Author Archives: ICTworks

Are You Guilty of Helping Safaricom Prey on Rural Women?

There are multiple development initiatives to increase women’s ownership and usage of mobile phones – everyone from GSMA to USAID to Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) themselves recognize the digital gender gap as a real issue that needs to be addressed. While development actors look at how mobiles can increase women’s health outcomes, educational attainment, economic standings, and security perceptions, MNOs are motivated by the profit potential from selling services to half the world’s population. Might Mobile Ownership Be A Trap? There are “differential motivations” between what rural women want to do with their mobile phones and what mobile network operators want users to do.

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3 Reasons Why Big Data Should Not Be Open Data

Recently, Bill Kedrock wrote that Big Data Needs to be Open Data, based on a presentation by Dr. Debisi Araba at MERLTech 2016. Bill concluded by calling for donors and others to assist countries like Nigeria as they grapple with the opportunities and challenges of open data. Since the post, the USAID Food Security Strategy was published and says: “Open and accessible data are essential assets that provide a foundation of evidence for scientists and decision-makers globally and help fuel entrepreneurship, innovation, and scientific discovery in food security and nutrition.” In response to both, Michelle Kaffenberger, collaborated with Bill to consider the risks associated with making big data open. They propose that when considering whether big data should be made open, decision makers should apply a litmus test including at least the following three questions, and likely many others according to the specific context of the data.

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How Facebook Values Personal Data from Developing Countries

Over the past eighteen months, Facebook commissioned a series of consultations with Ctrl-Shift that sought to answer the question: “How can we sustainably maximize the contribution personal data makes to the economy, to society, and to individuals?” The final report “A New Paradigm for Personal Data” that emerged from this exercise was released recently, and it is just as interesting for what it says as for what it omits. What it says The report highlights five important shifts that need to happen to realize an overall paradigm shift in how personal data is treated. From education to confidence From partial to full value From restrictive to enabling From compliance to sustainable customer relationships From good intentions to good outcomes Of those, the one that most interests me is number two, which focuses on the concept of fair value from data. The report talks about fairness consisting of two components: fair processes and fair outcomes.

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How to Navigate Open Source Decisions Like a Techie

Much has been said about the power of open source software for ICT4D, but there’s seemingly little on how to navigate the decisions around how to use, build, or grow open source from a technical perspective. To understand the ins and outs of what makes open source work (or not), we return to those who first started the open source movement more than 30 years ago: software developers. I turned to the software developers and product strategists around me at Caktus Group to write this article. Over the years, we’ve seen many ICT4D open source implementations in different circumstances. Using that experience, here is a distillation of key points to remember when approaching open source.

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How to Develop and Implement Responsible Data Policies

A friend reminded me at the MERL Tech Conference that a few years ago when we brought up the need for greater attention to privacy, security and ethics when using ICTs and digital data in humanitarian and development contexts, people pointed us to Tor, encryption and specialized apps. “No, no, that’s not what we mean!” we kept saying. “This is bigger. It needs to be holistic. It’s not just more tools and tech.” So, even if as a sector we are still struggling to understand and address all the different elements of what’s now referred to as “Responsible Data” (thanks to the great work of the Engine Room and key partners), at least we’ve come a long way towards framing and defining the areas we need to tackle

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Rethinking Informed Consent in Digital Development

Most INGOs have not updated their consent forms and policies for many years, yet the growing use of technology in our work, for many different purposes, raises many questions and insecurities that are difficult to address. Our old ways of requesting and managing consent need to be modernized to meet the new realities of digital data and the changing nature of data. Is informed consent even possible when data is digital and/or opened? Do we have any way of controlling what happens with that data once it is digital? How often are organizations violating national and global data privacy laws?

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To Celebrate or Morn Ushahidi For USA Elections?

Today Americans go to the polls across the country to choose the next President of the United States. Yet, leading up to this day, there was much talk of long lines, ballot issues, voter suppression, and witnessing violence – all depressing thoughts to Nat Manning, who was upset by this awful attempt to undermine that beautiful thing we call transition of power and the will of the people. Like many of us, Nat is often inspired to do something about issues he cares about, and luckily he knows something about election monitoring software, so he set up and mobilized a team of volunteers to track the US election with Ushahidi, a software designed by Kenyans and Americans to track the Kenyan elections. It wasn’t just Nat, either. “There are some issues in this U.S.

