Author Archives: ICTworks

Yes, Farmers Do Use Mobile Phones for Market Prices

Farmers in Malawi had free access to market prices via mobile phones for about three months using HNI’s 3‑2‑1 Service. Usage data was rolling in. And along come two posts on ICT Works that are highly critical of the whole idea that farmers and fishermen can actually benefit from market prices provided by mobile phones. A superficial skim of these posts might lead you to conclude that “Mobile phones are not used for market prices,” or that, “Mobile phones are social tools not information delivery platforms.” But a closer read reveals something more nuanced than that. Each of these articles summarizes the findings of two of recent research reports on ICT4D

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Randomized Control Trials Feed Our Fetish for Single-Focus Interventions

I am Ed Gaible of Natoma Group and I am here to report that RCT fetishism is alive and well in development. Sometime in the early part of this millennium, Randomized Control Trials (RCTs) as support for decision making began their migration from health-care, among other fields, to the field of development. Early and influential proponents, such as Esther Duflo, Abhijit Banerjee and Dean Karlan, associated with the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL), advocated widespread-but-appropriate use of RCTs to guide decisions about issues that included incentives for teachers, provision of mosquito nets, appropriate cropping methods and so on. RCTs, in their view and in mine, can help development practitioners span the yawning gap between intention—the outcomes that we intend to achieve—and impact—what our actions in support of those intentions make happen. That gap was, and perhaps still is, yawning

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Mapping a Single Version of the Truth: Liberia’s National Concessions Portal

“The most important reason to manage land is to avoid conflict,” said Amadou Thera, the CIMS Implementation Specialist at USAID-GEMS. “Firstly, you have conflicts between communities that can certainly arise from land issues. Secondly, you have conflicts between communities and concessionaires as well. And lastly, there is conflict between government agencies,” explains Thera. The inter-agency competition that Thera describes was an early challenge to Liberia’s National Concessions Portal

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We Need to Close the ICTforAg Partnership Gap

There was one panel discussion that really stuck in my mind from last week’s ICT4Ag conference, and in particular one speaker: Chris Burns from USAID during the plenary on How Can ICT Increase Food Security? This is not some fawning post to please the donor, but a true appreciation for the content of what Chris said and his eloquence in getting at what I see as really the heart of the matter in any ICT4D work: smart partnerships that leverage comparative advantages. It Takes a Village High-quality ICT work is never the result of one single organization’s efforts; by its very nature it involves multiple parties, from the content creators and the technologists to the channel providers and end users. Despite this inherent need for strong partnerships, we still struggle as a sector to execute on this knowledge—papers have been written about this topic, conference sessions convened, donor dollars put forth to address it. Too often we see development organizations trying, and failing, to do it all—either on their own or through ad-hoc initiatives by allocating a significant budget for a mobile messaging campaign without any funds to develop quality content, or launching a huge mobile data collection effort using a poorly designed tool that has a bad user experience and thus low usability

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The Dangers of Legal Ignorance in Digital Development

Some time ago I was working in a country that had enacted data localization laws requiring that all personal data that originates in that country must also be hosted on servers located within its jurisdiction. Although as of September 2015, only six countries have enacted such strict data localization laws, their combined population covers more than 2 billion people—or about a quarter of the world’s population. Save the date! On October 6-7th, MERL Tech will return to Washington, DC with a focus on the legalities of digital data collection, storage, and analysis. During my time in said country, I met a couple of local NGOs that had been introduced to platforms for mobile data collection by staff from an international NGO.

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Last Week to RSVP: USAID Digital Development Forum Central America

Regístrese hoy para ser parte de este encuentro con más de 200 expertos en tecnología digital y desarrollo internacional en el Foro USAID de Desarrollo Digital para Centroamérica. El Foro se enfocará en compartir soluciones innovadoras y efectivas orientadas a: La integración económica regional. El crecimiento económico inteligente, sobre la base de buena información climática. La promoción de derechos humanos, gobernanza y seguridad ciudadana.

