Much more than an app developers camp…

Ohrid is located on the shore of a big lake with crystal clear water in the south west of Macedonia. It bears a diverse ecological system and is millions of years old. The UNESCO accepted Lake Ohrid as Natural World Heritage Site. Tiny fish tickle your body when you keep still for a while. It is a holiday paradise and i wonder why i’ve never heard of it before.

There we met last weekend to choose the 3 winning projects of an international app development project called mYouth 2.0 which provides space for youth that is already in the field of new technologies in order to develop further their potentials and ideas.

4 participants from Asia, 4 from Africa and 4 from Europe pitched in front of a 12 member expert jury.
The jury chose one winner of each continent.
The 3 winners are invited to the European Youth Award festival in Graz in November 2018.

 

photo (c) Mladiinfo

It took me several days to write this recap. Why? Cause it was such a valuable experience that i didn’t want to cut it down to a few words. Nor would some pictures show what really fascinated me about this event. I’ll give it a shot…

We spent 5 days together. More than 30 people from 3 different continents: East African Region (Kenya and Tanzania), West African Region (Senegal and Ghana), North Asian Region (Vietnam and Hong Kong) and South Asian Region (Singapore and Philippines) as well as the European Region that involves Poland, Germany, Austria, Macedonia and Romania  – I thought of justing naming a few exemplary countries but it is so impressive if you make yourself aware of this diversity. Just being in the middle of this vibrant community was already worth travelling to Ohrid. I felt an excitement that i experience seldomly these days. A feeling that there is a vibrant and positive world beneath frightening news and fascist governments. That there are people who are actually making a change by helping their local communities and therefore bringing valuable ideas to the global society.

And the contestants do exactly that. Some of them experienced hard times in their young lifes and decided to protect people in the future from those experiences. Some of them observe problems in their communites and decide to do something about it. Some have a smart idea and want to develop it further. They get creative and use mobile technologies to help for example pupils who want to learn more about the world but simply don’t have learning material. Or to make dental service affordable for people who can’t rely on a health care system. Or to give an effective tool to people who want to make music but have no idea where to start – Spoiler: Those are the winners 😉

Jurying and choosing those 3 winning projects was tough. Many of the presentations where very convincing, several of the pitches where brillant, all of the projects are worth to be supported. It took us hours to discuss and decide. Sometimes i ask myself if competitions like this one are just wrong when all of them deserve to win. But then again it is a big boost for your motivation if you strive towards a goal.

The competion itself tough was just one aspect of the whole event. We coached the contestants and their projects and we learned a lot from them as well. So it was in fact a win-win situation. And we had time to spare. Some of the most interesting and deepest conversations emerge while you have lunch together or enjoy the sunset on a hill in Ohrid.

There would be so much more to say about the event, about technological aspects, about how important a proper design process is for an app project and so on but i think i already implied what was most important for me:
People from different cultures, of various ages, with different backgrounds came together in a peaceful, respectful and joyful way. We worked together, supported each other and simply had fun. It was organised by a careful and dedicated team (thanks so much Mladiinfo!). Jumping into this intercultural experience was one of the best things i did recently.

To be fair: It was an almost perfect setting and it is not easy to organise such intercultural events. But i think you can scale it down to your daily life as well. Even short contacts between persons with different cultural backgrounds can be interesting and authentic if you kick yourself in the butt and step our of your comfort zone. Give it a try! You won’t be disappointed. And it doen’t matter if you speak the same language or not.


Much more than an app developers camp…
was published on 30.09.2018 by Georg Steinfelder. It files under east africa, east asia, eastern and central europe, Europe, global, middle east and north africa, south asia
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9th ICT4D Conference 2017 – From Innovation to Impact

ICT4D Conference Poster

A week ago, I had the pleasure to dive deep into the world of ICT4D at the 9th ICT4D Conference in Hyderabad, India. On short notice I got the confirmation for my ticket while being in Bangalore with one business card, no fancy shirts and an insufficient amount of underwear. So I booked a flight at the same day, the first hotel which popped up on the net (brick-wall-view as I found out later) and went cloth shopping at the airport. I also managed to shift some work load from my company and worked during coffee breaks on other things. I replaced business cards with a smile and pined my last one on my chest – so people simply took pictures. Busy and exhausting four days, but exiting as well. I would like to give here a short overview on what is going on in the world of ICT4D, summarize the talks I enjoyed and state my personal experiences.

Two topics were ubiquitous this year, agriculture and IT support for NGOs. This focus was already underlined in the keynote when one of the main sponsors of the conference, Microsoft, spoke about their engagement with ICRISAT – International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Topics. They use their cloud computing power and Cortana to provide weather forecast for farmers to communicate when to seed out or harvest (and more) to increase crop yield for farmers. The IT support aspect for NGOs was visible due to the high amount of companies offering technologies (hardware, software, data) in order to make their life easier or to collect/organize data in the field, which is also inline with the this year’s conference focus:

This year we focus on using data to accelerate achievement of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.

I would like to split this blog post into two sections. Firstly, I will give you an overview of talks and discussions regarding ICT4D projects I discovered. This will be just a peak of what was going on, most of the time more than 10 talks were happening simultaneously. Secondly, I took one full day to visit all sponsors and exhibitors at their stands and discusses with them their products, projects and ideas.

