ICT4HD. Round Table. What is the role of private companies on Research in ICT4D?

Notes from the I International Workshop on Research in ICT for Human Development, at the Universidad Rey Juan Carlos, and held in Fuenlabrada, Spain, on May 13th and 14th, 2010. More notes on this event: ict4hd10.

Round Table. What is the role of private companies on Research in ICT4D?

Vanessa Frías-Martínez, Telefónica I+D

If you cannot see the slides please visit <a href="http://ictlogy.net/?p=3379">http://ictlogy.net/?p=3379</a>

Jorge Lang, Intel Iberia

If you cannot see the slides please visit <a href="http://ictlogy.net/?p=3379">http://ictlogy.net/?p=3379</a>

Miriam Catalán de Domingo, Thales Alenia Space

If you cannot see the slides please visit <a href="http://ictlogy.net/?p=3379">http://ictlogy.net/?p=3379</a>

Santiago Porto, External Consultant in Business and Development at AECID and Director of IMSD Master

Javier Guillén Álvarez, Albentia Systems

[I could not attend this session… but at least I got the slides ;) ]

I International Workshop on Research in ICT for Human Development (2010)

ICT4HD. Eric Brewer: Contributions of Technical Research on ICT4D

Notes from the I International Workshop on Research in ICT for Human Development, at the Universidad Rey Juan Carlos, and held in Fuenlabrada, Spain, on May 13th and 14th, 2010. More notes on this event: ict4hd10.

Eric Brewer: Contributions of Technical Research on ICT4D

Traditional development has a very top-down approach, with international agencies funding projects, often with sting and debt attached, difficult to manage (e.g. corruption) and usually with little role for high technology. This just does not fit ICT4D projects’ necessities and way of proceeding.

Cellphones’ evolution was very different: driven by bottom-up demand, because of the ease of use (voice), a dire need for communications (work, remittances…).

Remittances to Africa are circa US$40B and imply much more money than the one involved in aid. This should give an idea about the power of microloans. The Grameen Bank is owned entirely by the poor and has loaned more than US$3.9B. It is mainly used for very short run (up to 6 months) loans, aimed for instance at buying a goat that will pay back the loan with its milk, or paying for seeds that will pay back the loan once harvested. Loans are chained one to the next one and create an important funding and cash flow.

Grameen Telecom allows people to buy phones and rent them to their neighbours. The project covers 50,000-68,000 villages and 60M. The most important thing is that it scales and that the owner (the ‘phone lady’) is indeed interested in the maintenance of the equipment and the sustainability of the system.

Another example: I.T.Mountain.BPO for medical transcription: voice in, text out for medical issues.

The real digital divide is between urban and rural areas: for instance, the mobile phone is an urban phenomenon, as many rural areas have no cellular coverage.

We need to bring connectivity to rural areas, and here is where WiFi comes to the rescue.

Rural connectivity

It has already been demonstrated that the problem is not distance, but line of sight: you can send a signal as far as you can (literally) see. We need to find natural towers (e.g. mountains, hills) to be able to see further.

Aravind Eye Hospital Network: doctors stay at the hospital, patients stay at their homes. 4-5Mb/s per link, video-conferencing — high quality and video are important because the interview really matter —, e-mail, training. Achieved 6,000 consultations/month, over 160,000 patients so far, centers are cash-flow positive, over 30,000 patients have recovered sight, growing to 50 centres covering 2.5M people and possibility to replicate in other cities.

Smart phones

Computers that, nevertheless, are small, portable, have self-contained power, easy to use, culturally accepted…

SmartPhone diagnostic device that, connected to the audio jack (and phones are good at converting analogue signals into digital ones), can provide measurements on heart rate, respiratory rate, temperature, blood oxygen, ECG, fetal heart rate or even blood pressure. The result is a much much cheaper and easy to use diagnostic device. The phone can either convert the raw data into readings of forward them through the GSM network.

