ICTD2010 (XIV). From ICT to Impact?

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: From ICT to Impact?

The Bank Account is not Enough: Examining Strategies for Financial Inclusion in India
Olga Morawczynski, David Hutchful, Nimmy Rangaswamy, Edward Cutrell

ICTs have been very successful at extending financial and transactional services.

NREGA is an Idian programme that guarantees 100 days of paid work, a payment that requires bank accounts, and which has raised the demand for them, and thus the need to manage them.

Notwithstanding, there is low usage of bank accounts, where 3/4 of them have almost no money and 1/5 are dormant / show no periodical movements.

Why is it so? A survey was performed to find the financial habits, the financial literacy and the technology-related issues with bank usage.

Usage was high among the high and middle earning groups. These informants exhibited the highest levels of financial literacy (while others e.g. were afraid of losing their money if put in the bank). They also used a more diverse set of financial instruments.

Usage was low among the low earning and NREGA dependent groups. These informants exhibited the lower levels of financial literacy. They also used a less diverse set of financial instruments.

Usage was higher among low earning informants who knew both services were available. These informants also had a more diverse portfolio than those who only knew about the disbursement service.


Ismael Peña-López: did you control for the way people got their income (in kind, cash, transfer…)? A: In a first interview, people that had no interest (personal or objective) in banking were detected and separated from the rest of the interviewees. This project is aimed at people that potentially could benefit from a more intensive use of banking according to their profiles. Amongts those, though, there did not seem to be a major difference between the ways of getting the income and financial literacy, but on the exposure to financial information.

Understanding the Links Between ICT skills Training and Employability: An Analytical Framework
Maria Garrido, Joe Sullivan, Andrew Gordon

Understand the relationship between basic ICT skills training and employability; map the different roles that NGOs play in workforce development; build an analytical framework.

For 4 years 10 studies have been performed in 30 countries on a variety of NGO ICT training programmes.

Enter the employability factor: Employability helps us understand dynamic beyond jobs, the fact that you have greater skills may not translate into a job.

Narrowing the topic to immigrant women, ICT training and employability in the European Union. Women are migrating in greater numbers for the purpose of finding jobs. They account for more than 50% of the immigrant population in most European countries. They have double disadvantage in the labour market: as women and as migrants. Computer literacy is one of the assets that may make a change.

Interviews with women that had and had not taken part of ICT training in European NGOs. NGO traning matters: digital competences for immigrant women who did not participate in NGO training are lower. ICT training can encourage further training in other skills. Immigrant women with advanced skills are less likely to be unemployed, though no correlation between ICT skill level and employment status for women with non, basic or intermediate skills. The social space created b the training helped them to diversify their social networks.

Barriers: country of origin is a strong determinant of future sector of employment in host country, well above educational level. It is very difficult to get out of the socio-economic circle that the immigrant lands on when hitting the host country.

ICT skills training en employability framework:

  • NGO factors: organizational characteristics; training programme characteristics.
  • Personal factors: sense of self; workplace readiness; social networks.
  • Environmental factors: labour market; public policy; social dynamics.


  • From employment to employability.
  • The role of NGOs in workforce employment.
  • Three roles of ICT skills training: improves technical skills; catalyses the development of non-technical social and cultural skills.

Information and Communication Technologies and Development (2010)

ICTD2010 (XIII). Rarer Themes in Education

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: Rarer Themes in Education

Beyond Strict Illiteracy: Abstracted Learning Among Low-Literate Users
Indrani Medhi, S. Raghu Menon, Edward Cutrell, Kentaro Toyama

Text-free user interfaces increase the success of use for a given amount of time training. What else is required for non-literate uses to reach the usage level of ICTs of literate users?

Videos have no text and thus do not require reading while providing text-like information.

In order to to perform an experiment, a community of female domestic helpers were chosen, with very low literacy levels, and to test whether videos on how to use a modern vacuum cleaner had any impact in the acquisition of skills by these illiterate women. Will users benefit from diversified examples as a way to learn abstract concepts?

