Just like any other industry, the ICT for Development (ICT4D) field has experienced significant shifts. As major international development stakeholders have begun focusing on funding ICT projects, these shifts have widespread implications for how programs develop in the field.
The tone of the conversation surrounding ICT4D seems to be changing, as more emphasis is being placed on the strategy and implementations of projects instead of the infinite potential of technology. We have been a part of this converstaion, rethinking the question sustainability, ICT as a means and not a goal, and escaping the tunnel vision of technology. Richard Heeks wrote about the early history of these changes in a paper entitled The ICT4D 2.0 Manifesto. Mr. Heeks explained the difference in earlier attitude between the first programs, and the projects in the field today. Early programs relied upon "technovelty" and focused more on spreading access as quickly as possible instead of on thoughtful implementation. He generalizes the outcome of those early projects into a few words: “failure...and anecdote[s].” Often programs would return with great stories about how technology had changed one individual's life, without analysis to the larger effects. Past the promotional materials, positive impact became difficult to assess, which in turn led to many projects today being framed by sustainability, scalability, and evaluation. READ MORE »
The latter, policy development, is central to the conference series, and we discussed ways that smart applications of technology can improve the outcomes of policy development.
As we’ve witnessed in the last few years, the “internet public” reflects the changed nature of human beings as social and civic individuals. As part of this phenomenon, new connections are increasingly important, and pertinent information gets shared rapidly. One driver of these tools for political use has been the perception that political bodies are self-interested, dysfunctional, and don’t represent citizen interests. We’ve seen citizens rebelling against this order in ongoing Arab Spring uprisings, the Occupy Movement, and newly founded political parties and organizations. READ MORE »
As anyone who has ever found their friends feed clogged up with pictures of Willy Wonka can attest, there's not much that spreads faster than an Internet meme. Apparently, however, the rapid transmission of dumb jokes can be utilized for more than just procrastination purposes. (Who knew?)
For those of us in the tech4dem business, we are well aware of the power that social media has to share photo and video evidence of violations of democratic processes and demonstrations calling for protection of citizen's rights. However, in a world where pro-democracy activists are increasingly becoming targets for their actions both online and offline, there is a pressing need to protect the identities of such individuals.
Enter the Cameras Everywhere initiative. Started by WITNESS, a leading organization on documentation of human rights abuses, this initiative is dedicated to safe video and photo documentation online and on mobile phones. They, together with the Guardian Project, developed the Android app ObscuraCam, which anonymizes photos by not only removing the meta data associated with the image file, but also by blurring, or obscuring, the faces shown in the photo.
This same functionality is now available through Youtube, known as a feature called "Blur All Faces". I tested this feature, and found it quite easy to use and function well. Here are the results and the steps on how you can blur faces too:
In an effort to combat restrictive internet policy, such as ACTA or SOPA, a number of internet sites including Mozilla, Imgur, Reddit, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation have signed up to be a part of the Internet Defense League (IDL). Anyone can sign up, with the understanding that if such policy comes close to passing, all signees will take other unified action for internet freedom. This week's Monday Round-Up explores more stories concerning internet freedom and privacy, new advances in small computers, and the latest in dropping prices of mobile phones in developing countries.
Kim Dotcom, of Megaupload fame, is now adding his own appeal to keep the internet free through music
"Imagination is more important than knowledge" - Albert Einstein
...and perhaps technology allows the opportunity to use both. That's at least what I believe. Before moving to DC, and starting as a Project Assistant on the ICT team here at NDI, I spent 3 years as a social worker in Chicago. Besides enjoying the amazing food in the city, I got to see firsthand the empowering effect technology gives new users. After explaining to one client struggling with barriers to employment how her computer mouse was not the type she had to "shoot at in her basement," I showed her how she could both simplify her job searching and use instant messaging to talk to her grandson. Both of these realizations (mostly the latter) gave her the encouragement to come in once a day, five days a week, to regularly look for jobs, and to regularly send smiley faces to her grandson as she chatted with him after school. Sure enough, she eventually found employment and was able to give her grandson the presents he wanted for his birthday. READ MORE »
July 9, 2012 marks South Sudan's first independence day. We've been keeping an eye on the world's youngest nation since the vote for independence early last year - follow the #SouthSudan hashtag on Twitter for more updates and news on South Sudan's birthday.
Reuters has a great slideshow of South Sudan's first year of independence, and The Guardian discusses the challenges still facing the nascent nation.