 

 

Projects, Talks & Discussions

Leveraging Tradition and Science in Disaster Risk Reduction in Mongolia
Erkhes Batbold
is a project with a goal to reduce the risk of dzud (a Mongolian term for a severe winter in which large number of livestock die, primarily due to starvation due to being unable to graze, in other cases directly from the cold) to herder communities and rural economies in Mongolia through on-demand weather information and increased local planning and risk reduction capacity.
They implemented a national wide SMS based weather forecast system to provide access for everyone with a mobile phone. The speaker underlined the lack of smartphones in rural areas and the importance of a demand requested system to make it sustainable in the long run. They interviewed users on camera to describe their positive experience to spread the word, which worked best for them. The speaker, Erkhes Batbold from Mercy Corps listed some helpful technologies they used to build the system: engagespark.com, darksky.net , ona.io and lts2sms.com. For me, this talk was one of the most interesting, since it is related to my research as well, and as they started to use a Android phone as a SMS gateway to forward the requests to a server and respond then with the weather forecast.
more

‘SMS Quicklearns’ enhances women’s parenting skills in Sri Lanka
Maria Berenguer & Divakar Ratnadurai
SOS Children’s Village Sri Lanka empowers women at grass-roots through mobile technology using “SMS Quicklearns” to enhance women’s parenting skills on the benefit of their children. The feasibility study showed high mobile penetration at the grass-root level and being mainly fishing communities needed cognizance on various social skills to assure a safe and caring home environment for the children. Text To Change Programme disseminates information on child-care, child rights & protection and managing family income with a view to change their behavior for the well-being of their children & families.
This project is as well SMS based and spread information via mobile phones. Users also had weekly meetings to discuss the received lessons which enabled access for mothers without a phone. They also had a trainer visiting the parents. These limitations made it only possible to work in closed groups, but the speaker stated, that they would love to open it to everyone – but as always, the budget is the limit…

e-Monitoring system: Strengthening government school monitoring system
Ruxana Parvin Hossain
e-Monitoring System specifically designed for the use by school monitors to improve the accountability and governance of public primary school system. To strengthen the government school monitoring system of Bangladesh, the Sponsorship program of Bangladesh Save the Children created an Android enabled school monitoring application based on the existing paper based school monitoring checklist and also developed a browser based school inspection data analysis dashboard with various analytical interactive reports. The data is public, the source code is close since it is very specialized.

Education & Livelihoods Track Panel: Learning-People, Processes or Platform
Chris Benner, Anindya Chattopadhyay, PS Gohil, Jodi Lis & Laura Moats
The panel discussed the process to bring education to people with the support of technology. Technology which can help you in your educational project highly depends on your user and your needs. It is crucial to put community and people first, the technology will just support you and is not the key to your success. The panel defined the following steps:
1. Identify and setup the platform/technology you will use.
2. Build up your content, use open resources or create it yourself
3. Implement the e-learning – this is the hardest part.
The discussion shifted then to MOOCs which can be helpful but very difficult to implement. Guidance and personal interactions are very important for beginners. The main problem with MOOCs is, that most of the time already educated users use the service and leave out the target group. They underlined that learning is a social process!
Furthermore, the panel stated that having test groups straight from the beginning is very important. The fact that it is almost impossible to get proper feedback from failed e-learning users. This is very challenging and they have no solution yet to reach out to these important group to simply find out why they failed. The last conclusion was to show the demand to the users. Create motivation by giving an insight what the learners will get from their education. Jobs and placement are most of the time the goal.

There’s no app for that: Preparing for a tech implementation
Aleksa Krolls, Piyasree Mukherjee, Frank Nankivell, Alexie Seller
Ready to implement a new technology — trade in the paper for smartphones, start administering surveys via SMS, transition to a new CRM system? Worldwide, social impact organizations are seeking technology solutions to better manage data, measure performance, report to donors, & address inefficiencies in programs/operations. When it comes to implementing a new tech tool, how do we gauge whether an organization is “ready”? What happens when the technology implementation – inadvertently or advertently – leads to upheaval in the organization’s processes? How can we ensure that technology is a tool underpinning quality delivery, with the focus on impact rather than on the tool itself?
Vera Solutions discussed with three NGO partners on how they worked together to implement a certain technology to support their work. Pollinate Energy, FMCH – Foundation for Mother & Child Health and Liberty Asia all used IT support to streamline and analyse their processes, collect information on the field and/or get more paperless. All agreed on the profound advantages IT can have. “Why do we need a new Technology” is crucial to ask straight from the beginning to really get the solution which fits best. Start with the people, not the Technology.

Digital Village Harisal: Connectedness is the Key
Prashant Shukla
The Maharashtra government and Microsoft have collaborated to develop a strategic framework for smart village adoption and to identify an impact-driven, public-private partnership-enabled implementation model to transform Harisal into India’s first smart village. Connecting a village to the Internet is one of the key elements to make a village smarter. This can be quite challenging due to the GSM coverage in rural areas and land lines are still rare as well. This project uses TV band white spaces – unused VHF and UHF TV channels that can be used to deliver broadband access over wider areas than possible using today’s Wi-Fi spectrum. They connected villages with this technologies and enabled better access to communication, health and education tools.

SESAMA – Mobile application to turn trash into cash
Mita Julinartati Sirait
Waste in the big cities has always been a problem and needs serious handling. Jakarta City every day produces 7000 tons of waste and only about 5200 tons can be transported to the final disposal (TPA) Bantar Gebang by 720 garbage trucks. Of the total trash, 47% is industrial waste and 53% of household waste with a composition of 67% of organic waste; 32.8% inorganic and plastic waste; and 0.2% other debris. In order to support urban waste management, WVI has developed android applications called SESAMA to connect residents with nearby waste bank and help the waste bank managing its administrative works. This application allows residents ordering picking up, tracking their waste amount and checking their money deposit in real time. On the other hand, the waste bank will be able to monitor the waste deposit amount, money deposit, customer’s data and trends of their transaction timely and regularly.

Play.Connect.Learn: Learning to read by playing with apps
Meenakshi Khanna
Play.Connect.Learn, is a digital app that was developed by Sesame Workshop India (SWI) to determine whether exposure to innovative, interactive digital reading content on smart phones would improve the reading skills of children in Grades 1 and 2 who are reading below grade level. SWI leveraged its library of materials to develop 3 packages of reading materials for the app. The app, developed in Marathi, is being used in 4 districts in Maharashtra by low income families. The app includes packages of stories, rhymes and games that become increasingly more complex in content and skills.
They stated that nothing can replace a good pedagogy, but the application is a good tool. Even parents started to learn and like the fact that they use the Sesame Street Puppets in the application. They acknowledged that children lean it many different ways and tried to offer different learning approaches in the application.

