ICTD2010 (VI). ICT and Development in Africa

Notes from the Information and Communication Technolgies and Development — ICTD2010, held at the Royal Holloway University of London, Egham, UK, on December 13-16, 2010. More notes on this event: ictd2010.

Paper Session: ICT and Development in Africa
Chairs: Alison Gillwald.

ICTD Research by Africans: Origins, Interests, and Impact
Shikoh Gitau, Paul Plantinga, Kathleen Diga.

If you cannot see the slides please visit <a href="http://ictlogy.net/?p=3642">http://ictlogy.net/?p=3642</a>

What are the academic contributions from Africans to the ICT4D field? Why are there so few of them? Only 9% of all articles o nICT for/and development topics come from African institutions (i.e. not African researchers living or working elsewhere.

This poses, at least, a problem in four different dimensions:

  • Representation.
  • Validity.
  • Shaping.
  • Legitimacy.

Roots of the problem: lack of conference attendance, institutional factors, access to information, publishing culture, political and language bias, strength of the research community.

These issues should be fixed, and a first proposal goes in the line of addressing the resource and institutional issues directly — advocate merit, more and different research incentives, collaboration between universities in Africa to pool resources, etc. — and to find alternative research strategies.

Discussion

Q: Is there any way to address the language issues? A: Journals or events where English is non-mandatory.

Anriette Esterhuysen: What about open access journals? A: Yes, but still open access journals lack the impact of long-established (closed) journals.

A Study of Connectivity in Millennium Villages in Africa
Jyotsna Puri, Patricia Mechael, Roxana Cosmaciuc, Daniela Sloninsky, Vijay Modi, Matt Berg, Uyen Kim Huynh, Nadi Kaonga, Seth Ohemeng-Dapaah, Maurice Baraza, Afolayan Emmanuel, Sia Lyimo

Goals: characterize users and owners of mobile phones in rural communities in Sub-Saharan Africa. Asess the potential of mobile phones in increasing income, affecting people’s lives, etc.

Methodology: quantitative and qualitative approaches. Quantitative: baseline reading on connectivity; qualitative: understand the impacts of mobile phones after network strengthening. Took place in four Millennium Village Project (MVP) sites in Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya and Tanzania.

Many of these areas depend on agricultural production, either crops or sheep/goats.

In-depth interviews were carried on in four sectors to see which were the different uses and influence on their daily lives.

Concerning small businesses, in general, the main impact was to have access to “safety nets”, in the sense of lowering (economic) risks, increase safety, security, strengthen contact with social/community networks, connection to other resources that were out of reach, etc.

Concerning the Health Sector, the main usage was not reporting health data (which was actually the less important one), but they were perceived as an improvement to access health information, to reach other health professionals, improve emergency response, or even to improve health facilities management.

In terms of Education, mobiles were used specially on the managerial site, though there was a desire to use mobiles for educational purposes. Improving management, communicating with teachers or accessing information were the main reasons to use mobiles in the educational sector. It was perceived an increase in enrolment and attendance, and improved management and teacher retention.

Policy implications: People are willing to pay for services, though it strongly depends on purchasing power and perceived usefulness of services. Thus, there is a need to foster these “useful” content and services. To increase the impact of the mobile phone, though, there is a need to improve too the quality of other infrastructures like roads and electricity, that are now hampering the maximized benefits enabled through mobile telephony. To go one step forward and impact health, education, governance, etc. there is though a need to move from mobile telephony to broadband.

Discussion.

Q: How do people pay (cash) for they mobile telephony costs, when money is not the norm in many rural Africa communities? A: That was not surveyed, but it indeed is a problem when many economic deals happen in the informal economy, and when many revenues in cash depend on the season, markets, etc. and are not stables.

Digital and Other Poverties: Exploring the Connection in Four East African Countries
Julian May

Are ICTs pro-poor? It does seem so when looking at the private consumption expenditure (PCE), where poor people consume much more than rich ones in ICT in share of expenditures [is that because of quantity? of saturation? of affordability? Not clear…].

Does the use of ICT systema change the level of poverty of households, individuals and communities? Are investments in CIT a viable option for the poor? Questionnaire survey of 1,600 households in Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda, interviewed twice: 2007/ and 2010. The sampling unit came out of a purposive selection of 20 poorest census Enumerator Areas, being that sample representative of the poorest regions in the selected countries. A 35% of the original sample was unmatched for the second round of interviews due to several reasons, but this finds within reasonable boundaries if attrition is taken into account.

Data shows that between the two periods, poverty was reduced according to well established poverty line measures. Other measures of poverty were used: income, vulnerability, assets, human capital, inclusion, services. A correlation appeared between ICTs and much less poverty in those aspects, with the exception of vulnerability and inclusion, that seem to remain equal independently of access to ICTs.

A logistic regression showed that education and PCE each increase the odds of having access to ICT threefold, and that the interaction between these variables is the dominant cause fo gains in ICT access. A multnomial regression finds that digital poverty is strongly associated with physical poverty and assets. And these associations are unchanged along time.

Gains resulting from ICT access for the most poor are twice as high as those for the non-poor.

The loss of ICT is also new source of shock to the poor. It will take a century for a poor family to call, text, tweet or friend itself out of poverty. Cost and time saving is the dominant mechanism, and managing shocks is the dominant context.

Discussion.

Q: What about the opportunity cost? A: That was not measured, and it is certainly something to be taken into account in further research. In some cases, indeed, and especially in those households just above the poverty line, ICTs might be making them poorer. Data are inconclusive, but this is something to be aware of.

Q: What about not only access to ICTs but capacity to use? A: Interviews showed that most users were highly skilled in the usage of their devices for their specific purposes, indeed being very effective in getting the things they intended to done.

Information and Communication Technologies and Development (2010)

If you need to cite this article in a formal way (i.e. for bibliographical purposes) I dare suggest:

Peña-López, I. (2010) “ICTD2010 (VI). ICT and Development in Africa” In ICTlogy, #87, December 2010. Barcelona: ICTlogy.
Retrieved month dd, yyyy from http://ictlogy.net/review/?p=3642

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1 Comment to “ICTD2010 (VI). ICT and Development in Africa” »

  1. My field experience in Latin America and Africa using ICT for health, education and government agrees with those conclusions on the use of mobile phones in rural communities in Sub-Saharan Africa. I think these uses are related to information needs not to the kind of available technology, because we never used mobile phones but broadband and narrowband Internet access.

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