Variants analysed were whether the users was or was not literate, and whether the user was or was not familiar with (a) the vacuum cleaner and (b) a specific vacuum cleaner. And videos included also these variables.

Diversified video (e.g. showing more than one type of vacuum cleaner) proved to be helping literate users, but not illiterate ones.

Beyond strict illiteracy, other aspects affected comprehension of video content: cognitive skills, social standing, intimidation by technology, visual organization, efficient processing of information, language taks, self-efficacy, etc. Even for tasks that do not require reading at all and where there is the context, there seem to be cognitive barriers that impede use in non-literate users.


Q: Won’t literate people have cognitive barriers too? A: Agreed. But technology and treatment of information imply a fool range of cognitive barriers that go from technological illiteracy to abstract thinking, etc.

Technology, Teachers, and Training: Combining Theory with Macedonia’s Experience
Laura Hosman, Maja Cvetanoska

Some factors behind the ‘computers in the classroom’ concept: technology changes but human nature does not; computers in the classroom… mission accomplished; major struggle in ICT4ED projects; Education and Psychology scholars theorising and writing; policy makers not listening… and as a result, teachers blamed over and over for tech project failures. Maybe the real problem is not acknowledging that innovation is a years-long process of change, not a one-time event; that teachers are key change agents but are often not treated accordingly; and that teachers need ongoing support and must be stakeholders in the innovation-adoption process.

Now, the issue of computers in the classroom has spread from developed to developing countries, with the added problem that (a) resources in developing countries are even more scarce but, notwithstanding (b) computers in the classroom are being introduced at an imprecedented speed and level.

Macedonia Connects is a USAID-led initiative to provide one computer lab per school in Macedonia, after the country succeeded at breaking the telecom monopoly and bringing affordable broadband wireless to the entire country. Prior to the technology deployment, all teachers were provided with technology and methodology training.

As most teachers’ concerns advance predictably, most of them can be addressed as they arise by leaders/change facilitators.

Key findings:

  • 65% have not used a computer in class in previous two months
  • 86% believe that the class is the place where to learn to use a computer.
  • 72% use ICT for preparing teaching materials and tests.
  • 51% spend a few hours a day with a computer.
  • 30% use ICT for working with students.

Recommendations: set up a yearly ICT plan; involve teachers as stakeholders; recognize that change is a years-long process; don’t press for overnight success; support teachers in managing change.

SPRING: Speech and PRonunciation ImprovemeNt through Games, for Hispanic Children
Anuj Tewari, Nitesh Goyal, Matthew K. Chan, Tina Yau, John Canny and Ulrik Schroeder

MILLEE project: Mobile and immersive learning for literacy in emerging economies.

Pilot project in a school in California targeted to the Hispanic students (20 in total) with low English skills. Instead of mobile phones, it was decided that laptops would be used instead.

Challenges faced were key problems with English, issues with reading and writing, resistance to learning English, etc.

To do so, two games were designed (Zorro, based on Mario, and Voz.Guitar, based on Guitar Player) according to the needs and profiles of the students (that had previously been analysed). Movements required speech to be commanded and a speech recognizer was embedded so to tell whether the student was using the correct pronunciation.

two metrics were gathered: acoustic score gain percentages (measuring the improvement in the pronunciation of correct words) and word gain (correctly pronounced words). Score Acoustic and Word gains improved a little bit (though significantly) between control and treatment group.

Gender and pre-existing knowledge didn’t seem to play a role or be a factor.


Ismael Peña-López: why pronunciation of English words was in English standards and not Spanish standards? Why (for surprise) put ‘ser-prize’ instead or ‘sur-prais’, which would have been the Spanish transcription? A: Some of the transcriptions were added ex-post and used the acknowledge standard. But, certainly, in future editions, there is a need to adapt the transcriptions to the linguistic realities of the target community.

Q: What was the teacher proficiency in English pronunciation? Q: The project was performed in a public classroom in California and had extended English teaching experience.

