Tag Archives: Non-governmental organization

Getting to the point

6 Jul

In three days I will be on a plane bound for Nairobi so it’s about time I get to the nitty gritty of my project. I’m going to use the next few days to think about the main questions that I hope my documentary will go some way to finding answers for. Beyond that, my blog will become a bit of a progress diary, a travel log. So check back to see how I’m getting on.

Mobile technologies are changing lives, especially in the developing world. Since beginning my project, many people I have quizzed have emphasised that technologies must not simply be seen as a tool for administering aid. I hope that this argument will raise it’s head during my documentary. But my focus will be to ask…

How are mobile technologies affecting the relationship between NGOs and farmers? 

In a way, the argument which says that mobile technologies should be used for change outside of the confines of the aid industry goes some way to answering this question. Are people so empowered by the technologies that they are using that they don’t need the support we’ve come to see as ‘conventional’ from Non-governmental organisations.

On Monday, Oxfam launched it’s largest ever emergency appeal in Africa. We are, they say, amid the worst food crisis in the 21st century, as the Horn of Africa suffers from widespread drought. The Guardian have produced another great interactive map which shows some if the facts and figures. (I will stop banging on bout their maps I promise) Notice it states that 10 million are in need of ‘humanitarian assistance’.

So what does humanitarian assistance mean in an age when the internet and mobile phones make it increasingly easy to start up businesses? Have we moved into an age where aid has altered from being about Geldof and his gigs? Or are these ten million people still needing instantaneous solutions?

The reality is that I won’t be visiting the people who are really desperately in need of food aid. But I do hope to talk to farmers about how they see development projects that they are part of, and how technology is making them think differently. I’ll also be talking to people who have seen NGOs and the work that they do evolve as attitudes, politics and technologies have all had their part to play in changing international aid and development.

If the Horn of Africa really is amid a food crisis, I’m hoping that my documentary might shed some light on the future.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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.