Designing information and communication technologies for development

A few weeks ago I was invited to give a guest lecture on information and communication technologies for development in a course on political economy of development at the University of Sydney. The course is taught by Dr Elizabeth Hill, who has done very interesting research on work and care dynamics in the Indian economy.

In the talk I gave an overview of our projects Hello Africa, Zanzicode, and the Seaweed farming study from a human-centred design perspective. Aspects that we discussed in the lecture included methods for understanding the context before doing a project in a development context and how to design for sustainable interventions. I referenced IDEO’s open source human-centred design toolkit which was developed for social enterprises and NGOs. The toolkit describes design techniques that consider the aspects of desirability, feasibility, and viability. The techniques are structured into the phases ‘hear’, ‘create’, and ‘deliver’. Similar to other design frameworks, these phases suggest to start with concrete observations about people in the beginning of a project, to move towards more abstract thinking in the phase of creating ideas, and then back to concrete solutions when delivering the project.

The message at the core of my talk was that focusing on the product or service alone won’t necessarily lead to a successful intervention even if it’s technologically really well delivered. The techniques covered in the toolkit support the consideration of other human-centred layers that will play an important role but might be easily overseen.

In that regard I recently read a very interesting article on why great technology alone is not the answer, as well as the even more interesting responses by Tim Brown from IDEO and Paul Polak from iDE. Tim points out the importance of focusing on the entire chain of how a product reaches and impacts people. Paul talks about the need of establishing an effective communication channel. If no one knows about your product or service no one will be able to benefit from it. Paul describes a case study where they trained local people to install pumps and hired village troubadours and theatre groups to write and perform songs about the pumps, which I think is an amazing story from which there is much to learn.

The slides from my talk are included below and published under CC on slideshare.

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Designing information and communication technologies for development
was published on 27.10.2011 by Martin Tomitsch. It files under global
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One Response to “Designing information and communication technologies for development”

  1. Christian Zeininger Says:

    Habe soeben von einem Kollegen an der UCT (Kapstadt) euren “Link” übermittelt bekommen.
    Lade euch ein zuerst meine Webseite anzuschaun.
    Mir kommt vor dass wir durchaus gemeinsame ziele haben und vielleicht austauschen und vielleicht auch was zusammen machen können.

    LG, Christian