The Global Information Technology Report 2006-2007

The World Economic Forum has released the Global Information Technology Report 2006-2007.

First conclusions at first glance:

  • Scandinavian countries, Singapore, Iceland, Switzerland, the Netherlands, the UK and the US and again on top 10
  • India and China losing some positions in the overall ranking, but still and important ICT power in Asia
  • Many Latin America and Caribbean countries scaling up, with important improvements in some cases (the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Guyana, Ecuador)
  • Africa getting (even) worse

1st Catalan Congress on the Social Third Sector: conclusions for the ICT panel

Jaume Albaigès moderated on Friday 23rd, 2007, the panel “New Technologies at the Social Third Sector”, in the framework of the 1st Catalan Congress on the Social Third Sector that took place in Barcelona, Spain.

He is now publishing the main conclusions (in Catalan and in Spanish) for the ICT panel, which in many ways are similar to the ones that came out from the e-Stas symposium on technologies for social action, alsn on Friday 23rd, 2007, but this time in Sevilla, Spain. Some of the points that where debated in Barcelona I freely translate from Jaume Albaigès’s site):

  • Despite general consensus on the benefits of ICTs in many fields, nonprofits still do neither add them to their strategy nor to their day-to-day work, avoiding better performance, efficiency and goal achieving.
  • The digital divide is not only a matter of individuals or social groups, but also affects organizations
  • There is an evident and huge need in training investment. An organizational cultural change is also a must.
  • The role of ICT professionals — specially the ones engaged in nonprofits — should be bridging this cultural divide among techies and non techies.
  • ICTs increase NGOs’ transparency, participation and decision taking
  • ICTs can ease or even increase NGOs’ revenues thanks to online donations and marketing
  • It’s making less and less sense to talk about ICTs as both an external thing or a sector/section within nonprofits: ICTs should be treated as a transversal issue affecting the whole organization

See also:

Reason for Not Subscribing to Internet Service

In the last days we’ve been having an interesting debate whether personal computers should be subsidized or not, and if PC costs where the reason behind having no access to the Internet at home. A first article about this issue can be found here and a sort of revision here.

As if aware of this, Parks Associates have released the results of a survey where they state, without hesitation, that offline Americans see Internet of little value. The charts speak for themselves:

 

As seen in the first chart, just 14% already have access at work and are not willing to be connected 24×7 (I know some of these people and I think it’s a growing trend due, in part, to the intrusiveness of some mobile devices powered with permanent connexion). The ones willing to be connected but still offline sum up just 25%. The remaining 61% simply don’t want to be online because it’s useless. This is one of the strong points that Ben Compaine made in his book and, again, some days ago.

But the question is: why don’t they find any use in the Internet? is it because they identify it as an entertainment device and not an educational or work device? I remember talking to Bill Dutton and Rebecca Eynon about what they called digital choice, being my question if it was really a matter of rational choice or just a new variant of digital illiteracy or lack of e-awareness. It might well be that cyberoptimists are overselling the web, but I somehow believe that it is just a matter of understanding the economic benefits of the Information Technology Revolution.

Ben Compaine revisited: the digital divide is not (just) about infrastructures

On Friday March 16th, 2007, I wrote an article entitled Benjamin M. Compaine: declare the war on the digital divide won… or just don’t!. My writing generated some comments, one of them by Ben Compaine himself. I was about to answer him there, on the comments, but I guessed it was a better option to do it in a new post, as sometimes comments are overlooked and this would just not be fair with Ben Compaine’s opinions and his right to reply.

As I said then, I find that the whole book is based on good and objective research, so to put things clear, my objections are not about Compaine’s and the other authors’ work but on the opinions they issue based on this work. And, actually, I think that, in general terms, we agree that equipment should not be subsidized just for the sake of it. But there are some places where we disagree, which, as stated in Ben’s comments, are the ones that follow.

The first one is that the main problem for Internet access is not cost but will. Hence, access should not be subsidized. On a first derivative, I can only agree with him: when computers are not among the main household priorities, wasting the taxpayers money on a machine that is likely to get covered by dust in some weeks absolutely makes no sense. Though intuition tells me that cost is important (and not only in developing countries) I do trust Compaine’s data that tell, loud and clear, that computers are not seen as an unreachable need in most households. But, on a second derivative, it is precisely this lack of e-awareness the one that makes me think that, still, a policy to foster the information society is indeed beneficial. Under this point of view, all the money we should not spend in computer subsidies should be shifted to grant digital literacy training or to raise awareness on the benefits of digital content and services. If we agree that the Information Society is here to stay, and that it is a good thing to catch on with it, and if we agree that computer subsidies is not the issue, there must me something more that we could do about it.

The second one is about how many time will it take to reach “universal access” — whatever this means. Benjamin Compaine defends that things will happen anyway, and that we just have to wait until the market walks the whole path. While I agree, again, with the second statement, and I fully believe that the market will sooner or later provide (almost) universal access, for me the time required to do so is an issue too. Because I think that, unlike the telephone or the TV set, the later you get online the less chances you have to reach higher levels of welfare, for you and for your kids. Hence, the question I ask myself is not whether the market will provide or not, but what will be the lag among early and late adopters and what the consequences.

