Book Chapter: Key factors for successful ICT4D projects: How can telecoms contribute.

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ESADE‘s Institute for Social Innovation has just published a new book authored by Mar Cordobés and Beatriz Sanz, and coordinated by Sonia Navarro: TIC, desarrollo y negocios inclusivos [ICT, inclusive development and businesses].

The book deals about Information and Communication Technologies for Development (ICT4D) but, provided that ESADE is a business school, the approach heavily relies on the role of businesses in achieving this development through ICTs.

The book begins with two initial chapters on ICTs in social inclusion and the role of global businesses in development under the approach of “inclusive markets”. The second part of the book is made up by an analysis of several cases in the field of e-commerce, e-agriculture, learning and training, e-health, e-governance or online volunteering, to name a few.

Part III devotes three chapters to the conclusions and advice for policy-makers, being Part IV four more chapters written by invited contributors (amongst them, yours truly):

  • Manuel Acevedo: ICT and human development in Latin America.
  • Mireia Fernández-Ardèvol: Mobile communication and social development in Latin America.
  • Ismael Peña-López: Key factors for successful ICT4D projects: How can telecoms contribute.
  • Vanessa Frías-Martínez: Mobile phones and emergent markets in Latin America.

In what concerns my book chapter, Key factors for successful ICT4D projects: How can telecommunication businesses contribute to the advancement in ICT4D, I begin speaking about general concepts like development, the Information Society and their relationship. I go on stating that digital infrastructures do not necessarily lead to social development, being them “only” a necessary but not sufficient condition that goes in parallel with other important aspects such as a powerful industry, digital literacy, a regulatory framework, or a wide supply of digital content and services.

I end up listing what I think are the three main roles for telecoms in ICT4D:

  1. To lower down the “last” barriers of access in what refers to infrastructures: usability, accessibility and affordability.
  2. Once physical access is no more an issue, to work for utility, capacity and e-awareness. That is, to raise awareness not only on what can ICTs can be used for, but on how they are transforming our lives and creating new arrays of exclusion for those that do not skilfully use them.
  3. Last, but not least, to mind the context: ICTs are a tool and, as such, they multiply the reality they are used in. In this sense, it is very important to remind that ICTs stand for “information” and “communication” technologies, and thus the knowledge gap is a hypothesis that is increasingly been backed up with evidence.

Download the chapter:

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Ismael Peña-López (2012).
Factores clave para el éxito en los proyectos ICT4D. ¿Cómo las empresas de telecomunicaciones pueden contribuir al avance en este ámbito?“. En Cordobés, M., Sanz, B. & Navarro, S. (Coord.) , TIC, desarrollo y negocios inclusivos, Capítulo 13, 183-192. Madrid: Fundación Telefónica, Editorial Ariel.

Download the full book:

Download from the official website.

Alternate download:

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Cordobés, M., Sanz, B. & Navarro, S. (Coord.), (2012).
TIC, desarrollo y negocios inclusivos. Madrid: Fundación Telefónica, Editorial Ariel.

Book Review: Comunicación Móvil y Desarrollo Económico y Social en América Latina

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Information Technologies & International Development journal has just published its Vol 8, Issue 4 Winter 2012, a special bilingual issue featuring research on ICT4D from Latin America.

This issue features a piece written by me, the book review of Comunicación móvil y desarrollo económico y social en América Latina [Mobile communication and economic and social development in Latin America], by Mireia Fernández-Ardèvol, Hernán Galperin and Manuel Castells. As a bilingual issue, my book review has both been published in English and Spanish: please follow the links below to download the reviews.

It is worth reminding that, back in September 2011, Manuel Castells offered a presentation of the book which I attended. My notes can be read at Mobile communication and economic and social development in Latin America.

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Ismael Peña-López
Book review: Comunicación Móvil y Desarrollo Económico y Social en América Latina“. In Information Technologies & International Development, 8(4), 281-284. Cambridge: MIT Press.
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Ismael Peña-López
Reseña de Libro: Comunicación Móvil y Desarrollo Económico y Social en América Latina“. En Information Technologies & International Development, 8(4), 285-289. Cambridge: MIT Press.

Evgeny Morozov: How to control new digital intermediaries?

Notes from the Breakfast with Evgeny Morozov, organized by the Consulate General of the United States Barcelona and held at the Consulate in Barcelona, Spain, in December 5, 2012.

Evgeny Morozov is visiting Barcelona to promote the Spanish translation of The Net Delusion. The Dark Side of Internet Freedom and to introduce his upcoming book To Save Everything, Click Here: The Folly of Technological Solutionism. The US Consulate in Barcelona offered a breakfast with the press and scholars which I happily attended.

