Next December 3, 4 and 5 I’ll be in Trieste at the Rich-Media Webcasting Technologies for Science Dissemination Workshop, organized by the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics Science Dissemination Unit.
The whole set of names is quite eerie — for a social scientist like me — but once read you realize this is a very interesting workshop on scientific diffusion in developing countries, being ICT4D a deepest commitment of the organizers.
As you can see in the programme, I’ll be teaching three seminars, namely:
I have to sincerely thank Marco Zennaro for insisting that the Conferences 2.0: Scientists and Web 2.0 speech became the keynote/opening session speech, which really, really, really honors me so much. As I’ve been asked to provide a summary to
publicize the speech, I wonder whether this session will be open to anyone. Hence, here comes the outline:
Conferences 2.0: Scientists and Web 2.0
Information and Communication Technologies, the Internet, and most especially, the so called Web 2.0 have radically changed – at least potentially – the way scholarly diffusion is or can be made.
On one hand, the traditional constrains of space, time, publishing costs, etc. have almost completely disappeared or have entered huge economies of scale. Diffusion is – or, again, could be considered – easier and cheaper than ever.
On the other hand, and partly due to the former aspects, we are beginning to see an increasing demand for more accountability and transparency of research and researchers, resulting in both a claim for a deeper and wider popularization of science and a call for better and denser research networks.
The seminar “Conferences 2.0: Scientists and Web 2.0” will be split into three parts.
First part, Web 2.0, will point out the main characteristics of the Web 2.0 – a part that can be overridden depending on the knowledge on the issue by the attendees.
Second part, What’s a Conference 2.0, will to summarize how things have changed in the field of scholarly diffusion in the last years or, more specifically, since the advent of the Internet, the web browser and Web 2.0 applications.
Las part, the bulk of the seminar, will draw the “perfect” conference – and/or scientific diffusion strategy – by revisiting some good practices and some interesting applications existing around.
Anyhow, the focus and the stress will be put in both the change of paradigm in scholarly communication and the creation of a showcase of real practices and tools that are setting up this new path.
Christian Kreutz writes about the first day at the Web4Dev conference taking place in Nairobi. Some subjects he highlights — and I just list:
- Connectivity a main issue for development
- Broadband the second derivative of the connectivity issue
- RSS feeds and e-mail working great with low/poor connectivity
- Other Web 2.0 applications worsening the connectivity/broadband problem
- ironically, wireless technologies might provide better connectivity to rural areas than urban suburbs have, where wiring or even “wifiing” is way difficult because of lack of formal settlements
- The (positive or negative) role of leadership
- Need for local content
- No charity, but development: solutions must work in the market, so they are sustainable
Notes on the workshop Usos i Reptes de les TIC a les Organitzacions No Lucratives [Uses and Challenges of ICTs in Nonprofits], organized by the Observatori del Tercer Sector [Observatori for the Third Sector] and the CETEI, and chaired by Jaume Albaigès.
The uses — a diagnosis
Two (really) different organization profiles regarding Information and Communication Technologies:
- lite: have a website, are concerned with the digital divide and fight it e.g. with training on digital literacy, etc.
- premium: not only have installed the basic infrastructures, but have gone beyond and adopted management digital applications, use websites for campaining and fundraising, etc. but, in general terms, they act in the short run and lack an IT strategy
Only 5-6% of the demand for personnel to work or be a volunteer in nonprofits is related to ICTs. Inside this group, half of it is for training purposes (e.g. impart courses on digital literacy; 22% is for websites and design and 23% for systems maintenance and programming.
80% of 100 nonprofits surveyed have a website, +90% have their own domain, +90% have information on their projects and +80% have interaction/feedback spaces; but +90% don’t have any interaction space, +85% no data on their social basis, +60% no economic/financial/funding data.
Experience 1: Formació Espiral [Espiral Training]
A need — actually, a claim — for training. Different types of training, all of them focusing on ICTs and ICTs for Nonprofits:
- Open classrooms: horizontal training, between peers, short training sessions (2-3h)
- Annual workshop
- Summer, Fall, Winter courses: wide range of courses
New training/research interests: Web 2.0, blogs, wikis, educational uses of Second Life, conceptual maps…
Experience 2: Database for the management of the Punts Òmnia [telecentres]
To check the performance, number and type of users, type of use, workload and activity, etc.
Solution: a database fed by the user himself (selfregister), filling in a form (best option for the user) with fields asking for user profile and kind of use of the computer at the telecentre, including a user register, thus creating a user database that can fit several purposes.
Two approaches to ICTs:
- No money for computers; we’re trying to get second hand computers; can anybody help for free?
- We have databases… on spreadsheets; the computer is a substitute for paper, that’s all; we’ve got tools… but don’t know how to use them / benefit from using them
- Resources for investment (not expenditures!)
- Knowledge to take decissions
- Training to use ICTs efficiently and in an efficient way
Based on Moodle. Being tested in the Master for International Development, an onsite course — not online — that benefits from a virtual platform to enhance the diffusion of knowledge. Moodle can hold documents, bibliography, assessments and automatic evaluation of these assessments, and all kind devices and spaces for collaboration, information, interaction and feedback, etc.
Very interesting asset of Moodle for nonprofits: a whole team — not just a single person —
can manage the platform, including the courses’ teachers… and remotely, not compulsory to be on site, at the nonprofit headquarters (e.g. online volunteers).
