India’s digital elite is rejoicing with the news that the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India has officially banned zero-rating, where telecommunications service providers offer select content for free in an effort to boost subscribers. The cheering isn’t really about zero-rating itself. No the reason I’m writing about an arcane policy that most digital development practitioners had not even heard of a year ago, is because Facebook is involved, and Facebook is evil. Or so the digital elite of India has decreed, usually on Facebook. A Pyrrhic Victory To hear the digital elite of India tell it, Facebook is an evil cyber-colonizer, eager to suck the very digital identity of India away through its Free Basics program that violated a Utopian version of net neutrality that hasn’t existed in any country trying to bring millions of poor citizens online
Author Archives: ICTworks
On February 29th, we will celebrate the Principles for Digital Development as a foundation for how technology should be utilized in international development programs to increase impact. This one-day event will showcase how we can move from principle to practice. Digital Development: From Principle to Practice will feature three exciting keynote presentations from these thought leaders: Ann Mei Chang, Executive Director, U.S. Global Development Lab at USAID Christopher Fabian, Co-founder, UNICEF Innovation Unit Kate Wilson, CEO, Digital Impact Alliance We will also feature lightning talks from USAID, DFID, SPIDER, CRS and others on how the Principles are being implemented in donor organizations and implementing partners, and then convene learning lunch tables around each Principle to share insights on how to apply them to our work. The afternoon breakout sessions will focus on overcoming tensions between Principles when we move from idea to reality, including: Design with the User vs
When I started my company, Rugged Communications, a few years ago, speaking with investors and institutions about the importance of connectivity felt like pulling teeth. There seemed to be a stubbornness to stick with traditional development methods, like digging wells and making latrines for rural people in developing countries. Since then, I have seen an unbelievable emergence of a number of serious institutions, like Facebook, CraigConnects Foundation, The UN Foundation, The GSMA, The Microsoft Foundation, and others, embracing and moving towards the connectivity and digital divide ecosystem. However, these organizations seem to feel uncertain about how to best engage in this sphere.
In 2009, Somaliland’s biggest mobile network operator, Telesom, launched their mobile payment service “ZAAD”, and today more than 10% of the 3.8 million inhabitants are subscribed to the service. As with normal mobile money systems, you can transfer, receive, and deposit money with ZAAD. The mobile money service is used for different purposes such as paying for your groceries, dinner at the restaurant, or your electricity. Other money payment transactions include livestock trade, merchant payments, and bill and salary payments. Recently on a trip to Somaliland I took through the streets Hargeisa, the capital of Somaliland, my Somali colleague and I wanted to purchase some traditional Somali fabric.
The mobile phone is one of the most widely used information and communication technologies in the developing world. For instance, in India, as of December 2013, there were more than 900 million mobile phone subscribers (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, 2014). However, in the male-dominated Indian society with 940 females per 1,000 males, only 30% of mobile phone owners were female, which indicates the presence of a gender digital divide in the country. In Inequalities creating economic barriers to owning mobile phones in India Factors responsible for the gender digital divide, Devendra Potnis, assistant professor at the University of Tennessee, investigated the factors responsible for the inability of 245 female slum-dwellers in India, who earn around $2 a day, to own a mobile phone.
I am a firm believer in the coming sensor revolution in development. We can now develop very cheap yet smart sensors, and as we saw at the MERL Tech conference session, “Sensors for MERL: What Works? What Does Not? What Have We Learned?”, our peers are already deploying them for development objectives. That’s why I’m excited about the new report by Cisco and the ITU on sensors for international development
“The Principles for Digital Development represent a commitment not only to innovation, but sustainable results,” said USAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah in 2014 when USAID helped publish the Principles as a set of guidelines on best practices for development programs that utilize technology to increase impact. Original endorsers of the Principles included the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, UNICEF, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, the United Nations Development Program and the World Food Program. Since then, over 500 people representing more than 100 organizations have participated in detailed discussions and hands-on workshops to move the Principles from a general framework of how to do development better, to concrete guidelines, toolkits, and best practices we can use in every development program.
At the recent MERL Tech conference, Tania Lee (Caktus Group), Tom Walker (Engine Room), Laura Walker McDonald (SIMLab), and Lynnae Day (Oxfam America) led a session called, “The Trials, Tribulations, and Triumphs of Choosing an M&E Platform.” They’ve written up their reflections and learning from that session focusing on project design, tool design/research, and getting things off the ground, whether that means finding external help or building a custom solution. Choosing a tool: where to start? Many organizations come to a procurement process with a favourite platform in mind, either from prior experience or because they’ve heard compelling marketing or stories. Starting from the tool means that you are not being true to what really matters – your needs and those of your users. SIMLab and Caktus Group use an Agile methodology that prioritizes a general sense of direction and strong knowledge of the user, and uses that to get to a prototype that actual users can test as early as possible (whether you’re building a tool or configuring an existing one).