Tag Archives: public policy

What ICT4D Has Taught Me

I really enjoyed learning about ICT4D this semester. Before our class, I had no idea what ICT even stood for. As a graduating senior, it was a pleasant surprise to be learning some completely new concepts. After college, I hope to go to graduate school for a Masters of Public Policy, and eventually work in policy making and analysis. Reflecting back on this semester, I think many of the things we learned will be useful for a career in public policy.

I have a lot of areas of passion when it comes to public policy, including education reform, foreign policy, national security policy, and even social policy. I think that this class will be useful to me in many of these areas, since most of them involve ICT in some way or another. My ideal job right now would be to work in intelligence, a field where knowledge of ICT is a necessary skill. I hope that I can take more classes to further study computer science and ICT to use in a professional setting. I really enjoyed the two guest speaker days where several ICT4D professionals came and spoke about their work with technology. They showed me how many different types of jobs there are in IDEV that involve a high level of technological knowledge. I hope that after graduate school I can find a job that plays to my skills in IDEV and passion for ICT development.

ICTs and Agricultural Development in Africa

In ICT4D Unwin discusses the extent to which ICTs are present in today’s world and how they are present in almost every aspect of our daily life. Furthermore, Unwin also points out their role as tools in the development and improvement of communities. Personally I believe that Unwin makes a very important point, ICTs are now present in areas that would not traditionally be associated with this kind of technology and are functioning as an aid to improve these fields. One such case is agriculture and the use it has given to ICTs particularly in developing countries. In the report titled “The Importance of ICTs in the provision of Information for Improving Agricultural Productivity and Rural Incomes in Africa” published by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)  it is proposed that access to technology will help farmers in Africa “improve agricultural productivity, practices and farmers livelihood”. The study argues that through the spread of information and knowledge farmers have the ability to improve the techniques they currently use and adopt new technologies.  Furthermore, the report advocates for the spread of technology in the region particularly at schools to expose future generations to the power of technology. Despite the current increase in usage of ICTs in Africa and the potential they have for the agricultural development of the region certain barriers impede the spread in their usage. Particularly the report warns against two of them: high costs and monopolies. The report proposes that countries in Africa  “cooperate in rolling out ICT platforms in terms of equipment and content”. This would reduce the costs of implementing new technologies and will allow for the cooperation in solving problems that exists throughout the whole region. In addition, to avoid monopolies and increase efficiency it suggests that governments in the region encourage competition between technology providers. In my opinion the impact that ICT can have in fields such as agriculture will serve as a stepping stone in the development of countries; however, governments of underdeveloped countries should create policies that facilitate the spread and use of these technologies in order to get the most out of them.

Jared Cohen: Top 40 ICT4D Professionals Under 40

Devex is the world’s largest community of aid and development professionals. The organization, which delivers business information and recruitment services to the international development community, recently released its list of the Top 40 International Development Leaders Under 40. The selection criterion for the list was based on each individual’s impact on the development agenda along with his or her impact on development results. In order to receive a nomination, the professional had to have been based out of Washington DC, and each had to be under the age of 40. Despite their youth, these leaders have made significant advances in the ICT4D world and deserve to be recognized for their contributions to society. Among these leaders are some that we have encountered over the course of the semester, like Wayan Vota, and many more that we have not. One leader that caught my eye was Jared Cohen, a public policy expert, social media adviser, and director of Google Ideas.

Jared Cohen was born in Weston, Connecticut. As a child, Jared’s family vacationed in Africa, which is when Cohen’s interest in development first began. Cohen took a 5-week service trip to Tanzania during High School and went on to receive political science and history degrees with a minor in African Studies. Cohen later studied as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University where he received his master’s degree in international relations. During college, Cohen held an internship for the US State Department that landed him a full time position as the youngest Member of the Secretary of State’s Policy Planning Staff- he was only 24 years old. After being kept on the Policy Planning Committee by Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, Cohen began to shape counter-radicalization strategies while advising on US policy in Iran and the Middle East. Cohen traveled extensively throughout the Middle East, where he interviewed Hezbollah and al-Qaida terrorists to better understand the nature and root causes of radicalization.

In April of 2009, Cohen started leading technology delegations that focused on connecting technology executives with local stakeholders in countries such as Iraq, Russia, Mexico, Congo, and Syria. Shortly after undertaking this position in technology delegations, Cohen played an instrumental role that marked the turning point in technology’s role in disrupting the status quo. During the 2009 reelection of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, thousands of Iranian were taking to Twitter to protest. At this time, the Twitter server was scheduled to be shut down for scheduled server maintenance. However, Cohen changed that with one phone call to Twitter CEO, Jack Dorsey, in which he requested that the popular micro-blogging site stay running. Cohen argued that because many other outlets had been blocked or shut down by the government, Twitter was one of the few ways for people inside of Iran to get information to the outside world. He considered it an important way for people around the world to join the protests and convinced Dorsey that this was the proper decision. This phone called essentially changed the course of the Iranian election.

After working for the State Department for a number of years, Cohen left the position to take on a new task as the director and founder of the new think/do tank, Google Ideas. Says Cohen: “We need to move towards providing tools and creating space for local people to develop local solutions.” Google Ideas focuses on places in the developing world where challenges are significant, technology solutions are underexplored, and Google can make an impact. The focus areas include counter-radicalization, illicit networks and fragile states.

In addition to his professional roles, Cohen has authored numerous publications and has appeared on different media outlets. Cohen’s book, Children of Jihad, won a spot on the “Best Books of 2007” list. He has appeared as a guest on CNN, BBC, The Colbert Report, ABC, CBS, MSNBC, and many more. It will be interesting to see the impact that Cohen and Google Ideas will have on the world in the years to come.