Tag Archives: sectors

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.

Reflection on ICT4D

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.

The Importance of Incorporating Local Knowledge

This ICT4D course has opened my eyes to many aspects of development that I was not previously aware of. What I found the most interesting was the ways in which the technology I use everyday (and take for granted) can impact, for example, how a woman in rural Kenya locates clean water. Throughout this course, I have noticed one overarching trend – the importance of incorporating local knowledge. Any and all successful projects myself or the class have looked into, all had used pre-existing social networks or ways of communicating and simply adapted a technology to make this more productive. This also makes implementation significantly easier. By expanding on local knowledge, it will cut back on the amount of time needed to train the population to use new technologies. For example, in Argentina there was a system of handheld computers developed to help farmers better track their cattle. This did not require the project implementers to teach local farmers how to track cattle, just to do it in a more efficient way.

In conjunction with capitalizing on local knowledge was the concept of a bottom-up approach. It was something I had never really considered in-depth, but various readings in class opened my eyes to the common assumption that all rural peoples in developing countries only wanted technology to show them where to find food, water, etc. This condescending belief also tied into how technology and information was disseminated into a population. Using means such as the TV and radio, non-participatory and one-sided, for information broadcasting was not usually the best approach. Developing a method in which the content was adapted through local channels, and allowed for the more open discussion, adaption, and feedback created the more sustainable and well-recieved projects. The knowledge I have gained from this course will undoubtedly help me in my future career in development.

Overall, I found the class to be a great overview of ICT4D. I had never heard of a majority of the new technologies that were being employed in the development sector (web mapping, Text4Health, just to name a few). For future classes, I think more focus on the sectors would be beneficial. They encompass a majority of ICT4D aspects, problems, and have myriad relevant case studies. Also additional emphasis on case studies would be helpful because, personally, I don’t think there’s a better way to fully understand how ICT4D impacts (or fails to impact) various development challenges then to see them in action.