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Information and Communication Technologies

Whose Access to Information Is it Anyway?

Maya Brahmam's picture

The recent storm about the Facebook IPO and whether big investors got access to better analysis than individual investors made me think about the open agenda again: Whose access are we guaranteeing? If we say that data is open, do we have the moral obligation to help people navigate that information?

An article by Peter Whoriskey and David Hilzenrath in The Washington Post, Scrutiny Focused on Pre-IPO Hype, says of Facebook’s disclosure: "It was just the kind of information that could make you a million. But you couldn’t find it..." They went on to note, "A raft of complex regulations attempt to ensure that the information public companies give out to investors is not only true but is distributed in a way that does not favor big institutional investors over so-called retail investors…"

weDevelop: Can We Create an Empowering Web of Development with the Individual at the Center?

Tanya Gupta's picture

Development organizations operate at the global level, partnering both with countries to implement country strategies, and within sectors to tackle sectoral challenges.  NGOs on the other hand, operate at the grassroots level, working with individuals towards the betterment of communities.  Development organizations have the advantage of resources, many years of experience and knowledge but are generally several degrees removed from the individual.  NGOs are in touch with the needs of citizens and are able to respond quickly to challenges but unable to scale up.  The two have worked together, but so much more can be done.  Over the last several years the dynamic has undergone a fundamental change.  Cue to technology, which is fast emerging as a game changer in the world of development.  Technology enables linkages based on mutual agreement (e.g. development institutions-NGOs) as well as linkages that evolve organically (e.g. a grassroots human rights group in Kenya that builds a relationship with a Swedish development institution focused on social inclusion). 

What's the Connection between Power, Development and Social Media?

Duncan Green's picture

I recently gave a talk about ICT and Development at the annual Re:Campaign conference in Berlin, organized by Oxfam Germany. Anyone who knows me will realize that this is a bit odd – despite being a blogaholic, I am actually Rubbish At Technology. In front of 300 trendy, young (sigh) i-thingy wielding activists, I felt like a Neanderthal at a cocktail party. Still, at least the fear of being shamed up finally got me tweeting two weeks before the conference.

I decided to make a virtue of necessity and set out some core processes in development, and then reflected on what ICT does/doesn’t contribute. Why take this approach (apart from being a techno-caveman, that is)? Because there’s too much magic bulletism in development –microfinance, GM crops and now ‘cyber utopianism’. What all of these have in common is that they are too often presented as ‘get out of jail free’ cards, delivering development without all the messy business of politics and struggle. At best, new technologies shift power balances, sometimes favourably, sometimes not, but they don’t replace the process of struggle in development.

"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.

Addressing the Digital Divide

Tanya Gupta's picture

Perhaps the biggest challenge to harnessing technology for economic development is addressing the digital divide.  How can we do so?  This is a big question and to answer it comprehensively by looking at all the work on this area is beyond the scope of this blog. However let’s look at a few obvious ways of overcoming the digital divide:

(1) Development projects that focus on, and are relevant to the poor.  The Monitoring of Integrated Farm Household Analysis Project (IFHAP) was conducted every five years from 1996 to 2007 in the thirty-three (33) major rice- producing provinces in the Philippines.  The study noted the potential of mobile phones as key tool for information dissemination in agriculture as they are widely owned. In 2007, 90% of the farm households surveyed owned at least one mobile phone.  I agree with the authors of this study that while policy, infrastructure, and digital divide do indeed aid in assessing readiness; a social dimension is also present, which we ignore at our own peril.

Quote of the Week: Shaw-Lan Wang

Sina Odugbemi's picture

“It’s not enjoyable to get information from the internet. A good book can touch your heart. But I have never had anything touch my heart on the internet.”


Shaw-Lan Wang, Publisher of United Daily News and Owner of Lanvin

Quoted in the Financial Times, February 18, 2012

Interview with Jennifer Siebel Newsom, Director of "Miss Representation"

Maya Brahmam's picture

At a screening at the World Bank of Miss Representation on March 8, I had the opportunity to interview the film's director, Jennifer Siebel Newsom. What struck me during the interview was Newsom's firm commitment to changing how women and girls are portrayed in the mainstream media and her use of social media to instigate a conversation and advocate for change. Newsom also mentions that she wants to build a bridge to men and boys, who are a big part of the solution and talks about an upcoming project aimed at men and boys. Hope the interview provides some insights and provokes discussion.

Maya Brahmam's Interview with Jennifer Siebel Newsom

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Homeless People as 4G Hotspots: Innovative Social Inclusion or Disrespectful?

Tanya Gupta's picture

South by Southwest (SXSW) is a company that plans and executes conferences, trade shows, festivals and other events.  Collectively, SXSW sponsored events are the highest revenue-producing event for the Austin economy, with an estimated economic impact of $167 million in 2011 (Wikipedia).

The biggest SXSW story that recently made the rounds was that SXSW, through the company BBH wired homeless people so that they can provide 4G hotspots to “make the invisible “visible”.  The BBH company blog says:

This year in Austin … you’ll notice strategically positioned individuals wearing “Homeless Hotspot” t-shirts. These are homeless individuals in the Case Management program at Front Steps Shelter. They’re carrying MiFi devices. Introduce yourself, then log on to their 4G network via your phone or tablet for a quick high-quality connection. You pay what you want (ideally via the PayPal link on the site so we can track finances), and whatever you give goes directly to the person that just sold you access. We’re believers that providing a digital service will earn these individuals more money than a print commodity.

Let's KONYIfy Development through Virtual CDD (KONY 2012, Part 2)

Tanya Gupta's picture

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. 

KONY 2012 and Lessons for Development (KONY 2012, Part 1)

Tanya Gupta's picture

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).