Author Archives: ICTworks

5 Tools for Secure Communications and Data Storage

Many local partner organizations that international development actors engage with face risks while operating in challenging – and sometimes dangerous – environments. Some civil societies now face push backs from their governments and confront a closing space to function in, while others operate in fragile states where violence hinders progress. My organization, Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE) is no exception and we have partners in a range of countries in such circumstances – from Ukraine to Afghanistan – doing tremendous work to create a more sustainable democratic and economic communities. To support such organizations maneuver in difficult environments, the following are five mobile or online tools that could be used to strengthen the local organizations’ digital security. Be sure to suggest data security session ideas at MERL Tech 2016 and register now to participate on October 3-4, 2016 in Washington, DC.

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Fly a Drone, Go to Jail! The Precarious State of UAV Regulations in 5 African Countries

We are now seeing multiple uses of drones for development. Unmanned aerial vehicles, aerial robotics, whatever you want to call them, are now finding practical uses across the African continent. For example: Mapping flood zones in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania Delivering blood supplies in Rwanda Catching car thieves and oil smugglers in Nigeria. Improving farming practices in Tanzania And new primary research from FHI 360 shows that community members are often welcoming of UAV technology when they are consulted on its usage and management.

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The Future Is Now: How to Write About ICT4Edu Accurately in 2016

After a year of conferences and education trade shows, I am convinced that my fellow technologists and development experts are not fully realizing the radical change that innovation, by which I mean technology, and of that, just digital communications, is metamorphosing education. We MUST radically change the way we report on ICT4Edu to mirror this metamorphosis! In today’s world, technology is everywhere and enables everything – except education. For the most part, education is still shackled by the 19th century sausage machine that at its best takes in children and spits out adults trained to work in factories, obediently following orders and never thinking for themselves. Or as we know, in many parts of the world, not even doing that, but failing every child in every school – just look at all the iNGOs photos of poor children in dilapidated village schools.

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How to Create an Effective Monitoring and Evaluation Framework

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In recent years, organizations and employees are being measured not on their stories, but on their numbers. When you introduce your organization, people will always ask you about your numbers – What’s your reach? What’s your impact? Meanwhile, funders and senior management are running after the concepts of big data – year-over-year increase in reach, impact measurements, geographic comparisons, and more. The MERL Tech conference is returning on October 3-4, 2016

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4 Secrets to ICTforAg Social and Behavior Change Communication

Most ICTforAg projects have specific behavior change goals. For example, the goal may be for farmers to change their practices to improve soil quality. Or for farmers to adopt a new ICT technology to understand weather patterns. How do you ensure this new behavior change will be successfully adopted?

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Congratulations to Bhutan! Now a Global ICTforAg Leader

With the recent publication of its e-RNR (renewable natural resources) masterplan, the tiny Himalayan country of Bhutan has joined an exclusive club of only a handful of countries globally, including Rwanda and Côte d’Ivoire, to have a concerted national strategy for how to use ICT in agriculture. While many countries have some mention of ICT for agriculture or e-agriculture in national level strategies, such as India, Bangladesh, and the Caribbean Community, they tend to be either a brief reference to agriculture in national ICT plans or a brief reference to ICT in national agriculture plans. Considering the diversity and complexity of the agriculture sector, as well as its sheer size (a third of the world’s workforce are in agriculture), you wouldn’t be wrong in wondering how a few paragraphs in a national ICT or agriculture plan would be sufficient. Given this, it shouldn’t be surprising that ICT for agriculture, despite some successes, generally has not had the same level of impact yet as ICT in other sectors, such as health or education, which have often—but certainly not always—been a bit more organized. There are a number of reasons for this, which I won’t get into here, but one reason may just be the lack of coherent national visions and inclusive action plans aimed specifically at ICT and agriculture that help to align all actors (from regulators to large agribusinesses and technology firms all the way down to smallholder farmers) on a common path

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Why Yes, Pokemon Go Is Relevant to Digital Development!

The runaway success of mobile game Pokemon Go has many of us scratching our heads in disbelief: More people are swiping balls at monsters than using Twitter? They’re spending more time with imaginary creatures than with imaginary friends on Facebook? And all this happened in a single week!? For the ICT4D community, the game’s jump from zero to 20 million users (by some estimates) since its launch on July 6 prompts some further questions: Can we reach that kind of scale? And is this even relevant to our work, if most people we serve don’t have smartphones?

