I have spent the past few days doing research on traditional telecenter sustainability. By traditional, I mean telecenters that charge a small fee for offline (photocopying, mobile charging etc.) and online services (Internet access) to meet their costs. While the news is rather bleak, I have stumbled across some interesting sources that might be of use to others:
There was a flurry of debate after TMS Ruge's speech at the SXSW conference in Austin, Texas, which included fair criticism of the popular One Laptop Per Child initiative. Key to this debate was an issue that I am finding equally as relevant in my new job: technological innovations are not enough in information and communication technology for development (ICT4D).
I start a new job next week, so more riveting (I hope) field experiences to come. For now, I wanted to introduce a few projects, most “new” in the field, that have caught my eye.
My first reaction to AMREF's, Why We Need A Fourth Year in Katine, was "of course you need a fourth year in Katine!" Development doesn't happen in four years, let alone five or ten. Aid dollars spent over a short period of time with little follow-up support are often wasted.
Development organizations, combined with the efforts of aid organizations in the first few years, should consider longer contracts. Tax payers need to understand the need for this (cue: journalists).
Stuck in Nairobi traffic on my way to the airport, I had the chance to think further about Project Diaspora’s post on the recent anti-LGBT laws in Uganda (without enabling my knee-jerk must-write now reaction).
Welcome to a series of posts on international development, social entrepreneurship and information and communication technology for development (ICT4D) with a focus on Africa.
There’s an exceptional amount of ingenuity within the development community. Each day, brilliant minds devise elegant solutions to seemingly insurmountable challenges that are multiplied with limited resources and complex realities on the ground.
An example of this creativity can be found in the Questionbox, devised by the non-profit organization, Open Box, which brings global intelligence into a small solar powered audio box that works to empower residents with knowledge even if the area lacks reliable access to electricity or if the user is illiterate.
Residents use the device by pushing a green button and asking their question through a solar powered microphone, the question is transmitted to an operator who searches for the information on the internet and then relays it back to the client.
A CommGAP colleague and I recently spent a week in Kampala, Uganda, to attend a workshop with communication and media research teams from 14 African and Asian countries. These country teams make up the BBC World Service Trust’s Research & Learning (R&L) Group, headed by Dr. Gerry Power, who also manages an expert group in their London head office.
More than 15 development-oriented projects were presented during the workshop, including media productions, capacity building and training efforts, and public information and advocacy campaigns.
It is uncontroversial that the resources governments spend belong to the people. How these resources get allocated varies from country to country at the national and local levels. Debates and deliberations surrounding the budgetary process are usually technical, tedious, and time-consuming. Nonetheless, budgeting in the public sector is a critical entry point for the demand for better public goods and services and, more broadly, meaningful and effective citizen engagement. If citizens could exercise their voices in the prioritization of public sector spending, then government programs would have a higher likelihood of reflecting the needs and wants of constituents. So a key challenge and opportunity in this area is finding a judicious balance between solid technical analysis and meaningful citizen participation.
My favorite part of Barack Obama’s inauguration speech was "We will restore science to its rightful place and wield technology's wonders to raise health care's quality and lower its costs." Science and the scientific method – the process of making decisions based on observable, empirical and measurable evidence – have profoundly changed the way much of the human race (and even some of the luckier animals) live in this world.