Futures of Technology in Africa

Title: Futures of Technology in Africa
Author:Jasper Grosskurth
Pages: 83 pp.
ISBN:978-90-809613-7-1
Publisher:STT, The Hague, the Netherlands
Date (published):22/10/2010
Date (accessed):05/11/2010
Type of information:research report
Language: English
On-line access: yes (pdf)
Abstract:
„Technology holds many promises as a driver of positive changes, as a tool to address the problems and as an enabler to fulfil the potential. Economic development requires modern technology and technology plays an important role in most strate- gies for alleviating hunger and poverty. Technology can reduce transaction costs, save lives, facilitate education, strengthen entrepreneurship, provide access to markets and help to deliver basic ser- vices, ranging from water and sanitation to public administration. However, the same technology can also be destructive and a cause of problems. Some technological developments can be facilitated or managed, others happen and require an adequate response.
It is this manifold interrelation of technology with its environment that makes exploring the future of technology so interesting and valuable. There is a need to explore how technology in Africa will or might evolve; to discuss the drivers and the obsta- cles, the issues technology might resolve and the problems it might cause; to identify how technology changes society and how African societies might change global technology. These are big and com- plex questions and the STT foresight project, which ends with this publication, is a contribution to this discussion that is still in its infancy with respect to Africa.”
via http://twitter.com/#!/marcozennaro

Mainstreaming ICTs in Development: The Case Against

Title: Mainstreaming ICTs in Development: The Case Against
Author: Richard Heeks
Source:ICTs for Development blog
Date (published):30/10/2010
Date (accessed):05/11/2010
Type of information:blog post
Language: English
On-line access: yes (HTML)
Abstract:
„ICTs should be mainstreamed into development. That’s the current conventional wisdom. And it is wrong.

Mainstreaming ICTs means they should be understood as one among a number of tools seeking to achieve other development goals – poverty alleviation, health, education – of the MDG variety. ICTs become just means, not ends, in development. Donor agencies, governments and other development organisations no longer require a specialist ICT4D group; their goal-oriented departments will all have ICTs as part of their toolkit.

Can we see signs of mainstreaming? We surely can among main donors. Where previously they “sidestreamed” by having dedicated ICT4D units; increasingly they no longer do. UK’s DFID closed down its specialist Information and Communication for Development unit in 2006. Swiss SDC largely phased out its ICT4D concentration in 2008 in favour of integration of ICTs into its other programmes. Canada’s IDRC restructured in 2009/10 to disperse its ICT4D group. No doubt you could add your own examples.

None of this should be surprising. There was a continuous discourse of integration and mainstreaming from the time ICTs emerged onto the development agenda in the late 1990s. A discourse that grew stronger during the 2000s as political economic analyses identified private sector interests in artificially ramping ICTs’ profile in development; as information systems and development studies analyses showed the historical and conceptual failure of technology-driven change and of technological determinism; and as ICTs mirrored that history in practice by failing to be a magic bullet for development. (With Manchester’s Centre for Development Informatics right in the mix of that discourse!)

So ICTs have been or are being mainstreamed; they have floated down to their proper one-colour-among-many-on-the-palette place in development, and all is well.

Or not.

Because we can already identify the dangers of mainstreaming ICTs:...”

Mobile Technologies for Social Transformation

Title: Mobile Technologies for Social Transformation
Author Editor:Peter Holt
Pages: 20 pp.
Publisher: Nimbus Consulting Ltd
Date (published):11/10/2010
Date (accessed):05/11/2010
Type of information:research report
Language: English
On-line access: yes (pdf)
Abstract:
„Every year US$100s of millions is spent on projects in developing countries that have an ICT element. In addition, mobile networks are spending US$10s of billions on improving their infrastructure and rolling out data coverage. Over 4.5 billion people now have a mobile phone and the highest growth rates are in developing countries1. Even in the poorest communities most people either own or have access to a mobile phone.
Both governments and development agencies have been slow to exploit the unprecedented opportunities presented by ICT. There have, however, been many small scale pilots that have given people access to information via ICT and in most studies this has seen an improvement in wealth within the pilot community. The most well known studies with fishermen saw average profits rise 8%.2 Whilst ICT and more specifically mobile phones are beginning to be used both to provide access to information and for data collection, there is still much more that they could be utilised for.
Many development programmes provide immediate support and training programmes. Health programmes have provided vaccinations, and agricultural schemes have provided best practice training on crop rotation and the use of fertilizers etc. There is, however, a distinct lack of follow on support and continuing input. How do you provide ongoing coaching to farmers to ensure they have fully understood the training advice and are actively implementing the new ideas? How do you mentor individuals with health issues to ensure that they are taking the best care of themselves on a daily basis?
A new technology has crept onto the African scene that has enabled a step change in the way that the poor can access and share information. This concept paper outlines why we believe that Instant Messaging (IM) through services such as Mxit and JamiiX can make a significant difference, not only to the provision and impact of information services, but more importantly to the ongoing coaching and mentoring of individuals and communities. This technology offers benefits in terms of lower cost and greater ease of use, whereby users can enter into a “conversation” with a service provider. It is this ability to establish a relationship through the multiple exchange of texts that distinguishes the system from SMS based information services, and it is relationships that hold the key to translating information into practice and thus lasting transformation.”