Feeding the world with Raspberry Pi
John Anker
The last talk I joined at the conference was about the wonderful Raspberry Pi. John Anker from the Catholic Relief Services simple introduced the mini computer and showed its possibilities. I use the Raspberry Pi as well in my work to teach computer science and attended the talk out of curiosity. The highligt was the Raspberry Pi operated anti mosquito laser gun – pretty cool stuff. I would also like to underline here that the Raspberry Pi is a very good computer for development work. Cost effective and fully operable – surf the Internet, create textual documents (and more) and program for just $30!

 

Sponsors & Exhibitors

a small overview of companies, NGOs and NPOs at the ICT4D conference:

esri – GIS Resources for Humanitarian Assistance and Crisis Response
Esri’s Nonprofit Organization Program provides conservation and humanitarian nonprofit organizations around the world with an affordable means of acquiring ArcGIS software and services for organized volunteer effort.
esri.com/nonprofit

Digital Globe – Space Imagery and Geospatial Content
analyses images and processes them for catastrophy management and are partners of Esri. They use the power of the crowed to provide necessary information. Ushahidi from the other side…
http://www.digitalglobe.com/

OMPT – Reducing Worldwide Poverty Through Video Education
provides projector sets with speakers to enable mobile video training. 2 hours of battery life are included, but you can charge the gear with a external battery or from your car to and teach anywhere.
http://www.ompt.org/

Quest Alliance – We design learning experiences that inspire and empower educators and learners alike.
Quest Alliance is a not-for-profit trust that equips young people with 21st century skills by enabling self-learning.
http://www.questalliance.net/

Mango Logic and D-Tree
Mango Logic offers a sophisticated technology to solve complex decision making. Everyone can create a decision tree and a mobile application without programming a single line of code. That’s what D-Tree is doing, they use the technology to provide better Decisions which save lives. D-tree International is harnessing the potential of mobile technology to improve the quality of healthcare provision in the developing world.
http://mangologic.com/ | http://www.d-tree.org/

Social App Hub – India’s largest repository of mobile Apps
Most of the software a NGO needs is already out there and they created a collection of apps for a social cause. Social App Hub helps to find IT solutions for NGOs.
https://knowledge.socialapphub.com/

Anudip – Empowering individuals through digital and workplace skills development
Anudip’s diverse training, mentorship, and employment support empowers marginalized individuals to change their lives by providing training for illiterate people to find a placement. The work directly with the people and use training centers equipped with computer and Internet connection.
http://www.anudip.org/

Akvo – Capture, Understand and Share
Akvo is offering mobile applications to collect data in the field and analyse the outcome. They also have very nice tools of measure water quality with a Android phone.
http://akvo.org/

Open – Security enabled Networks
provides networks in the field and ensure their security. The Swiss based company offers a portable server infrastructure to connect and control the data flow.
https://www.open.ch

Nasscom – Empower NGOs with Technology
NASSCOM Foundation, by leveraging the capabilities of the IT- BPM sector, is meeting the technology needs of NGOs so that they can: scale up operations, be more efficient, increase reach, deliver effective results; and hence realize the goals they are meant to.
http://www.nasscomfoundation.org

Diona – Mobility Solutions
transform mobile devices such as phones and tablets into tools for helping your NGO move closer to achieving its mission. Whether it’s greater efficiency, happier clients, more productive caseworkers, or tracking progress of your projects and clients for better outcomes, we work together to help make your mission happen.
https://ngo.diona.com/

Software Group – Finance
is a global technology company that is specialized in delivery channel and integration solutions for the financial sector, especially in the micro finance sector.
http://softwaregroup-bg.com/

aWhere – Agronomic Data & Agricultural Data Management
Data Management harnesses agriculture analytics to create unprecedented visibility and insight from farm level to national policy. Their algorithms create 41000 weather stations out of 87  Indian weather stations and support local farmers with their technology.
http://www.awhere.com/

Good Bye

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9th ICT4D Conference 2017 – From Innovation to Impact
was published on 28.05.2017 by Paul Spiesberger. It files under global, south asia
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MSR Summer School on Computing for Socio-Economic Development

UPDATE: Most of the slides and readings are online on the summer schools website.

Review of the Summer School on Computing for Socio-Economic Development by Microsoft Research India in association with the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) (Centre for Electronics Design and Technology (CEDT)). (June 13th – 27th, 2010 – Indian Institute of Science Campus, Bengaluru.)

First of all I want to thank Microsoft Research India, especially the Technology for Emerging Markets (TEM) Group for organizing and financing the great summer school, the IISc for hosting the summer school and providing the infrastructure and all the attendees and speakers for the interesting conversations. It was a fantastic experience. I have learned a lot about ICTD generally and especially how to do research and case studies in that interdisciplinary field. We had lots of very interesting lectures and discussions and furthermore we did some exciting field work in small groups on the streets of Bengaluru.

I’m sorry I was not able to write earlier, due to our schedule and limited access to the Internet I was not able to do this. However, here is my review. I will update it when I’m back in Vienna and provide you some additional information.

The speakers:

Ed Cutrell – Manager of TEM.

Kentaro Toyama – former manager of TEM, has left MSR to begin work on a book on global development. University of California, Berkeley.

Prof. HS Jamadagni – Chairman of the Centre for Electronics Design and Technology (CEDT),  Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore.

Michael Best – Georgia Tech. He is co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of Information Technologies and International Development

Revi Sterling – University of Colorado at Boulder.

Isha Ray – University of California, Berkeley.

Tapan Parikh – University of California, Berkeley.

Ashok Desai –  consultant Editor of The Telegraph, the premier Calcutta daily, and a columnist in Businessworld.

Joyojeet Pal – Polytechnic Institute of New York University.

Jonathan Donner – Microsoft Research India.

Bill Thies – Microsoft Research India.

