Designing for Participation (Part 2)

By Eric Zan

In Part 1 I discussed the value of participation in international development and how it can be problematic.Can leveraging the value of openness in technology create solutions to allow participation to be done in the right way? Perhaps these networking tools that foste rparticipation somehow allow for greater inclusiveness. Well, evidence suggests the same pitfalls of participation in development can be found in a virtually networked community. Online communities become a reflection of the offline society of which it belongs. Tools that facilitate openness and collaboration are subject to reflectingexisting authorityhierarchies that affect who participates and the type of information that is shared.

ICTD in Education – The EcoSchools and EcoZero Model

By Chalenge Masekera

Nelson Mandela once said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” The value of quality education to society can never be underestimated and as long as less developed communities continue receive education that is not at par with their peers, their communities will suffer stunted development. A lot of ICTD in education initiatives have cropped up but a lot implemented solutions that required having computers in a lab. This has often proved expensive to start, run and maintain. The current trends are seeing a shift from this e-learning model that utilizes labs to m-learning (mobile-learning) models without restrictions of location.

Gathering Dust on the Web

By Laurent Arribe

How do worthy report findings transition from a shelf or inbox into actionable projects and meaningful change? Speaking with academics and practitioners alike, I have come across this question in diverse settings over the past year, where a seemingly good idea or technology is suggested through a feasible and well thought-out proposal yet never manages to lift off and help those it was made for. While I cannot enumerate all the potential reasons a good idea might fail to be implemented, a couple major themes have risen over the past semester: identifying and engaging with all stakeholders, reaching out and disseminating findings, and maintaining communications are all vital activities for project implementation. However, a frustration continues to build as I listen to my peers make yet another project recommendation: how many recommendations and findings will be implemented or used to stimulate change?

Hospital OS: An Open Source EMR System based in Thailand

As hospitals and clinics around the world seek to stay abreast of new technologies, some health centers are deprived of even the most basic ICT systems. In rural Thailand, this is especially the case. With their high licensing fees andskilled labor requirements, electronic medical record (EMR) systems are out of reach for many Thai health providers, resulting in less-than-efficient health services and poor interoperability between hospitals and clinics. EMR systems are essential to allowing health centers to store, retrieve, manage, and share patient medical records.

Social Media and Development

By Crysta Highfield

Social media, defined by its interactive nature and user-generated content, has largely been a tool and a toy for the wealthy and bored.  Blogs, photo sharing sites, and online social networking sites have allowed peers (and increasingly organizations and companies) to share thoughts, messages, information, images, and videos.
Development agencies have been utilizing social media for years, using blogs, Facebook, Twitter, and other platforms to publicize their vision, purpose, and activities; spread news; build support; attract volunteers and donors; and engage with interested segments of the population.  Of humanitarian agencies, UNICEF is the most ‘liked’ on Facebook (1.2  million+) and the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, is the most ‘followed’ on Twitter (1.2 million+) with the American Red Cross, Doctors without Borders, and the World Food Program among others also having substantial social media followings.

ICTD and Behavioral Economics

By Seema Hari

I really enjoyed writing my last blog post about the intersection of ICTD and the Lean Startup model and combining the learnings from the two classes that I am taking at UC Berkeley. Continuing with that theme, I decided to explore the synergies between ICTD and Behavioral Economics

Aadhar Cards - Good Idea, Failed Execution

By Ruchita Rathi

The government of India initiated Aadhar card (UID project to uniquely & digitally identify people with the prime motive of tracking the social security of an individual. The project is inspired by the Social Security Number (SSN) issued in the USA. The goal of Aadhar project was to disseminate education, health, employment to all the stratas of Indian society.

What is Development?

By Sidee Dlamini

After a year of taking graduate level classes in development, I still have not found the answer to what development is. This is not disappointing to me, but it is rather encouraging. The fact that there is no straight answer to this question confirms that we actually do not know what development is and because we do not know we will keep searching. On the other hand, we could say development is not one simple thing and therefore there are many definitions for it. The latter response also implies that individuals will choose what development means to them and resort to approaching development that way. I will admit that I am not too fond of the second option because it takes away the need to keep learning and exploring alternative definitions.

Designing for Participation

By Eric Zan

Smith et al. in anOpen Development: A New Theory for ICT4D explore the potential of openness for the developing world1. Taking their inspiration from the ethos of the free and open source movement, openness refers to the free access and modification ofinformation inan environment of participation. The growing excitement behind the movement and the proliferation of its enabling technologies, dubbed Web 2.0, have given rise to what this could mean for the development agenda. The idea is that when networked activities are enabled, transformative results can occur through the participation and collaboration of a more inclusive community. But how does this actually happen and how can it be improved?

