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 ICT4D.at 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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Design rebrush

Christmas time has just begun and the first donation has already been made!

ICT4D.at would like to thank Oliver Ruhm from the Austrian design company Zeughaus Brand Identity Design for the rebrush of our page design.

We uploaded the designs to FlickR – below you can see the slideshow of the set. It shows the design evolution to come to the final result.

We’re really happy with the result and we will implement the new design as soon as possible. If you have any remarks on it, we’re happy to read them in the comments.

So – once again – thank you Oliver!

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Design rebrush
was published on 02.12.2009 by Florian Sturm. It files under global
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Design for the other 90%

Simple water pump - from http://other90.cooperhewitt.org/

Simple water pump - from http://other90.cooperhewitt.org/

In the recent issue of brand eins there is an interesting article on “Design for the other 90%”. It is about an exhibition in New York and Toronto which focuses on simple solutions for big problems – various articles designed for “the other 90%” of the world’s population. The designers focused on an easy and feasible production process so the products can be manufactured in less developed countries by local craftsmen – innovation from constraint.

There are some ingenious pieces such as solar powered battery chargers, simple and easy to use water pumps, water filters and purificaton tools and also some which were already mentioned in posts of Ethan on or on Afrigadget.

Check out the website of the exhibition – it’s really worth visiting.

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Design for the other 90%
was published on 18.01.2009 by Florian Sturm. It files under global
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