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The Low-Tech Way to Reach Everyone on Earth

We often focus on new technologies – developing the newest app or handing every teacher a tablet – as if they are magic bullets to solving the world’s development problems. While it would be great if this were true, if “innovation” was indeed the answer, we know that the reality is not so simple. A recent article in The Guardian cautions practitioners to “avoid the lure of the shiny gadget”, arguing that the best tech doesn’t need to be the newest tech, a lesson that rings true for us at Equal Access. Our experience is in accordance with other practitioners in ICT4D who argue that older technologies cannot be dismissed, and that technology convergence, rather than the latest new ICT, holds greater transformative potential. The Low-Tech Answer: FM Radio and IVR FM radio is still the most pervasive medium of information in the developing world, with usage and access close to 100% in almost every country

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What is the Role of ICT4D in the Sustainable Development Goals?

Now the Sustainable Development Goals are with us, what are the implications for ICT4D? A recent discussion held by members of the Centre for Development Informatics gave some pointers. The MDGs have run their course, achieving a mixed bag of success. The post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – an ambitious set of 17 goals and 169 targets – take over the proverbial baton in the global race towards achieving, what has been described as “the world we want”. There are criticisms of the efficacy of these types of goals and the processes by which they are derived.

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User-Generated Content: Critical Yet Missing From ICT4D

Today, user-generated content dominates the first world’s online experience. User-generated content (UGC) can inform (Wikipedia), respond (Quora), recommend (Yelp), support commerce (eBay), organize around causes (Kickstarter), collaborate (Github), or entertain (YouTube). A typical media consumer in the West spends as much time with UGC, 5.4 hours/day, as all traditional radio, print, and television media types combined. Based on the trends, UGC may be the dominant (50%+) content segment in the next 10 years, or more than the 30% of UGC-based media consumption of western audiences today. Our peers – known and unknown – can tap into this content online and engage easily, enriching the existing content, their own knowledge, and the collective experience

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7 Reasons Why Farmers Do Not Use Market Price SMS Text Messages

On Friday, we had the startling realization that fishermen do not use mobile phones to compare market prices of fish. Besides cultural and legal limitations to their ability to sell in different markets, as Tony Roberts points out, fishermen don’t see neo-liberal wealth maximization as their ultimate goal in life. But what about farmers? Could they be using mobile phones to learn about current market prices, and thereby maximize incomes? Well, they might be, but they are probably not using SMS to learn about market prices.

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Surprise! Fishermen Using Mobile Phones for Market Prices is the Largest Lie in ICT4D

We all know the story. Fishermen use mobile phones to call ahead to different markets to find the one with best prices, so they can sell their catch for the largest profit. We’ve heard this line a thousand times, and probably have even told it ourselves. The claim that mobile phones are used to increase fishermen income was first made in academic literature by Robert Jensen in his 2007 paper, The Digital Provide: Information (Technology), Market Performance, And Welfare In The South Indian Fisheries Sector.

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Printing Satellite Images for Pastoralists: Low Tech ICTforAg Innovation

Geographic information systems are changing the way we think about food security and famine early warning. At the Transforming Global Food Security event, we talked about how we can now predict famine six months to a year in advance, with startling accuracy. That can help governments prepare for a mitigate famine on a national level, but what about increasing resilience at a local level? Particularly with pastoralist and other people who do not have access to modern technology or the digital literacy skills to use it? Join us next Friday at ICTforAg to learn more about using remote sensing to improve smallholder farmer crop yields.

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How to Reduce Misinformation with ICTs in Rural Kenya

Misinformation poses a problem to development both in the developed and developing world. With the rise of ICTs, particularly social media, misinformation is propagated faster and wider and therefore threatens development. Misinformation fuels violence, hinders public health, governance, and other development efforts. If ICTs can be used to propagate misinformation, why not use the same to counter misinformation? The Sentinel Project is using ICTs to map and counter misinformation that can lead to violence, hence preventing communities from succumbing to mass atrocities

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E-agriculture Strategy Guide From the FAO and ITU

E-agriculture is about designing, developing and applying innovative ways to use ICTs in the rural domain, with a primary focus on agriculture. E-agriculture offers a wide range of solutions to some agricultural challenge and holds great potential in promoting sustainable agriculture while protecting the environment and finding an effective way to feed the world’s population. Debate the role of technology in agriculture at ICTforAg on June 10th. Register now, before we sell out.

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