Information and Communication Technologies for Development


Information and Communication Technologies for Development

Information and Communication Technologies for Development (ICT4D) is a general term referring to the application of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) within the field of socio-economic development. ICTs can be applied either in the direct sense, where their use directly benefits the disadvantaged population in some manner, or in an indirect sense, where the ICTs assist aid organizations or non-governmental organizations or governments in order to improve socio-economic conditions. In many impoverished regions of the world, legislative and political measures are required to facilitate or enable application of ICTs, especially with respect to monopolistic communications structures and censorship laws.

ICT4D is geographically unspecific, and as such concerns itself directly with overcoming the barriers of the Digital Divide. It is becoming recognised as an interdisciplinary research field as can be noted by the number of conferences, workshops and publications in the field.cite web | author = | publisher = UICT4D.ORG, University of Washington | url = http://uict4d.org/ | title = University ICT4D | date= 2007 | accessdate = ] [cite web | author = | publisher = Swedish Programme for ICT in Developing Regions, KTH | url = http://www.spidercentre.org/ | title = SPIDER | date= 2007 | accessdate = ] Such research have been spurred on in part by the need for scientifically validated benchmarks and results, which can be used to measure the efficacy of current projects.cite paper | author = McNamara, Kerry S. | title = Information and Communication Technologies, Poverty and Development: Learning from Experience | publisher = World Bank, Washington D.C., USA | date = 2003 | url = http://www.infodev.org/en/Document.19.aspx | format = PDF | accessdate = 2007-04-08] Many international aid agencies recognize the importance of ICD. For example the UK's Department for International Development (DFID) has a dedicated team working on these issues.

Projects

Anatomy

ICT4D initiatives and projects may be designed and implemented by international institutions, private companies (e.g. Intel's Classmate), governments (e.g. e-Mexico initiative), non-governmental organizations (e.g. IICD.org), or virtual organizations (e.g. OLPC.org).

ICT4D projects address one or more of the following issues:
* "Infrastructure": providing suitable computer hardware, operating systems, software, and connectivity to the internet. These would include the affordability of software and hardware, the ability to share software (as echoed in the Free Software movement), and the ability to sustainably connect to the internet.
* "Capacity building and training in ICT:" installing, maintaining, and developing hardware and software, digital literacy (technological literacy and informational literacy) and e-Awareness.
* "Digital content and services:" e-services (e-learning, e-health, e-business/e-commerce), including concerns related to local-language solutions in computing, and the Open Access agenda.
* "Regulation of the ICT Sector and digital rights:" Universal Access vs. monopolistic structures, Intellectual Property Rights, privacy, security, and digital identity.
* "Ethics and Social Contexts"

Problems

Projects which deploy technologies in underdeveloped areas face well-known problems concerning crime, problems of adjustment to the social context, and also possibly infrastructural problems.

Projects in marginalised rural areas face the most significant hurdles. Since people in marginalised rural areas are at the very bottom of the pyramid, it has been postulated that they stand to benefit the most from ICTs.Fact|date=April 2008 However introducing ICTs in these areas is also most costly, as the following barriers exist:cite paper | author = Thinyane, M., Slay, H., Terzoli, A., & Clayton, P. | title = A preliminary investigation into the implementation of ICT in marginalized communities. | version = | publisher = South African Telecommunication Network and Application Conference | date = 4 September 2006 | location = Stellenbosch, South Africa | format = | id = | accessdate = ] Fact|date=April 2008
* Lack of Infrastructure: no power, no running water, bad roads
* Lack of Health Services: diseases like HIV, TB, malaria are more common.
* Lack of Employment: there are practically no jobs in marginalised rural areas.
* Hunger: hungry users have problems concentrating.
* Illiteracy: Text user interfaces do not work very well, innovative Human Computer Interfaces (see Human Computer Interaction) are required.
* Social Contexts: the potential users living in rural marginalised areas often cannot easily see the point of ICTs, because of social context and also because of the impediments of hunger, disease and illiteracy.