Aishwarya Ratan – Microsoft Research India.

Nimmi Rangaswamy – Microsoft Research India.

Indrani Medhi – Microsoft Research India.

Saurabh Panjwani – Microsoft Research India.

David Hutchful – Microsoft Research India.

Greeta Menon

Yaw Anokwa

Carl Hartung

Rikin Ghandi – chief executive officer of Digital Green. Microsoft Research India.

Solomon Jaya Prakash

Sean Blagsvedt

TEM MSR India:

The main goals of the TEM group are to understand existing and potential technology users, to design and evaluate systems and to collaborate with NGOs. Ed Cutrell is actually the manager of the group, he replaced Kentaro Toyama who went back to the U.S. to work on a book on global development.

Some TEM projects:

Text-Free User Interfaces

The goal of this research is to understand, devise and implement design principles such that a non-literate person can, at first contact with a PC or phone, immediately realize useful interaction with minimal or no assistance.

Tools for K-12 Teachers

Like collage – The tool enables teachers to display digital scans of textbook pages along with digital multimedia in an interactive fashion. For example, an English teacher teaching a chapter called “Banyan Tree” can show pages from the text and in between the pages s/he can present images and videos of a real banyan tree.

http://research.microsoft.com/en-us/um/india/projects/edulab/collage.html

Simultanous Shared Access- Multipoint

They are working on a project where we provide each child with a mouse and cursor on screen, thus effectively multiplying the amount of interaction per student per PC, for the cost of a few extra mice.

http://research.microsoft.com/en-us/um/india/projects/edulab/multipoint.html

http://research.microsoft.com/en-us/um/india/projects/edulab/cloze.html

http://www.microsoft.com/multipoint/mouse-sdk/

Rural Microfinace and IT

They are conducting primary research on understanding the ways in which rural and urban low-income households access and use financial services from formal and informal providers.

DVDs for Education

A very interesting project! They are developing applications for interactive DVDs using the menu system from ordinary DVDs for content. So they put for example Schools Wikipedia on a DVD, so you can access Wikipedia with just a DVD player + TV.

http://research.microsoft.com/en-us/um/people/thies/ictd10-abstract.txt

Everyday mobile use in the developing world

Their project explores the diversity of mobile use in settings where the mobile is the primary ICT, while identifying generalizable patterns and trends.

ICTs in urban slums

This work explores the adoption of information & communication technologies in the context of urban slums in Mumbai. They are conducting ethnographic research amongst ICT-based business like mobile phone stores, cyber cafes, PC assembling units and computer training institutes to map the ecologies of mobile phones and PCs in these communities.

Digital Green

Digital Green is dedicated to improving the social, economic, and environmental sustainability of small farmer livelihoods. They aim to raise the livelihoods of smallholder farmers across the developing world through the targeted production and dissemination of agricultural information via participatory video and mediated instruction through grassroots-level partnerships.

Mobile-phone-enabled banking and payments

The project involves looking at a range of existing and proposed m-banking and m-payment solutions across countries, understanding the usability of m-banking systems by low-literate clients, as well as assessing the social and economic context and impact of the new channel on low-income households.

This are only a few examples of the projects of the TEM group.

Visit their website for more information!

Week 1

Sunday, June 13th – Welcome day.

On the welcome day Ed Cutrell gave us an introduction and presented the TEM Group and their Projects. We did small group discussions on the goals of development generally and why to use ICTs for development. We got a few papers to read.

Monday, June 14th – What is development.

We got a very interesting lecture by Revi Sterling about the history of development theory and practice. Afterwards we examined development practice through a paper/case study discussion with Aishwarya Ratan. We spoke about the Mozambican cashew industry (Welch, K. A., Rodrik, D. and K. Horn. (2002). Liberalization of the Mozambican Cashew Industry. Kennedy School of Government Case Study.) and how poor people in Bangladesh live with about 2$ a day (Chapter 2: The Daily Grind in Collins, D., Morduch, J., Rutherford, S. and O. Ruthven. (2009) Portfolios of the Poor: How the World’s Poor Live on $2 a Day. Princeton University Press.). Being poor is a triple “whammy” for these people, it’s not just their low income, it’s as well the uncertain timing of cash flows (the irregularity and unpredictability of income) which makes every days life hard for these people. An other problem is, that financial instruments don’t address these people. Can ICTs help these people? I don’t know… However, if you are interested in cash management of very poor people, and accordingly how poor households manage their livings/money I would recommend you that book!

After the discussion we started our field activity. In groups of three we should do quantitative as well as qualitative interviews with low income workers in Bengaluru.

Optional readings:

Chapter 4: Poverty as Capability Deprivation. in Sen, A. K. (1999). Development as Freedom. New York: Random House, 87-110.

Banerjee, A. and E. Duflo. (2006). The Economic Lives of the Poor, Journal of Economic Perspectives. 21 (1): 141-167.

Tuesday, June 15th – ICTs and development.

Jonathan Donner gave us an lecture about understanding technology and society through mobile phone behaviors and afterwards Revi Sterling told us about informed consent in ICTD projects. After the talks we had to create a general policy on informed consent in research on ICTD in groups and then there was a panel on informed consent by some experienced researchers (Michael Best, Revi Sterling, Bill Thies, Jonathan Donner).

Afterwards Michael Best gave us a very interesting lecture with the title “Why (and wherefore) focus on ICTs for development”.

Recommended reading:

Miller, Daniel. (2006). The unpredictable mobile phone. BT Technology Journal, 24(3), 41-48.

Wednesday, June 16th – Projects in ICTD.

We had some conference talks:

Nimmi Rangaswamy was speaking about slum ecology.

Revi Sterlings talk was about advancement through interactive radio (community based radio).

Michael Best topic was “Rich digital media as a tool in post conflict trouth and reconciliation.

Jonathan Donner topic was “A review of the research on mobile use by micro and small enterprises”.

Furtehermore we had a leacture by Michael Best about Telecenters.

