IV Conference on Technology for Human Development: impressions (part I)

By Ismael Peña-López
ICTlogy (ISSN 1886-5208). Issue #15, December 2004


[1st part of 2]
[go to IV Conference on Technology for Human Development: impressions (part II)]


Last Thursday and Friday I assisted (and spoke at) at the IV Conferencia Tecnología para el Desarrollo (IV Conference on Technology for Human Development), organized by Ingeniería Sin Fronteras (Engineers Without Borders). Next follow some of my impressions. Notice that this is no summary of what was talked there, but just some concrete ideas that specially caught my attention, because I found them interesting or, simply, new.


At the opening session, Alfons Martinell (AECI) talked about Jeremy Rifkin’s concept of access he describes in the Age of Access (a short reading here: Age of Access):

In the new era, markets are making way for networks, and ownership is steadily being replaced by access.

This means we should focus on access instead on ownership also when dealing about ICTs in developing countries, which is, in my opinion, specially relevant when talking about services and content.

He recovered the idea from Zygmunt Bauman that “globalization is characterized by mobilizations” to say that, actually, development is also our problem.


Elena Acín (Fundación Chandra) mentioned two books I should, at least, have a quick look at them or at their authors’s ideas:

  • Steven Johnson: “Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities, and Software”
  • Fritjof Capra: “Hidden Connections”

all of them about networks and so ;)


Valentín Villarroel (ISF) stated 5 conclusions to keep in mind in the design of ICT for development projects:

  • have to be integral
  • “old” ICTs (TV, radio…) might useful and cheap in some cases, so don’t disdain them just because they’re “old”
  • give access to development agents (NGO’s, volunteers, local partners, etc.): they’ve got important multiplicator effects
  • give priority to access to public networks, say, already established local public networks: networking is a must, if there’s already a network, why wouldn’t you use it?
  • priority one: voice (private radio or phone) and data (e-mail, then web).Then think of enhancing and “complicating” your project


Javier Simó (EHAS) said that “sometimes population doesn’t need/ask for connectivity… but developing agents do”. This is similar to what Valentín Villarroel said when talking about multiplicator effects but one step beyond: sometimes your target is not direct beneficiaries but intermediaries, who, through efficiency, will act positively on local population. What a truth!

An then presented some experiences in developing countries that I’ll just note down here, all of them about WiFi applications to development:

  • BorgouNET, about connectivity for developing agents in Benin
  • DakNet, the “digital West Point”, similar to this, but in India
  • Jhai Foundation’s ultralow power consuming computers (thanks also to the WiFi connexion) in Laos
  • EHAS, on e-health

IV Conference on Technology for Human Development (2004)

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

Peña-López, I. (2004) “IV Conference on Technology for Human Development: impressions (part I)” In ICTlogy, #15, December 2004. Barcelona: ICTlogy.
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ICTlogy Review

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