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Information and Communication Technologies

"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).  

Is There an App for That?

Maya Brahmam's picture

I’ve been working with my colleagues on the Apps for Climate competition. We’ve been puzzling over the intersection of climate and technology and what sorts of new ideas we’ll get from this exercise. What about “little green nudges?” Is there an App for that?

“Nudges” are subtle messages that have been used to change behavior. George Webster’s recent article on CNN’s website notes that, “whether we're conscious of them or not, nudges -- of a sort -- are all around us. From the rumble strip along motorways -- gently encouraging motorists to remain in the correct lane -- to rows of brightly colored candy wrappers, less subtly inviting us to pick them up and place them in our shopping cart…” And what’s more, they work and have the potential to be harnessed for the greater good.

Quote of the Week: Clay Shirky

Sina Odugbemi's picture

"Disciplined and coordinated groups, whether businesses or governments, have always had an advantage over undisciplined ones: they have an easier time engaging in collective action because they have an orderly way of directing the action of their members. Social media can compensate for the disadvantages of undisciplined groups by reducing the costs of coordination."

Clay Shirky

Associate Arts Professor at the Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP) and Distinguished Writer in Residence in the Journalism Department, New York University

Quoted in Foreign Affairs article, The Political Power of Social Media, Jan/Feb 2011

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