Thursday, June 17th – Qualitative Methods.

The 17th of June was all about social science and different qualitative methods. It’s essential to know qualitative methods for ICTD fieldwork. We first had lectures by Isha Ray and Nimmi Rangaswamy, and afterwards we did a exercise in groups of ten. We got a research question and we had to discuss which methods we would use for this research, why and how we would design the research overall.

Friday, June 18th – Design: Design: What to build, why and how?

The Friday was about ICTD again, concrete the day was about Design for Development. Tapan Parikh, from Berkly gave us two very interesting lectures, he spoke about design for development generally and about design for low text literacy. He told us about his experiences in India and Guatemala, about the “Avaaj Otalo” project, data collection and LocalGround.org. In his second lecture he talked about working with NGOs and CBOs for designing rurual information systems.

Indrani Medhi spoke about design challenges in working with low-literate users.

Saturday, June 19th – Understanding poor communities.

Indrani Medhi talked about everyday life in rural village, and about her experiences on the field. Greeta Menon told us about the life in urban slums, to prepare us for our visit in a slum in the afternoon. In small groups we visited different slums and had the chance to speak with the people about their lives, their worries and the children had fun with us, or rather with our cameras.

Week 2

Monday, June 21th – Projects in ICTD.

Week two started with a lecture by Prof. HS Jamadagni, the Chairman of the Centre for Electronics Design and Technology (CEDT) of the IISc, where the summer school took place.

The title of his lecture was “you and your research” and it was based on the well known lecture by Richard Hamming with the same title.

Afterwards we had conference talks again:

Ed Cutrell talked about “Intermediate technology use in developing countries”. Typically ICTs are not designed for intermediary users but only for the beneficiary users, although these users often don’t use technology directly. This can have different reasons like, fear of technology, lack of literacy, costs, etc. So these people go to an intermediary users who operates the technology for them. In my opinion a very interesting point, designers should consider that.

Yaw Ankowa talked about the Open Data Kit. ODK is a suite of tools that enables users to collect their own rich data. ODK is designed to let users own, visualize, and share data without the difficulties of setting up and maintaining servers. This helps for example field workers to obtain the information they need and integrate it into a data collection system.

David Hutchful talked about Clozer. It’s a content authoring tool that helps teachers in developing region schools to create interactive learning activities for classroom teaching.

Bill Thies told us about “Interactive DVDs as a platform for education”. Lot’s of people have DVD players and TVs but no computers. The idea behind this project was, not to develop new hardware but use existing. They use the menu system from ordinary DVDs for content representation. So they could provide schools Wikipedia on a ordinary movie DVDs.

Afterwards we had to present the posters with the result of our field study. We had to describe the life of an low income worker in Bangalore. We did qualitative and quantitative interviews in small groups of three with people on the streets the week before. That followed the next exercise: We had to prepare a research proposal in groups of six. We worked on that the rest of the week and presented it on Saturday.

Tuesday, June 22th – Study methodologies, study design and evaluation

The Tuesday was about data analysis. Nimmi Rangaswamy told us about qualitative data analysis and Aishwarya Ratan about working with quantitative data, statistical methods like Hypothesis testing and also about impact evaluation.

Afterward there was a paper discussion on these papers:

Case Study: Get out the vote. Do phone calls to encourage voting work? Why randomize? (Source: JPAL Executive Training Program MIT OCW material, ‘Evaluating Social Programs’)

Jensen, R. (2007). The Digital Provide: Information (Technology), Market Performance, and Welfare in the South Indian Fisheries Sector. Quarterly Journal of Economics, 122(3), 879-924.

Wednesday, June 23th – Pessimism & optimism in ICTD

Kentaro Toyama talked about “Ten myths of ICT4D”:

Myth 1: Technology will save the world.

Myth 2: Poor people have no alternatives.

Myth 3: Needs are more pressing than desires.

Myth 4: Needs translates to business models.

Myth 5: If you build it, they will come.

Myth 6: ICT undoes “rich getting richer”.

Myth 7: Technology permits socio-economic leapfrogging.

Myth 8: Hardware and Software are one time costs.

Myth 9: Automated is cheaper and better.

Myth 10: Information is the bottleneck.

I recommend you to read Kentaro Toyamas blog.

Riking Ghandi told us about “The digital green story”. Afterwards we had an very interesting discussion with Kentaro Toyama about (good) ICTD research. The following paper were recommended to read,  if you are interested in ICTD research you should read them as well:

Heeks, Richard. (2008). ICT4D 2.0: The next phase of applying ICT for international development. Computer, 41(6), 26-33.

Burrell, Jenna, & Toyama, Kentaro. (2009). What Constitutes Good ICTD Research? Information Technologies and International Development, 5(3), 82-94.

Thursday, June 24th – From government policy to development outcomes

Ashok Desai talked about “Economic policy and implications for technology and development”.

Joyojeet Pal talked about “Disability in the Developing World”.

Solomon Jaya Prakash told us about “Building infrastructure to support low-income workers”. It was mainly about LabourNet, a social enterprise which aims at improving earning opportunities, working conditions, skills and security for workers in the unorganized sector, who constitute over 90% of India’s workforce.

That followed a panel on “Career opportunities on ICT4D (research)” with Ed Cutrell, Bill Thies, Kentaro Toyama, Solomon Jaya Prakash, Ashok Desai and Isha Ray. They told us about their experiences as ICTD researchers, the differences between academic and industrial research, fundings, how they got were they are and so on. Very interesting.

Friday, June 25th – Beyond reserach

Sean Blagsvedt talked about Babalife and Babajob. This is an social networking tool that connects job seekers from India’s large informal sector to middle- and upper-class Indians looking to hire maids, cooks, drivers, security guards, construction workers, and other wage laborers. It is employment-oriented networking with a social conscience and a practical function.

Rikin Ghandi told us more about the “The digital green story”.

Kentaro Toyama explained how to give a good presentation. If you are doing a presentation, don’t forget, boring is the enemy.

