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Information and Communication Technologies

Sanumaya’s Tale: Policy Response

Sabina Panth's picture


In my previous post, I narrated Sanumaya’s tale in the context of how development that looks good from the above can be problematic when viewed at the local level, particularly for socially and economically marginalized populations.  The village was building a road that connected to the highway.  Everyone was excited at the prospect of economic prosperity.  Except, it came at the cost of dislodging the poor and vulnerable, like Sanumaya, whose poverty, illiteracy and social status became her entrapment. 

Divide and Conquer Never Goes Out of Style

Naniette Coleman's picture

Malcolm Gladwell’s piece in The New Yorker, "Small Change: Why the revolution will not be tweeted," stayed with me long after I put the carefully folded pages scribbled with my musings into the read pile on my floor. The piece deserves greater attention, meditation, rumination, which I intend to do in future blogs but for today’s blog, I want to explore his take on divide and conquer. Gladwell explores the difference between strong and weak ties in organizing and it is something that should be of the upmost importance to our readers. Decisions on organization, process, and the tools reformers engage to reach their ends are critical. "The medium, after all, is the message" - Marshall McLuhanBut it could also be that the medium signals something about the thoughtfulness of organizers and the level of commitment of participants.

Sanumaya’s Tale

Sabina Panth's picture

Sanumaya lives with her five children and frailing mother-in-law in a rural village in Nepal.  Her husband, Gopal has left for United Arab Emirates as a labor migrant.  Last year, the hybrid seeds sold in the local market had led to crop failure, bringing the family to near bankruptcy.  To save his family from destitution, Gopal borrowed money from the local businessman and set off overseas.  In the meantime, Sanumaya joined a local women’s savings and credit group, from where she takes out loan money to do animal husbandry.  The meager income Sanumaya earns from her business is barely enough to sustain the family.  Gopal has not sent home any money yet.  He’s probably saving it to repay the local businessman.  Fortunately, the ancestral home that Sanumaya and Gopal inherited has a lush backyard, where Sanumaya grows vegetables and lets her goats roam about freely. She hopes to sell the goats someday and make some money.

You Are Not So Smart As Me

Naniette Coleman's picture

Haunting is supposed to be reserved for bad movies and Halloween, none-the-less I have been haunted for several weeks now. You have heard my rants about the importance of translating academic work for use by pragmatists and practitioners.You may have thought that I was finally putting this topic to rest. You thought wrong. I have yet another installment to share.

SMS Gateways for Public Accountability

Sabina Panth's picture


Last week, I attended a presentation on Strengthening Good Local Governance in Indonesia: Lessons from a Demand-Driven Approach.  The $62 million 5-year USAID-funded program focused on both the supply (strengthening core competencies of local administration) and demand (strengthening institutions to ‘lobby’ for good governance) in the context of the recent “big bang” decentralization in Indonesia.  The presentation featured various tools and instruments for good governance.  I was particularly struck by ‘SMS gateways’ - a new e-governance tool that has been used to strengthen public accountability mechanisms in local governance.

Information Gathering for Demand-led Initiatives

Sabina Panth's picture

Access to pertinent public data is crucial to inform and mobilize citizens in demanding better governance.  Experience shows, however, that the process involved in garnering public data is arduous and often confronted with strong resistance.  To begin with, the planning and execution of government programs and budget are seldom performed in a transparent manner and even when the information is made available, the technical use of the language and the procedures involved in the execution make it very difficult for a lay person to decipher and analyze them.  Problems are also encountered with incomplete or badly maintained records of public expenditures and service delivery.  In addition, the officials who are in charge of managing the programs are cautious in releasing the records for fear of consequences from the disclosed information.  In spite of these constraints, methods have been developed to promote transparency in the planning and implementation of public programs and budget through what has been a long process of information gathering and advocacy campaigns.

India's $35 Tablet Computer: A Pill for Poverty?

Antonio Lambino's picture

Recently featured in the news was a 35 USD version of Apple’s iPad that the Indian government hopes to mass produce by 2011.  India also hopes to bring the unit price down to around 10 USD.  If successful, this initiative could bring an affordable, mobile, multiple application device within reach of lower income families in poor countries.  CNN’s Fareed Zakaria expressed the opinion that a fully-functioning 10 USD computer “could change the world” similar to the way in which satellite dishes and mobile phones have in the past.  I think implicit in Zakaria’s point is the belief that information and communication revolutions have the potential to increase productivity and enhance human development.  But this potential rarely leads to an actual breakthrough.  Due to a host of factors in addition to price (see, for instance, Michael Trucano's post), what might perhaps be called “socio-technological epidemics” tend to be few and far between, especially in poor countries.  There is a difference, of course, between a predominantly commercial success and one that really contributes to development results.

Better: A Surgeon's Notes on Governance Reform

Naniette Coleman's picture

Better: A Surgeon’s Notes on Performance” by Atul Gawande seems an unlikely place to find governance reform ideas and development inspiration but I found both therein last week.  The book was recommended by a dear colleague who knows of my interest in organizational change.   An accomplished non-fiction writer "Atul Gawande, a 2006 MacArthur Fellow, is a general surgeon at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, a staff writer for The New Yorker, and an associate professor at Harvard Medical School and the Harvard School of Public Health.”    He tackles the “universal struggle to perform well” through the eyes of a surgeon.  Along the way we are introduced to countless examples of organizational seizure, organizational change and the people at the center of these operations. 

The Company You Keep: "Connected" Part Two

Naniette Coleman's picture

Last week I provided a brief overview of "Connected", the popular book by Harvard Professor Nicholas Christakis, MD, PhD and University of California, San Diego Professor James Fowler. Christakis and Fowler's master-work provides an overview of the historical discussions behind social networks, pre and post Facebook, and ample examples of how social networks impact our day-to-day lives in ways we realize and are blissfully unaware of. My blog this week will attempt to translate some of their more notable findings for reform minded audiences in the developing world. 

 

The Primacy of the Individual, Bah Humbug!

Naniette Coleman's picture

Have you put on weight lately? Are you dating someone who knows a friend or two of yours? Are you a little happier or sadder and cannot figure out why? According to authors Nicholas A. Christakis, MD, PhD and James H. Fowler, PhD, it may be your network stupid. In Connected, Christakis and Fowler set out to overturn the notion of the “primacy of the individual.” They suggest that people we do not even see can influence us in ways previously unimagined. Life many not be solely based on me, myself and my decisions. The beginning and end to all of our problems might be our networks. 

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