Syndicate content


Media (R)evolutions: U-Report mobilizes youth via SMS and social media

Roxanne Bauer's picture

New developments and curiosities from a changing global media landscape: People, Spaces, Deliberation brings trends and events to your attention that illustrate that tomorrow's media environment will look very different from today's, and will have little resemblance to yesterday's.

In 2011, UNICEF launched an innovative program called “U-report” in Uganda. The goal was to use the ubiquity and connectivity of mobile phones to ask young people what they thought about specific issues affecting their community and then encourage them to participate in community-led development projects. 

The U-report system works by sending polls, asking for feedback and providing information via SMS and social media to volunteers, known as “U-reporters”. Weekly polls are sent out on Wednesday and results are shared on Monday. There is no charge at all for a U-reporter to send any message, which enables greater response rates. U-Report is powered by RapidPro, an open source solution, which different countries can implement.

The information that is collected can also be used by local and national media or sent to key stakeholders to alert them to the challenges their constituents are facing.

Uganda National Pulse, U-Report

Today, there are over 280,000 U-Reporters in Uganda alone and 800,000 in over 14 countries worldwide, including Mexico, Indonesia, and others across Africa. By the end of 2015, U-Report is expected to expand to approximately 20 countries and reach 1 million young people.

Weekly Wire: The Global Forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture

 These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

Dial ICT for conflict? Four lessons on conflict and contention in the info age
The Washington Post
The past decade has witnessed an explosion of interest among political scientists in the outbreak and dynamics of civil wars. Much of this research has been facilitated by the rise of electronic media, including newspapers but extending to social media (Twitter, Facebook) that permit the collection of fine-grained data on patterns of civil war violence. At the same time, a parallel research program has emerged that centers on the effects of new information and communication technologies (ICTs). Yet these two research efforts rarely intersect.
Improving Innovation in Africa
Harvard Business Review
Opportunity is on the rise in Africa. New research, funded by the Tony Elumelu Foundation and conducted by my team at the African Institution of Technology, shows that within Africa, innovation is accelerating and the continent is finding better ways of solving local problems, even as it attracts top technology global brands. Young Africans are unleashing entrepreneurial energies as governments continue to enact reforms that improve business environments. An increasing number of start-ups are providing solutions to different business problems in the region. These are deepening the continent’s competitive capabilities to diversify the economies beyond just minerals and hydrocarbon. Despite this progress, Africa is still deeply underperforming in core areas that will redesign its economy and make it more sustainable.

Promising uses of technology in education in poor, rural and isolated communities around the world

Michael Trucano's picture
don’t worry: your solutions -- and possibly your salvation – have finally arrived!
don’t worry: your solution (salvation?)
has finally arrived!

One persistent challenge for educational policymakers and planners related to the potential use of informational and communication technologies (ICTs) in remote, low income communities around the world is that most products, services, usage models, expertise, and research related to ICT use in education come from high-income contexts and environments.

One consequence is that technology-enabled 'solutions' are imported and 'made to fit' into what are often much more challenging environments. When they don't work, or where they are too expensive to be replicated at any scale, this is taken as 'evidence' that ICT use in education in such places is irrelevant -- and possibly irresponsible.

That said, lessons are being learned as a result of emerging practices, both good and bad, in the use of ICTs in education in low resource, poor, rural and isolated communities in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Pacific that may be useful to help guide the planning and implementation of educational technology initiatives in such environments. (It may even turn out that the technological innovations that emerge from such places many have a wider relevance …. but that is a topic for another discussion.)