A US congressional inquiry reveals that local, state, and federal law enforcement authorities made over 1 million demands for private information from cell phone companies last year. The data includes geolocation information, calls made and received, and contents of text messages.
Today marks the anniversary of Steve Fossett's record-setting solo flight around the world in a hot air balloon in 2002, which in turn landed on the same sad date that Amelia Earhart disappeared in her own attempt at circumnavigation in 1937. To honor these aviary pioneers and their "firsts in flight", below are a few firsts (and seconds) in ICT:
Major websites including Reddit, Mozilla, and Gawker all experienced a bug caused by the "Leap Second", a 1 second adjustment meant to keep Coordinated Universal time close to solar time, and in turn caused problems for platforms using Network Time Protocol.
Sudanese citizens have been demonstrating since June 18, following a series of brutal crackdowns of demonstrations against the announcement of a new round of austerity measures impacting food and fuel prices. Protests are not new to Sudan, with a faltering economy, continued conflict in Darfur and disputes with South Sudan fueling discontent. However, the recent demonstrations have evolved into a popular uprising, calling for freedom, peace, justice and liberty and the end of Bashir's rule.
One of the fascinating threads woven throughout PDF was the way in which the networked world has made life hard for the gatekeepers of information, whether the copyright industry or control-minded governments. It’s a new world for those whose models were predicated on scarcity or manipulation of information.
Perhaps the bravest presenter at PDF was Cary Sherman, president of the Recording Industry Association of America; the organization which became the evil empire in the epic SOPA/PIPA fight last winter. Sherman did his level best to present the case for the copyright holders to the crowd, and he did so with aplomb. (The slides pictured in this article were brilliant.)
The conclusion he drew from charts of precipitous revenue falloff was that, while SOPA and PIPA might have been poorly executed, something must be done to save artists (and, btw, the RIAA) by protecting copyright. If we had Vladimir Putin on the stage, I imagine that the words would be different but the tune the same; something must be done to stop the threats that Russia and other states face from online criminals, terrorists, and the other four horsemen of the digital apocalypse. READ MORE »
But not your typical geek - okay, yes, I do love Battlestar Galactica, I follow Stephen Hawking on Twitter (even though the last time he Tweeted was over two years ago), and I may or may not be teaching myself PHP. But aside from all that: I love the outdoors, speaking Spanish, and traveling.
Which means the NDI ICT team is the perfect place for me - we're a team with interests and backgrounds that vary from system administration, accessible education, Mandarin, and table tennis, but we're united by our common interest in technology. Last year I graduated with a BA in International Studies and Spanish from Hope College in Michigan, moved to DC in February, and started hanging out with ICT in March.
My interest in technology started back in middle school, when I discovered at my local Hamburg Township Library a small, hard-backed book that proclaimed it would teach me how to build a website. I was immediately intrigued - I took it home and had my first webpage coded and up (read: hosted on my local machine and displayed in the browser) in a matter of minutes. That first "Hello World!" set me down a path that led to a 2nd place national win in a website design competition in high school, declaring a Computer Science major (later demoted to a minor) by the end of freshman year of college, and now, to a place on the ICT team at NDI. READ MORE »
I spent more time tweeting during my 48 hours at PDF12than I had in the past six months. This is not an exaggeration; I ran the numbers. (And you can too, if you follow me,@hillaryeason. Ahem.) Part of this, of course, was due to the fact that I was at a conference that was About Technology; not only was this kind of tech widely used, it also acted as a signaling mechanism, establishing the Tweeter as someone who was engaged and tech-savvy. In that respect, at least, the demands of this job differ substantially from my last gig.
But as I was thinking about the ways in which I, as an NDI employee, actually use Twitter, I realized that I certainly could have used this kind of technology the last time I worked in this city. I ran an after-school program in a high-crime, low-income neighborhood that served 200 kids and employed 20 staff. I had next to no resources, was constantly trying to communicate information to overworked teachers who were never in the same place at the same time, and had to somehow funnel info on all of these challenges to my bosses at the public school district in order to make any kind of change. Isn't that what Twitter is for?READ MORE »
Last week, our team was able to attend the Personal Democracy Forum (PDF). One of my favorite panels was "Online Life in China". In case you didn't know, sometimes content posted online in China is filtered and removed, which can have obvious impacts on how Chinese internet users can express themselves and access information online.
