Getting ICTs back on the agenda: five suggestions

Amy Mahan points me to A word to the G8, an article at about the recent meeting of the UK high level policy forum Africa after the African Commission: What priorities for the German G8.

Richard Heeks took part of the forum and wrote a paper suggesting five ways to get ICTs back on the agenda [of the G8]:

1. Put ICTs back on the G8 agenda, as part of a recognition of science and technology’s role in African development.

Heeks asks for openness at all levels. I fully agree: free software, open science, open access journals, open educational resources, etc. seem to me an optimum way to foster endogenous development and south-south cooperation. Indeed, I think this is actually a good way to revert old cooperation trends and strategies (more charity-like) and enter a new path towards empowerment through capacity building.

2. Commit to support at global and national levels for Open Digital Economies that remove the legal and infrastructural barriers to African participation in the digital economy.

And, in my opinion, those barriers will be easier to remove if we shifted from “push” to “pull” strategies, by trying to activate the demand for digital content and services. Sustainability (and the entrepreneurs’ interest) is based on this.

3. Initiate a MOT Force – a global collaborative Mobile Opportunities Task Force to harness the development potential of mobile devices.

4. Support a Digital Enterprise Initiative for Africa that would incubate new enterprises, and kickstart the developmental use of outsourcing.

Richard Heeks has already written about offshoring to developing countries. Even if I understand his points, I really doubt any politician would even consider his approach: intellectual property — and programming has plenty of it — is a tricky issue, and even if offshoring just coding (not design) would lock inside one’s country the added value part, reverse engineering and, thus, a shift in the added value part would immediately follow. I think that international collaboration/cooperation is a must, but I still do not know if offshoring is the way. On the other hand, foreign investment, i.e. in the shape of microloans, is more appealing to me: there’s a direct return for the investor, and a benefit (and profit) for the developing country, both as gaining access to seed capital and, why not, also to knowledge tied to some procedures to be followed in order to be eligible in the call for projects.

5. Support capacity-building for African ICT-based innovation.

I believe that Heeks puts little stress on this point and, to me, is the most important one. He actually states African nations will not become world leaders in fundamental computer
and telecommunications science R&D. But, with G8 support, they can become leaders in the
development of innovative business and social applications
. Well, if projects such as One Laptop Per Child — or the like of it — really succeed, and ICTs are effectively included in everyone’s curriculum in developing countries, new born digital natives can quickly catch up with old-way-of-thinking digital immigrants. And R&D, in intellectual property, is mostly a matter of thinking. I know this is just a guess and quite a simple, frivolous one, but the idea is launched: if globalization and the knowledge society have something good, it might well be something like this.

More info


II Conference on educational innovation: digital literacy

During next 19, 20, 21 & 22, June 2007, will take place the II Jornadas Internacionales de Innovación Educativa de la Escuela Politécnica Superior de Zamora [II International Conference on Educational Innovation at the Engineering School of Zamora, Spain].

On Wednesday 20th morning I’ll be presenting my paper Capacitación digital en la UOC: la alfabetización tecnológica vs. la competencia informacional y funcional [Digital capacity building at UOC: technological literacy vs. informational and functional literacy].

The same day, during the afternoon, my colleague Teresa Sancho will also be presenting a paper of hers about teaching Maths and Physics in Engineering degrees.

Here follows the abstract to my communication. The full text can be downloaded in Spanish and Catalan only.

Digital capacity building at UOC: technological literacy vs. informational and functional literacy

If the goal of competences training in the new European Higher Education Area (EHEA) is adapting to new times, it is evident that a correct digital literacy is an essential basis to work in the informational society. There is, nevertheless, a sort of bias in the definition of the term “digital literacy”, a bias that tends to shift towards the most technological side of the concept. Notwithstanding, beyond the knowledge of technology, there is a new world to discover concerning its use, what it is usually called informational literacy – the efficient and effective use of Information and Communication Technologies – and that, along with technology, requires a functional digital capacitation in the use of ICTs.

At the Open University of Catalonia (UOC) the student has at his arm’s reach a collection of services that will help him out through his way over (a possible) technological illiteracy and, above all, he is taught – implicitly and explicitly – in the use of these technologies through the interaction in the virtual campus, in the following of specific subjects and in exercises and practices solving.

This paper tracks the path of the evolution of the different capacities that form, as a whole, the total development of what we could call functional digital competence, and presents the moments or experiences in which the student acquires these capacities by studying in a virtual campus.