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Please RSVP Now for MERL Tech 2016 and Submit Your Session Ideas

The use of technology for monitoring, evaluation research and learning (MERL) has become increasingly sophisticated and more openly accepted in the international development and humanitarian space. We find ourselves continually pushing forward and asking: What’s next? How can we advance our work? What is the role for new technologies in improving our practice?

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9 Data Sets to Improve Your ICTforAg Programs

At the recent ICTforAg Conference, the “What Works for Ag Data: Apps, Tools, and Visualizations” session brought together three digital development professionals to discuss data analysis and presentation tools: Matthew Cooper of Conservation International Tilly Josephson of Vera Solutions Michael Shoag of Forum One Existing Data Sets One of the more interesting aspects of their session were a number of existing agriculture data sets that Michael Shoag that organizations could use to start their data analysis, or enhance the data organizations already have: World Bank Datasets: Free and open macro-level data about countries around the globe, which can serve as a baseline for analysis. FAO STAT: A plethora of regularly updated global food and agriculture data, including production, trade, prices, food security, emissions, forestry, etc. Green Growth Knowledge Platform: Allows for comparison of a variety of data in green growth, including country, indicators and sectors. USDA Foreign Agriculture Service: The best data for international trade and agriculture data, though the website itself has a very dated look.

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Pop Quiz: Should You Need a License to Practice ICT4D?

The Kenyan government recently introduced the Information Communications Technology Practitioners Bill 2016 bill that would require every ICT practitioner to have a university degree in computer science and pay an annual license fee to an ICT Practitioners Institute. An unlicensed ICT practitioner could be fined 50,000Ksh and sent to jail for 2 years. As you might image, this idea is quite controversial. Over 23,000 Kenyans engaged with our Facebook post asking their opinion on the matter, with the vast majority of the 60+ comments rejecting the need for this licensing scheme: Justus Muteti Mwandi: Kids as young as 12 years are writing sellable applications. Now they have to wait for campus degree

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Mobile Learning Lessons: From the Developing to the Developed World

The ICT4D field is proving mature enough in some instances to reverse the flow of informal technology transfer from developed to developing, so much so that it is forcing, at least in my mind, a reconsideration of the term developed and developing. The suggestion that any nation, at any point, has completed a process of development is absurd and antithetical to how Panoply Digital operates. We all have something to learn from everyone else and, more specifically, projects and technologies advanced in one region can benefit those elsewhere. So rather than use this post as a sounding board for redefining terminology (the developed vs. developing dichotomy), I prefer to use it as a means of demonstrating that the learning opportunities posed by ICT4D should ripple and often do throughout the developed world

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Process Improvements: The Forgotten Big Wins in Digital Development

Working with ICT, we often get myopically focused on trying solving big problems, not even thinking about where technology has proven benefit: improving systems and processes. Instead of asking, “What problems can ICT solve?” we should ask ourselves, “What processes can ICT improve?” This approach intends to examine the fundamental practices that can be improved by using ICT as a catalyst, focusing on the day-to-day activities of community health workers, data entry clerks, health managers, or supervisors. Improving the basic building blocks of data flow and management at the field staff level can produce results that are seen and quantified quickly. The International Rescue Committee has developed a training exercise with this in mind.

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5 Reasons Why Platforms Are Better Than Bespoke Technical Solutions

For many organizations, the struggle to choose between platform and bespoke solutions is becoming more and more unwieldy as technology choices increase exponentially. In the international development field, organizations are always looking for an edge in the competition for donor funds, and with recent trends focused on innovation and scale, ICTs are increasingly seen as the way to stand out from the crowd. NGOs often see investment in bespoke solutions as the best way to appear competitive on the road to more funding in the innovation landscape. However, while bespoke solutions may seem like a better idea on the surface because they are tailored to a specific use case and thus have a higher probability for success, there are several reasons why a platform solution is actually better for successful implementation of projects. Indeed, they are better also for the development process overall and, most importantly, the intended beneficiaries

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The Status of Open Data Initiatives in West Africa

Open data offers many improvements for governance and services. As technology allows for more interoperability and a stronger free-flow of information, the government becomes more transparent and efficient. Creating a system of open data, however, causes a sequential and practical dilemma in West Africa. In general, public institutions embrace open data policies because they tend to improve service provisions. But in order to implement open data policies, nations need proper infrastructures, a high technology literacy rate, adapted national policies and strategies, national leadership, local intermediaries, local competencies and plenty enthusiasm among public institutions, civil societies, ICT companies, NGOs and academics

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