David Wertime from Tea Leaf Nation, a popular blog that follows social media trends in China, made some important distinctions in use of local social media platforms in China. While many people refer to Sina Weibo (one of the largest microblogging platforms in China) as "China's Twitter", there are some key distinctions that make the comparison not quite balanced. While in Roman-based languages, 140 characters is quite limiting in what you can express. Whereas in Chinese, 140 characters is literally 140 words, allowing Chinese speakers to express longer sentiments. (Fact: "Weibo" or 微博 in Chinese literally means "Microblog", based off of "Boke" or 博客 which means "Blog"). In addition, while Sina Weibo does have many similar functions to Twitter (hashtags, retweets, etc.), one can also embed video and image files directly into tweets, and can "comment" on tweets as well. This comment capability is what enables Weibo to be "the closest thing China has to a platform for free speech" and is a strong democratizing feature. READ MORE »
This week's news round-up arrives a few days off-schedule: our team spent the weekend in NYC at Personal Democracy Forum 2012. We heard plenty of awesome speakers and great presentations, which we'll be posting about in the coming week.
My name is Hillary, and I'm so excited - no, really, you have no idea - to announce that I've arrived @NDITech. I'm a former journalist, teacher, and toy store employee who grew up in a house of tinkerers and tech enthusiasts, and I recently graduated from the Fletcher School in Boston. More importantly, my background has made me passionate about tech and media use across disciplines, and coming to NDI allows me to put those interests to good use.
My main interests on the tech team include nonformal education, public diplomacy and outreach, and social marketing, as well as the larger (and related) issues of user interaction and the effects of tech projects from a systemic perspective. I believe strongly that technology needs to be engaging and desirable as well as accessible - not just from an infrastructural perspective, but in terms of the ways in which people go through their daily existence. Which brings me to the title of this post.
As anyone who's ever taught can attest, children can be a very, very tough crowd. A few years ago, I was teaching English in Korea, and one of my fellow teachers put on her Facebook an exchange she'd had with a student. It's now been added to the (long) list of internal memes I maintain.
STUDENT Teacher! Today play game?
TEACHER No, we played a game yesterday.
STUDENT Yesterday game boring and hate. New game! READ MORE »
Today's round-up is looking at news about being undercover: whether it's sneaky viruses that impact networks, or how groups are able to continue their work online despite diverse obstacles; and much more:
Open Garden is a new mobile app project designed to create a mesh network across users. For more interest in mesh network projects, check out the Commotion Wireless project at the Open Technology Institute.
After the holiday weekend, where many of you consumed a few too many of these and some of these, here are some of the news stories we've been following on internet rights and much more to welcome you back to the work week.
Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to share the NDITech team's work in citizen technology, open data and open government, and internet freedom at MediaBarCamp in Vilnius, Lithuania. For those that may not be familiar with BarCamp, it is an international network of user-generated conferences (also known as "unconferences") that feature open, participatory workshop-events, the content of which is provided by participants. The beauty of this design is that attendees are able to help shape the discussions and mold the event structure to serve their needs.
MediaBarCamp provides the opportunity to stimulate development of new media projects in Belarus, but also arrange coordination between existing projects in the region. This year, MediaBarCamp was able to bring together projects from around the world, including other closed societies, to help participants exchange information on how to successfully operate despite media restrictions and other challenges that impact freedom of expression and access to information. READ MORE »
It's that time of the year again: cherry blossoms are here, baseball season is right around the corner, the memories of winter are long gone, and NDI is looking to hire a summer intern!
As some of our blog readers may know, I worked with NDI full-time last summer and continued to be with the team on a part-time basis since then, while also attending graduate school. But, as graduation approaches and I almost hit my one year mark with NDI, it is sadly time to move on.
During my time here I've worked on a variety of projects: researching and writing ICT country profiles, learning about Drupal and how we can use it to effectively build partner websites, serving as a translator in a website training, reviewing contracts and performance plans for our regional programs, helping with internal communications, and learning about the administrative tasks that help the organization work smoothly - in short, its been a busy 10 months.
Our team is a knowledgeable group that supports NDI's partner organizations in 70+ countries, and our job is to help organizations appropriately use technology to strengthen their democratic institutions and civil society, and to create open societies. Having a background in social activism, domestic policies, or international development is a good base and shows that you have interest in our area of work.
Now, the logistics. We are looking for a 20 hour (1/2 time) commitment starting immediately through the end of August. Yes, it's paid (hurray!). To apply, go to NDI's employment openings and click through DC internships; the position is with the Information and Communications Technologies team.