Overall, prior to ICT4D I never really thought of technology as an integral aspect to development. In my mind I pictured the merging of the two concepts similar to One Laptop Per Child. I envisioned people giving technology to poverty stricken people who were uneducated about the devices and therefore never used them. In general, I assumed it would simply be a waste of development resources. Like we’ve learned in class this is often the case. However there is another side to the story, a side where technology (if appropriately used and implemented) can drastically help areas of development (i.e. radio in rural/agricultural areas).
Specifically, I enjoyed learning about different sectors. I found the participatory radio campaigns particularly interesting because I had never heard of the concept. Not only is it integrating technology into education but it also deals with capacity building. Both are extremely important in terms of development. When I think of technology I immediately think of the iPhone or other new devices. However using what we would consider “old” technology in a smarter way can be more innovative than the newest gadget. If a community does not have a need for a device, the device is useless no matter how high-tech it is.
In this week’s assigned readings we focused on why Radio is such a crucial ICT to the field of development. One of this week’s reading “Why Radio Matters Making: the case for radio as a medium for development” written by Dr. Mary Myers and commissioned by Developing Radio Partners, emphasize the importance of radio for many different aspects of life and development. According to Myers, Radio is by far the most prevalent mass- medium throughout the developing world. Myers discusses the impact of radio in times of emergencies, education, and empowerment. According to her in emergency and disaster situations “radio is an invaluable tool” (Myers 2). With the help of the radio survivors can sometimes be informed of their loved ones whereabouts as well as different locations to access food, shelter and medical aid. Radio’s can also help evacuate certain areas that may be affected by a natural disaster. Certain radio shows, even one’s that are fiction based, can have a strong impact on helping reduce trauma caused by disasters. According to the author UNDP supported a radio program after the tsunami in Indonesia. “The trauma radio show had 30 counselors who worked closely with the community and had one of the highest audience ratings in the region” (Myers 3). Topics would vary but would mainly direct mental trauma such as how to control your emotions.
Although in the developing world radio is considered a device for entertainment it can also very easily educate. In this paper, Mary Myers describes various ways radio is used to educate throughout the world. One example she uses to support her claim is an example of a radio program used as a strategy to teach farmers in rural areas new farming methods. Certain studies showed that there a lot of farmers listening to the broadcast listened to the advice that was given on the show and indeed did improve the agricultural fields in the country discussed. Radio shows can also educate individuals especially women about certain health risks and factors. A fiction radio soap opera has the power to educate women listening to their show about several issues regarding sexual and reproductive health as well as child and parent relationships. According to a study 85% of respondents who listened to such a program have implemented changes in their lives as a result of the knowledge they learned by the radio show (Myers 7). Myers does indeed justify her statement that radio really does matter.
In response to Dr. Mary Myers paper I further researched radios and development. I found an organization that focuses on using radio technologies as a mode to help improve education in the developing world. This grass- root humanitarian organization Ears To Our World (ETOW) specializes in the distribution of radios primarily to children and teachers. In their mission statement ETOW claims that their mission is “ to enable children and their support networks in the most remote, impoverished parts of the world to receive educational programming, local and international news, emergency and health information as well as music and arts programming through the use of shortwave radio receivers. While our primary focus is on schools, our reach now encompasses other community facilities, the visually impaired, and, when required, disaster relief ” (ETOW). Ears To Our World is just a few of several non- profit organizations that focus on using radio and other ICTs as a tool to further development.
When discussing the use of ICTs in education development, it seems like the majority of efforts are centered around youth education. However, as brought up in this weeks lecture, what happens to those who are left out of the ‘youth’ bubble? Although starting a movement to target children’s education early on is crucial to ensure development, how far can a country develop if they lack the ability to provide higher education? It seems that this issue was not only a concern for my classmates, but also for New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman. In early January, Friedman wrote on the need for higher education, and found a solution with the program of free massive open online courses (MOOC).
MOOCs are programs established by notable colleges such as Stanford, Harvard, Princeton, and MIT, which provide free online education for anyone. Although this education does not give you college credit or an established degree, it does provide many with the skills and capacity building programs needed to lift them out of poverty.
Coursera, a market leader amongst the MOOC programs recently partnered with the World Bank’s New Economy Skills for Africa Program (NESAP) and the Tanzanian STHEP Project to pilot the Youth Employment Accelerator Program Initiative (YEAPI). This project aims to help fill the highly demanded IT jobs in Tanzania through the skills learned by the MOOC programs. The skills acquired by these MOOC programs can prove to be incredibly beneficiary to the development of Tanzania, especially in terms of reducing youth unemployment rates and encouraging higher education.
However, after reading many cases where educational development has failed, especially the project of One Laptop Per Child, I feel that this program is struggling to address some of the key issues at hand. While these online courses can be incredibly helpful for the continuance of education in rural communities, they fail to acknowledge certain infrastructural problems that these populations might face. This program assumes that individuals will have access to computers and that these computers will have adequate access to the internet. Furthermore, this program assumes that individuals will want to partake in such education, even though it lacks initial incentives. While I completely understand and support this program’s initiatives, I feel like the pilot program will show that there are much greater problems at hand.
Despite the minimal success of the OLPC program, there remain other avenues to implement computer-assisted learning in schools. In China, the Rural Education Action Project (REAP) uses similar methods to improve the quality of education in rural China. The distribution of services (health, education, infrastructure, etc.) is extremely uneven due to the urban-rural divide. Students in rural areas can be nearly two years behind their urban counterparts, which means that they will likely be unable to attend college, or even high school.
The purpose of the program is to allow for consistent, controlled lessons that are an addition to the regular curriculum. If the quality of education in rural China was on par with that of its urban counterpart, it could potentially stem destabilization of the country.
While it was interesting to find another case study of CAL projects and the type of development issues they seek to address, I can’t help but feel that this program may have similar downfalls for OLPC. It seems to subscribe to the same philosophy of ‘computer automatically equals education’, without stopping to question if a computer is really the best fit for a child’s education needs.
A laptop, or any other tool, shouldn’t (and cannot) be used as a universal solution to a complex, nuanced problem. Instead of changing the medium of education (from traditional books and projects to computer based lessons), maybe development programs should aim to transform the relationship between technology and individuals. By treating technology as a replacement for education, rather than a supplement, these programs ultimately end up leading a misguided effort.
Originally posted on Blackboard by Lana Abdulsamad
Roughly ten years ago rural areas in Colombia were facing a major issue – a lack of ICT in rural education. For example, Caldas, Colombia, a predominantly rural area of poor coffee farmers, did not have a single rural school with access to ICT at the time, a reality that was furthering the discrepancy between urban and rural education and development, and worsening the nationwide digital divide. In an attempt to address the situation a local private organization known as the National Federation of Coffee Growers of Colombia took matters into their own hands and created an ICT initiative known as ‘Virtual Schools’. Focused on providing “free and safe access to information and knowledge in order to improve fair and equal development [of] rural communities,” ‘Virtual Schools’ had three main objectives: 1. increase access to ICT for both rural students and teachers and help develop the skills necessary for use of ICTs; 2. promote the use of the Internet for both communication with others, and for gathering information; and 3. keep the rural populace informed.
The project gained support from the local and national government, as well as private and public organizations, and since its 1997 implementation, over 1,000 teachers and 6,000,000 students use them in both urban and rural schools. The project has received international recognition for its undeniable success in achieving its goals, and is evidence of the ability of successful ICT projects to transform and improve the living situations of individuals, communities, and nations.