Materials available for Second IDRC-Harvard ICT4D Forum 9/23/09

The materials for the 2nd IDRC-Harvard forum on 9/23 (which I announced last year on this blog here) are uploaded onto the Berkman Center's site here:
On the one hand, I was disappointed that many similar issues remain as 6 years before at the first conference (which I actually announced on this very blog here, yes, that long ago!), but am also amazed at so many changes that have taken place, some of which are: 

  • explosion of mobile phone use in the developing world – the ending of isolation;
  • new social network technologies – social/political mobilization and participation;
  • penetration of open and collaborative content development and delivery models;
  • focus on the largest but poorest socio-economic group (the "Bottom of the Pyramid") and the new business and non-profit models that target and serve this group;
  • increasing pressure and need for collective global action on climate change; and
  • realization from crisis and recession that poverty strikes everywhere, and the economic management and risk mitigation capabilities of most countries need serious strengthening.

Communication and knowledge offered by emerging technologies enable or enhance a wide range of benefits and opportunities for the poor, and for everyone, including:

  • family and social interaction, a source of individual happiness;
  • economic services, market information, banking and micro credit, insurance;
  • employment opportunities and means of increasing convenience and earnings;
  • public and social services, distance education, telehealth, social protection;
  • access to knowledge, innovation support services and open, collaborative undertakings;
  • ICT sector growth, jobs and incomes, connection to the market and non-profit economies.

There are also emerging risks in the expanded prevalence of new technologies, including:
  • political and technical control and repression, commercial and social manipulation;
  • social mobilization for destructive purposes, e.g. the use of mobiles in instigating conflicts;
  • privacy invasion – increased ability/opportunity for governments and the private sector;
  • cyber-crime and national vulnerabilities to cyber-warfare, and the list goes on.

Regarding the role of communication and ICTs in human development, growth and poverty reduction, what has changed, been learned, not been learned, needs to be learned, needs to be done most urgently? Hot topics were
  • Communications and the technologies that enable them, like education, comprise a basic building block of human development at all levels of poverty/prosperity and freedoms.
  • The "connectedness revolution" is a major dimension of globalization, with the expansions and contractions of prosperity and freedoms that globalization causes for different peoples.
  • Communications, enabled by ICTs, are increasing informed public dialogue and debate in many countries and societies.
  • Informed public debate at national and international levels will be essential in achieving solutions to global warming, and better management of the global economy.
  • Crisis prevention and management – financial, economic, pandemic, natural disaster – are being improved by ICT-enabled communication and information delivery.
  • Openness is always better than protection in principal; how far can it reach in practice? 

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