Products like the BRCK (a connectivity device designed and prototyped in Nairobi, Kenya by many of the people behind Ushahidi to better address user needs in places where electricity and internet connections are, for lack of a better word, ‘problematic’) and MobiStation (a solar-powered 'classroom in a suitcase' which features a projector and lots of off-line educational content developed by UNICEF Uganda) remain notable exceptions to the lamentable reality that, for the most part, ‘solutions’ touted for use in schools in e.g. rural Africa, or in isolated communities in the Andes, are designed elsewhere, with little understanding of the practical day-to-day realities and contexts in which such technologies are to be used. Many people who have lived and worked in such environments are quite familiar with well-meaning but comparatively high cost efforts often informed more by the marketing imperatives embedded in many corporate social responsibility efforts than by notions of cost-effectiveness and sustainability over time or the results of user-centered design exercises.

Weekly Wire: the Global Forum

Kalliope Kokolis's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

Are Women Really Less Corrupt Than Men?

“Will electing more women to office make governments less corrupt? One new paper suggests in might—but the reason for that is not necessarily encouraging.

Previous research has suggested an association between a politician’s gender and their likelihood to engage in corrupt behavior. A World Bank study from 2001, for instance, found that “one standard deviation increase in [female participation in government] will result in a decline in corruption... of 20 percent of a standard deviation". This perception has been behind some well-publicized campaigns, such as Mexico City’s plan to employ all-female traffic cops in some areas.”  READ MORE

Strengthening the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act in India to Foster Participation, Access and Accountability

Abhilaksh Likhi's picture

The initiation and countrywide implementation of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) represents a milestone in social policy and employment creation with its right based approach and focus on livelihood security. The flagship program has benefitted millions of marginalized rural households by providing them unskilled work and led to prevention of stress migration from rural areas in lean agricultural seasons. A UNDP/Carnegie Endowment for Peace study points out that from the scheme’s first year of operation in 2006-2007 till 2010-2011, job creation accelerated from less than 1 billion workdays distributed amongst 20 million households to 2.5 billion workdays for 50 million households.
In the above context, the 2013 performance audit conducted by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) should be a timely opportunity to analyze the immense management and convergence challenges that a program of MGNREGA’s size poses. This is especially relevant in view of CAG’s observation that undertaking of non permissible works, non completion of works and lack of creation of durable assets during the period 2007-2012 indicated that the poorest were not able to fully exercise their rights under the program. 

One of the ‘bottom up’ features’ of the program is its reliance on rural local self government structures i.e. Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) to reinvigorate community driven participation and decision making in service delivery.  The first key institutional challenge, therefore, is to make MGNREGA’S program implementation effective by enforcing PRI ‘activity mapping’ (unbundling subjects into smaller units of work and assigning these units to different levels of government) that was set in motion after the historic 73rd Constitutional Amendment, 1993.  Herein, the Central Government and the States of the Union, have to jointly actualize the principle of subsidiarity- what can be best done at lower levels of government should not be centralized at higher levels. Empowering PRIs especially Gram Panchayats (last mile units in villages) with funds, functions and functionaries (3F’s) is a critical incentive to build their institutional capacity for service delivery. This, in turn, would provide them the teeth to carry out their core responsibilities under MGNREGA such as planning of works, registration of beneficiaries, allotting employment, executing works, making timely payments, maintaining records of measurement and muster rolls.

The Umpteenth Blog on using SMS Feedback in Projects…Now with Support!

Aaron Seyedian's picture

With shiny apps hogging the mobile spotlight these days, one could be forgiven for forgetting about SMS (“Short Message Service” or text messaging).  But although apps often disguise themselves as universally useful, their data and hardware requirements preclude their widespread use in poor countries.  Amongst the world’s poor, SMS is still king.  Given the World Bank’s mandate to serve the exactly that population, and in response to demand from staff, I recently attended a 2-day Frontline SMS training here in DC.

The training took place on the 2nd floor of the OAS building, otherwise known as the “OpenGovHub.”  The hub hosts many organizations working at the intersection of data, governance and development, including Ushahidi, Accountability Lab and Tech4Dem.  Though only one block from the World Bank, it definitely has a Silicon Valley vibe - open offices, young CEOs, bumperstickered laptops and standing desks abound.  Thankfully, this open and informal environment carried right into the training, giving participants the chance to experiment with the software and engage in candid discussions with Frontline’s leaders.  Two days of training, only one Powerpoint presentation. I know, right!?

