Argentina has one of the largest economies and highest overall levels of development in Latin America. It has high levels of education and low infant mortality rates, but also still suffers from extreme poverty,especially after the 2001 economic crisis. As far as ICTs are concerned, Argentina does not have an official policy and is seriously lacking in infrastructure, especially in rural areas. The government regulatory environment is also not conducive to the development of ICTs.
However, despite its many problems with ICTs, Argentina does have a fairly strong telecommunications industry. In 2009, ICTs represented 5.6% of the national GDP. Argentina’s statistics for fixed-line and mobile density, as well as Internet penetration, are the highest in the region. Argentina is considered a “qualified software producer” and the cities of Buenos Aires and Cordoba are home to telecommunications hubs. The FORESTA report that I used for my paper mentions the group “Polo IT Buenos Aires,” which is made up of over 80 domestic SMEs (small and medium enterprises), almost half of which export to 15 different countries. This shows the strength of ICT production in Argentina, especially the fact that the products are high-quality enough to be exported. Mobile-phone subscriptions are increasing rapidly in Argentina, as well as Internet use. In 2009, the number of mobile subscribers in total per 100 inhabitants was 125.6, while the Internet penetration in total per 100 inhabitants was 57.3. Both of these figures show remarkable growth in the last decade. Overall, the telecommunications industry is strong, especially in urban areas such as Buenos Aires and Cordoba where businesses cooperate with universities and the government.
Most of the information concerning Argentina’s telecommunications industry can be found in the FORESTA report, pages 58-65.
In this week’s reading, from Tim Unwin’s book ICT4D, there was a Case Study (page 162)that particularly interested me about an ICT4D project called LifeLines India.This project was focused on giving rural farmers the ability to access web based information that could help them increase economic growth and solve agricultural issues. The farmers could call in and leave questions on an automated voicemail, which were then researched by specialists who would respond within twenty four hours.
This is a service that caters specifically to the needs of rural India, where many people are illiterate and poor agricultural workers who could not access the internet for information. The project was a great success and when this book was printed in 2009 the service was aiding more than 100,000 farmers, was planning on expanding to more than 3,00o villages, and inspiring similar programs in other sectors. One independent study cited in the book says that the information aid increased product quality and productivity enough to have a 25-150% profit growth for the farmers!
I wanted to see how Lifelines India has fared in years since this case study was published, in hopes that the project has continued to prosper. The website lists that it now hosts not only Lifelines Agriculture, but also Lifelines Education for teachers. They have expanded to 2,000 villages in north-central India and now serve 200,000 farmers. In 2009 they were awarded Award for Social Responsibility by the Association of Strategic Alliance Professionals (ASAP).
It is refreshing to see that Lifelines India has not only continued to help rural farmers, but also expanded and improved in the last three years. The project works well because it noted the unique needs of the communities that were being served and also used simple technology, such as telephones,to better connect the people.
MXShare was mentioned in passing by Richard Heeks in “ICT4D Manifesto,” but this exciting technology deserves more attention from our class. Developed by Movirtu and patented by Nigel Waller, MXShare allows individuals who cannot afford a mobile phone to own a cloud phone, accessible from any mobile or land-line using a unique PIN.
The detractors I read considered MXShare a flashy re-brand of calling cards, but there are a few unique differences, the most important being that MXShare users can receive messages and calls tied to the cloud number. A better conceptualization would be to think of Mxshare as a SIM card that can be popped in to any phone to access the days messages and make and receive calls. This is a great program because it is simple, useful, and takes advantage of technology already widely in use. In addition, mobile owners receive a small credit every time they allow an MXShare user to use their phone, which fosters community involvement and creates a positive cycle for cloud and physical phone users.
Overall, it is the simplicity of this program which excites me; it addresses a need and improves access to the most impoverished without the need for government grants, extensive training, or infrastructure development.
Recently, Hewlett-Packard partnered with Movirtu to increase access to MXShare: http://tinyurl.com/97v3rwo.
An in-depth look at the technology can be found in their patent application here: http://tinyurl.com/8ckfmvp.
The company that developed and implemented the system can be found here: http://tinyurl.com/9pb9exy.