Some examples of good presentations. They are not really ICTD related, but anyway it’s worth watching them (TED talks):

Lawrence Lessig on law and creativity.

Robert Lang on mathematics of origami.

Ron Eglash on fractals in Africa.

Hans Rosling on world poverty.

Saturday, June 26th – Conference day

Presentation of the research proposals we had to prepare during the week.

Sunday, June 27th – Wrap up

On the last day we had a final feedback session and time to talk about development and the lessons we have learned.

If you have questions about a special topic, the school or anything else feel free to contact me (rorohrer AT gmx DOT at).

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MSR Summer School on Computing for Socio-Economic Development
was published on 29.06.2010 by Roman Rohrer. It files under global, south asia
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e-Sri Lanka: Transforming a Nation with ICT

Notes from the World Bank seminar “e-Sri Lanka: Transforming a Nation with ICT” in Washington.

The E-Sri Lanka initiative, which became effective in January 2005 is one of the pioneering ICT for Development projects supported by the World Bank. This ambitious e-development project aims to bring connectivity to rural populations, improve the way government operates and raise awareness of the benefits of ICT for remote rural populations as well as support the development of a vibrant private ICT sector. The leadership team from Sri Lanka’s ICT Agency presents the original E-Sri Lanka vision and emerging lessons and key results after the first four years of implementation experience.

Key talking points:

Where does Sri Lanka stand?

Network Readiness Index (NRI) presentation, shows high percentages of ICT Literacy and Governmental readiness for ICT.

Some examples:

  • Information on any Government Process, Service or Application just a phone call away
  • Civil Registration (Birth, Marriage, Death certificates etc.) documents in hand within a matter of minutes
  • Drive-in Vehicle / Revenue License Registration
  • Government  Organizational Machinery (Ministries, Departments etc.) connected, on-line and secure
  • Single-window, multi-channel access to any e-service in Sri Lanka (very soon)

Figures for Industry and Education show:

  • 30,000+ new jobs created in the IT/BPO sector since 2005
  • IT/ITeS becomes the 5th largest foreign exchange earner for the country – USD 250+ million in 2008
  • 2009 – Declared as the “Year of English and IT”
  • 2000 schools equipped with computer labs (6000 by 2010/11)
  • 40 Distance Education Learning Centers set-up, offering 35 online graduate level courses

Figures for society show:

  • Increased access to ICT for citizens across the country – 600 Nenasalas (Tele-centres) set-up
  • Provision of Market Prices & Crop/Agriculture information to farmers
  • Providing e-health/tele-medicine facilities to rural patients
  • Development of digital talking books for the visually impaired, to developing visual hearing aids for the hearing impaired
  • Availability of supplementary school educational material both at primary and secondary educational level to students.
  • Setting up of rural BPOs and creation of job opportunities for youth in rural communicates

How did this happen?

Answer lies in the implementation of structural grids in the society:

Infrastructure-, e-Governance-, Knowledge-, Industry- and Rural grid.

Infrastructure grid examples:

Nenasala – knowledge centers. Both public and private ownership: entrpreneurs, religious institutions, community based organizations, rural schools and public libraries.

NBN – National Backbone Network. Objective: Deployment of affordable broadband services throughout Sri Lanka:

  • Island-wide Ultra High Bandwidth Broadband Backbone
  • Provision of affordable broadband connectivity to all parts of the country
  • Technology Neutral, Least Cost Subsidy
  • Tariff Regulation: Re-activate ISPs & NFB providers; increase competition

Lanka Government Network – Objective: Highly available, secure backbone to connect the government.

Rural grid examples:

e-Society Development Initiative (e-SDI):

  • Seeks to spread the benefits of ICT to disadvantaged communities
  • Solicit issues and ideas from communities, build their capacity
  • Help them implement  ICT projects to solve their most pressing issues
  • 175 communities have had 175 sustainable ICT centers established, with over 72,00 people benefiting each month

e-Sri Lanka Vision: “Take the dividends of ICT to every village, citizen, business and also transform the way government thinks and works”.

Q&A session

Viewers of the webcast sent in their questions via Twitter (hashtag: #eSL09), and via a videolink

Wamuyu (twitter):

– Any study that shows that students exposed to ICT education have performed better than students who have not?

– Did Sri Lanka begin with a single e-Transactions law that was later split up into computer crime, copyright and e-Signature or did Sri Lanka enact all the specific laws separately?  How did the country get consensus from the various Ministries?

lpant (twitter):

– Have for-profit entrepreneurship models been more successful than community dev ventures or state-sponsored, funded models?

– About ICTs’ role to break status quo. Specifically I am interested on enabling role of ICTs to facilitate governance innovation, social innovation and institutional change. I am wondering if the speaker can talk about specific experience about this from the projects in Sri Lanka.

– When the speaker was talking about the LGN he mentiones that all gov organization will be connected , on what level this connection?

Video link from Rwanda, Moldova, Tanzania:

-Can the e-gov become a common denominator and contribute to international cooperation?

All the questions can be viewed on the eDevelopment Twitter page. The webcast will be archived and made available on the e-Development website. Facts presented above are collected from the seminar slideshow presentation. To learn more about e-Sri Lanka program, visit: www.ictalk.lk

Photo credit: Gregory Asmolov.

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e-Sri Lanka: Transforming a Nation with ICT
was published on 28.05.2009 by Anders Bolin. It files under global, south asia
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Mobile storytelling and shared village displays

Last week our students had to present a conference paper as part of their HCI class activities. The slides below are based on the paper “Mobile Digital Storytelling in a Developmental Context” by David Frohlich et al., which was presented at CHI this year.

The paper describes a field study that was conducted in an Indian village, where people received mobile camera phones to record non-textual stories, which were also presented on a village display.

Study participants rated the stories they created regarding their motivation, which was distributed between relevance for the community and personal interest. They further stated that most of the stories were created to be viewed by friends and family. Many of the stories were shown on the village display and often large groups of 15-20 people gathered around the 17″ monitor to watch stories.