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Pop Quiz: What Is the Difference Between mHealth, mEducation, and mAgriculture?

I do hate sectoritis – the innate desire of development actors to isolate into health, education, agriculture, civil society, and all the other sector silos and sub-silos of our industry; its stupid tribalism at its best, and downright corrosive on collaboration at its worst. Of course digital development practitioners (another silo!) are no better. We follow the convention of others and silo ourselves into mHealth, mEducation, mAgriculture, and from there down into eHealth vs. mHealth, etc, etc, etc.

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Open Deliver: A Process for Managing Educational Digital Content

At its most fundamental level, the role of mobile technology within health systems should be to improve access to and sharing of valid health information. There is a real opportunity to exploit existing technological capability to provide equitable access to content that, if adapted for each context, could provide a complete educational foundation for a country’s frontline health workforce. Yet rather than designing a suitable system for delivery of digital content, we’ve let the mHealth ecosystem emerge by chance through independent procurements, mostly at the program level, often resulting in fragmented, duplicated – but disconnected – unsustainable systems. The few exceptions involve the use of voice or text requiring fees related to connectivity.

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Wow! Universal Service Funds are Hoarding Over $12 Billion in ICT4D Funding

The concept of Universal Service is pretty simple: telecommunications services should be accessible to the widest number of people at affordable prices. We can break it down into three principles: Availability: the level of service is the same for all users in their place of work or residence, at all times and without geographical discrimination Affordability: for all users, the price of the service should not be a factor that limits service access Accessibility: all telephone subscribers should be treated in a non-discriminatory manner with respect to the 
price, service and quality of the service, in all places, without distinction of race, sex, religion, etc. Most countries support the concept of Universal Service through Universal Service Fees from telecommunications service providers, who often pass the costs on to consumers. Governments should use USF to incentivize Universal Service by the telecom operators through various means, of which ICT4D programs would form a large percentage of their efforts. There is only one problem

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Should the Principles of Digital Development be Agile?

Recently, Abt Associates endorsed the “Principles of Digital Development.” These nine principles have been widely adopted by international development funders and practitioners to absorb and disseminate technology best practices in the field of international development. More than 50 organizations ranging from various offices in the United Nations and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) down to niche technology providers have endorsed the principles. The principles are aimed at moving the field away from a disconnected series of technology pilots, each of which are largely ad hoc and duplicate many of the same lessons, and toward scalability and sustainability. Ann Mei Chang, the Executive Director of the U.S

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What is the Matthew Effect on Khan Academy in India?

Many scholars have identified an interesting phenomenon that manifests when introducing educational technology to populations in developing countries. The Matthew Effect, coined by Robert Merton, posits that students, who start better off, typically stay better off, and students who start worse off, often stay worse off. The Matthew Effect comes from Matthew 25:29: “For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath.” As Michael Trucano aptly puts it in his blog post titled, “The Matthew Effect in Educational Technology”, the biblical verse “roughly translates [to] ‘the rich get richer”. Not only would the Matthew Effect suggest that those with pre-existing advantages tend to benefit more, and more quickly, from the use of new technologies, but it shows that education technology needs to be re-evaluated as it raises important questions about the potential for new technologies to further increase existing education divides rather than help close them. This effect is quantified in an article, “Educational Technology Isn’t Leveling the Playing Field” in Slate by Annie Paul

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The Current State of Mobile Financial Services in Bangladesh

Bangladesh has a rapidly growing mobile financial services industry, with at least 10 providers already offering services on the market, that represent more than 8% of the total registered mobile money accounts globally. All this has happened in less than four years since the launch of the first mobile financial service products in 2011. Yet despite this rapid growth, uptake among development organizations in Bangladesh remains low. A baseline study conducted by mSTAR on the status of mobile money usage by USAID implementing partners in June 2014 found that 86% of respondents (representing 24 organizations) were not using mobile money.

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