CellScope: Cellphone Microscope = (phone) camera + big lens. Its use can be to diagnose malaria after a blood sample is put under the cellscope.

m-Learning: teach English via smartphones and by using educational games. Games have to be based on traditional local games to provide the learner with a familiar and thus understandable context.

If you cannot see the slides please visit <a href="http://ictlogy.net/?p=3375">http://ictlogy.net/?p=3375</a>

Discussion

Fernando Balducci: we definitely have to avoid the confusion between tele-diagnosis and self-diagnosis, which is a hazard we might run into when such tools become more and more present in end-users’ hands.

Javier Simó: concurrence or cooperation? A: concurrence, but informed concurrence. Every place is different, so solutions cannot be replicated in a strictly straightforward way. And for being informed, a certain degree of cooperation is required.

Q: what about call centres? A: a call center requires connectivity, low power, simple infrastructures. So call centres can be a good way to start to create employment in rural areas. But we should be beyond that (including going beyond software development centres).

David Chávez: smartphone or cloud computing? A: it is very likely that computing power of the phone will increase at a faster path than mobile broadband will. Thus why latest developments have gone into the direction of making the phone perform more work than instead sending to and fro data to “computing centres” to perform these tasks.

Vanessa Frías: how is assessment performed in smartphones? A: within the traditional education system, this kind of assessment is very difficult, as it often implies interaction, synchronous meetings, etc. This is why vocational programmes generally work better than for-credit educational programmes. Indeed, there are other security- and privacy-related issues that are still difficult to handle in m-learning.

I International Workshop on Research in ICT for Human Development (2010)

ICT4HD. Ramon Roca: Guifi.net: Success Case of Participative Communications Networks

Notes from the I International Workshop on Research in ICT for Human Development, at the Universidad Rey Juan Carlos, and held in Fuenlabrada, Spain, on May 13th and 14th, 2010. More notes on this event: ict4hd10.

Ramon Roca: Guifi.net: Success Case of Participative Communications Networks

A different model based on:

  • Social inclusion and geographic equilibrium;
  • Return of investment not based on commercial margins;
  • Benefit from network structures.

Guifi.net is a network of networks according to the “XOLN” (Xarxa Oberta Lliure i Neutra: Open, Free and Neutral Network) commons participated by individuals or institutions; where participations add up, interconnecting and creating an IP traffic public network.
It is important to stress the fact that the network is a commons: anyone has a predominant position in the network despite the fact that some people can contribute with more resources to it: thus, the community avoids that some users implicitly had more power than others. A foundation manages the network, which is open, free, neutral and collectively “owned”.

Actual coverage/reach of Guifi.net: http://guifi.net/maps. +9,600 operative nodes; +14,000 Km of network; up to 10-15% households in some areas.

Browse the slides to see how it works [11] and the software applications included [12]:

If you cannot see the slides please visit <a href="http://ictlogy.net/?p=3374">http://ictlogy.net/?p=3374</a>

Some outcomes of the public network: though the penetration in e.g. Osona (a rural area in Catalonia, where Guifi.net is more present) is lower than the European and Spanish averages, the number of people that accessed the Internet from home is much higher than the European and Spanish averages, at much of these results can be directly attributed to the penetration of wireless networks through Guifi.net membership. This seriously challenges the e-empowerment model based in subsidising private companies instead of local communities.

I International Workshop on Research in ICT for Human Development (2010)

ICT4HD. Christopher Westrup: Contribution of Social Research on ICT4D

Notes from the I International Workshop on Research in ICT for Human Development, at the Universidad Rey Juan Carlos, and held in Fuenlabrada, Spain, on May 13th and 14th, 2010. More notes on this event: ict4hd10.

Christopher Westrup: Contribution of Social Research on ICT4D

Optimism as to the scope of ICT4D:

  • Ending of isolation;
  • social and political mobilization and participation;
  • increased collaboration;
  • focus on the poorest communities;
  • pressure for collective global action;

Some “divisions”: scholars vs. practitioners; development experts vs. ICT tool developers. It nevertheless seems that the “social” part of technologies is increasing, as we have been witnessing since the appearance of the Web 2.0 and, most especially, since the raise of social networking sites and social media in general.

