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Information and Communication Technologies

Is Open Data Really the Solution?

Sabina Panth's picture

Proponents of governments opening data to the public in order to increase transparency and better governance have been cheering recent developments, debates and discussions.  While I have used this blog to highlight many of the advantages of Open Data in instigating demand-led governance, I recently stumbled upon an article by Tom Slee which has a different take on the digital solution. Below I summarize a few points from Slee’s article which I feel are worthy of contemplation.

Community Radio Stations as Vehicles for Social Inclusion

Sabina Panth's picture

Isolated geography, customary practices and gender roles often limit rural populations, particularly women and indigenous groups, from accessing relevant information and gaining adequate skills to effectively participate in development interventions.  As a consequence, the wealth of knowledge that these communities possess goes unsolicited and undervalued.  In fact, gender activists argue that rural women rarely serve as the primary source of information in communication for development initiatives and that such practices risk perpetuating elite capture and exacerbating existing inequalities.

Is Online Video-Sharing a Double-edged Sword?

Sabina Panth's picture

As much advantage as there is to the world of the internet, there are disadvantages too, the main inconvenience being securing privacy.  This has become a particular issue of concern when visual images against political reprisal are exposed.  Granted, this very exposure can draw world-wide attention and support for a cause or struggle, but often it leaves advocates involved in demonstrations vulnerable to political targeting and exploitation. 

Ties that Bind: Studying Social Networks in Timor-Leste

Pamela Dale's picture

Social networks have been a hot topic in the past year, not least because of the buzz around the Oscar-winning film about the founding of Facebook. Even in countries with relatively low internet connectivity, use of social networking sites is on the rise – just ask Timor-Leste’s President José Ramos Horta and his 378 Facebook friends. But even before the internet empowered us to connect and communicate at the speed of a whim, we have all lived fully immersed in social networks. Social networks are the links between family and friends, classmates and teammates, coworkers and colleagues, enemies and ‘frenemies’. They are the relationships – around 150 meaningful ones, according to Dunbar’s number – that feed and bound our choices and actions, provide us with emotional sustenance and sounding boards, and provide structure to our lives. But beyond their intrinsic value, what do these connections mean – for individuals, for communities, and for development?

Will Someone Find and Control the Master Switch of the Internet?

Sina Odugbemi's picture

A recent  (2010) book by Tim Wu titled The Master Switch: the Rise and Fall of Information Empires is a sweeping, industrial history of the succession of new media technologies that rose to prominence in America in the 20th century: radio, the telephone, television, film and, of course, the Internet. It is an American story with global ramifications because of the powerful global influence of American information empires.

Wu's story is both arresting and depressing.

Can Virtual Civil Societies Build Citizen Competence?

Sabina Panth's picture

The image of civil society as non government entities with concrete institutions, with office space, meeting halls and formal titles, is gradually shifting in this virtual age of online activism and social media.  Instead, these formal institutions are diffusing into loose networks, where, in place of human resources, software programs are doing much of the work.  In the words of journalist Charlie Beckett, these emerging entities are the “Virtual Civil Societies.” 

Yes, The Revolution Will Be Televised. Now What?

Shanthi Kalathil's picture

In a media landscape saturated with images of tweeting revolutionaries and blogging dissidents, it's easier than ever to assume a causal relationship between the spread of technology and political revolution. But take a closer look, and the issue begins to look a lot more complex.

An informative and timely new essay by Marc Lynch, an associate professor at George Washington University and prolific commentator on Arab media and political issues, deftly sums up the main arguments, contradictions and knowledge gaps surrounding the impact of information and communication technologies (ICT) on the phenomena collectively referred to as "the Arab Spring." Entitled "After Egypt: The Limits and Promise of Online Challenges to the Authoritarian Arab State," (subscription may be required), the piece implicitly argues for abandoning the usual "optimist/pessimist" trope that plagues such discussions, favoring instead a more nuanced and complex perspective on the impact of ICT in authoritarian states. (Perhaps unsurprisingly, I agree - see this previous post.)

Post-Conflict Justice and ICT

Shanthi Kalathil's picture

We've discussed here and in related papers (such as Towards a New Model and The Missing Link) the role that media and communication (including all forms of information and communication technologies, or ICT) can play in pre-, mid- and post-conflict situations. Too often, donors think of media and communication as an adjunct to their main reconstruction and peacebuilding work, something with which to publicize their activities. I've advocated strongly in the past for assigning a more significant role to the field of media and communication in conflict, urging donors to consider it as a substantive, technical area that needs to be systematically incorporated into donor plannning rather than treated as an offshoot of public relations.

How Scalable Web 2.0 is Changing the World of Disaster Management

Tanya Gupta's picture

Disaster management 2.0: scalable human connections fired by high technology

Scalability, virtual communities and Web 2.0 have changed the world of disaster response.  The most successful and disruptive inventions of modern times owe much of their success to scalability.  Although people always had the ability to read books, it was only with the invention of the printing press that it became possible for millions of people to do so.  Web 2.0 and social media make the ability to connect with people scalable.  Scalable human connections combined with open source software and platforms, and unprecedented computing power, results in human-machine synergy also being scaled up. This human-machine synergy results in disruptive technology innovations.  Such disruptive innovations have most recently been seen in the area of humanitarian support to disaster and conflict affected countries.  USB drives were an innovation that disrupted the market for floppy disks.  Although they are not likely to go the way of the floppy disk, the world of traditional disaster relief organizations with proprietary systems, closed data sets and bureaucracy have been up-ended by the disruptive human-machine synergies of Web 2.0 and crowd-sourced humanitarian volunteer organizations.

Engaging Communities to Track the Constituency Budget

Sabina Panth's picture

Philip Thigo and his partner, John Kipchumbah, were a part of the Infonet Project in Kenya that was hosted by the World Social Forum in 2007.  The project proposed the use of technology to create an open information and communication infrastructure to enable communities to build social capital for democratic actions.  The duo were concerned that no marked changes had occurred in the poverty rate in Kenya, despite the apparent economic progress in the country.  The technical skills they acquired from Infonet prompted them to conceive the idea of a Budget Tracking Tool that would connect communities directly with the national development agenda, without the need for a third party or civil society organizations working on their behalf.

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