Feed Her a Line: Bridging the Gender Digital Divide

Title: Feed Her a Line: Bridging the Gender Digital Divide
Author:Carol Stewart
Source:God's Politics Blog
Date (published):02/11/2010
Date (accessed):04/11/2010
Type of information:blog post
Language: English
On-line access: yes (HTML)
Abstract:
"Over the last decade, cell phone subscriptions have skyrocketed (4.6 billion as of February 2010) and recent innovations have converted simple phones into powerful tools for the developing world by providing grassroots solutions to a number of basic needs and enabling civil society through platforms such as:
Mobile money, which turns SIM cards into bank accounts
Sproxil, an application that allows end-users to fight drug counterfeiting
Ushahidi which enables instant aggregation and mapping of information transmitted via SMS for crisis response
FrontlineSMS, a mass two-way SMS platform for raising public awareness and conducting surveys
With new, creative uses for cell phones continually emerging, this simple but powerful technology has become an essential tool for providing basic needs and enabling those living on less than $2 per day to access information and services not otherwise available. Furthermore, if appropriately harnessed, mobile technology could be key to advancing effective solutions to gender inequalities and mitigating women’s rights violations, including problems such as gender-based violence or the unequal participation of women in political and economic spheres.
Women, however, are being left behind. Women are 21 percent less likely than men to own a mobile phone in the developing world. In an effort to combat this gender digital divide, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently launched the mWomen initiative — a partnership between the U.S. State Department and the GSM Association."

Nokia Taking a Rural Road to Growth

Title: Nokia Taking a Rural Road to Growth
Author:Kevin J. O'Brien
Source:NYTimes.com
Publisher:The New York Times Company
Date (published):01/11/2010
Date (accessed):04/11/2010
Type of information:article
Language: English
On-line access: yes (HTML)
Abstract:
"On Saturday at dawn, hundreds of farmers near Jhansi, an agricultural center in central India, received a succinct but potent text message on their cellphones: the current average wholesale price for 100 kilograms of tomatoes was 600 rupees ($13.26).

In a country where just 7 percent of the population has access to the Internet, such real-time market data is so valuable that the farmers are willing to pay $1.35 a month for the information.

What is unusual about the service is the company selling it: Nokia, the Finnish cellphone maker, which unlike its rivals — Samsung, LG, Apple, Research In Motion and Sony Ericsson — is focusing on some of the world’s poorest consumers.

Since 2009, 6.3 million people have signed up to pay Nokia for commodity data in India, China and Indonesia. On Tuesday, Nokia plans to announce that it is expanding the program, called Life Tools, part of its Ovi mobile services business, to Nigeria."

Why Have Mobile Phones Succeeded Where Other Technologies Have Not?

Title: Why Have Mobile Phones Succeeded Where Other Technologies Have Not?
Author:Jenny Aker
Source:Global Development: Views from the Center blog
Publisher:Center for Global Development
Date (published):03/11/2010
Date (accessed):04/11/2010
Type of information:blog post
Language: English
On-line access: yes (HTML)
Abstract:
"A few weeks ago, I was sitting on a panel for a conference on Information and Communications Technology and Development. The debate on my panel was a lively one, and came down to one issue: Can information technology (by itself) lead to development? Obviously there has been a lot of buzz about this topic — Jeffrey Sachs has called the mobile phone the “single most transformative technology” for development, and Rwandan President Paul Kagame once stated that mobile phones were becoming a “basic necessity” for Africa. Previously, I have argued that mobile phones are not the silver bullet for development (and I still believe this). But just because something doesn’t save the world doesn’t mean that we can or should dismiss it as the latest development fad, either. Mobile phones have something to teach us about the adoption of other technologies, and I think we have something to learn.
...
While this is a complex question, from a qualitative perspective, the answers might not be so difficult:

Unlike many technologies, mobile phones have multiple uses (voice, SMS and internet) and multiple purposes...
Many of these benefits are tangible and immediate...
Mobile phones (especially the voice operations) are fairly easy to use...
Not everyone needs to use a mobile phone to benefit from it...
Mobile phones can be easily adapted to local contexts...
The mobile phone distribution system – handsets, SIM cards, scratch cards and charging services – extends into urban and rural areas (Coca-Cola, anyone)?"

