Author Archives: ICTworks

Please RSVP Now: USAID Digital Development Forum Central America

June 23-24 – San Salvador – RSVP Now Over the past decade, mobile Internet access has rapidly expanded across Central America to cover nearly 90% of the population. This incredible reach has the potential to drive economic growth and radically transform development – the Inter-American Development Bank calculates a 10% increase in Internet use in Latin America produces a 2.6% increase in productivity. Development actors are already using digital technology to tackle some of the region’s most difficult challenges. For example: Throughout Central America, DAI’s “Coffee Cloud” app helps farmers and agricultural decision makers adapt to climate change by offering daily and seasonal forecasting for coffee crops and reports outbreaks of diseases such as coffee rust. In Honduras, youth are using GPS devices to map public buses in Tegucigalpa, creating the first public bus maps to improve transportations routes and reduce crime.

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How DFID Does Development in a Principled Way

The Washington DC conference ‘Digital Development: from Principle to Practice’ was a great opportunity for organisations to compare how they’re delivering aid programmes based on the 9 Digital Principles. There’s been a lot of interest in the Department for International Development’s (DFID) approach to digital and how we’re putting the Principles into practice. During my attendance at the conference I gave a lightning talk on our approach. In the spirit of openness, I’m sharing here the main points I made. Good practice for digital projects DFID is required by UK government rules to assure all digital and ICT spend.

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Mobile Data Collection: Current Practice and Lessons Learned at Plan International

Smartphones and tablets offer an increasing array of applications and services that can be useful in our daily lives and work. Data collection, an important part of Plan’s work across the world, is no exception. There are several apps available now which allow an organisation to send out a digital questionnaire to the phone or tablet of their field staff, who can then collect responses and upload them to a central server. As with many digital services, this promises gains in efficiency and speed, and even accuracy and quality of the data collected. Digital Data Collection in Plan – A review of current practice and lessons learned, commissioned by Plan Finland and conducted by independent consultants, aimed to explore the current uses of digital data collection tools in Plan, to tease out the lessons learned from adoption and implementation, and the benefits and challenges of transition from paper-based to digital data collection processes.

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Are Facebook Messenger Chatbots The Answer to Our Aid Questions?

Last week, everyone’s favorite frenemy – Facebook – held its annual developer conference in Silicon Valley. Waving our ICT4D flag in the crowd, Souktel had a front row seat – and a first-hand look at the event’s key takeaways. Between sessions on monetizing ads and optimizing Instagram, one topic kept surfacing: Chatbots. And, more surprisingly, open source chatbots.

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3 Ways Technology Can Support Education for Displaced Children

Currently it is estimated that there are 4.6 million Syrian refugees; 6.6 million displaced persons inside Syria. Of these, half are children. In March, Technology Salon Amman brought together people working in education and technology to discuss how technology can support education throughout a Syrian child’s journey. Please RSVP now for the next Technology Salon Amman! As was noted throughout the discussion, war and displacement may not be the only crises related to the education system in the Middle East – where, some argued, despite major advances in getting kids into school, education has largely failed to prepare kids for the labour market and has at times failed to inspire them to positively contribute to their communities.

Posted in Technology, Women & Children | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Comments closed

The Ongoing Challenge of Protecting Privacy in Digital Development

On February 29 more than 150 organizations gathered to celebrate the Principles of Digital Development, in Washington DC. These nine Principles are the core values for using digital in global development – and in many ways, for doing anything involving digital and anything in international development. The more than 300 participants at Digital Development: From Principles to Practice Forum spent the day trying to sort out how to actually apply these values into their daily work. Among the most intensely discussed areas was Principle 8: Address Privacy and Security Data privacy is an area of rapidly growing attention among development actors as digital technologies enable easier collection and sharing of data. In fact many consider the dearth of practice-oriented guidance on these issues a critical gap needing more action and attention

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Getting Principled on Digital Financial Services for Development

Digital financial services (DFS) have emerged as complex and yet powerful tool for supporting economic development. Technology-enabled financial services comprise a fast-growing, dynamic sector at the very intersection of commercial and public sector interests, with an ever-expanding list of actors designing, developing, deploying, delivering and investing in services and channels–many with the intent, or at least the possibility of, enabling financial inclusion among low-income and excluded populations. The question is: how can we collectively ensure that this new field remains focused on achieving our ultimate development goal of fostering economic growth? Principles are one tool to help the wide variety of actors involved ensure that regulations, industry standards, and collective investments result in safe, affordable and relevant financial services. However, the devil, as they say, is in the details.

