Survey reveals bridging digital divide between urban and rural Africa represents major growth opportunity

Title: Survey reveals bridging digital divide between urban and rural Africa represents major growth opportunity
Author:Denise Duffy
Source:ModernGhana.com
Date (published):03/11/2010
Date (accessed):12/11/2010
Type of information:article
Language: English
On-line access: yes (HTML)
Abstract:
"Connecting rural communities has become a major issue for the telecommunications industry in Africa, according to a recent survey conducted by Informa Telecoms & Media. 75% of respondents* surveyed said that the improvement of access to and adoption of telecommunications services in rural areas is “very important” to their business. A further 20% thought it “moderately important”.

Commissioned as a part of Informa Telecoms & Media's Rural Connectivity in Africa research, which is due to be published this month, the findings of the study reveal how the mobile revolution has failed to touch all parts of Africa. That this is the case is holding the continent back from becoming a fully joined-up member of the global knowledge economy.
...
Access to power emerges as a recurrent theme throughout the results of the survey as a barrier to greater rural connectivity. When asked what is the single biggest barrier facing operators in the greater adoption of ICT services in rural areas, over a third of respondents from Africa cited “access to power” as the single biggest obstacle for operators, ahead of cost of ownership and lack of awareness. Very low electrification rates across sub-Saharan Africa and especially in rural communities, where they tend to fall well below 20%, have a huge impact on the availability of ICT services in remote areas."

Does ICT Benefit the Poor? Evidence from South Africa

Title: Does ICT Benefit the Poor? Evidence from South Africa
Authors:Stefan Klonner, Patrick Nolen
Pages: 35 pp.
Date (published):01/03/2010
Date (accessed):12/11/2010
Type of information:research report
Language: English
On-line access: yes (pdf)
Abstract:
„We study the economic effects of the roll-out of mobile phone network coverage in rural South Africa. We address identification issues which arise from the fact that network roll-out cannot be viewed as an exogenous process to local economic development. We combine spatially coded data from South Africa's leading network provider with annual labor force surveys. We use terrain properties to construct an instrumental variable that allows us to identify the causal effect of network coverage on economic outcomes under plausible assumptions. We find substantial effects of cell phone network roll-out on labor market outcomes with remarkable gender-specific differences. Employment increases by 15 percentage points when a locality receives network coverage. A gender-differentiated analysis shows that most of this effect is due to increased employment by women. Household income increases in a pro-poor way when cellular infrastructure is provided.”
via https://twitter.com/#!/LisaCespedes

AfricaCom: Africa’s mobile industry needs to re-invent itself to meet tomorrow’s challenges

Title: AfricaCom: Africa’s mobile industry needs to re-invent itself to meet tomorrow’s challenges
Author:
Source:Issue no 529
Publisher:Balancing Act
Date (published):05/11/2010
Date (accessed):09/11/2010
Type of information:aricle
Language: English
On-line access: yes (HTML)
Abstract:
„Four thousand people are slated to attend the industry’s biggest continent-wide talk-fest AfricaCom next week, which has been given the upbeat title of Driving the Next Stage of Telecoms Growth in African Telecoms. However, the mobile masters of the universe face tough challenges ahead with growing competition and the levelling off of market growth. Operators face a slalom of obstacles that will begin to separate those who have the skills from those who have simply been lucky to have been in the right place at the right time. Russell Southwood looks at whether the mobile operators have the courage to re-invent themselves and if and when an insurgent challenger will come to market with a disruptive business model.”

Can Technology End Poverty?