The event began with a short keynote by Evgeny Morozov followed by a brief discussion with the attendants.

Evgeny Morozov: How to control new digital intermediaries?

The story that is pictured in The Net Delusion. The Dark Side of Internet Freedom begins in 2006 and the use that advocacy organizations do of social networking sites. Despite some minor effects, it is due acknowledging that online work had not much of an impact. The power was using the same tools of activists to counter-fight protests and protesters. And, indeed, social networking sites (SNS) were being used to haunt, find and punish activists in a sort of a cat & mouse game.

With this side-effect in mind, it is quite surprising that so many people in the “West” are so enthusiastic about ICTs and SNS in particular for advocacy or dissidence if it does not seem to be working. Maybe, people are too confident on the power of media. But he Internet works differently from the Fourth Estate. More access to information, more tools to diffuse a message should work, as it did in the past. But it does not.

Besides, people on the Internet are not engaging, but increasingly getting distracted. How can the online be linked with the offline? How can the online be linked to the on-the-ground activism and protesting? Because the thing is that online protests or demonstrations are not harmful, while offline are. Non-representative or extra-institutional politics simply do not work.

With the Internet one can circumvent political parties, but who cares? How can one translate that into impact? It is just escaping politics. People should move into politics, now being smarter, more resilient, instead of escaping from them.

All the aforementioned especially applies to Eastern regions. What would happen if the Internet could be applied to solving problems in western liberal democracies?

The problem is that new intermediaries know too much about someone that they can affect or tamper one’s process of getting informed, of deliberating, engaging, etc. (e.g. Google Now). Google builds the present almost anywhere (e.g. Google Glass). What Silicon Valley is trying to fix that is actually a feature and not a bug. Silicon Valley is fixing a problem or is developing a solution looking for a problem?

Discussion

Albert Montagut: Isn’t there a need for new intermediaries? Evgeny Morozov: Predictive policing can work with big data and the appropriate algorithm. But how is this algorithm working or being designed? We do not know. Thus, we need access to code. We need to democratize the process, introducing accountability in the design without hampering private interests. And with the Internet of Things, it will not any more be about the Internet, but about the real world. Offline and online does not apply any more.

Jorge Salcedo: What about the economies of network? What about the change of values (e.g. privacy) that is taking place? Evgeny Morozov: Let us take the example of self-tracking and the quantified-self. There are reasons to use these technologies for personal usage but, at the same time, there can be interests in e.g. car or health insurance companies to access the collected data and be able to calculate probabilities on accidents or diseases. Then, we find there are incentives so that people forget about privacy. Indeed, there are times where the user cannot avoid doing “bad” things, e.g. eating junk food because you cannot afford better food. Should these people be penalized twice, for being poor and for eating what they can afford to eat? The problem with most these things is that one is not free to opt out, so people end up into adverse decisions or moral hazard.

Josep Ibáñez: The lack of awareness of people, can we include that in education? On the other hand, Silicon Valley goes faster than governments, boosted by the smell of profit. How can we gain that power back? Evgeny Morozov: To educate we need a coherent position on some topics, which we do not have. We need to make aware the consequences of technology use during use itself. We must not hide the consequences of the use of technology.

Luis Ángel Fernández Hermana: The Internet is not one single thing, but several things together, and still evolving. We have to learn to operate in a new and evolving territory that is the Internet. Can this be done or the sequences of transitions are impossible to track/learn? Can we create “knowledge networks” that allow people to act online and offline too? Evgeny Morozov: The “Internet” as an entity I believe it not. One thing is the physical network, and another one is the different “Internets” that we use as concepts to explain different things. Many things are beyond the mere “Internet” (e.g. 3D printing) but are systematically attached to this catch-all concept. We have to go beyond this stage of believing that “everything” is the “Internet” and that there is an online world in opposition to the offline world.

Ismael Peña-López: I think there is great consensus that the Internet has brought empowerment to the citizenry. But maybe we forgot a little bit about governance. Indeed, what the 15M Spanish Indignados movement seemed to show was that we were really behind in terms of governance, that the globalization and ICTs had put it up and away from the common citizen. In a sense, we could speak of a trade-off between empowerment and governance the more digital is a society. How can we balance this? How can we regain access to governance with the tools of empowerment? Evgeny Morozov: this is “the” question: how to improve governance with ICTs. But it is different to overarch technology from an improved government because technology works very different and one cannot regulate everything. We have to get empirical, not “macro-theoretical”.