Tag Archives: technology

China ICT4D Resources

China is not a country that has explicitly laid out its plans for information and communications technologies development, but they have published a few documents that outline some of the ways they plan to improve these areas of development. The closest document they have to a ICT4D policy is called, “China’s Informatization Strategy and its Impact on Trade in ICT Goods and ICT services”, was published by the General Office of the CPC Central Committee and General Office of the State Council of China in 2006. China’s 5 year plans published by the National People’s Congress, most recently published in 2010, also contain some information related to ICTs.

Government Publications:

China’s Informatization Strategy

China’s 12th 5-Year Plan can be found by searching for it, but is only available in downloadable .pdf files

Other Agency and Organization Publications:

Rural Informatization in China can be downloaded from the World Bank. This is a working paper, so new versions are published when major changes need to be made.

IDC’s Top 10 Predictions for China’s ICT Market in 2014 and Beyond is a press release from a data analysis company highlights some of the more important indicators and what they might mean for the future.

 

Remember that the Chinese government is not keen on publishing documents that are clear in their intentions or expectations. So, market trends, data indicators, and other sources of information are the best way to understand China’s relationship with ICT4D’s.

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A Frightening Future: Tech and Self-Image

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A recent observation combined with current ICT4D discussion in our classroom has sparked my interest in the relationship between self-image and access to technology. It’s hard to escape the boundless pictures of babies on social media sites like Facebook or Instagram. This generation now has every moment of their lives documented. From the moment they are able to figure out a camera, they know what they look like instantly. Every bad day and every life phase are instantly sealed in time. The impact marketing and media have on girls’ self-esteem is a messy and popular debate in American society. What have we done? Added even more to that loaded conversation. I started thinking to myself, what will happen to a generation that grew up with such easy access to photos of themselves?

When I was little I don’t remember ever looking at pictures of myself, most likely because it took so long to get them developed and they were only reserved for special occasions like Christmas pictures. Now, any child within reach of a smart phone (or usually what’s worse, any parent within reach of a smart phone) has access to countless snapshots of trivial day-to-day activities. They get to stare at pictures of themselves daily. Will this create a bigger issue than we realize? I am totally willing (and hopeful) to accept the fact that this will just be another thing kids don’t really “get” and they will not internalize it. But on the other hand, knowing how you look and judging yourself on how your pictures turn out from the day you’re able to comprehend what you look like is a little frightening. We see so many blogs dedicated to baby fashion or every mommy blogger taking photos of their children and uploading them daily. Are we going to have a bunch of baby narcissists? Who grow up to be worse, big people narcissists? It’s not only that we should be concerned with. It creates a micro-world that takes focus off bigger issues than a girl’s day-to-day “selfie” appearance.

We have a long running debate now about how much media confuses girls’ identity and relationship to themselves. We worry about whether Facebook makes us have FOMO or feel insecure. We worry that in seeing pictures of ourselves it sticks with us and shapes our perspective on our appearance. What if little girls (and to expand the narrative, little boys)  are constantly looking through the pictures they have of themselves wondering if they like what they see?

It all depends on which school of thought you belong to or which dataset you decide to fall back on. But, none of us can ignore the fact that there is always going to be something a little off with being too attached to appearance and technology has made this even more challenging.

I see this affecting more than just the developed world. We like to focus on the perks of technology for developing countries, but there’s a chance they could learn in advance from a few of the faults. While we use social media and technology to feel “up to speed” or “in the moment” it has actually done the opposite. The natural motion of life has been disturbed and our image along with it distorted. Before fully adapting technology into daily life, this should be considered in retrospect.


Technology contributing to VAW

All too often we view ICT4D projects as a means to empower women and minimize the gender divide, and overlook how technology can exacerbate gender issues, such as violence against women (VAW). While ICTs can decrease/stop VAW, it can also be seen as a facilitator, as technology can provide additional platforms for violent action. In order to understand how technology can exacerbate VAW, it must be understood that VAW does not simply include physical violence, but also psychological, economic, and sexual abuse. The MDG3: Take Back the Tech program, which was a project created in 2009 to strengthen women’s rights activists to use technology tools to prevent technology related VAW, categorizes technological violence into 5 broad categories including online harassment and cyberstalking, intimate partner violence, culturally justified violence against women, rape and sexual assault, and violence targeting communities. There are several ways in which violence is committed with the use of technology:

  • Mobile Text Messaging and calling
  • Intimate Photos and Blackmail
  • Mobile Phone Tracking
  • Manipulating Photographic Images
  • Use of Internet to Fake Recruit victims
  • Violation of Passwords
  • Listening and Recording Phone Conversations
  • Monitoring Web Browsing

According to a paper from the Association for Progressive Communications, men are misusing mobile phones to harass and threaten their partners, and even track their partner’s phone to know her location at all times. Technology has added another dimension to the issue of privacy, as men try to gain control of their partners by tracking and monitoring their every move. Additionally, in several developing countries husbands are using intimate/pornographic photos of their partners to blackmail them and gain control. Men have even been known to use fake advertisements to lure women into forced marriages, guess partner’s passwords, and disrespect their privacy by listening to phone conversations.

Technology related VAW is a dangerous and growing problem as technology enables violence by allowing anonymity, automation, affordability, action from a distance, and propagation. Technology does not only provide an affordable and detached way to harm women, but has also made it easier for the offender to remain anonymous, to stalk and monitor their partner, and to create damage that can follow their women around forever. While technology is a promising way to improve gender equality, I think we must not ignore the growing and serious issue of how technology can exacerbate VAW. After reading this paper, I question how we can protect women from technology related VAW.


Pros and Cons: Conflict Early Warning Systems

On the subject of ICT4Peace, an article by two Payson graduates, Phuong N. Pham and Patrick Vinck was written in August of 2013, and explains how early warning systems can be used as they are for disasters, but for peace. I am going to synthesize the key points made in this article because “conflict” early warning systems should be in place, and it is relevant to Joseph Kony or even Ukraine, for example, to trigger early intervention when Russian troops are on the attack. The authors compare public health early warning systems and conflict early warning systems, and one of the main problems is that public heath warnings trickle down to involve local stakeholders, while conflict warnings are generally only given to policy makers at the top. How can we use ICTs to increase the effectiveness of conflict early warning systems?

Actors and response order:

  • People-centered and community-based approaches (changing roles): changes in who generates information, how it is generated, and who accesses it changes how we respond to conflict situations and breaks up hierarchies, potentially even human rights offenders
  • Emerging principle of Responsibility to Protect (R2P): the duty to respond to early warning s of conflict by concerned governments and policy makers, including the UN

Key Challenges: Quality, ethics and response:

  • Responsibility to provide unbiased information: acccuracy and reliability of information in question, unequal access to ICTs
  • Ensure action is taken: requireeffort to respond to/address issues
  • Security of information: repressive regimes create new opportunities for human rights offenders when they monitor their citizens—this sensitive information must be kept secure and managed well…or else!
  • Ethical principles in research: protect human research subjects—is conflict early warning research? Can early warning systems create their own human rights violations?

Conclusion: Changes in early warning systems in response to ICTs will fundamentally change what is done and how. However, new ICTs also bring new concerns and ethical challenges. We must continue to monitor the effectiveness of programs and create practical guidelines for ICT4Peace practitioners.


Is Crowdsourcing the Next Solution?

Before this semester, I was familiar with crowdsourcing only in the context of consumer behaviour, using it to search for the best restaurants, hotels, etc. It was not until Dr. Stephen Ward spoke to our class that I realized the endless broad and diverse applications of crowdsourcing using available GIS and satellite imagery of the Earth. Dr. Ward discussed how DigitalGlobe launched their crowdsourcing platform Tomnod on March 11th in order to increase efforts to find the missing Malaysian plane. Using Tomnod, over 25,000 people have been able to scan satellite imagery and tag highly important areas, which are then run through algorithms to sift out all irrelevant information. Within a couple days, Tomnod uploaded over 1,235 square miles of high-resolution satellite imagery of the Gulf of Thailand, making me question how, even with crowdsourcing, we would be able to efficiently sort through the massive amounts of data to find the important details. Although computers use complex algorithms to determine what is noise and what is most likely relevant, I cannot help question the reliability and efficiency of this process.

According to The Stream Official Blog, some users, reported coordinates for interesting objects, such as an outline of what appeared to be a plane underwater, and oil slicks and metal/plastic debris. However, several people are skeptical about the practicality of using crowdsourcing to find the plane, as the plane probably will not resemble a plane any longer and the lack of visibility of debris due to the limited resolution of the satellite. What prevents people from tagging every rock or garbage they see? Also, how are we certain that the algorithms don’t discard any relevant information?