Free digital access to 30 years of UNEP-WCMC publications and reports

Title: Free digital access to 30 years of UNEP-WCMC publications and reports
Source:AgInfo News from IAALD
Publisher:International Association of Agricultural Information Specialists (IAALD)
Date (published):01/11/2010
Date (accessed):04/11/2010
Type of information:blog post
Language: English
On-line access: yes (HTML)
Abstract:

Since its creation in 1979 WCMC has produced well over 1500 books and major reports. UNEP-WCMC has selected 380 of the most important books and reports from this collection, and has worked with the Biodiversity Heritage Library to make these freely available online.

These documents include a significant body of information of value to audiences around the world ranging from researchers to the general public, and from educators to decision-makers. Items are available in 9 different formats, for maximum accessibility, and are published according to open access standards in a forum which welcomes and encourages both use and contribution, while respecting attribution rights.

The internet archive website has instant download statistics, and items rank highly in Google searches. In only a few months the UNEP-WCMC materials had already been downloaded 9,307 times (by 14th Oct 2010) - with no specific promotion other than through informal networks.

The UNEP-WCMC archive can be found at http://www.archive.org/search.php?query=wcmc and will soon be incorporated into the Biodiversity Heritage Library.

Will broadband internet establish a new development trajectory for East Africa?

Title: Will broadband internet establish a new development trajectory for East Africa?
Author:Mark Graham
Source:Poverty matters blog, guardian.co.uk
Publisher:Guardian News and Media Limited
Date (published):07/10/2010
Date (accessed):10/10/2010
Type of information:blog post
Language: English
On-line access: yes (HTML)
Abstract:
"East Africa is in the process of reinventing itself. The government of Rwanda has invested heavily in IT infrastructure to bring high speed internet connections to even the most remote parts of this small, resource-poor country. Kenya, similarly, has ambitious plans to become a highly wired nation and attract a share of the growing market in international business outsourcing.

Only a year ago, east Africa was the last major region on Earth without fibre-optic broadband internet connections. People were forced to rely on painfully slow and prohibitively expensive satellite connections. However, the recent arrival of three submarine fibre-optic cables into the Indian Ocean port of Mombasa has now fundamentally altered the connectivity of the region.
...
Nobody knows whether the East African gamble on IT and outsourcing will pay off. Vast resources have been invested, and there are high hopes among many in the public and private sectors that changes in connectivity offer opportunities for economic growth. But important questions remain. Will altered connectivity really allow firms in east Africa to become hubs in the global economy? Or will improved connections simply allow foreign firms to better exploit the demand in east Africa for IT services? Perhaps most importantly, who stands to benefit? And who will be left out of these transformations?

The answers to these questions are unclear. But it is likely that the sense of expectation and change in Kenya and Rwanda will be enough to bring about significant economic transformations, whatever they may be."

Information Society Observatory Newsletter, September 2010

ITU/UNESCO: Broadband Commission releases its outcome report

Title: ITU/UNESCO: Broadband Commission releases its outcome report
Source: The United Nations Non-Governmental Liaison Service (UN-NGLS)
Publisher: United Nations
Date (published): 20/09/2010
Date (accessed): 26/09/2010
Type of information: press release
Language: English
On-line access: yes (HTML)
Abstract:
"On the eve of the MDG Summit, the Broadband Commission for Digital Development released its outcome report A 2010 Leadership Imperative: The Future Built on Broadband. The report calls on global leaders to ensure that more than half of all of the world’s people have access to broadband networks by 2015, and to make access to high-speed networks a basic civil right. It also includes a High-Level Declaration calling for “Broadband Inclusion for All.”

The report was presented to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon during a side event held in conjunction with the Summit. ITU Secretary-General Hamadoun Touré, speaking at the 19 September launch, said, “Broadband is the next tipping point, the next truly transformational technology. It can generate jobs, drive growth and productivity, and underpin long-term economic competitiveness. It is also the most powerful tool we have at our disposal in our race to meet the Millennium Development Goals, which are now just five years away.”

Mr. Ban noted the power of technology to inject new impetus into the development paradigm. “Information and communication technologies are playing an increasingly important role as drivers of social and economic development, but it will take partnerships such as the Broadband Commission to ensure that those technologies live up to their extraordinary potential,” he stressed. “The Commission’s report is an important contribution to our efforts to ensure that the benefits of information and communication technology can further the United Nations goals of peace, security or development for all.”

The report includes a detailed framework for broadband deployment and ten action points aimed at mobilizing a wide range of stakeholders and convincing government leaders to prioritize the roll-out of broadband networks to their citizens."

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