Private companies and public interest: an oxymoron?

By Antonin Milza

With this blog post, I want to speak not only about ICT4D but more generally about development. The notion of development has interested me for several years. It can be very difficult to give an exact definition of what development is. For me, when I think about “development”, I refer to the development of societies and of all nations in the world. I don’t have a different mental image for “development” whether it is for southern or northern countries. In my mind development is above all else the process that able a Nation to develop itself in order to improve its economy and the living conditions of its citizens. In the northern countries, it was the industrial revolutions in the XVIII and XIX centuries that enabled these Nations - by a better understanding of how scientific knowledge can be transformed into real applications that improve the economy – to increase their GDP, more than in the 1800 previous years. For several reasons, including colonization and decolonization, other Nations in the world, especially in Africa and Asia, didn’t be able to use this phenomenon of industrialization to develop themselves. Today, several countries in Asia, like India and China are catching up with northern countries. Tomorrow, I am sure it will be the same for African countries. The world has changed a lot since the XIX century, and today the solutions and the methods available for a Nation in order to develop itself are thus very different.

An ICT approach to filling the informal employment gap in India

By Priya Iyer

It all started in Fall 2013 when second year Masters students at the School of Information, UC Berkeley had to submit proposals for their final projects, that they would be working on in the last semester before graduating. My classmates and I had been brainstorming a lot on projects that we could potentially work on but did not have a particular problem in mind. The only thing we knew, for sure, was that we wanted to work in the ICTD space. We started out at a macro level to understand the kind of problems that we wanted to target. We were particularly interested in the problems of food insecurity in India. We researched to find out the root of this problem through literature reviews, YouTube videos and anecdotes from our professional and social networks. The most glaring cause that came to the forefront was the problem of unemployment in the informal labor market in India.

There’s an app for that..

By Laurent Arribe

Mobile banking has become all the rage. Over 110 money mobile systems have been created across the globe with more than 40 million users. Ever since the technology’s introduction in the mid-2000s, its take-up rate has soared as lower income populations gained access to a banking savings system.

The expected benefits from mobile distribution and banking include lower costs and greater privacy. Especially in resource poor settings, low transaction amounts for informal money transfer were over 30 percent less expensive than informal money transfer options. They also drastically increased savings rates and even reduced the risks robbing. As apparent benefits accrued, development practitioners took notice and new applications began taking place.

Paid Crowdsourcing: Solution for Un(der)employment or Digital Sweatshop?

The outsourcing of in-house business operations has existed long before the advent of globalization in the 19th century, but the more recent offshore outsourcing stories are the ones we remember today: cultural imperialism in Indian call centers, garment sweatshop still prevalent all over the world and suicide after suicide at Foxconn in Shenzhen. But within today’s Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) industry, knowledge, legal and particularly information technology-based business outsourcing have taken center stage. Not surprisingly, high and growing technology penetration rates in the Global South have not gone unnoticed among socially minded enterprises and the international development sector—which brings us to the ICT4D version of BPO: Impact Sourcing or “microwork.”

Outstanding Technologies in Africa

By: Sidee Dlamini

To the unaware, Africa is still known as the Dark Continent; however, numerous trends continue to show how much progress has been made on the African continent. More importantly, there has been a lot of technological advancement that the majority of the world is unaware of. It is my belief that most of the issues faced by the continent will be solved through the use of technology. I envision technology being deeply implemented in government procedures such that efficiency is increased ten fold and corruption is greatly. Of course, technology isn’t the answer to all problems, but it has the capability to solve a few if not most. How might these visions be accomplished you might ask? Well, I myself am in pursuit of that answer, but for now, I would like to explore a few outstanding technologies on the African continent.

AirJaldi - Bringing affordable internet connectivity to rural India

By Priya Iyer

About AirJaldi
AirJaldi is a social enterprise currently operational mostly in North India aimed at providing affordable broadband connectivity to the remote parts of the country where internet access is a rarity. Establishing the infrastructure in the rural hilly areas of India is a tedious process owing to difficult terrains, unfavorable weather, lack of uninterrupted power, supply and transport costs and lack of awareness about Internet usage among the rural residents. 

Lean ICTD: Applying the principles of the lean startup entrepreneurship model to ICTD projects

By Seema Puthyapurayil (@seemahari)

Last week, I stumbled upon an inspiring article about the Indian sanitary pad revolutionary: Arunachalam Muruganantham, who has developed a simple machine that can make low-cost sanitary pads. Arunachalam’s invention was aimed to help the 88% of Indian women, who were using dirty cloth, leaves and even ash during their menstrual cycles. Not only do these machines have the potential to improve women’s health and hygiene, but they can also empower women in small communities to become entrepreneurs and create and distribute their own brand of sanitary napkins. If you google his name you can find a ton of articles about this man and his great story (there is even a documentary film made about him!), so my focus in this blog is to highlight what I think is a big factor in Arunachalam’s success: applying the lean startup principles of customer validation and minimum viable product (MVP) to a development project.