The presentation can now be downloaded here (only in Spanish)


The Personal Research Portal: Towards a Social Science of Web 2.0

The 5th and 6th of September 2007 takes place the conference Towards a Social Science of Web 2.0, organized by the Information, Communication and Society Journal. The conference will be hold at the National Science Learning Centre, York, UK.

This event focuses on some significant developments in Internet culture that have emerged in the last few years. Although these developments have received widespread media coverage they have so far received little in the way of sustained investigation by the social sciences in the UK. This event is intended to work toward the development of a social science of what has come to be known as Web 2.0 – a much heralded transition in Web media characterised by social practices of ‘generating’ and ‘browsing’, ‘tagging’ and ‘feeds’, ‘commenting’ and ‘noting’,‘reviewing’ and ‘rating’, ‘blogging’, ‘mashing-up’ and making ‘friends’ .
The aim of the event will be to develop critical, theoretical and empirically informed accounts of Web 2.0 not just as a business model but as a complex, ambivalent and dynamic phenomena laden with tensions and of increasing social and cultural significance. The event is intended to provide opportunities for those working on a social science of Web 2.0 to discuss their ideas and to begin to work through the processes and possible consequences of its rhetoric of ‘social participation’, ‘communal intelligence’, and ‘collaborative cultures’.

I have been accepted a communication, so I’ll be there along with Francisco Lupiáñez and Enric Senabre, who have also had their communications accepted.

I here copy the abstract to my communication. Please, do feel free to comment or make any kind of suggestion.

The personal research portal: web 2.0 driven individual commitment with research diffusion

There is unchallenged evidence that both researchers’ and research funders’ needs usually collide with scientific publishers’. Even if there might be a common mission or interest in making research diffusion as broad as possible, while the former ones would promote diffusion at any cost, it is precisely cost – and sometimes profit – the main issue on the publisher’s side. The consequences are many, but to name a few: (a) loss of control (intellectual property rights) over his work by the author, (b) slow publishing processes, (c) underrepresentation in mainstream academic publishing systems of marginal academic subjects (i.e. related to or produced in developing countries), and (d) researcher invisibility. Efforts have been made to mitigate this situation, being open access to scholarly literature – open access journals, self-archiving in institutional repositories – an increasingly common and successful approach.

It is our opinion that focus has been put on institutional initiatives, but the concept and tools around the web 2.0 seem to bring clear opportunities so that researchers, acting as individuals, can also contribute, to build a broader personal presence on the Internet and a better diffusion for their work, interests and publications.

By using a mesh of social software applications, we here propose the concept of the Personal Research Portal as a means to create a digital identity for the researcher – tied to his digital public notebook and personal repository – and a virtual network of colleagues working in the same field. Complementary to formal publishing or taking part in congresses, the Personal Research Portal would be a knowledge management system that would enhance reading, storing and creating at both the private and public levels, helping to bridge the academic divide among those who publish and those who don’t.

Paz Peña is also attending the conference presenting what she calls a v2.0 of his paper Software Social y Educación: El abordaje de lo público:
In this article I approach the Social Software as a relationship device, a fundamental perspective in order to understand the possibilities of public development of the user subject or closer to the Web 2.0. This, in the context of understanding the education not from the content, but from the configuration of the subject as a fundamental part of knowledge.
Tobias Escher is also attending :)


New ICT4D Journal: International Journal of Information Communication Technologies and Human Development

The new International Journal of Information Communication Technologies and Human Development will see the light the first trimestre of 2009.

The journal is aimed at understanding how ICTs can contribute to human development in several areas. herefore its overall objectives are:

* To describe the link between ICTs and human development (which includes economic, social and political development).

* To identify the potential applications of ICTs in several areas.

* To provide insightful analysis about those factors (also contextual and institutional ones) that affect ICTs for development initiatives success or failure.

* To propose strategies (to both governments and international cooperation organizations) to move forward and to address future challenges.

The journal will be edited by Mila Gascó (Editor-in-Chief) and Manuel Acevedo and Barbara Fillip, among others, as associate editors.

I have (proudly) accepted to be on the editorial review board, that features people like David Keogh, Robin Mansell, Alemayehu Molla or Pippa Norris, to mention a few most familiar to me.

Reviewing articles or communications has always been one of the best experiences I’ve ever had: it’s difficult to quantify how much you’ll learn by reading other’s ideas and finding out their good points and their errors. Simply enlightening.