Title: Can Technology End Poverty?
Author:Kentaro Toyama
Source:Boston Review
Date (published):November/December 2010
Date (accessed):09/11/2010
Type of information:article
Language: English
On-line access: yes (HTML)
Abstract:
„...Technology—no matter how well designed—is only a magnifier of human intent and capacity. It is not a substitute.
...
The myth of scale is the religion of telecenter proponents, who believe that bringing the Internet into villages is enough to transform them.
...
When a village has ready access to a PC, the dominant use is by young men playing games, watching movies, or consuming adult content.
...
My point is not that technology is useless. To the extent that we are willing and able to put technology to positive ends, it has a positive effect. For example, Digital Green (DG), one of the most successful ICT4D projects I oversaw while at Microsoft Research, promotes the use of locally recorded how-to videos to teach smallholder farmers more productive practices. When it comes to persuading farmers to adopt good practices, DG is ten times more cost-effective than classical agriculture extension without technology.
But the value of a technology remains contingent on the motivations and abilities of organizations applying it—villagers must be organized, content must be produced, and instructors must be trained. The limiting factor in spreading DG’s impact is not how many camcorders its organizers can purchase or how many videos they can shoot, but how many groups are performing good agriculture extension in the first place. Where such organizations are few, building institutional capacity is the more difficult, but necessary, condition for DG’s technology to have value. In other words, disseminating technology is easy; nurturing human capacity and human institutions that put it to good use is the crux."

This is a special issue of Boston Review dedicated to ICT4D:
New Democracy Forum: Can Technology End Poverty?

Can Technology End Poverty?
Kentaro Toyama
Many development experts promote information and communication technology (ICT) as a way to relieve global poverty. They should pay more attention to the human beings who use it.

Nicholas Negroponte
You don’t have to take my word for it: laptops work.
(Tues., Nov. 9)

Dean Karlan
We should carefully evaluate technological interventions and only apply what works.
(Wed., Nov. 10)

Archon Fung
We can turn the socioeconomic biases of technology to our advantage.
(Wed., Nov. 10)

Evgeny Morozov
Successfully enacting new ICT strategies requires a philosophical shift toward local, small-scale problems.
(Thur., Nov. 11)

Ignacio Mas
There is no silver bullet for development, but certain ICT projects have shown unique promise. (Mon., Nov. 15)

Nathan Eagle
Mobile phones are not just for talking; they are also tools for work and compensation.
(Mon., Nov. 15)

Jenny C. Aker
We should focus on ICT’s impact on well-being in general.
(Tues., Nov. 16)

Christine Zhenwei Qiang
Demanding that technology transform human behavior is too much to ask.
(Tues., Nov. 16)

Kentaro Toyama responds
For the world’s poorest countries, human capital, not technology, should come first.
(Wed., Nov. 17)

via https://twitter.com/#!/pablarradar

Africa Analysis: The benefits of open source software

Title: Africa Analysis: The benefits of open source software
Author:Linda Nordling
Source:SciDev.net
Date (published):05/11/2010
Date (accessed):07/11/2010
Type of information: article
Language: English
On-line access: yes (HTML)
Abstract:
"Africa should embrace open source scientific software, cutting costs and boosting IT skills across the continent...In science, open source software users are still a minority, but such programmes are no longer the exclusive preserve of those who love to tinker with computers...Cash-strapped African universities could be fertile ground for such open source packages, yet few academics know they exist.
...
Many African governments and intergovernmental organisations, including the African Union, want to promote open source programming and software. But the political support rarely filters down to institutional level.
...
What is needed is an awareness campaign, perhaps driven by researchers themselves, to raise the visibility of open source software at the coalface of African science. Research funders should also come onboard, so that they can encourage applicants to use open source packages where suitable."

Broadband in Latin America: Opportunities to reduce tariffs, improve quality and expand service

Title: Broadband in Latin America: Opportunities to reduce tariffs, improve quality and expand service
Authors:Hernan Galperin, Christian Ruzzier
Publisher:DIRSI - Diálogo Regional sobre la Sociedad de la Información
Date (published):05/11/2010
Date (accessed):05/11/2010
Type of information:policy brief
Language: English
On-line access: yes (pdf)
Abstract:
„A new study reveals that prices in Latin America are almost three times as high as those in more developed countries. A 10 percent tariff reduction would result in a nearly 19 percent increase in penetration, equivalent to 4.7 million additional connections in the region.

The level of prices for a service is a key variable that affects households’ ability to purchase and reveals the degree of competition among service providers. This paper analyzes tariffs for access to fixed broadband Internet service in the residential segment in Latin America and the Caribbean and seeks to estimate the accessibility of the service for various households and the effect of potential price variations on adoption of broadband in the region.”

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."

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