InfoDev's Rural ICT Toolkit analyses the costs and possible profits involved in such a venture and shows that there is more potential in developing areas than many might assume.cite paper | author = Dymond, A.; Oestermann, S. | title = A Rural ICT Toolkit for Africa. Information for Development Programme (infoDev) of the World Bank | publisher = World Bank, Washington D.C., USA | date = 2004 | url = http://www.infodev.org/en/Publication.23.html | format = PDF | accessdate = 2007-04-08 ] A fact which the makers of Aryty have not missed.Fact|date=April 2008

Lessons learned

What's crucial in making any ICT4D effort successful is effective partnership between four key stakeholders:
* Public sector (governments - from developed nations, developing nations, international bodies, and local governments)
* Private sector (companies belonging to members of the target audience, multi-national organizations wishing to expand their markets to the 4 billion people under US$2/day, pro-poor or social companies)
* Informal sector (NGOs, advocacy groups, think tanks)
* Representation from the target audience

InfoDev have published 6 lessons from an analysis of 17 their pilot programmes (see below). These lessons are backed by a variety of examples as well as a list of recommendations, which should be read by everyone starting an ICT4D project.cite paper | author = S. Batchelor, S. Evangelista, S.Hearn, M. Pierce, S. Sugden, M. Webb | title = ICT for Development Contributing to the Millennium Development Goals: Lessons Learned from Seventeen infoDev Projects | publisher = World Bank |date=November 2003]

* Lesson 1: Involve target groups in project design and monitoring.
* Lesson 2: When choosing the technology for a poverty intervention project, pay particular attention to infrastructure requirements, local availability, training requirements, and technical challenges. Simpler technology often produces better results.
* Lesson 3: Existing technologies—particularly the telephone, radio, and television—can often convey information less expensively, in local languages, and to larger numbers of people than can newer technologies. In some cases, the former can enhance the capacity of the latter.
* Lesson 4: ICT projects that reach out to rural areas might contribute more to the MDGs than projects based in urban areas.
* Lesson 5: Financial sustainability is a challenge for ICT-for-development initiatives.
* Lesson 6: Projects that focus on ICT training should include a job placement component.

Sustainability and scalability

A growing perspective in the field is also the need to build projects that are sustainable and scalable, rather than focusing on those which must be propped up by huge amounts of external funding and cannot survive for long without it.

Also, many so-called "developing" countries, such as India (or other South Asian countries like Sri Lanka, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, as also nations like Malaysia, China, Indonesia, Brazil, South Africa and many others) have proved their skills in IT (information technology). In this context, unless these skills are tapped adequately to build on ICT4D projects, not only will a lot of potential be wasted, but a key indigenous partner in the growth of this sector would be lost. Also there would be unnecessary negative impact on the balance of payments due to imports in both hardware and software.

Currently, the main two perspectives coming out of this sector either emphasis on the need for external aid to build infrastructure before projects can touch viability, or the need to develop and build on local talent. Both approaches are, of course, not mutually exclusive.

Critics

As it has grown in popularity, especially in the international development sector, ICT4D has also increasingly come under criticism. For instance, questions have been raised about whether projects that have been implemented at enormous cost are actually designed to be scalable, or whether these projects make enough of an impact to produce noticeable change. cite journal | last = Graham | first = Mark | year = 2008 | title = Warped Geographies of Development: The Internet and Theories of Economic Development | journal = Geography Compass | volume = 2 | issue = 3 | format = PDF ]

For instance, the Sri Lankan journalist Nalaka Gunawardene argues that thousands of pilot projects have been seeded without regard to generalisability, scalability, and sustainability, implying that these projects will always require external funding to continue running and that their impact is limited. [Nalaka Gunawardene " [http://www.islamonline.net/English/Science/2005/11/article10.shtml Waiting for Pilots to Land in Tunis] " Islam Online, November 2005. Retrieved August 11 2007.] This sentiment echoes a 2003 report by the World Bank.

Further criticism of ICT4D concerns the impact of ICTs on traditional cultures and the so-called cultural imperialism which may be spread with ICTs. For example, young males are tempted to spend their recreational time playing violent computer games. It is emphasised that local language content and software seem to be good ways to help soften the impact of ICTs in developing areas.cite journal | last = Anderson | first = Neil | year = 2005 | title = Building digital capacities in remote communities within developing countries: Practical applications and ethical issues | journal = Information technology, education and society | volume = 6 | issue = 3 | format = PDF ]

United Nations

UN ICT Task Force

In 2001 the United Nations Information and Communication Technologies Task Force was formed to address a variety of ICT4D topics. The Task Force held semi-annual meetings focusing on specific themes, including a "Global Forum on Internet Governance" (UN headquarters in New York, March 2004); a "Global Forum on an Enabling Environment" (Berlin, November 2004); and a Global Forum on Harnessing the Potential of ICTs in Education (Dublin, April 2005). The UN ICT Task Force's mandate ended on December 31, 2005. A new group, called the 'Global Alliance for ICT and Development', was created to continue much of the work of the UN ICTTF.

In November 2002, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan issued a call for Silicon Valley to create the computers and communications systems that would enable villages to leapfrog several generations of technology and enter the Information Age directly. [Kofi Annan, " [http://news.com.com/2010-1069-964507.html?tag=lh Perspective: Kofi Annan's IT challenge to Silicon Valley] ", News.com, November 5 2002. Retrieved August 11 2007.] This would provide the technical basis for WSIS discussions.

