Author Archives: ICTworks

Introducing the Mobile Information Literacy Curriculum

As millions of people come online across the globe through mobile devices, mobile information literacy is vital for those who have leapfrogged from traditional media to digital devices that provide instant access to information. Mobile information literacy is necessary to help people learn how to find and evaluate the quality and credibility of information obtained online, understand how to create and share online information effectively, and participate safely and securely. Mobile information literacy is critical to help people better consume, generate, and disseminate trustworthy information through both digital and traditional media. Existing curricular models assume people learn on a personal computer (PC).

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9 Considerations for Seamless Mobile MERL Solutions

With mHealth a fast growing component of health delivery systems, many organisations are developing mobile and digital solutions to tackle health problems around the world. Presentations at MERL 2016 Conference showed that many are also using mobile and digital tools to analyze and monitor programs. Unfortunately, there is often a disconnect between the solutions themselves and the MERL. Frequently, programs still evaluate apps, websites, and SMS services through traditional door-to-door surveys or phone calls.

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Farmers Will Benefit Most from Mobile Financial Services

The world’s population is projected to reach 9.2 billion by 2050. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has estimated that farmers will need to produce 70% more food than in 2006 to meet this demand. While agriculture productivity has been increasing, production capacity is growing slowly, and food security remains a serious issue in many countries due to rising prices as well as availability Mobile has the most potential to improve the income of smallholder farmers in developing countries in Africa, India and the Middle East, and this analysis focuses on the benefits mobile can bring to these people. Connected Agriculture, a report by Accenture and Vodafone on the role of mobile in driving efficiency and sustainability in the food and agriculture value chain, focuses on 12 opportunities that deliver broad socio-economic and environmental benefits. They are grouped in four categories that were identified through stakeholder consultations as the most important

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The Unequal Diffusion of Big Data Capacity

A 2014 White House report from the office of President Obama underlined that Big Data leads to ‘vexing issues’. Big data technologies can cause societal harms beyond damages to privacy, such as discrimination against individuals and groups. While at the same time it emphasized the tremendous opportunities these technologies offer to improve public services, grow the economy, and improve the health and safety of our communities. In Big Data for Development, a review by Martin Hilbert of over 180 pieces of mainly recent literature, and several pieces of hard fact empirical evidence, has confirmed that the Big Data paradigm entails both opportunities and threats for development. On the one hand, an unprecedented amount of cost-effective data can be exploited to inform decision-making in areas that are crucial to many aspects of development, such as healthcare, security, economic productivity and disaster and resource management, among others

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A Ruined Christmas: When More Bandwidth Led to Worse User Experiences

In rural developing communities, access is often provided through slow satellite or other low- bandwidth long-distance wireless links, if available at all. As a result, the quality of Internet access is often poor and, at times, unusable. Internet Bandwidth Upgrade: Implications on Performance and Usage in Rural Zambia shows the performance and usage implications of an Internet access upgrade, from a 256 Kbps satellite link to a 2 Mbps terrestrial wireless link in rural Zambia. Our work builds on our prior study of rural networks’ performance and presents the first real-world comparative study of pre- and post-upgrade Internet use and performance. Our results show that while use did not change immediately, application performance improved

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President-Elect Trump’s USAID Briefing Book on the US Global Development Lab

Whenever a new political administration ascends into power in the USA, each government agency writes a briefing book describing their efforts and aspirations. USAID is no different. Agency staff wrote a briefing book describing all aspects of USAID’s work for the new administration. The full 119 page USAID briefing book includes: A set of “Corporate Papers” that discuss overarching issues confronting the Agency, Bureau Briefs that provide summaries of main Washington operating units and their key concerns, Supporting Documents that examine individual topics in more detail, and a range of other papers, including Bureau Profiles, budgets, look‐ahead calendars, reference sheets on initiatives, coordinators, and directives, And documents about the Agency’s history, foundational legislation, and organizational structure. Rather than read the full document, you’re probably most interested in how the Global Development Lab presented itself to the new administration

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12 Question to Ask Ourselves for 2017

2017 is a few short weeks away, and it’s time to start thinking about how we might approach our work differently in the new year. On that theme, Troy Etulain and I came up with a few questions that can help us all think through changes we may want to make in our efforts: What is the story we tell ourselves about our organizations? What do we really bring to our constituencies? What is the true extent of our knowledge on the topic? What is left when we remove the technology jargon from our work?