Information and Communication Technologies and Development (2010)

ICTD2010 (XII). Kits and Systems

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: Kits and Systems

Robit: An Extensible Auction-based Market Platform for Challenged Environments
Azarias Reda, Quang Duong, Timur Alperovich, Brian Noble, Yidnekachew Haile

There is a need for an efficient mechanism for trading services, goods, and that is somewhat independent on your personal relationship with an Internet kiosk or the mere accessibility to a kiosk.

Robit leverages on Sulula kiosks to provide the end user with valuable data that can be accessed via SMS. Simple SMS based operations are also possible to enable interactivity with the auction application. Voice is included too as a feature.

Robit does not provide a payment system and transactions happen offline.

Open Data Kit: Tools to Build Information Services for Developing Regions
Carl Hartung, Yaw Anokwa, Waylon Brunette, Adam Lerer, Clint Tseng, Gaetano Borriello

Open Data Kit (ODK) is an open-source suite of tools that helps organizations author, field, and manage mobile data collection solutions. A good example on an intensive data collection procedure is a patient’s health record, but there are many others in transportation, weather reporting, etc.

Paper-based practice in low-income countries limits the scale, complexity and impact of interventions. Indeed, there is a lag between data being collected and actionable information. On the other hand, important features are lost when using basic technology.

ODK allows for an easy creation of forms by just dragging and dropping objects on the screen. At the Build stage, forms are stored as XForms, that describe the form logic and data schema.

The form can be used on an Adroid smartphone (can run too on JavaRosa) at the Collect stage to gather the desired data, including rich data like sound and video.

At Aggregate the codebase runs locally and in the cloud, can use information stored in XForms as a database, can store of forward data to external systems (e.g. Google Maps or OpenMRS).


Q: What about security and sensitive data? A: This is definitely a topic that is being addressed and that still needs some work to be done.

Information and Communication Technologies and Development (2010)

ICTD2010 (XI). Technology Sharing in Education

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: Technology Sharing in Education

MetaMouse: Improving Multi-user Sharing of Existing Educational Applications
Kurtis Heimerl, Janani Vasudev, Kelly G. Buchanan, Tapan Parikh, Eric Brewer

We use to design for individual users, but in disadvantaged regions, most computers are shared by several students. This ends up with a single student e.g. controlling the mouse. And it you do not control/use the mouse, the problem is not only that you cannot participate, but that you end up not learning (and not only not learning how to use the mouse).

The solutions so far just allow for multiple mice to be used, but they have problems with most games and educational material.

MetaMouse uses multiple cursors controlled by multiple mice and based on the key idea of “location-voting”: it is assumed that users agree on a button / option on the screen if their cursors are in the same location, thus requiring all (consensus) or most (majority) users to agree.

An evaluation was made with three scenarios: single mouse, MetaMouse based on consensus, and MetaMouse based on majority. Findings show that the majority variant enables laggard students to participate much more than with the traditional mouse variant and a little bit more indeed than with consensus.

MetaMouse, though, created discussion from “come to this” to “why this”, thus making everyone more involved. On the other hand, MetaMouse actively encouraged students to teach their peers. There was less fighting, more participation or equality.


Q: What happened with gender dynamics after the experiment? A: There was no evaluation on that. Nevertheless, the experiment was participated by extremely dominant girls too, so levelling might have worked both ways.

Evaluating an Adaptive Multi-User Educational Tool for Low-Resource Environments
Emma Brunskill, Sunil Garg, Clint Tseng, Joyojeet Pal, Leah Findlater

Help teachers provide quality education.

Work on interfaces & HCI proved that it could improve interactions using multiple inputs.

With MultiLearn System each students works on a different exercise using their own numeric keypad. Students compete to be the first to answer 12 questions correctly.

How to keep everyone engaged? How to prevent one student domination the session?

MultiLearn+ personalized the problem selection, including a dynamic selection of the problems according to the (right or wrong) answers provided by the student.

3 scenarios were then compared for analysis: control (group spelling computer game), MultiLearn (non-adaptive grup math game) and MultiLearn+ (adaptive grup math game).