In their study, which was organised in collaboration with local NGOs they discovered two different types of content and uses for custom mobile storytelling. On the one hand it can be used to help local organisations in creating and sharing information more easily, involving local people in the process. On the other hand they suggest that mass mobile storytelling applications could be deployed on a larger scale to create local cultural libraries. These libraries could complement conventional books, being represented as spoken word and video, instead of written text. Their vision is that stories could be checked out from the distance and played on mobile or public displays.

What I found most interesting when reading the paper was the high use of the public village display. This really shows the potential of such displays for shared communication in developing contexts. I doubt that similar uses of public displays would be emerge in the western world.

The complete paper is available from the ACM library.

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Mobile storytelling and shared village displays
was published on 21.05.2009 by Martin Tomitsch. It files under south asia
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Partner – e-Development Group

We are proud to announce that in the future we will work closely together with the e-Development Group of The World Bank, working together in social networks and general web 2.0 services and covering their events via Twitter and blog posts.

The next event organized by the e-Development Group will be held on 17 April  – Open Standards for Government Transformation: Enabling transparency, security and interoperability – and we will attend via webcast.

We met our contact person Oleg Petrov first at Coop 2.0 in Gijon and agreed there that it would be beneficial for both of us to collaborate. ICT4D.at is now trying to make the events of the e-Development Group known to a wider public – as we think that what’s happening at these events is definitely influencial to the ICT4D scene as a whole.

We are looking forward to a productive partnership.

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Partner – e-Development Group
was published on 30.03.2009 by Florian Sturm. It files under global, south asia
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Cooperation 2.0 Gijon, day 1 – best practices

As Ismael is blogging from the other room (Notes of Ismael on Coop 2.0 best practices session), I thought I would give him a hand and cover the sessions in this room 1 here.

The sessions are about best practices in existing ICT4D projects.

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CEDDET – La Fundación Centro de Educación a Distancia para el Desarrollo Económico y Tecnológico

Objective: contribution & cooperation for development – ICT4D

Basic tool: knowledge management throught the usage of ICTs

Exchange of knowledge between Spain and Latin America

2 types of activities

  • online teaching
  • virtual networks of experts
  • no model, they should find their own track for development

Target:

  • toplevel civil servants
  • experience of 5 years
  • all kinds of sectors – which have an economic repercussion

Achievements:

  • more time & geographical flexibility
  • increased number of experts
  • p2p communication – exchange of experiences

Weaknesses:

  • evaluation
  • therefore training is also longer
  • shortage of technological resources
  • not applicable to all types of knowledge – e.g. presence required

Work with ~50 institutions, implementing online training courses

Average age – 39 years, 15 years experience

Feedback by assessment by trainees

After 7 years

  • 449 training courses
  • more 10 000 civil servants
  • 16 networks of experts with > 4000 members

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UshahidiJuliana Rotich

Started in January 2008 when in Kenya after the elections there were riots

Blogs were an important source of information during that time

Ory Okolloh started the project – visualizing information about these riots

  • create an online archive about the incidents
  • create a way for everyday Kenyans to report incidents
  • show where the majority of violence was occuring

Three ways to enter information to the web

  • Mobile
  • Email
  • Directly over internet

User generated content is due to its amount at least as interesting as content created by professionals

A little later:

  • DR Congo – Ushahidi in French
  • Engine for Al Jazeera Labs – War on Gaza, incorporating Twitter reports
  • Peace heroes in Kenya – positive incidents

At the beginning it was all volunteer work – the funding came later

The whole projects is predominantly based in Africa – programmers from Malawi, Ghana, …

If it works in Africa, it works everywhere

Partner with FrontlineSMS of Ken Banks to automate incoming sms-reports

Lessons learned:

  • mapping accuracy and value of geolocation
  • data poisoning – danger of wrong information and intentional misinformation
  • verification is difficult but by partnering with (hyper)local NGOs that could be achieved
  • it’s not only about gathering data – create a feedback-loop with sms & rss alerts; make those customizable
  • offline (newspapers, radio), online (blogsphere) and mobile (here: FrontlineSMS, but also other possibilities) strategy

Q & A:

What about the cost? How much does an sms cost?

  • It can get really expensive

People pay anyway?

  • It has come down since then, but it would be great to partner with the mobile phone companies

In offering “heroes” it was difficult to create specific tags – how difficult is it to replicate this process for organizations which are not as tech-savy? Would you provide support?

  • Right now, there is a Beta version which can be downloaded and there the categories can manually defined. For the customization PHP knowledge is required. So it’s not that difficult. The tool itself is very intuitive. It’s also possible to use different map providers.

Do you design only for citizens? How are you funded?

  • Future: Mass collaboration
  • Funding: first 5 months – all volunteers, no funding. July 2008 Humanity United donated some money, but still Ushahidi doesn’t rely to heavily on funding.

Would funding make a difference? Would you expand the tool? What would you do with 4 mio. $?

  • Growing the the community of supporters
  • support more technology (sms chat, …)
  • Geo-RSS – notifications dependent on location
  • Freedom Fone integration  – Audio -> SMS

– With 4 mio. $ we would make a very robust application which would run on every mobile and provide an online system and filter the data semi-automated

– Or crowdsourcing crisis response – how many NGOs, volunteers are in that area and willing to help? Moving from crisis reporting to crisis response.

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Cooperation 2.0 Gijon, day 1 – best practices
was published on 10.02.2009 by Florian Sturm. It files under global, south asia
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M-banking and economic development

Once more I would like to introduce some papers that I found interesting and insightful during writing my thesis.

Mobile banking and economic development: Linking adoption, impact, and use – by Jonathan Donner, Microsoft Research India and Camilo Andres Tellez, London School of Economics and Political Science. It was published this December in the Asian Journal of Communication.

In the following a short summary of the paper:

The paper is about research of the usage of m-banking and m-payment systems which are used by people without access to traditional banks. Specifically, small enterprises in urban India are observed.

