Tag Archives: ICT4D

“Focus Clare!”

8 Jul

I’ve always been a bit of a dreamer.

One of my biggest concerns as I pack and prepare to leave for Kenya is that I might drift from my main focus on the impact that mobile technology is having on farmers and the charities which exist to help and support them. However, the excitement and discussion which surrounds mobile phones in the developing world is constantly making me think outside the parameters of this question.

So partly in an attempt to bulk out and give background, and partly because I want this multimedia documentary to capture as much of this explosive new industry as possible, I’m giving myself a few other pointers…

 

What technologies are being used?

What are the consequences of using these technologies on charities?

What are the consequences of using these technologies on farmers’ livelihoods and agriculture?

How are these technologies beginning to support agricultural businesses?

What are the global consequences of using these technologies?

Why are countries developing at different rates?

What does the future hold?

 

With all this in mind, I hope I’ll be able to conduct relevant and interesting interviews for my radio documentary.

Back to the to do list then…

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Spreading the word…

19 Apr

Since I started researching this project, I have been overwhelmed by the amount of talk on developing mobile and internet based technologies in the developing world. There’s continuous discussion on ICT4D via social networks. I find it quite hard to keep up! There are big businesses getting involved and world wide NGOs.  And there are so many articles, blogs and stories being written about developments. I found one this week in this month’s Eden magazine, about the rise of apps for social change. (More on that later.)

But where are the projects that are really stepping up social change? I think it’s about time to look at some real examples.

A couple of weeks ago I had a fascinating chat with Ken Banks, the founder of FrontlineSMS. Ken is a great believer in innovating to solve real problems. His blog post on the reluctant innovator is worth a read in this regard. It’s a label he also gives himself. He says:

FrontlineSMS was never planned – and the team behind Ushahidi would likely feel the same. They were simply responding to a crisis in their country. None of us went out looking for something to solve. A problem found us, and we felt compelled to solve it.”

FrontlineSMS is all about disseminating information beyond the bounds of internet coverage. As I have blogged before, there are literally billions of people all over the planet without access to the internet.

Ken also told me about a fantastic project called Question Box based inPune, India. It literally does what it says on the can. It’s a box, with a button, in a village. It’s connected by a simple telephone line to an operator. When someone presses the button, they can ask a question to the operator who looks up the answer online and replies, in the local language.

Rose Schuman from Question Box explains more in this little video.

Making connections, it would seem, doesn’t necessarily need broadband.

Connecting Ethiopia

17 Apr

http://www.ethiotube.net/nvlab/player/player.swf?config=http://www.ethiotube.net/nvlab/econfig.php?key=745740d4e8c771e011e1

Ethiotube: Linking Ethiopian farming communities to export markets

Connections are being made between producers in Africa and the international market all over the continent. So it’s probably not suprising that things are moving fast in Ethiopia too, like the video shows. Forging these connections is important when 85% of Ethiopians rely on small scale, ‘back yard’ style agriculture for their income.

It’s especially significant considering the other side of agriculture in the country. Something that that Guardian article you can read by clicking on the link above talks about. Agriculture is also big business in Ethiopia. The government have sold huge swathes of land to national and foreign investors looking to grow food cheaply. Berhanu Kebede (Ethiopia’s ambassador to the UK) writes…

“The key is to achieve balance. Commercial farms tend to become hubs that link smallholders to value chains and help spread knowledge and best practice to other farms. So the debate is not about big versus small. We will continue to support commercially viable small farms, which offer increased food supplies, jobs and incomes in both the farm and non-farm economy. This will help Ethiopia achieve wider economic development and prosperity.”

In Ethiopia, mobile technology and agirculture have yet to collide in a big way. I hope to keep looking at the reasons behind this. But you can certainly see from the video that there’s great potential for their use in developing agriculture in the country.

Which leads me to me and an update on my research. I’m currently eagerly searching for ICT4D projects in Ethiopia, and also concentrating on discerning what exactly the situation is there now in regards to NGOs administering support. Still coming across fascinating projects every day via Twitter and a host of new followee’s. Just a shame they’re not in Ethiopia!

Apologies for the video being a little bit melodramatic. Nice to see some shots of Addis Ababa though..which actually, while I’m at it, is not an ancient city like the video sort-of suggests. Addis Ababa is little over one hundred years old. The name itself means ‘New Flower’ in Amharic

…Not that I wish to be pedantic!

The bottom billions…

8 Apr

Today I came across this little video, made by VocalPress ( @vocalpress ) As you can see they’ve got some exciting plans for the next few years aiming to share information with people that don’t have access to the internet. And what a great video. Simple is beautiful!

It’s a fact. In the developed world we take the internet for granted. But the reality is we’re in a minority. Only 30% of the world’s population have access to the internet. And many amongst these people would not be computer literate enough to use the internet.

Now compare this to what we know about mobile phones in Africa for instance. (A beautiful graphic isn’t it.) Mobile phones are the obvious link to the billions of people that don’t have access to the internet and the information that the internet makes available. Important information about health, money, education and natural disasters.

There are so projects many across the world which are using mobiles. They’re working for change and progress in all of these areas and many many more. Just pop the tag #ICT4D into Twitter (ICT4D = Information & communication technologies for development) and you’ll get a bit of an idea of the scale we’re talking.

It’s projects that are thinking along these lines that my documentary will be following. It’s all very exciting. Keep checking back and I’ll be taking a look at some of them in more detail.

In the meantime, there was a fab online symposium on Twitter today. Take a look at the Small Media Initiative, or search the tag #SMS2011 and keep your eyes peeled tomorrow for more.