And third, there’s the issue whether more access to ICTs will mean more democratic practice. I have to (sadly) admit that this is absolutely untrue if all other conditions are unchanged. But again, I think that it is a matter of e-awareness, of “digital ignorance” if put in negative terms, so same reflections I made a couple of paragraphs ago apply.

Ben Compaine ends his comments writing that any government expenditures would be most efficient if well targeted and thus relatively small. I absolutely agree. But the feeling I got reading the book was that, as expenditures on personal computers seemed not to work, no public expenditures should be made at all at the household level. And my opinion is that, once you’ve checked that “don’t want to go online” is the reason for poor access, a second round of surveys should be carried on to elucidate whether this was a rational choice made on grounded reflections or it was the consequence of a poor (digital) education that lead to a digital illiteracy in practical terms.

I really would like to end this entry by thanking Ben Compaine for taking the time to comment the previous post about his book. Thanks a lot!

e-Stas: briefings from the symposium on technologies for social action (III)

e-STAS is a Symposium about the Technologies for the Social Action, with an international and multi-stakeholder nature, where all the agents implicated in the development and implementation of the ICT (NGO’s, Local authorities, Universities, Companies and Media) are appointed in an aim to promote, foster and adapt the use of the ICT for the social action.

Here come my notes for part III.

Cases of Citizens’ initiatives (I)
Pedro Cluster, President of the “Desde la Calle” Society

Moving experience on how a homeless got media attention through his blog. Having had success in businesses, he ended being a homeless. After years in the street he somehow manages to get a living and then creates the “Desde la Calle” association to get homlesses out of the street. ICTs have boosted the reach of his speech beyond expectations.

Cases of Citizens’ initiatives (II)
Jenaro Garcia, Red Sin Fronteras Foundation

Created Red Sin Fronteras, an NGO to provide with connectivity remote rural areas. To do so, they made up “4×4 WiFi” [4WD WiFi] which, as the name itself states, is installing WiFi devices on 4WD cars so they can access [phisically] rural areas and bring them people connectivity.

Actually, the ultimate goal is not connectivity supply, but advocacy: by visiting little towns with the “connected” 4WD, they raise awareness on the existing content, services and opportunities for rural areas of being connected, so inhabitants ask (the administrations, the telcos) to set up internet access to their villages.

Cases of Citizens’ initiatives (III)
Red E-RUS. Network of Country Areas for the Rural Technological Development (Red E-RUS)

Goals: research in ICT4D, advocacy, fighting the digital divide, fostering human development.

Standards, Accessibility, Access and Sustainable Innovation in the field of ICT (I)
Free knowledge accessible for all
Jonathan Chacón, ONCE Foundation

We’d better focus on the users’ needs instead of creating new ones

Internet is a new gate to knowledge, but it’s a closed gate to some people: technological disabled, cultural disabled, temporal disabled.

Technological solutions [free as in freedom]:

  • Free software
  • Free hardware: we’re buying more power than needed/used. Grid computing, etc. take this extra power and use it for several purposes.
  • Free connectivity: same situation as hardware, where you sometimes cannot chose the quality of band you’re buying (i.e. sometimes too much for just e-mail)

Digital literacy should focus not only on technology, but on all kinds of disabilities. And standards ease access… but they are standards set for standard people, so we should be careful with those so-called standards: design for all, solutions for all. Accessibility is useful for absolutely anyone, not just disabled people.

If we now go back and see the Internet as a knowledge gate, access to Internet is access to knowledge, access to free knowledge.

Standards, Accessibility, Access and Sustainable Innovation in the field of ICT (II)
Innovation and NGO Technology
Allen Gunn, Aspiration Tech

Lessons learned in NGO Tech Innovation

  • NGOs should retain control of their own technological future
  • Too few NGO stakeholders understand technology: simple is needed, cool is installed
  • NGOs feel pressure to use technology
  • Innovation should be discussed in the language of the NGO mission
  • Innovation driven by “users stories”
  • Unsustainable innovation is no innovation

NGO Innovation Checklist

  • can you articulate the benefit of an innovation in simple language?
  • does the NGO feel in control of the process?
  • are we considering the full innovation life cycle?
  • will this allow us to focus more time on mission?
  • have all stakeholders been engaged?

3 drivers of NGO Tech Innovation

  • Free and open source software
  • Free and open content
  • Open interfaces for accessing data

Project: Social Source Commons: what software is out there for nonprofits and who’s using it, how, why, what other tools are useful in conjunction with a tool, etc.