On the second day, I was particularly struck by a question posed by Frontline CEO Laura Hudson.  In explaining the design tenets of using FrontlineSMS, she asked us:  “What decisions can you make that exclude the fewest voices?”  That’s a question the Dispute Resolution & Prevention team wants all staff designing grievance redress mechanisms for their projects to ponder as well.

The Last Mile, at Last?

Onno Ruhl's picture

Onno visiting a medical dispensary in Okhla, Delhi, IndiaIt looked like an ordinary little drugstore. A reasonable supply of medication on the right, and man behind a small desk in the middle.

But what was on the desk was not ordinary: a netbook laptop and a fingerprint scanner. And on the left were boxes, all the same medication, with names written on them. “Try it,” Neema said. “Scan your finger.” I did and the screen turned yellow. “You have never been here yet” said Neema, “I cannot give you any medication.”  

Weekly Wire: The Global Forum

Kalliope Kokolis's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

How to Use Mobile Devices to Solve Global Problems

"In 1999, half of the world had either never used a phone or had to travel more than two hours to reach the nearest one. Years later, mobile devices are being used in extremely innovative ways to connect and empower people around the world.

'It's not about being connected,' said Larry Irving, co-founder of the Mobile Alliance for Global Good, at the 2012 Social Good Summit on Sunday. 'It's about being connected with a purpose.'" READ MORE

Transparencia Mexicana
A New Role for Citizens in Public Procurement

"Globalisation has the potential to raise living standards for citizens around the world, as well as bearinthe risk of excluding people from those benefits. Ensuring that globalisation contributes to a more equitable and sustainable form of economic growth requires the participation of citizens in monitoring how the global economy is changing and how it impacts the life of people.

The Arab Spring has shown the power of people in their potential to change political systems. Transparency International, the global civil society organisation leading the fight against corruption, aspires to support the emergence of a broad-based social movement standing up to corruption, especially where it violates human rights and threatens the most vulnerable. In Transparency International’s Strategy 2015, we underline that sustainable change requires broad public support. A widespread public engagement will reinforce the demand for solid institutions and provide a strong mandate for political leadership to succeed in their commitments.”  READ MORE

Weekly Wire: the Global Forum

Kalliope Kokolis's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

Gmail Downgrades, Launches SMS Version for African Countries

“While we’re used to seeing upgrades from our favorite tech products, Gmail has made an important step in the opposite direction.

Google launched Gmail SMS Wednesday, offering a mobile-based email solution for people in Kenya, Nigeria and Ghana. Gmail SMS is a tech downgrade, but it’s a lifestyle upgrade for email users without consistent Internet access.

“There’s so much you do with it: apply for a job, make an inquiry, get notifications from your social network, receive photos or an invitation that makes you smile, and just communicate back and forth with your friends,” said a post on Google’s Africa blog.”  READ MORE

"Check My School" and the Power of Openness in Development

Johanna Martinsson's picture

There has been a lot of buzz lately around open development, and new initiatives seem to be popping up everywhere. My colleague Maya talks about what open development means exactly in her blog and Soren Gigler discusses openness for whom and what.  Soren points out that “openness and improved accountability for better results are key concepts of the Openness agenda.” However, he cautions that openness is not a one-way street.  For positive impact, citizen engagement is crucial and it’s important to “close the feedback-loop” through the facilitation of information flows between citizens, governments, and donors.

In light of this, a prime example of a successful initiative with an innovative citizen-feedback mechanism is “Check My School” (CMS) in the Philippines. Launched by the Affiliated Network for Social Accountability East Asia and the Pacific (ANSA-EAP) just a little over a year ago, it has managed to get real results on the ground.  The results and lessons learned were shared at an event held last week at the World Bank. The speaker was Dondon Parafina, ANSA-EAP’s Network Coordinator.