Paul Kagame, the President of Rwanda, has been dubbed the “digital president” by international organizations, journalists, and politicians alike. A recent article in Wired Magazine provides a compelling review of numerous technology initiatives that President Kagame has spearheaded in the last decade, making it clear why he’s been given this title. The Rwandan government has been making a concerted effort to create a culture of innovation by investing in technology, infrastructure, and the skills of the Rwandan people, as demonstrated by various projects such as the One Laptop per Child Program and the launch of Carnegie Mellon University in Rwanda (CMU-R), which offers a Master of Science degree in Information Technology along with a Master of Science in Electrical and Computer Engineering. In the last year alone, the government of Rwanda struck a 4G Internet deal with a South Korean telecoms firm that will lead to high-speed broadband for 95% of Rwandan citizens within three years. This is all part of an effort to transform Rwanda into a knowledge-based economy.
ICT for Development
On entering World Bank headquarters in Washington, DC, the words “Our Dream is a World Free of Poverty” are prominently displayed on a wall near the main entrance.
These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.
“Last week, ahead of her trip to Washington, D.C., to speak to the World Bank about Africa’s private sector, the 35-year-old Policy Manager for Google Africa took to her Twitter account and asked her followers, “What should I tell them?”
The responses came in fast and varied from rants about corruption in multinational corporations to comments about infrastructure and energy. For the most part, Okolloh didn’t engage the responses, but she did re-tweet them for all to read and she made sure to add the World Bank’s twitter account to the dispatches so that the behemoth institution could also see what Africa’s tweeting populace had to say.” READ MORE
What do stock trading and conflict early warning systems have in common? Interestingly, both rely heavily on mathematical patterns of recognition. According to Joseph Bock, Director of Graduate Studies at the Eck Institute of Global Health at the University of Notre Dame, scholars such as Phil Schrodt have been applying the mathematics of stock trading to detect and identify conflict before it happens. This pattern recognition is part of a process that enables local citizens, NGOs, and humanitarian workers to use cell phones, radio, and online forums to help detect and prevent religious, ethnic, and politically motivated violence. A few weeks ago, Prof. Bock came to the World Bank to talk about his new book, The Technology of Nonviolence, where he discussed the use of social media and other forms of technology to both detect and respond to outbreaks of deadly conflict.
In my last blog, I spoke about how a simple video message about a warlord who lives thousands of miles away from most of the video’s viewers, created by Jason Russell, inspired millions to “make Kony famous”, and end the atrocities of Joseph Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).
Many of us development professionals entered the profession with a desire to create a better world. We knew it would take time and effort but were happy if we knew we made at least a small dent. With technology, our dreams have suddenly become bigger. Is it really possible to use technology to amplify development impact? If anything the KONY 2012 campaign gave all of us believers in the power of technology to do good, something we longed for - HOPE.
Zero to 66 million views on YouTube in just five days (March 5-March 10). Mostly teenagers and young people. Celebrity tweets from Oprah and others.
The essence of the campaign: A simple video message about a warlord who lives thousands of miles away from most of the video’s viewers, created by Jason Russell, inspired millions to “make Kony famous”, and end the atrocities of Joseph Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). Kony and the LRA are allegedly responsible for large scale killings, and rapes of women and children in Uganda, Congo, South Sudan and the Central African Republic.
There has been some criticism of their efforts: Some victims say it has come too late (Telegraph). Others ask how are we ever going to awaken to our civil responsibility to demand more from our sitting governments if we are lulled into a dependency state for every civil service we should rightly expect from our governments? (CNN). Some African critics of the Kony campaign see a ‘white man’s burden’ for the Facebook Generation (New York Times).
I’ve been working with my colleagues on the Apps for Climate competition. We’ve been puzzling over the intersection of climate and technology and what sorts of new ideas we’ll get from this exercise. What about “little green nudges?” Is there an App for that?
“Nudges” are subtle messages that have been used to change behavior. George Webster’s recent article on CNN’s website notes that, “whether we're conscious of them or not, nudges -- of a sort -- are all around us. From the rumble strip along motorways -- gently encouraging motorists to remain in the correct lane -- to rows of brightly colored candy wrappers, less subtly inviting us to pick them up and place them in our shopping cart…” And what’s more, they work and have the potential to be harnessed for the greater good.