Key issues:

  • Understanding the link between ICTs and Development;
  • Understanding the social influence, crucially important to the trajectory of any technology-based project
  • ICT facilitated collaboration;
  • Local adaptation;
  • Focus on the plight of marginalised groups.

Perspectives of social sciences in ICT4D:

  • What is happening: taking a God’s eye view of the field.
  • What is the framework: framing social contributions, what we find and how we can intervene: transfer and diffusion discourse vs. ICT as the product of socially embedded action (micro approach).
  • How can an impact be made: a transformative discourse: Information Systems innovation as a product of and produces change in the social, political and economic conditions of developing countries (micro approach).

Methods

  • Should take both macro and micro together and focus on how both come together in the process of development.
  • Designing technology is also designing the social, as technologies are designed with contexts in mind.
  • Technologies are appropriated and used sometimes in unexpected ways, implementation can be highly innovative. We need to look very carefully at how projects are implemented. The processes are crucial.
  • Any action is about redistributing resources, about gainers and losers. ICT4D engages in a redistribution of resources and development can be understood as interacting processes of dependence and independence.

Successful case: M-Pesa

M-Pesa ad in Kenya about mobile banking:

If you cannot see the video please visit <a href="http://ictlogy.net/?p=3373">http://ictlogy.net/?p=3373</a>

Department for International Development video about M-Pesa:

If you cannot see the video please visit <a href="http://ictlogy.net/?p=3373">http://ictlogy.net/?p=3373</a>

M-Pesa has been hugely successful and is still growing. What has been its “process” in terms of and ICT4D (research) project?

People on the ground saw that mobile phones were being used to send credit between people, and rethought the whole concept of a mobile phone into a mobile banking service.

In Tanzania, notwithstanding, the system has not been as successful. Why? Market share of Safaricom, the operator: from 80% in Kenya to 45% in Tanzania. In Kenya, many people and well organized, which helped in training them about the new system. Not the same thing in Tanzania. In Kenya it has had very tolerant regulation from the market, as it does not operate under the assumption that it is a bank.

  • Macro and micro approach: to make a change, but looking at what was happening.
  • People where using the technology in their own way.
  • People appropriated the new technology producing a very innovative way of doing things.
  • We cannot tell exactly about the redistribution outcomes and the (new) processes of dependence and independence, but there have certainly been some as now money transactions are controlled/centralized by new actors.

Conclusions

  • Understanding the social implications is crucial to assess the impact of ICTs.
  • The social and the technical are interlinked.
  • Technologies are not neutral.
  • There always is a redistribution of resources.
If you cannot see the slides please visit <a href="http://ictlogy.net/?p=3373">http://ictlogy.net/?p=3373</a>

Discussion

Q: Is there any tool in the social sciences toolbox to assess the “non-neutrality” of a specific technology and its implications before it being applied? A: It would be great to have it, but it most likely does not exist. Methodologies are usually used not to assess but to provide a “scientific background” that what we intended to do is backed by evidence.

Q: Would a private company have invested in a project like M-Pesa without public money behind? How can we justify public money (DFID’s) put into a private company (Safaricom/Vodafone)? A: It was believed that a way to bring change could be by changing the market, by changing commercial relationships and the market status quo. So, the outcome is also benefiting private companies, the lion’s share goes to the community at large.

Ismael Peña-López: Action is about redistributing resources or about creating more wealth by making more resources available? Why should there always be a trade-off (of resources, power, etc.) that implies redistribution? A: Agreed that it should not necessarily be a zero-sum game, and it is right to say that resources are not fix and can be increased, but it is also true that power (that controls these resources) actually is redistributed by our direct action on the resources. Thus, even if resources could be grown, power (and, hence, resources indirectly) will definitely suffer a redistribution [I really loved this answer, which I fully share].

