodaya-Fusion plans on dividing attending organizations into focus groups based on their individual missions.
A secondary benefit of Fusion’s project is how it will indirectly serve as a network through which over 50 Sri Lankan NGOs can unify themselves. All different types of NGO work are vital to improving any country, but their impact can be held back by unnecessary repetition of work and a general lack of communication across organizations. “As the nation’s leading ICT4D organization,” Sarvodaya-Fusion has the right ICT knowledge to lead Sri Lanka’s next tech era. Last year, their organizing brought together 40 NGOs and hopefully many more will join this year, especially because of the support they will be receiving by a tech team from Microsoft’s Sri Lanka division. Judging by their stellar track record, looks like Sarvodaya-Fusion will be starting off 2013 on the right note and forging the path for Sri Lanka’s future in ICT4D.
For more information, please refer to the ITPro article linked below:
Reference Link: “Connecting Sri Lanka’s NGOs with ICT”
So, after reading both articles and Paige Wolff’s Blog post Checking the Check List I began to see Plan’s ICT usage planning system as just one of many methods for applying ICTs in developing countries based on the motives of the organization that is attempting to apply them. This was emphasized by Rahul Tongia and Eswaran Subrahmanian’s section entitled “Trickle Down, Watered Down, Upside Down” which directly contradicts the checklist by saying, in short, that sometimes it is appropriate to work top-down and sometimes it is appropriate to work bottom-up. They use the example of Microsoft’s Windows Starter Edition which was used on lower end systems to reduce the cost and features provided. In this case, they took a product that already existed and looked for places where it could be applied and do the most good, effectively flipping the checklist upside-down and putting step 5 first.
So this may be stating the abundantly obvious, but the method for determining ICT’s applicability is directly related to the type of organization performing the evaluation. ICT4D is approached from many perspectives, but the two most important are those approaching ICT from the perspective of a technology firm (think OLPC) and those approaching from the perspective of an aid organization (more like Plan International). In general, firms coming from the same perspective may be able to use the same checklist, but as Paige pointed out, no checklist is perfect for every situation even for a single organization. If you are confused as to the best method to pre-determine ICT usage, well, so am I. Thankfully, ICT effectiveness monitoring programs keep these programs in line.
While Microsoft founder Bill Gates makes headlines for donating $750 million to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the company he founded is working to help students in Africa bridge the digital divide via their new initiative BADILIKO. BADILIKO, which is swahili for change, is targeting not only the physical barriers that prevent African students from accessing ICT by establishing 80 digital hubs across 6 sub-Saharan countries, but also improving their learning experience by providing teachers with the skills to educate them on the latest technology.
Initiatives like this one that approach the Digital Divide from multiple angles are more likely to be successful because they consider the non-physical aspects of the issue. In order to truly conquer this divide, organizations will need to ensure that students have unrestricted access to information that they can understand. This means they need computers and infrastructure, but also education on how to use those computers, literacy, and an end to government censorship.
For now, BADILIKO is a $2 million project sponsored by Microsoft and the British Council that hopes to reach 100,000 students, but Mark Matunga, the Microsoft Regional Education Manager, East and Southern Africa, believes that increased ICT learning is key to bridging the digital divide. Software companies such as Microsoft have a lot to gain by investing in the future of technology in Africa, especially if they hope to become the international tech standard. The right ICT4D policies may be enough to assure international corporations that there is a future for tech companies in Africa and encourage them to establish even more of a presence.
Source: IT News Africa