Blogs: The Perils of Posts and Posting

By An Anonymous Blogger

Blogging came about in the 1990s and, unlike other contemporary tech crazes like Mini CDs and Tamagotchis, has continued to catch the attention and interest of new users.  Beyond personal journals, blogs are used to review products, advertise cottage industries, provide organization updates, and give additional perspectives on news and political events.  Because of the difficulty of censoring blogs and other social media, these forms of communications have become instrumental in expressing political dissidence in regions with limited free speech.  

Despite the acknowledged benefits of blogging, it is a form of communication that has significant drawbacks.  As you peruse blogs and write your own, consider these warnings:

  1. Do not believe everything you read.
  2. Be very mindful of what you post.
  3. Be just as mindful of what you repost.

Development Myths and Direct Health Care through ICT4D: The Medical Concierge Group

By Chalenge Masekera

The jury still out on whether developmental work and aid money given to developing countries is useful. To address this concern, Bill Gates released his annual letter during the DAVOS World Economic Forum titled ‘3 Myths That Block Progress For The Poor’. Of particular importance are the first two ‘myths’:

Myth 1: Poor countries are doomed to stay poor.

Myth 2: Foreign Aid is a big waste

Argentina ICTD Initiatives Review

By Gustavo Pereyra (@heroedelmate)


At the turn of the millennium Argentina faced one of the worst crises in its history: roughly 25% of its population was unemployed, and the economy had been in recession for most of the late share of the 90’s [1]. 
Call it funky timing, but it was only a couple of months before the president had to resign that the government passed legislation that encouraged –among other major reforms– the strategic inclusion of ICTs in the various administrative bodies of government [2]. Later on, and not without undergoing heavy circumstances some of which remain unsolved today, the country crawled out of the hole it had fallen in and entered a period of economic bonanza, so it became a much fertile ground for ICT initiatives. Those conditions led by 2005 to the National eGovernment Plan (“Plan Nacional de Gobierno Electrónico”) [3], which empowered the Undersecretary of Public Service as the main federal government organ to lead ICT initiatives.

ICTs for the Sharing Economy

By Timothy Meyers

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Vietnam is among the 25 countries in the world with the greatest number of road fatalities per capita. A recent WHO report states the country has over 24 road fatalities per 100,000 inhabitants per year, resulting from dense and long-lasting traffic patterns dominated by motorbikes. The rise in motorbikes has also brought a significant rise in air pollution. A 2012 study released during the World Economic Forum in Davos listed Vietnam among the top 10 countries with the worst air quality, and Hanoi as the most polluted city in Southeast Asia.

ICTs in Education and the Bottom Of Pyramid

By Ruchita Rathi

Education is the fundamental human right and there is a widespread consensus that it is the single most important investment that can lead to a greater social and financial mobility for an individual. Yet, globally there are a staggering 61 million primary-aged children out of school[1] . Progress in reducing this number has stalled for the first time since 2002 because of decreasing aids, according to UNESCO Institute for Statistics and Education for All Global Monitoring Report [2]

Making New from Old

By Antonin Milza

Information and communication technologies can be useful to help countries develop themselves. But, are the newest and the more sophisticated technologies required? Is there a link between the age of technologies and there potential utility and impact on developing societies? Is a new technology always ‘better’ than an old one to help people and societies to develop themselves?

Crowdsourcing 2.0: Why Putting the Slum on a Map is not Enough

By Christina Gossmann

There was a time—not too long ago—when informal settlements the size of small cities were basically invisible. Beige-gray fields, intercepted by thin blue lines, signifying water, and several thicker, windy white lines that stood for major roads, would pop up on the computer screen when searching for infamous slums such as “Kibera” on Google Maps. The information void stood in stark contrast to the hundreds of thousands of people living in Kibera, ironically tucked away between some of the city’s most valuable and celebrated resources: the Royal Nairobi Golf Club, Ngong Forest and the Nairobi dam.

Join us for upcoming blog discussions on ICT for Development

This website will be used as the blog platform for the upcoming UC Berkeley iSchool course on ICT for Development. This class starts on 22nd January 2014 and ends in May 2014. No matter whether you are registered for that class or not, and especially if you are not, we would love if you could join us for vibrant virtual discussions. Visit the class website and look out for further announcements!