Global Alliance for ICT and Development

In 2006, at the end of his tenure, outgoing UN Secretary General Kofi Annan launched the Global Alliance for ICT and Development (GAID).

It is described as a "multi-stakeholder forum" and a "cross-sectoral platform and forum that will bring together all stakeholders representing relevant constituencies". It includes a large number of persons from the fields of government, development cooperation, foreign policy, finance, the social sector (health, education), regulatory agencies, industry and workers' associations, producers and consumers of ICT, the media, non-governmental organisations, community social organisations, foundations, scientific, academic and ICT communities and "individuals providing advocacy and oversight on Information Society issues and implementing programs addressing the United Nations' MDGs Millennium Development Goals."

GAID is lead by a steering committee, with Intel's Craig Barrett as its chairman.

It also has a Strategy Council, a set of high-level advisors, and a "champions' network". The Global Alliance for ICT and Development held its first meeting on June 19 and June 20, 2006 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Asia Pacific Development Information Programme and International Open Source Network

United Nations -- though its various organisations such as the United Nations Development Programme's Asia Pacific Development Information Programme (APDIP) -- have been bring out a number of publications. Many are published with shareable content licenses. Specifically in the field of Free/Libre and Open Source Software (FLOSS), the International Open Source Network (IOSN) is an active player too.

UNDP-APDIP brings out two series of e-primers, namely the e-Primers for the Information Economy, Society and Polity and the e-Primers on Free/Open Source Software. The former series details the concepts, issues and trends surrounding the information economy, society and polity. It intends to raise awareness and help policy makers and planners understand the relevance of information and communications technology (ICT) for development, by explaining technical jargon in simple terms. The latter series serves as an introduction to various aspects and dimensions of FLOSS, with country case-studies. It aims to raise awareness on FLOSS issues and support capacity building efforts.

Other organizations

The International Development Research Centre (IDRC)

The IDRC is a Canadian governmental agency (crown corporation) that has a very broad programme which includes many small to mid-sized ICT4D projects. The IDRC is also one of the major sponsors of the telecentre.org movement.

The One Laptop per Child Project and 50x15

OLPC is a high profile project initiated by Nicholas Negroponte. Several large companies are members of the organisation including MIT and chip manufacturer AMD. It has a wide open source community. The aim is to produce laptops cheaply enough to provide them to every school child in the world. Through its bold and controversial aim, the project has generated much exposure for ICT4D in general.

The 50x15-project is a similar worldwide projects, offering low-cost computers from a variety of manufacturers.

Inveneo

Inveneo is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization based in San Francisco with focus on ICT4D mostly in Uganda. [ [http://www.nytimes.com/2006/11/13/us/13tech.html?partner=rssnyt&emc=rss Wireless Technology to Bind an African Village - New York Times ] ] [ [http://www.pcworld.com/businesscenter/article/146061/inveneo_braves_goats_killer_bees_for_it.html PC World - Business Center: Inveneo Braves Goats, Killer Bees for IT ] ] [ [http://www.infoworld.com/article/05/07/19/30OPreality_1.html VoIP on a bike | InfoWorld | Column | 2005-07-19 | By Ephraim Schwartz ] ] [ [http://www.entrepreneur.com/growyourbusiness/portfoliocombusinessnewsandopinion/article188980.html One Billion Laptops - Entrepreneur.com ] ] [ [http://www.wired.com/science/discoveries/news/2005/09/68796 VOIP Phones Give Villagers a Buzz ] ] [ [http://www.usatoday.com/tech/columnist/kevinmaney/2006-05-30-third-world-market_x.htm Tech entrepreneurs see profit in connecting next billion Internet users - USATODAY.com ] ] The organization developed thin client called Inveneo Computing Station, which is similarly to Linutop 2 based on a reference design ION A603 mini PC by First International Computer and runs AMD Geode CPU. [ [http://reviews.zdnet.co.uk/hardware/desktops/0,1000000968,39303417,00.htm?r=1 Inveneo Computing Station Review Overview in Desktops Reviews at ZDNet.co.uk - Page 1 ] ] [ [http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/07/18/AR2007071800053_pf.html AMD project brings Web access to third world - washingtonpost.com ] ] [ [http://www.olpcnews.com/prototypes/2b1/inveneo_communicatio.html OLPC News: Inveneo Communication Stations vs 2B1 Children's Machines ] ] [ [http://www.linuxdevices.com/news/NS6428796596.html AMD brings Linux to East Africans ] ] Inveneo also helped to set up a communication system for relief workers after Hurricane Katrina. [ [http://www.linux.com/articles/49035 Linux.com :: Inveneo lights up Bay St. Louis ] ] Jamais Cascio, a co-founder of WorldChanging, featured Inveneo in July 2005. [ [http://www.worldchanging.com/archives/003163.html WorldChanging: Tools, Models and Ideas for Building a Bright Green Future: Inveneo ] ]