The adaptive condition showed that game dominance was reduced. Reducing dominance is a side benefit of a feature designed to improve educational effectiveness. on the other hand, there was no significant effect of adaptivity or math software over control condition, though there was a good correlation on student performance. In summary, adaptive, multi-user software has potential to help improve education.

Collage: A Presentation Tool for School Teachers
Saurabh Panjwani, Aakar Gupta, Navkar Samdaria, Edward Cutrell, Kentaro Toyama

ICTs alone cannot impact learning by much; engaging teachers is necessary. On the other hand, ICTs can help good teachers teach better. How can software be designed to facilitate classroom instruction via a digital projector? What’s a good presentation software for teachers?

PowerPoint and variants were never designed for teaching, but for general-purpose presentations (though it is used by +6M teachers worldwide). Document cameras are a digital substitute for overhead projectors (OHP), but they can not be programmed and they are quite costly.

Collage aims at being specifically designed for teaching in schools.

A first analysis of urban public and private schools in India showed that teachers used intensively paper and the blackboard, they had a strong desire to use PCs for teaching and, despite the desire,usage was low, especially because of lack of tools to prepare content.

Collage features: textbook page interactions (zoom, highlight, overlay), inking (through graphics pad), scratch space.

Collage has few features, but it is very easy to use and even allows real time authoring. Indeed, textbook scans proved to be highly beneficial, especially because of a better recall of visual information.

Key takeaways:

  • Using paper in digital presentations is valuable. Both teachers and students seem to benefit.
  • Teachers like to author content in real time. Collage caters to this liking.
  • Deployment of Collage still a challenges. Content assembly takes time, and using it has the associated hardware cost of the PC and the projector.

Information and Communication Technologies and Development (2010)

ICTD2010 (X). Geoff Walsham: Development Informatics in a Changing World

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.

Keynote Speech: Geoff Walsham
Development Informatics in a Changing World

Main journals in Information Systems and Development:

The focus on the ‘development’ part in ICTD: Need to distinguish research on ICT in developing countries and research on ICT for development. The ‘for development’ part is whehter ICT help, contribute or are explicitly aimed at achieving development.

Need to theorise the meaning of ‘development’: what is development? It is not only about basic needs, although they matter. And it is nor about about technology as a silver bullet: we tend to celebrate what’s new.

It is good to keep ICT4D multidisciplinary, in part because it forces us to define what we are doing, and define it in terms that are understandable for people of all disciplines. And this includes defining what we understand by development.

Multidisciplinarity is also about drawing theory from multiple disciplines, carry out joint research studies. One of the problems, though, is that publishing still is discipline-focused.

Above all, we need strategic development focus, policy-oriented research. Strategy should be the starting point, and then embed in it whatever technology is needed to make it possible. A strategic approach is broader, more comprehensive, and thus more likely to make a sustainable, bigger impact, a real change. Strategy, of course, must include the communities it is aimed to.

Strategic research is about building infrastructures (e.g. HISP on health), promoting social justice (e.g. SMS and mobile activsim), supporting economic activity for the poor (e.g. M-PESA), providing access to global markets and resources (e.g. Jordan’s approach to ICT-led development), new IT-enabled models (e.g. virtual economies), etc.

An aspect that deserves special attention is the gender issue. Though there is strong evidence that mobiles ’empower’ women in a number of ways (e.g. enabling economic activity), old male-dominated hierarchies persist and the use of mobiles for economic activity does not necessarily enhance women’s status in the community.


Q: designing for people with abilities is actually designing for everyone, not only disabled people but people with low literacy or cultural levels, etc. A: Agreed.

Ismael Peña-López: isn’t ICT-led development yet another iteration of what happened with oil in Arabic countries, or coffee in Latin America, where few get rich and multiplier effects upon the rest of the economi are very little? A: agreed. But, just because of that, and because many countries are notwithstanding promoting such policies, this is a topic that needs being researched in the field of ICT4D.