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4 Ways We Can Better Engage Smallholder Farmers Using ICT

An essential component for successfully engaging smallholder farmers using technology comes from providing a voice, a dialogue, with the farmers themselves. This coupling of human engagement to information and communication technologies was a core idea debated at the Technology Salon on How Can We Better Engage with Smallholder Farmers? Over 30 thought leaders exchanged perspectives on how to persuade smallholder farmers to take a risk on development practices, via tools used to communicate with them across disperse rural regions. Each of the methods expressed prove successful in their own right, but when complemented by other approaches, the chances for behavioral change increased among local participants. Please be sure to register now for the ICTforAg Conference, which will feature multiple conversations on the use of ICT to engage smallholder farmers.

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Please RSVP Now: USAID Harnessing the Data Revolution for Resilience Summit

The world is currently producing unprecedented amounts of digital data, as well as unprecedented growth in digital connectivity. These trends enable new ways of utilizing digital data to better understand the real-time needs of communities in order to help them increase their collective and individual resilience. Making the most of this opportunity to build resilience and end extreme poverty is one of the world’s biggest challenges. It requires creative thinking and new partnerships. Please RSVP now to join entrepreneurs, innovators, development organizations, technology providers, donors, and governments for a two-day Harnessing the Data Revolution for Resilience Summit in Bangkok, Thailand on May 10th and 11th, 2016.

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The Short-Sighted Use of Social Media in International Development

For those of us working in the field of international development, it has almost become a given that we need to be using social media to engage and share with the individuals we are supposed to be serving. And understandably so. As more people come online, most of their first stops are on social media platforms. Certainly then, it makes sense that we would jump at the opportunity to increase our ability to share positive health messaging or educational content, for example, through these channels as well. Is social media just a channel or something more

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How Digital Finance is Transforming Agriculture


An estimated 1.5 billion people live in rural households engaged in smallholder agriculture. These smallholder farmers face tremendous challenges in improving their livelihoods, including limited or no access
 to value-creating services and resources and branchless banking. Digital mobile finance technologies using mobile money platforms have demonstrated the potential to unlock some of that lost value. Understanding this opportunity is a focus of the upcoming ICTforAg Conference on new technology for smallholder value chains. Please register now to attend.

Posted in Aid & Development, Climate Change, Environment, Featured Content, Research, Technology | Tagged , , , , | Comments closed

Free UNICEF Course: How to Use RapidPro for Powerful SMS, IVR, and Social Media Campaigns

Looking to launch a health education campaign, survey youth about issues in their community, or poll school teachers and receive reporting data? RapidPro might be the right tool for you! RapidPro is a powerful tool that allows you to connect directly with a user on their mobile phone over SMS, voice, or social media without the help of a software developer, making it easy to adapt for different contexts and needs. This free on-demand course was developed by UNICEF Innovation and TechChange to build the capacity necessary to successfully design, deploy, and scale SMS, IVR, and social media-based interactions using RapidPro.

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Breaking News: USAID Responds to Policy Prescriptions from President-elect Donald Trump

WASHINGTON, D.C. – For Immediate Release – Today USAID has responded to the foreign policy prescriptions of the Republican presidential nominee and future president, Donald J Trump, in line with USAID’s longstanding commitment to work with transition teams even before the Supreme Court decides the election. “If there’s one thing we know we need, it’s agility,” said USAID Administrator Gayle Smith. “Even as we persist through long transitions and pursue a patient path to lasting progress, we must move swiftly to seize opportunities when they arise… That means we need to adapt our systems and institutions for a rapidly changing world.” A Mutual Expenditure Approach Core to Trump’s approach is the commitment to “Make America Great Again,” through a dramatic reimagining of the current model of international development, moving from one-way assistance to a mutual-expenditure approach. USAID is responding to this plan by ensuring that each tranche of American aid will be met with a counter-investment in the US by the recipient country.

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ICT Innovation Corps: Teaching Digital Principles to Non-Techie Staff

One challenge with the Principles of Digital Development is explaining them to non-techie staff, which often make many decision that effect how ICT tools are deployed in field programs. At the Digital Development: From Principles to Practice Forum, I had the privilege of sharing one solution to this problem: DAI’s ICT Innovation Corps. The ICT Innovation Corps is an intensive internal staff-training program DAI developed with two main objectives: To equip non-ICT4D staff with the approaches, tools and understanding to identify opportunities for ICT interventions in their own work; To ensure non-ICT4D staff has a basic understanding of key Digital Principles such as user-centered design, ecosystem awareness and designing for sustainability. The Innovation Corps came out of a persistent challenge that those of us on DAI’s ICT team faced: we were overbooked and disheartened. Traveling around the world supporting projects and in-country teams, the team was exhausted and mindful that rarely do the best ICT4D interventions come out of such fly-in/fly-out situations.

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