Other organizations

* The Information for Development Program (infoDev), World Bank
* Geekcorps offers education systems that draw on information technology.
*Global Alliance for ICT and Development and the Digital alliance Foundation.
* The International Institute for Communication and Development in the Netherlands
* The Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation ACP-EU (CTA) supports the dissemination of ICT4D in ACP countries.
* The World Wide Web Consortium Interest Group on the [http://www.w3.org/2008/MW4D/ Mobile Web for Social Development (MW4D)] explores how to use the potential of Information Communication Technology (ICT) on mobile phones as a solution to bridge the digital divide and provide minimal services (health, education, governance, business, etc.) to rural communities and under-privileged populations of developing countries.

Notable events

World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS)

A major event for ICT4D was the twin World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS). The first part of WSIS took place in Geneva, Switzerland in December 2003 (with a large ICT4D exhibition and an ICT4D symposium co-ordinated by infoDev). The second part of WSIS took place in Tunis, Tunisia, in November 2005. One of its chief aims of the WSIS process was to seek solutions to help bridge the so-called "digital divide" separating rich countries from poor countries by spreading access to the Internet in the developing world.

Perspectives on the WSIS are available elsewhere on the Wikipedia, and this covers links to civil society, Tunis 2005, US priorities at WSIS, media responses, Tunis conference developments, roles for business and government, digital divide issues, the digital divide and the digital dilemma, common ground, a civil society study on WSIS, and external links.

Initiatives and projects

*Free Software and Open Source projects, which dramatically reduce the cost of getting access to software, and extend skills in software across the globe
*Localization of Linux into languages not supported by commercial vendors
*Free metropolitan wireless systems
*Drishtee - a significant project, bringing ICTs to thousands of rural Indians.

ee also

*Global digital divide
*e-Readiness
*infoDev
*Development Communication
*United Nations Information and Communication Technologies Task Force
*Digital divide
*Overcoming the digital divide

References

External links

United Nations System initiatives

* [http://www.unites.org United Nations Information Technology Service (UNITeS)]
* [http://www.unicttaskforce.org United Nations Information and Communication Technologies Task Force]
* [http://www.itu.int/wsis World Summit on the Information Society - WSIS]
* [http://www.apdip.net Asia Pacific Development Information Programme (APDIP) UNDP]

The World Bank initiatives

* [http://www.infodev.org infoDev - The Information for Development Programme (World Bank)]

IDRC initiatives

* [http://www.idrc.ca/ict4d/ ICT4D at the International Development Research Centre]
* [http://www.sustainabilityfirst.org/ Sustainability First] , telecenter sustainability initiative by telecentre.org of IDRC.
* [http://www.telecentre.org/ telecentre.org]
* Studies on Telecom use at the Bottom of the Pyramid in Emerging Asia, LIRNEasia: http://lirneasia.net/projects/2006-07/bop-teleuse

* Also see http://lirneasia.net/projects/2008-2010/bop-teleuse-3

Academic initiatives

* [http://www.ict4d.org.uk The ICT4D Collective's portal and learning resources] , led by Professor Tim Unwin
* [http://ictlogy.net ICTlogy] , research portal with resources and +800 references bibliography and +300 pages wiki, led by Professor Ismael Peña-López
* [http://www.ict4wd.blogspot.com/ ICT4WD] , research portal with resources on ICT for rural women's development, led by Meera K. Joseph
* [http://tier.cs.berkeley.edu/ TIER] , Technology and Infrastructure in Emerging Regions (TIER) a cross-disciplinary research group on ICT and development, led by Prof. Eric Brewer at the University of California at Berkeley

Other international initiatives

* [http://newdigitalsouth.org/digital/node/308 Digital Domain's New School of Thought]
* [http://www.developmentgateway.org Development Gateway Foundation - Resources Portal]
* [http://www.ifossf.org International Free and Open Source Software Foundation]
* [http://www.digitalopportunity.org Digital Opportunity Channel]
* [http://www.dfid.gov.uk/aboutDFID/Files/icd.htm DFID]
* [http://www.e-ForAll.org e-ForAll.org]
* [http://www.iconnect-online.org iConnect]
* [http://www.inveneo.org Inveneo]
* [http://www.intel.com/intel/worldahead Intel's World Ahead Program]


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