Author Archives: ICTworks

We Need to Create Business Models that Deliver Value to Overcome the Digital Divide

Huawei recognizes the urgent need to reduce the deepening digital divide between those who benefit from connectivity and the internet, and those who don’t. Our new White Paper, Digital Enablement: Bridging the Digital Divide to Connect People and Society, released recently, shows that sustainable business models which create value extend the benefits of connectivity to more people more effectively than traditional models that give away services free of charge. We also recognize that finding sustainable business models can be a challenge. We suggest two changes to current development thinking to make the processes easier and the business models more effective: We need to rethink how we (and others) value connectivity and its benefits. This requires accepting the premise that a project is unsustainable unless it provides services that are valuable enough for someone to pay for

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Sensors for MERL: What Works? What Does Not? What Have We Learned?

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Sensors promise rapid insights into development programs. Exciting and quickly evolving technologies are expanding the range of what can be measured, while the precision, accuracy and frequency of measurement are continually improving as well. An evaluator’s dream! But what have we learned from our use of sensors to date?

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What’s Your ICT4D Cyber Threat Model?

Threat models can make ICT4D more secure and safe to use. In computer science, “threat modeling” is the approach of playing through attacks and hacks ahead of time. Being alert digital risks can help prevent data breaches and devastating damage – also in the aid sector. Digital Risks Are Real Data horror stories are all over the news today: companies lose staff and client data, banks lose money, governments expose civilians, security firms are compromised and hackers, too, get hacked. Such “cyber threats” are just as real and risky in aid and ICT4D

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MERL Tech Lessons Not Learned in International Development

The world has made several commitments to water and sanitation, starting as far back as the 1970s, and leading up to the recent Sustainable Development Goals. Also over the past few decades, the development of the internet and cool data collection tools has enabled more and more organizations to share their evaluations and monitoring data publicly. But is anyone actually learning from them? Four years ago, I founded Improve International to address sustainability issues in water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH).

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The Role of Connectivity in Emergencies: A Case Study of Ebola

The Ebola crisis revealed that a dearth of ICT capacity in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone prevented or greatly impeded access to and the exchange of information, real-time case management and contact tracing, outbreak mapping, community mobilization, supply and logistics management, and the day-to-day operations of relief organizations.   In May 2015, Inveneo, in partnership with Facebook, the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, Cisco, EveryLayer, and NetHope, successfully completed its efforts to deliver 100 new high-speed Internet connections to government and non-governmental organizations in Sierra Leone and Liberia as part of the joint Ebola Response Connectivity Initiative (ERCI). The purpose of this article is to describe Inveneo’s approach to expanding Internet connectivity during emergencies using the ERCI project as a case study.

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Will Outernet Bring Connectivity to the Unconnected Parts of the World?

Nearly 5 billion people today lack basic Internet access due to poor telecom infrastructure or government censorship policies. These people are increasingly becoming a very attractive market for big ICT companies, like Google, and start-ups like O3B. In 2013, Google officially entered this race with the launch of Project Loon, sending high-altitude balloons into the stratosphere to provide Internet connectivity by beaming signals down to base stations. Additionally, Facebook created a consortium of companies called that are working together toward developing short-term solutions. One new start-up company, Outernet, is taking a longer-term approach

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Can Crowdfunding Work for Developing World Projects?

As I experiment with crowdfunding for JadedAid, a card game to save humanitarians that I co-launched on Kickstarter, I wonder how entrepreneurs in the developing world could use similar crowdsourcing platforms to fund their ideas. Luckily, infoDev at the World Bank has published “Crowdfunding’s Potential for the Developing World” to explore this very question. In the forward, Steve Case points out why he’s an optimist on crowdfunding: I believe that equity, debt, and rewards-based crowdfunding open new possibilities for funding more entrepreneurs in more places around the world. These changes enable entrepreneurs to utilize social media and the web to offer rewards, ownership of a shared vision, or even equity stakes to potential investors. Crowdfunding websites are creating transparency and more open communication by enabling investors to engage with these companies over time to monitor their progress and continue to support their success as the company grows

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We Are Not Alone: Silicon Valley is Donor Driven Development Too

WeWork, the hot co-working space that features exposed brick, shiny desks, and free beer, has two locations in my office building. Both are beautiful and I only wish my offices looked the same. However, as Nitasha Tiku points out in her amazing BuzzFeed News article WeWork Used These Documents To Convince Investors It’s Worth Billions, all is not so shiny when you look at WeWork’s financials. Essentially, WeWork has used almost-fanciful numbers to convince Silicon Valley investors to value it as a “decacorn” – a start-up valued at more than $10 billion.