See also

I International Workshop on Research in ICT for Human Development (2010)

ICT4HD. Ermanno Pietrosémoli: The ICTP-UNESCO Wireless Training Kit

Notes from the I International Workshop on Research in ICT for Human Development, at the Universidad Rey Juan Carlos, and held in Fuenlabrada, Spain, on May 13th and 14th, 2010. More notes on this event: ict4hd10.

Ermanno Pietrosémoli: The ICTP-UNESCO Wireless Training Kit

The ICTP-UNESCO Wireless Training Kit has been approved by the International Telecommunication Union and it is aimed at training people in developing countries so that they can install and manage wireless technologies. It is developed by Rob Flickenger, Carlo Fonda, Marco Zennaro, Ermanno Pietrosémoli and S.M. Radicella.

Advantages of wireless networks:

  • Cost-effective ways to provide connectivity where other usual technologies — e.g. fibre — are difficult to deploy.
  • Operate in a wave spectrum that is free in most countries.
  • Interference issues are less severe in rural areas, where there actually is less supply of telecommunication solutions.

WiFi was designed for short distances,, but with some firmware modifications, it can be used in longer distances, achieving a maximum of 382 km.

One of the main advantages of WiFi-based technologies is that they can be managed and maintained by the local communities themselves.

The training kit includes all the devices and materials needed to run a training workshop on wireless networks. It also includes electronic books, support materials (slides, guides, exercises), WiFi devices, antennas and other equipment to run a full training course.

The cost of the kit was initially 1,000€, but all the “software” (including learning materials) is freely available on the net. And the hardware can be built and/or distributed by many agents, hence the cost can even be reduced.

If you cannot see the slides please visit <a href="http://ictlogy.net/?p=3372">http://ictlogy.net/?p=3372</a>

Related initiatives:

  • Repository with open materials related to training on wireless networks: WirelessU.org.
  • Book: Flickenger, R., Aichele, C. E., Fonda, C., Forster, J., Howard, I., Krag, T. & Zennaro, M. (2006). Wireless Networking in the Developing World. Morrisville: Limehouse Book Sprint Team.

Discussion

Valentín Villarroel: who is the toolkit aimed at? Ermanno Pietrosémoli: especially trainers of trainers. On the other hand, it is also aimed at communities that already have some basic structure and can dedicate a person to these matters.

I International Workshop on Research in ICT for Human Development (2010)

ICT4HD. Valentín Villarroel: Conclusions of the first day

Notes from the I International Workshop on Research in ICT for Human Development, at the Universidad Rey Juan Carlos, and held in Fuenlabrada, Spain, on May 13th and 14th, 2010. More notes on this event: ict4hd10.

Valentín Villarroel: Conclusions of the first day

  • Human development is (social) innovation. Research is necessary for human development.
  • Multidisciplinary and multiactoral approaches, importance of team- and network.
  • What disciplines converge in ITC4D?
  • Practitioners might not follow a pure scientific methodology, but they are also creating (scientific) knowledge which should be worth taking into account.
  • Lack of strategies in universities and governments.
  • There are (still) few people working in the field of ICT4D but there are indeed some of them.
  • Priorities in development should lead research priorities in ICT4D.
  • There is not an ICT4D priority in Latin America.
  • Research incentives hurt research in ICT4D.
  • We should avoid making up technological solutions and, afterwards, go and quest for problems that fit into those solutions.
  • Avoid solving specific problems with huge deployments.

Some areas of ICT4D research:

  • Telecommunication (hard) and information (soft) systems.
  • Technological change management and implementation models.
  • Innovation and outreach of the ICT sector.
  • Facilitators, legal framework, policies.
If you cannot see the slides please visit <a href="http://ictlogy.net/?p=3371">http://ictlogy.net/?p=3371</a>

I International Workshop on Research in ICT for Human Development (2010)