The implementation of the technology is being studied in Kenya: http://tinyurl.com/8o6v2ka (Page is in French).
Dr. Hernán Galperin is the Steering Committee Member for DIRSI, a research fellow at the Telecommunications Research Program, CIDE, in Mexico and an Associate Professor and Director at the Universidad de San Andres in Argentina. In 1992, he received his BA in Social Sciences at the Universidad de Buenos Aires; in 1996, his MA in Media Studies (Stanford); and in 2000, his Ph.D. in Communications, also from Stanford.
Dr. Galperin’s work mainly focused on ICT4D Policy and Regulation in Latin America and the Caribbean. Either for this reason, or because of it, he worked extensively with DIRSI: Diálogo Regional sobre la Sociedad de la Información (Regional Dialogue on the Information Society) as a telecommunications and development policy expert. One of the main reasons I chose to profile Dr. Galperin was because of his work with development regulation and policy. I believe that without regulation, ICT4D initiatives have the risk of only helping certain groups with the community, or even in ways, furthering the marginalization of other groups. Other problems that may arise with development initiatives range from being environmentally damaging, to (either directly or inderectly) employing/supporting child labor, intentionally or not. With regulation, these things can be managed and documented. Too often, in my opinion, development projects/initiatives are results-driven and may overlook some of the unintended consequences of providing modern ICTs at a discounted cost.
Galperin; however, disappeared in 2009. He hasn’t published since then, and his website and CV havent been updated since 2009 as well. I was also unable to find him on Twitter or on Facebook. His last email address listed that I could find was firstname.lastname@example.org, yet he left his post at the University of Southern California in 2007 according to his CV. For a man so involved in ICT development from 1997-2009, it seems strange that he could just vanish from the field – even if he were retired. He’s gotta be around somewhere. If you see him, let him know I’d be interested in tweeting at him.
For more information, check out his website.
While we were in class on Wednesday I mentioned the explosion of internet interest that occurred while we were in our seats. At 4:00am on April 11th, CNET posted an article detailing the plans of The Calyx Institute, an internet service provider dedicated to protecting the privacy of its clients.
The ISP would not merely employ every technological means at its disposal, including encryption and limited logging, to protect its customers. It would also — and in practice this is likely more important — challenge government surveillance demands of dubious legality or constitutionality. -CNET
Now, Calyx Institute representative Nick Merrill is certainly not making any friends by challenging every major telecommunications corporation in the country in addition to local police, and the FBI, but his fight is one that is on the minds of internet users everywhere. So, if you believe that individuals are entitled to the same privacy on the internet that they are outside of it, The Calyx Institute is the non-profit telecom provider for you. Actually, priced at $20 a month with no limits on data usage (like those being implemented across the nation), the Calyx Institute would easily be one of the best ISPs in the US.
Merrill received such high levels of interest from internet communities, that he created a page at Indiegogo to raise funding. The page was created just before our class was started, but by the end he had raised over $2000 from individuals. However, starting an ISP is not an easy task and will require millions of dollars for the Calyx Institute, so donate and spread the word to show your support and maybe Calyx will catch the eye of some institutional investors.
This article discusses how developing nations have rapidly been growing in terms of information and communication technologies, they are still seeing great problems in relation to high-speed internet access and broadband connectivity. In result, the World Bank has seen a 70% failure rate when it comes to ICT projects. Some of the ways that the World Bank has tried to recently promote ICT initiatives to better communication technologies in underdeveloped nations are through ICT sector reform, access to information infrastructure, ICT skills development, and ICT applications. Through such initiatives, the World Bank was shown to be one of the largest financiers in telecommunications within poor underdeveloped nations. Nevertheless, in “regarding efforts to promote universal access, targeted World Bank ICT projects with the objective to directly promote target access for the underserved and the poor had limited success; only 30 percent have achieved their objectives of implementing universal access policies or increasing ICT access for the poor or underserved areas. Bank operations to promote universal access often were slow to get off the ground and were superseded by the rollout of mobile phone networks by the private sector, in some cases supported by Bank sector reform” (www.ictworks.org). Although the World Bank has seen failure, it is important to remember how they have also achieved great parts of their initiatives to better information and communication technologies, in hopes that they will continue to improve in order to increase development within developing nations.