Over the past five years the developments in crowdsourcing has enabled it to be applied to several disciplines, such as science, international development, and security. It has been used to find missing people, determine future famines, highlight current conflict areas, and supply information that would otherwise go unknown. That being said, I fear we still lack the scientific capacity to rely as heavily as we have been on GIS and crowdsourcing. We cannot significantly reduce ground searches and ground operations until we successfully use GIS and crowdsourcing several more times. In the future, I think GIS and crowdsourcing will alter the development sector; however, we must continue to develop innovative ways to more efficiently and accurately deal with the influx of data before we rely on this method.


Universal charger policy a solution for developmental issues?

In class on Tuesday, we discussed the challenges people in developing areas face when it comes to cell phone use. One of the things we discussed was the difficulty of charging the phones. When people have many different types of cell phones with many different types of chargers, finding replacement chargers for misplaced or broken chargers becomes difficult and expensive. As one person in class said, few people can simply go on Amazon and have a new charger sent to their houses. 

When we were discussing this in class, I thought of the European Union’s plan to make a universal phone charger mandatory for all cell phones. When I looked up the specifics of the plan to refresh my memory, I found an Agence France Presse article from Thursday discussed the European Parliament approving draft legislation for the plan. The plan now goes to the European Commission for approval. 

The article describes the legislation: “If adopted in its current form, the legislation would include all “radio” products, meaning any piece of equipment which receives or emits radio waves with the purpose of communication, including mobile phones, GPS systems, tablets and wireless car door openers.” 

A universal charger policy such as this one could be beneficial for developing countries. It would provide easier solutions to one of the most common problems with cell phones: keeping them charged. Having the same type of charger for all devices will mean that someone nearby will always have a charger to borrow. It will also reduce costs of chargers because different manufacturers would be making the same device. Charging centers would also be more easily used because only one type of charger would be necessary. People would be able to spend less time and money worrying about how to charge their phones and more time using them to the fullest potential. 

There are, however, some potential drawbacks to a universal charger policy as well. One of the major drawbacks could be that the policy would disincentivize  tech companies from innovating. Perhaps a new technology comes along that charges a phone in half the time. One company would not be able to capitalize on that development because it would either be prohibited from introducing the charger, or the entire industry would have to go along with it; perhaps creating a free rider problem. 


Mobile Phones: Not Just a Technology

Recently, our class discussions have focused on the benefits of using mobile phones for international development, as seen with the Fishing Industry in India and the mobile phone use in Africa. However, through our discussions and readings I have noticed that we primarily focus on the use of mobile phones for business or for alerts, such as disasters or availability of clean water, and sometimes forget that mobile phone use is highly dependent on the culture and main focus of its users. When writing “Dead China Make: Phones off the Grid,” the author used an article written by Genevieve Bell called “The Age of Thumb: A Cultural Reading of Mobile Technologies in Asia,” which assesses the ways that cultural practices affect Asia’s mobile phone use. Bell argues that mobile phones are not merely for business calls, as they also maintain individual identities and social roles in Asia. Bell’s article focuses on the ways in which mobile phones are being “deployed, consumed, regulated, rejected, and naturalized in urban Asia” to understand how phones are being used as cultural objects in addition to technological objects.

Bell looks at mobile phones as “objects for communications, manifestations of information, as a form of identity politic, and as sites of anxiety and control.” Her research found that, just as in the US, Asia uses phones to stay in constant communications with friends and family to find out the newest gossip, know where their family is, and if everyone is safe. A lot of families interviewed even purchased phones for their teenagers to keep in touch. She also discovered that these users also use cell phones for information, such as streaming sports games and finding up-to-date scores, online shopping and payments, ordering taxis and even providing prayer reminders to Muslims. Additionally, Bell realized that several Asian countries censor phones and monitor every text message sent, as they are concerned that it could negatively affect cultures. Lastly, and what I found most surprisingly, is that people use these cell phones as identities –  the way they decorate it with cultural symbols, the telephone numbers they choose, thinking that those numbers are lucky, and the photos and backgrounds of their family. All of these little things prove that cell phones are as much a technology as they are a culture.

Some might ask why bother focusing on the cultural aspects of mobile phones, when we are only using it as a technology object for development. Well, I think it is crucial to understand the cultural uses of phones in order to understand how best to utilize mobile phones for development. Giving a fisherman a phone, without understanding his culture, would probably drastically limit the success of the ICT4D initiative.