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Translating Technology Terms Into Burmese

Earlier this summer, Thomas Fuller of the New York Times published a memo from Yangon lamenting the lack of political vocabulary in the Burmese language, in which words like “democracy,” “institution,” and “privacy” lack direct translations. Even more notable than Fuller’s nuanced sociolinguistic discussion is the way he ends it: with a conclusion that leaves any tech-focused reader hanging. After quoting a young Burmese developer’s story about explaining the words “developer” and “programmer” to her Burmese-speaking parents, the article jolts to an end with, “There is no Burmese word for computer. Or phone, for that matter.” This is where the Technology and Social Change Group (TASCHA) at the University of Washington Information School is working to make a positive difference. Where Fuller explores terms related to governance and democracy, TASCHA has been exploring terms related to technology as part of its ongoing Information Strategies for Societies in Transition project in Myanmar.

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How SMS Messages Revitalize the Lives of Cambodian Youth

While social media and radio are two of the most popular channels among young people in Cambodia, text messaging has remained a basic mean to send and receive short-yet-useful content. Even today about 96% of Cambodian youth have access to mobile phone, more than 30% of them use the device to send and receive text messages. Youth Chhlat, a project of OneWorld, heavily uses SMS as part of its Questions and Answer platform to respond to questions about sexuality and reproductive health and rights from Cambodian youth, the nation’s largest population. However, as subscribers are on many different mobile network services, delivering those SMS content to them was a challenge. To overcome the delivery and dispatch of messages, OneWorld’s Youth Chhlat (Smart Youth) uses InSTEDD’s Nuntium to respond to questions from young Cambodians

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Are Smartphones Making SMS Projects Obsolete?

Are SMS projects still relevant? Are toll-free phone numbers still needed? As more and more people in developing countries have access to cheap smartphones and third generation (3G) network coverage, should we still be utilizing text messaging and voice calls in development programs? Having completed a coordinated program of cross-sectoral mobile phone projects in Papua New Guinea, funded by the Government of Australia, I came up with seven guiding principles for the use of mobile phones in development efforts in Papua New Guinea and similar contexts.

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Why BIG Data Matters for Lower Mekong Countries

While big data represents a new era of computing, what does it mean for civil society organizations in Southeast Asia? How can nations in the Lower Mekong harvest the power of big data? These were the questions discussed during a five-day workshop, from 8–12 June, 2015, at College Of Innovation of Thammasat University Pattaya in Thailand. New Opportunities Mean New Challenges Where data in any format may be explored and utilized, the Mekong ICT Camp featured a series of workshops and panel discussions to help more than 60 participants from the region to learn open source technologies, define, and design project challenges.

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3 Steps to Implement USAID Open Data Policy ADS 579

As promised, here is an overview of the steps needed to create an open data plan in order to be compliant with USAID’s new Open Data Policy It is really easy to get lost in the weeds on this stuff, so I am only outlining the top-level steps; please note that every step may have many questions, decision points, and additional tasks included. Remember, ALL projects and cooperative agreements will need to submit their data captured to the DDL during the period of performance of their award. And of course, as this is a brand new policy with still many questions, the following is a set of suggested steps based on current understanding of USAID’s requirements. You can ask specific questions of USAID at During the Proposal Stage Budget: Make sure your budget includes (either implicitly or explicitly) the time, effort and expertise to create and implement an open data plan, as well as the IT systems required to generate and store open data, and submit it to the Development Data Library

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Reading on Mobile Phones? mLiteracy Opportunities and Challenges

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Recently, the Goethe Institute of Johannesburg hosted an mLiteracy Networking Meeting to examine the opportunities and challenges for mobiles to increase literacy development, especially in Africa. It was an incredibly valuable, interesting and much-needed gathering by some of the old and new players in this space. While reflecting on how far the field of mobiles for literacy has come since 2009 when I first launched Yoza Cellphone Stories, two key points really struck me. Mobile Usage is SkyrocketingThe mobile uptake in South Africa is continuing to grow.

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