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Getting Better, Faster Feedback with Mixed Methods in mHealth

There are several projects that use mobile multimedia for health education in hard-to-reach rural settings, where video, being non-textual, enables the educational content to reach populations that cannot read. The missing link in these programs, however, is an effective feedback loop that connects the rural communities that consume the health content to the health professionals that plan, create and disseminate the content. In the case of The Bophelo Haeso project in Lesotho, for example, rural-based nurses had created multimedia content on varying topics for over three years. In that time, Community Health Workers (CHWs) carried the videos on their mobile phones into the villages and used them to educate the members of their communities. However, there was little feedback from the villages to the nurses on how the content was received, and how future content could be improved in order to fully address the issues that affect the communities being served

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The Biased State of Gender Disaggregated M&E Data

Recently, we sent out a survey on international development experiences with gender data to help inform the MERL Tech conference. We asked whether international development staff collected it in their work, how they collected it, what they collected and challenges they faced. 138 people responded, offering key insights on the reality of collecting meaningful sex-disaggregated data. “I am always surprised — and I should not be —that data collection on women and girls is considered an extra, even by people who know better. That is how it is discussed

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3 Things We Can Learn From Porn, Sports, and Soap Operas

Did you ever worry about the lack of porn in cybercafés? Or work on increasing World Cup viewership? What about a TV drama dissemination program? I thought not. So what can we learn from the most popular online activities

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How Drones Can Help in Humanitarian Emergencies

Few technologies have undergone as radical a change as drones. Where five years ago, unmanned aerial vehicles, UAVs, or drones, were mainly seen as an instrument of war, today they are far more likely to be flown by a wedding photographer than an airman. Earlier this year, the Consumer Technology Association estimated that globally 9.4 million civilian UAVs will be sold in 2016. Increased reliability, ease of use and much lower prices have also made drones a viable technology for humanitarian responders. Rarely a week goes by without a new idea for how UAVs can revolutionize humanitarian aid: from drones that promise to detonate landmines to edible drones

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How to Apply Agile Principles to International Development M&E

We all want to be good at our jobs. We want to accomplish the things we set out to do. If we aren’t accomplishing them, we want to figure out why or try new solutions. The trend toward Adaptive M&E is exactly that: a desire to be better at our jobs.

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Do You Eat Your Own ICT4D Dog Food?

In software development, there is a term called “eating your own dog food” – meaning using your own software to better understand and address your users’ pain points. I’m proud to say that at Dimagi, we’re making a push to eat more of our own dog food, and it’s making us better as a company and our solutions better for our users. At our headquarters in Boston, it’s easy to tell which of our software engineers just returned from visiting a project that’s using CommCare. After spending a few weeks abroad, they return to Boston incredibly motivated to fix the user pain points they witnessed, whether it’s clarifying cryptic error messages, re-designing a part of CommCare’s interface to be more intuitive, or revamping documentation. During this time, they’re often always the last ones to leave the office, way after everyone else has gone home

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Using Indirect Data for Direct MERL Impact

The above example shows how secondary data across 100 hypothetical villages can be integrated so that signals appear within the noise of data, highlighting the least resilient — and most vulnerable — villages.   RCTs (randomized controlled trials) and similar evidence-based approaches are thought by many to be the gold standard for evaluating the effectiveness of strategies for development. To be fair, RCTs have also received their share of critique. Nobel Prize Winner Angus Deaton has famously disparaged RCTs for their lack of usefulness in many situations.

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