Across the developing world, there are probably more people with mobile phones than with bank accounts. In countries like The Phillipines or Kenya services which provide banking services via mobile phone are very popular.

In the developing world, m-banking/m-payment applications are appreciated by the customers as well as the companies. Customers are happy that they get an affordable possibility to transfer money without handling cash, mobile phone companies see it as an easy service to offer and strengthen the bond to the customer, banks have identified it as a convenient method of “branchless banking”.

Most systems offer three services:

  • Store value in an account via a handset
  • Convert cash in and out of the stored value account
  • Transfer value between accounts

To date there is only few research on adoption and usage of m-banking/m-payment systems, especially the contextual factors have not been studied so far.

Three examples for important contextual factors:

  • Conceptualizing Electronic Money:
    interface to handle account services has to be easy and understandable
    “invisible money” has to be represented in an appropriate way
  • Existing Payment Mechanisms
    existing mechanisms and their functioning have to be kept in mind
  • The Social Embeddedness of Economic Transactions
    differences to whom the money is given
    woman empowerment through greater indepence?

When m-banking/m-payment is studied, there are doubtlessly many parallels to other ICTs. Considering it generally as an ICT4D, there are three cross-cutting themes which characterize the social structures underlying the usage of technology:

  • Bi-directionality of influence between communication technologies and the social structures in which they exist
  • Amplification and altering of existing social structures
  • Introduction of trust in the technology, in people, in own skills, …
Picture taken by Turkairo and uploaded on FlickR

Picture taken by Turkairo and uploaded on FlickR

Own study in urban India:

Despite the IT boom in India, most enterprises are still traditional, small and informal – without bank accounts. This study explores, how m-banking/m-payment systems might be used there. Business owners from Bangalore were interviewed for that purpose.

Three types of approaches were identified:

  • Relational businesses:
    no need for complex ICTs
    desire for mobile phone, but problems with affodability
  • Locational businesses:
    special relations to people in their business network
  • Formal enterprises:
    bigger companies
    active users of ICTs

Usage of ICTs has different motivations:

  • Getting new customers
  • Keeping better in contact with present customers
    issues with trust and user capabilities
    19 of 20 enterprises will for now stick to the face to face model for credits
  • Cost-savings are an important reason for using ICTs nowadys

More research concerning the conventions of using ICTs would be useful

  • This could explain the current usage of some services
  • the impact of providing the “unbanked” with a bank account have to be studies more closely

Conclusion:

  • The emergence of m-banking/m-payment has implications for the whole social and economic sphere
    the borders between domestic/productive and social/transactional spheres are blurred
    both, social and economic spheres should be considered in further research
  • “the true measure of that importance [of m-banking/m-payment] will require multiple studies using multiple methodologies and multiple theoretical perspectives before our questions about adoption and impact will be answered [from the article]”

For the whole article I may refer here.

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M-banking and economic development
was published on 21.12.2008 by Florian Sturm. It files under south asia
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Village Pay Phone Project

As I am basically finished writing my Master thesis (hopefully my supervisor thinks like that too), I would like to introduce some papers that I found interesting and insightful.

This first on is “Village Pay Phones and Poverty Reduction: Insights from a Grameen Bank Initiative in Bangladesh” and is actually a classic.  It was written by Abdul Bayes (Professor of Economics, Jahangimagar University, Dhaka, Bangladesh), Joachim von Braun (Director at the Center for Development Research, Bonn, Germany) and Rasheda Akhter (Researcher, Jahangirnagar University, Dhaka, Bangladesh) in 1999 for the Center for Development Research (ZEF) in Bonn.

I deals with the impact of the Village Pay Phone project of the Grameen Bank on the social and economic situation in the villages in Bangladesh where the project was implemented.

In the following a short summary of the paper:

The situation in Bangladesh 1999:

Village Pay Phone Lady - picture taken from Jeevs Sinclair

Village Pay Phone Lady - picture taken by Jeevs Sinclair

  • 80% of the population live in rural areas
  • 47% of the population live below the poverty line
  • Overall there is only few basic infrastructure

The telecom sector in Bangladesh:

  • 0.26 fixed lines per 100 people
  • Calls are expensive
  • Only 20% of calls are completed successfully
  • There are many complaints

Mobile phone operators entered the market some years ago and leapfrogged the fixed-line subscriptions almost immediately. The reason for this was also the competition between seven operators.

Village Pay Phones:

  • Based on an idea of the Grameen Bank
  • Provide mobile phones to the rural poor
  • Four international partners built an NGO and acquired the license for GSM
  • VPPs were only given to women with certain attributes
  • Call fees and the overall procedure were fixed

Phone owners were usually found to be poorer but socially more conscient than the phone users. Most of the people that made phone calls were non-poor (three-quarters) and male (two-third). Problems were for a lot of users the low connection quality which resulted in a wish for lower rates

The effects of Village Pay Phones:

Economic effects:

  • The VPP owners  gain a net profit of ~270 which accounts for about 1/5 to 1/4 of total income
  • The profit was mostly spent to installment payments, education and saving
  • The alternatives for VPPs would have involved transport costs
  • The consumer surplus is therefore quite high and for the poor it is higher than the not-poor
  • Farmers gain more money because they know about market prices
  • Supply of goods became smoother as the market can be better analysed with more information
  • Foreign exchange has been made more transparent
  • Livestock keepers are better informed of possible diseases and how to cure them
  • Poverty was reduced and people have more to eat
  • Dealing with disasters was made easier due to more communication

Socio-cultural effects:

  • Empowerment of women – more decisions are taken by women alone, mobility was raised
  • The owners of VPPs gain higher social status
  • Phone owners have more knowledge and confidence

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So overall it can be said, that the whole project was a big success story and this guy has really earned his Nobel Prize. For the whole article I may refer to Google Scholar.

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Village Pay Phone Project
was published on 28.11.2008 by Florian Sturm. It files under south asia
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