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pilot projects

A different approach to scaling up educational technology initiatives

Michael Trucano's picture
the way most projects 'scale up' just might yield inequitable results
the way most projects 'scale up'
just might yield inequitable results

Much is made of the necessity to 'scale up' in international development circles. Here at the World Bank, a quick search on our web site reveals publications and conferences with titles like Scaling Up Knowledge Sharing for Development, Global Scaling up Rural Sanitation Project, Scaling Up Local & Community Driven Development [pdf], Directions in hydropower: Scaling up for development, Scaling Up Affordable Health Insurance, Scaling up School Feeding -- the list goes on and on (and on). 'Scaling up', it would appear, is a goal (and a challenge) across pretty much all development sectors. How can you achieve 'scale'?

It can be deceptively easy to propose a solution to a problem when you don't really understand the problem (especially if you think you do!). The 'failure' of many projects to introduce new technologies in education can, to some degree, be traced back to this simple truism. If you are pointed in the wrong direction, technology can help you move in that direction more quickly. To paraphrase the technologist Bruce Schneier (who was himself paraphrasing someone else): If you think technology can solve your education problems, then you don't understand the problems and you don't understand the technology. The solution lies in process and systems -- and people. Technology can help in all of these areas -- but first we need to make sure we understand what it really is that we need to do.

Why we need more (not fewer) ICT4D pilot projects in education

Michael Trucano's picture

a different kind of pilot ... | image courtesy of World Bank via Flickr, used according to terms of its CC license.One message that is heard consistently at many ICT4D gatherings is that 'we have too many pilot projects', and that this is especially true for the education sector. 'What we need', or so the sentiment usually goes, 'is to scale up the pilot projects that have been on-going'.  Indeed, 'scaling up' seems to be the answer to the funk that many prominent ICT4D organizations currently find themselves in these days, with changes in funding priorities in international donor organizations, foundations and the international private sector provoking many groups to re-examine many of their current practices. Scaling up is then a way to demonstrate (and re-affirm) the relevance of what many organizations have been doing since their inception, and by pursuing no more pilot projects such organizations can better orient themselves to working at scale. Or so the story goes.

I would like to sound a contrary note:

What we need are more ICT4D pilot projects,
not fewer,
especially in the education sector!