Standards, Accessibility, Access and Sustainable Innovation in the field of ICT (III)
Access to knowledge and sustainable development
Eddan Katz, Yale University and Director of the Information Society Project

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. Chinese proverb
Sell a man a fish, and he can eat for a day, teach a man to fish, and you lose a great business opportunity. Karl Marx

Intellectual property is most times about the second quote. And there is an increasing push to more and more intellectual property rights of the ones that came before the Information Society

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day.
Give a man a fishing rod, and he feeds himself and his family for as long as the rod lasts.
Help a man develop the knowledge and means to improve the fishing rod and to design and
produce new ones, and he may feed himself and his society for years to come.
WIPO Magazine

There is a fine line between fishing and just standing on the shore like an idiot. Steven Wright

Teach a man to create an artificial fish shortage, and people will eat steak. Anonymous economist

Knowledge Management through the New Technologies for the Social Action
Managing Health Information in Low Resource Settings
William Lester, EngenderHealth

www.healthtoolkit.org

Access without training makes no sense. ICT training, thus, is an important issue and, paradoxically, training by ICT means (i.e. e-learning) is a very useful tool for training in the developing world.

A big problem with e-Health is how to adapt existing tools for developing countries. Those tools are based on some western/developed assumptions that do not take place in developing countries: a fixed address, national ID card/number, (known) birth date, unique medical record, etc.

Adaptation not only means technological adaption, but also cultural adaptation: of the so many web resources, one should be able to decide which to trust/choose.

www.healthnet.org

Lester really believes — he repeats it along his speech — that mobile phones are the ones that are making and will be making the difference in developing countries.

Congress Conclusions

  • In a networked society, access is a right, specially to achieve higher rights
  • Internet gives voice to the ones that never had it
  • ICTs give more democracy, more participation
  • The importance of the hinge role of NGOs to make all agents and users/beneficiaries meet
  • Social innovation enhanced by ICTs
  • Let new technologies be designed to satisfy users and needs, not vice versa
  • We should work together in the Net and as a network

See also:

e-Stas 2007, Symposium on Technologies for Social Action (2007)

e-Stas: briefings from the symposium on technologies for social action (II)

e-STAS is a Symposium about the Technologies for the Social Action, with an international and multi-stakeholder nature, where all the agents implicated in the development and implementation of the ICT (NGO’s, Local authorities, Universities, Companies and Media) are appointed in an aim to promote, foster and adapt the use of the ICT for the social action.

Here come my notes for part II.

Tools for collaboration and social networks for the Millennium Development Goals (I)
Raoul Weiler European President of the Club of Rome and Adviser of the Wikimedia Foundation
Social Networks for Enhancing Sustainability & Democracy

Yochai Benkler The Wealth of Networks; Jay Rosen; Lawrence Lessig… social networks can improve the democratic system, by decreasing democratic deficit.

Things that are going to happen:

  • Shift from Groups and Hierarchies to networks as social organizational models (M. Castells)
  • shift from centralized to decentralized decision processes
  • increasing capabilities of individuals as tghe core driving social force
  • the new fact of networked environment is the efficacy basis

Renewal of Commons:

  • Open source and middle-ware
  • OLPC
  • Information & Knowledge (wikipedia)
  • Creative Commons
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Micro-credit (M. Yunus)
  • Social business enterprises (M. Yunus)

Tools for collaboration and social networks for the Millennium Development Goals (II)
The Vit@lis Network
Fabio Nascimbeni, Director of Vit@lis

Vit@lis mission: to gather, share, reuse all the ICT projects that have taken place around the European Commission @lis programme during the last years.

Key issues: multilinguism, intellectual property rights, starting seed capital, real reciprocity, practical policies, multidisciplinarity; sustainability and transferability, articulate information, articulate results, motivation vs. financing, ideas vs. financing, continuous political consensus.

Goal: You sometimes realize that what costed 1,000,000 $ to implant in a couple of places, can be replicated in three more places by just adding 100,000 $ more. That’s the point: to share knowledge that can be applied, replicated with increasing scale benefits.

Tools for collaboration and social networks for the Millennium Development Goals (III)
Digital inclusion strategies cases in Brazil and Bolivia
Carlos Alfonso from Red de Informações para el Tercer Sector

Digital literacy: universalization, democratization, dissemination of digital tools.

The RITS network promotes information society access by all means. Besides digital literacy, there’s an incredibly huge effort to set up hundreds of telecentres, wireless connetivity and mesh networks, community radios, etc.

At the political level, they try and (a) break the official or de facto monopolies on telecommunications and (b) change the legal environment that obstructs the development of the Information Society

Tools for collaboration and social networks for the Millennium Development Goals (IV)
2015: A better world for Joana
Esther Trujillo Jiménez. Director of the Corporate Social Responsibility Dep. of Telefónica.

There’s an increasing concern about businesses and their behaviour. More and more NGOs, indexes, reports explain how businesses behave and, in case they don’t do it “right”, some actions are organized against them such a boycotts, demonstrations, letters to CEOs, etc.

On 2002 the FRC (Corporate Reputation Froum) was created for the members to help themselves to achieve a better reputation and social behaviour. One of the projects that they are running is explaining the MDGs to the society. Joana is the character that is going to explain the society about the MDGs, how to achieve them, what have been done, etc.

See also:

e-Stas 2007, Symposium on Technologies for Social Action (2007)