More info

Information and Communication Technologies and Development (2010)

ICTD2010 (IX). Keynote Speech: Tim Berners-Lee

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.

Keynote Speech: Tim Berners-Lee

The Web is about people — enabled by technology —, that create networks by linking. Linking is a conscious act that can be analysed: the Web Science Trust is aimed at scientifically analysing how the Web is build, what are the consequences of this or that link, how are people related by means of linked content.

Getting the Internet is not only about getting connected, but about being potentially able to access all good things of life.

It is very important to get people do things locally. It is not about localizing foreign content, of importing services… it is about people doing things home, about people blogging, chatting, being themselves on the Net and doing things. Development starts with local capacity. It is about local ownership, low cost bandwidth and low bandwidth-demanding communications, about local content again and again.

If open data are good for developed countries, why is there no more people pushing for open data in developing countries? It is in developing countries, with usually lower quality democracies, where transparency and accountability are more required. And this includes several activities that developed countries’ governments and international organizations perform in developing countries too.

Open data is about:

  • Put the data on the website.
  • Data is structured and is machine readable.
  • Open format and metadata: XML, RDF.
  • Data is linkable, with a unique resource identifier.
  • Link your data to provide context.

Indeed, open standards are key not only for government data, but for many other data like education and all ICT-enabled learning, or all business solutions, especially in developing countries where costs of ownership and costs of technological change may be much higher than in more competitive economies.

We still think of mobile phones as mainly voice devices. Data (data plans) are an add-on, you have to ask for it and, of course, pay extra for it. Notwithstanding, having data on the phone is a huge leap forward. Being able to transmit data, easily, quickly, ubiquitously should be the norm, not the exception. And, in fact, this has become technically possible at derisory costs in comparison with the past. Freeing (actuallly) low bandwidth Internet access would trigger the demand without putting at stake the sustainability of the network or of the Internet Service Providers. Mobile data plans should be free for everyone.

And what is incredible in this field is how everything integrates. And when it comes to the Internet, all countries are developing countries.


Q: Major shift in the Web in the following years? A: Mobility and much more data. The Web as a platform will definitely beat desktop/laptop computing power.

Q: What are the limits of Open Government? Wikileaks? A: Open data is actually data that the government has decided to make public. Then, we have to differentiate between transparency and privacy and (required) secrecy or stealing data. How do we define those concepts and what are their boundaries that is a difficult to answer question. Probably there’s both the need for secrecy and the need for a whistleblower.

Salma Abbasi: who’s to decide what is or what is not to be disclosed on the Net? Who’s to rate the content on the Net? A: Everyone should be able to rate the content they find on the Net. On the other hand, you can hire someone/some service to do that for you. So the default should be “all available” and let each one decide what is for them or for their children.

Douglas Namale of Map Kibera asking question of Tim Berners-Lee on internet content & governance

Ugo Vallauri: What is the future of the mobile web, beyond what we just see now in most mobiles? Stéphane Boyera: We are seing, at the same time, a boost of a mobile Internet and a tethering of the Internet in mobile apps and mobile app stores (e.g. iPhone apps). Berners-Lee: the thing is that the backbone is not closed, tethering is not mandatory. Open standards will allow anyone, any device to use specific data or a specific application. So, we have to encourage an open mobile web.

Richard Heeks: openness, transparency and accountability… where is the responsibility to be put? Stéphane Boyera: we have to begin with openness first, open nets is the first step. This will disclose lots of possibilities for people to perform actions upon those open data. Tim Berners-Lee: The value of presenting data open itself is very high. And the possibility to mash them up is incredibly interesting.

Q: What is the future of the Web with concepts like the Internet of things, augmented reality, the semantic web, etc.? A: The future is linked data. It does not seem that it will happen outside of the web with new languages different from the markup languages (or their evolutions) that we have now. So the web may change radically, but the essence of linked data will remain.

More information

Tim Berners-Lee: The 5 Stars of Open Linked Data.

Tim Unwin’s photos of the keynote.

Information and Communication Technologies and Development (2010)