Südwind Stammtisch

Yesterday I participated at the Südwind Stammtisch. It was a meeting of different people from the organization Südwind and interested people from other organizations.

Südwind is an Austrian NGO which is dealing with awareness raising in various sectors – such as fair trade, the state of asylum seekers and generally foreigners in Austria or development assistance. Furthermore they operate several bookshops, a magazine and an online picture database.

At the meeting there were representatives of Südwind, Attac, Oikocredit Austria and of course me from ICT4D.at.

The topic of the meeting was Web 2.0 and digital ways to communiate with interested people in general, and it was interesting to hear from Südwind how they were thinking of Web 2.0 – coming from a more traditional media perspective. They would like to engage people to contribute content via Web 2.0, but it seems more complicated than expected.

Florian Hörantner from Attac then introduced the 90-9-1 rule, which states that only 9% of observers and readers of content also become active from time to time and only 1% are contributing frequently. For internet users this ratio may even be worse.

A significant advantage of online media over traditional media which was identified was the huge user base of several social networks. Also the possibility to directly link to contextual information was appreciated. Another point which was brought up was the ecological aspect – as there is no paper waste with email.

What was questioned though, was if due to the information overload and email flood it was even possible to create long-term attention and engagement by online tools and messages only. Measures to support this were brought forward: tailor newsletters to fit the target group (simple vs. visually appealing), create possibilities for users to actively contribute and be transparent so that users also have influence on posted content, create incentives – such as competitions with prizes (e.g. foto competition).

Two other interesting – bot non IT-related – questions which were discussed were:

  • What actions would cause somebody to change their behaviour in the long term?
  • How to engage people which may not be interested in the topic, and how to persuade people which are interested in the topic but not sympathetic to your organization?

I’m glad having attended the meeting, it was very interesting and insightful. Südwind is in place working on various topics surrounding developing countries already 30 years and it’s great to learn from, and discuss with experienced NGO members.

Next date the Stammtisch will take place is 11 January 2010. The topic will be how to handle prejudice and populist propaganda in everyday discussion – and if I find time I will attend again.

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Südwind Stammtisch
was published on 15.12.2009 by Florian Sturm. It files under global
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Presentation: Information and Communication Technologies for Development (ICT4D) with special focus on Web 2.0 and Mashups of existing Services

Today I presented my Master thesis “Information and Communication Technologies for Development (ICT4D) with special focus on Web 2.0 and Mashups of existing Services” to examiners at the Faculty of Knowledge and Business Engineering at the University of Vienna.

These are the slides I presented:

The presentation worked out very well and we ended up discussing issues concerning the next step of automating mashups which would increase the need for automated negiotiatian engines (SLAs) or the substantial importance of simplicity when developing in an ICT4D context.

What was also quite interesting to me was the claim of Mr. Schikuta, one on the examiners, that technology nowadays is like religion in former times – when it comes to standards which we impose to people we consider to be underdeveloped.

What I especially stressed during my presentation was the ongoing shift of ICT4D projects – from development for the local population, to development with or even by the local population. I really think that in this context technologies such as the so-called web 2.0 and mashups have great potentials as they emphasize collaboration and contribution of everybody using the internet.

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Presentation: Information and Communication Technologies for Development (ICT4D) with special focus on Web 2.0 and Mashups of existing Services
was published on 23.03.2009 by Florian Sturm. It files under global
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ICT4D with Special Focus on Web 2.0 and Mashups of Existing Services

Some days ago I got back my (diploma) thesis with a good grade – so I am confident to share it with the public now.

Its title is “Information And Communication Technologies For Development (ICT4D) With Special Focus On Web 2.0 And Mashups Of Existing Services” and as I started working on it already more than a year ago not everything is perfect, things are outdated or not correct anymore.

One of the first things I would change if I wrote it again is the terminology of developed vs. developing vs. less developed countries. As I learned in several discussions, these terms are simply not applicably and express a quite patronizing view of the world. So sorry for that.

However, in my thesis I tried to give an overview of some aspects of the research area of ICT4D, present innovative projects (ok – Global Voices Online, Ushahidi and Tradenet may not be the most surprising choices) and I hope it might provide interesting views and insights. Especially the combination of ICT4D with Web 2.0 services and Mashups deserves a closer look and generally more research I think.

From the abstract:

Since the early 1990s, access to worldwide-created information and possibilities for world-wide communication have become easier and easier – at least in the Western world.

In this “age of information”, the gaps between developed and less-developed countries do not only consist of the large differences in infrastructure and society, but also of the difficulties for developing countries to access these means of information and communication, which in fact are freely available.

But why in the first place would people living in areas where there is not even enough food or water require internet access, let alone the possibility to make long-distance calls?

Some years ago the research area “Information and Communication Technologies for Development” (ICT4D) emerged. This area of research is based on the claim that contemporary technologies enable economic and social change in such countries which are provided with access to these technologies. Hence, that could help less developed countries to catch up with the Western world.

Since not every technology has the quality to deliver benefits in less developed countries, the next two chapters will deal with two technologies which, as is claimed here, have certain advantages in the context of ICT4D.

The first technology is web 2.0, whose participatory services are substantial tools for fostering development in the information sector, and, therefore in the economy as a whole, since a key element in sustainable development of services is the involvement of local stakeholders in projects and content creation.

The second technology is mashups, which – in essence – are combined and connected services provided to users in the internet. These mashups do not require much knowledge about programming, which is a substantial benefit as there are few people with programming skills in less developed countries.

Under the following link you can download the thesis “ICT4D with Special Focus on Web 2.0 and Mashups of Existing Services“. I make it available under a creative commons (attribution, share alike) license.

On this way I would like to thank my supervisors Thorsten Hampel (Universität Paderborn) and Renate Motschnig (Universität Wien).

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ICT4D with Special Focus on Web 2.0 and Mashups of Existing Services
was published on 27.02.2009 by Florian Sturm. It files under global
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Ushahidi extended

The highly innovative project Ushahidi – initially dedicated to report post-election violence in Kenya by displaying them on Google Maps – has been taken another step further and now generally provides a platform for “crowdsourcing crisis information”.

A note by one of the creators – Erik Hersman (also editor of the wonderful blog whiteafrican.com):

Ushahidi is moving from being a one-time mashup covering the post-election violence in Kenya to something bigger. We are setting out to create an engine that will allow anyone to do what we did. A free and open source tool that will help in the crowdsourcing of information – with our personal focus on crisis and early warning information. [snippet from here]

The engine is right now in use for the initial purpose as well as for mapping anti-immigrant violence in South Africa.

The project was granted funds and many people joined in to help developing.

The “old” Ushahidi was already extremely useful for getting an overview on the state of things in Kenya and made it possible for everybody to contribute and report crimes.

Great idea to make the tool available for everybody.

Check it out – Ushahidi.com

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Ushahidi extended
was published on 06.09.2008 by Florian Sturm. It files under sub saharan africa
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