Author Archives: ICTworks

Why BIG Data Matters for Lower Mekong Countries

While big data represents a new era of computing, what does it mean for civil society organizations in Southeast Asia? How can nations in the Lower Mekong harvest the power of big data? These were the questions discussed during a five-day workshop, from 8–12 June, 2015, at College Of Innovation of Thammasat University Pattaya in Thailand. New Opportunities Mean New Challenges Where data in any format may be explored and utilized, the Mekong ICT Camp featured a series of workshops and panel discussions to help more than 60 participants from the region to learn open source technologies, define, and design project challenges.

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3 Steps to Implement USAID Open Data Policy ADS 579

As promised, here is an overview of the steps needed to create an open data plan in order to be compliant with USAID’s new Open Data Policy It is really easy to get lost in the weeds on this stuff, so I am only outlining the top-level steps; please note that every step may have many questions, decision points, and additional tasks included. Remember, ALL projects and cooperative agreements will need to submit their data captured to the DDL during the period of performance of their award. And of course, as this is a brand new policy with still many questions, the following is a set of suggested steps based on current understanding of USAID’s requirements. You can ask specific questions of USAID at During the Proposal Stage Budget: Make sure your budget includes (either implicitly or explicitly) the time, effort and expertise to create and implement an open data plan, as well as the IT systems required to generate and store open data, and submit it to the Development Data Library

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Reading on Mobile Phones? mLiteracy Opportunities and Challenges

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Recently, the Goethe Institute of Johannesburg hosted an mLiteracy Networking Meeting to examine the opportunities and challenges for mobiles to increase literacy development, especially in Africa. It was an incredibly valuable, interesting and much-needed gathering by some of the old and new players in this space. While reflecting on how far the field of mobiles for literacy has come since 2009 when I first launched Yoza Cellphone Stories, two key points really struck me. Mobile Usage is SkyrocketingThe mobile uptake in South Africa is continuing to grow.

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How To Beautifully Visualize M&E Results in Microsoft Excel

Excel gets a bad rap for data visualization. I get it. I can barely stand to look at these ugly charts. Can you imagine sending a client something like this? To be honest, I can barely see the patterns that are supposed to be highlighted in these charts

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7 Aspirations for Better ICT4D in 2015

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Technology Salon NYC had another banner year of great discussions. To cap it off and start the 2015 series of events, we had a unique Salon. We shared our hopes and fears for 2015, with three amazing lead discussants to guide the conversation: Felicity Ruby, long-time activist and currently ThoughtWorks’ Director of Global Internet Policy; Abi Weaver, Director of the Global Technology Program at the American Red Cross; and Laura Walker Hudson, CEO of Social Impact Lab (SIMLab). Below I’ve organized the Tech Salon discussion into 7 aspirations for our sector in 2015. Keep an eye on these themes, and if you have ideas that weren’t mentioned at the Salon, go ahead and add them to the comments section!

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Why Good Geo-Mapping is Worth a Thousand Words

There’s no denying the importance of having the right information and data when it comes to planning, informing, analyzing, and monitoring and evaluating. How that information is displayed can have a surprising influence on the ease of understanding and interpreting the data. At the M&E Tech Conference I had the opportunity to talk about the strengths of using maps as a data visualization tool and shared some of the things we at Development Gateway and AidData have learned when integrating mapping into Aid Management Platforms around the world. The images below show two different ways to display funding information about projects taking place throughout Timor-Leste: a tabular report and a line graph. While they show the same information, they each have their own limitations: the report makes you dig for information, while the graph can’t show country context or other data layers

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The 5 Most Effective Educational Technology Interventions in LMICs

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There is enormous interest and investment in the potential of educational technology (edtech) to improve the quality of teaching and learning in low and lower-middle income countries. The primary aim of the DfID-funded Educational Technology Topic Guide is to contribute to what we know about the relationship between edtech and educational outcomes. Taking evidence from over 80 studies, the guide addresses the overarching question: What is the evidence that the use of edtech, by teachers or students, impacts teaching and learning practices, or learning outcomes? It also offers recommendations to support advisors to strengthen the design, implementation and evaluation of programmes that use edtech. Educational technology was defined as the use of digital or electronic technologies and materials to support teaching and learning.

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Monitoring and Evaluation vs. Good Management in Development

Last week, I was at the M&E Tech conference in Washington, DC. It was two days of discussion on how to better use technology for monitoring and evaluation of development projects, and how to monitor and evaluate the use of technology for development projects. So ICT4M&E as well as M&E for ICT4D. Got it?

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4 Ways to Properly Include Women in Your mHealth Initiative


Social norms and stigmas often lead to men owning mobile phones more often than women in many parts of the developing world. Sometimes when a woman does happen to acquire a phone, she even faces threats of violence because of her ownership. These unfortunate findings show that gender is one of the biggest issues in mHealth and ICT for Development in general. Unfortunately, according to a 2013 literature review, there has not been substantial research about gender relations in mHealth interventions. My name is Jack O’Rourke and I am a student at Fordham University.

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Accept the Smartphone Reality in Development


Recently, Elvis Mushi of Twaweza, shared with me interesting mobile phone survey results from his Sauti za Wananchi program. I find them remarkable in two ways. First, he found that 80% of Tanzanian households own at least 1 mobile phone. Then he found that mobile phone coverage reached 88% of the population. One of the largest and poorest populations now has near-ubiquitous mobile phone access.

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Drones for Development: Humanitarian Use Cases

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Satellite images have been used to support humanitarian efforts for decades. Why? A bird’s eye view of a disaster-affected area simply captures far more information than most Earth-based data-collection technologies can. In short, birds have more situational awareness than we do. In contrast to satellites, Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAV) offer significantly higher-resolution imagery, are unobstructed by clouds, can be captured more quickly, by more groups and more often at a fraction of the cost with far fewer licensing and data-sharing restrictions than satellite imagery

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Please RSVP: If Mobile Phones Killed the Telecentre, What is Next for Public Internet Access?

IREX Tech Deep Dive – RSVP Now Back at the dawn of the digital divide conversation, leading organizations invested in telecentres — public spaces where people could access computers and learn about the Internet. Fast forward to today, where billions have a personal Internet in their pocket and use Facebook daily, and there is a real question if we still need public access Internet services in the age of the mobile phone. The conclusion of TASCHA’s report on “Why public access ICTs matter” is that we do, in fact, still need public access venues for the millions of people around the world who lack private access to the Internet’s ever-increasing cornucopia of vital information and services. For many, digital inclusion is found at their local public access ICT venue — a school, a library, a cybercafé, or yes, a telecentre.

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1st Toronto Tech Salon: How Can Technology Improve International Development?

May 21st Toronto Salon – RSVP Now We have all seen the pretty pictures of children playing with fancy new gadgets, and while the photos are uplifting, do they really signify progress? Does the introduction of new technology, specifically information and communication technologies like mobile phones, computers, and the Internet really accelerate the social and economic advancement of the developing world? Will Asian Tigers and African Lions use wireless communications and new big and open data systems to leapfrog legacy infrastructure and reap digital as well as demographic dividends? Or might we be overestimating the reach of modern technology? Could new solutions and their diffusion patterns inevitably widen the digital divide?

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Why Do RCT in ICT4D When You Can A/B Test?

Recently, D. Jerome Martin tweeted that he was happy that 50% of USAID’s Development Innovation Ventures grantees were conducting randomized control trials in their interventions. He felt it was a move in the right direction, that big data drives big impact. I disagree.

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