Key aspect: the tool can provide spaces and devices to improve the tool itself.
The challenges — a strategy
How to integrate ICTs in the institutions’ strategic planning: opportunity and responsibility. More impact, more diffusion, more resources (avoid costs, raise funds): better reach to beneficiaries, more impact of advocacy campaigns, better communication, transparency, better internal management.
The necessary change of mindset.
- internal audit: listen and look
- talk with other organizations: the network and the Network
- benchmark with specialists
- Action plan: as ambitious as possible (we’ll adapt it to the reality later on…)
- Priorities, schedule
- Strong focus on training
- Evaluation, moving onto the spotlight the benefits, costs, difficulties, etc. of the project
- Maintenance and supervision
Experience 5: Database to manage the social base
The design performed by an analyst, so all relevant questions are put on the table beforehand, but use of MS Access — not a custom but complex application —, easing the use of the database by a wide range of non-techie people, especially volunteers.
The new database allows a lot of outputs: people management, mail management, financial management, strategic planning (e.g. budgeting), volunteer and tasks management and planning, etc.
Experience 6: Dedications to projects
Shift from a desktop application (MS Excel) to an online database hosted on the intranet. Next step: not only feeding the application but strategic exploitation of data.
Richness of data brings the possibility to plan and better allocate (human) resources, easier follow-up of data evolution (better reports, less data exportation to other applications: centralization of databanks), improvement of the management of the organization as a whole, more efficiency, ability to prioritize needs according to resources, etc.
Training is the key. And is the organization, not just individuals, the one that has to learn.
Important to notice that this is no expenditure, but investment. This really needs a change of mindset.
The importance of volunteering.
- Web development paradigm: a good resource that needs be kept in mind. The web is the platform, the permanent beta as a means to install applications that can evolve, grow, be enhanced.
- Free and Open source software applications… free as in free beer.
- Share tools between different organizations… and the knowledge that goes with it.
- Towards the nonprofit 2.0: more participation, bidirectional communication, accountability (increase confidence on the sector), networking with all stakeholders (especially the beneficiaries), etc.
- Impact on the environment: use of material resources, energy
1998: a website takes 30 minutes to upload just one piece of news and mastering technological tools (HTML, FTP, etc.)
2004: need for flexibility, being up-to-date, avoid technological skills requirements, low budgets
Now: 5 minutes (maximum) a new piece of news, no skills required, no budget required to implement, update and maintain, ubiquitous management and updating, etc.
Result: not just quicker websites but more websites: campaigns, projects, etc.
Other experiences: WordPress.com, even easier than Joomla.
Best result: increase in presence on the Web, hence, presence in the World, way the target of an advocacy nonprofit.
Need to widen the diffusion of the campaign, upload materials, news, links, videos, events; have a deliverable to handout documents and reports in a friendly way.
Impact: increase in the amount of visits and file downloads, less paper (less costs).
Update: slides for the presentation
The problem of writing in several places and doing it in different languages is that, after all, it is quite difficult to establish or draw a consistent thread of your own thinking. If you, indeed, do need this verbalized/explicitly-written summary of your ideas for other purposes, tracking it down is, more than interesting, a must. Here comes, hence, some things I’ve said somewhere else in the past days, just slightly elaborated:
The myth of the digital natives (source)
When talking about the digital natives, it is common to listen to people talk from radical, opposed approaches: the digital native is an axiom vs. the digital native is an absurd nonsense. Just few try and stay in a middle point.
I believe — I really mean it — that it makes no sense talking about digital natives in a generational sense. I’d rather call it a “syndrome”, a syndrome that younger generations (due to their capacity of aprenticeship, because of their major contact with new technologies, etc.) could be more prone to show (and this should be tested, of course) in comparison with older ones but, indeed, not exclusively.
In my opinion, “native” and “immigrant” are just ways of naming things, situations, nor theorems neither faithful descriptions of the reality. It’s just for us to quickly understand each other. Maybe Expert 2.0 does not carry so much determinism in the concept. But again: to me, the concept — ambiguous, equivocal, informal — is useful to describe the symptomatic chart, characterized by the different features drawn by Prensky, Palfrey/Gasser and others.
The “digital native/immigrant” construct should help us as a “proxy” of that difficult to measure variable that is “how much have we changed?”, by bringing a series of explicit characteristics to test.
Thus, we could analyze the way digital capacities and competences are acquired but also what is the final result, how these digital competences have transformed the individual, his habits… In this train of thought, the “how” would be the independent variable and the final result the dependent. For instance: using a mobile phone 24h a day, does it change my life? or, going further, using a mobile phone 24h a day does it give me some (digital) aptitudes that evolve into a (psychological, social, economical) change?
Then, the most interesting part in Prensky’s concept is the debate that it generates, the question thrown to the arena, more than the details — probably most of them arguable.
Should we all be digital natives/settlers?
Maybe not, maybe digital tools are neither the only ones nor the best ones, for all or for everyone. But, on the other hand, we are in a society that more and more gets demonstrated that:
- productivity will depend on the management of information and knowledge
- to keep one’s job will depend on the digital competences in a very broad sense
- business, production and cultural models are changing drastically and very quick
- law, rights, duties, values, identity, socialization… are being subverted from head to toes
In front of this, it is in no way trivial or marginal to analyze the technologies that are provoking all these changes — and the adoption that specific social sectors make of them.
As the Industry changed the world since the XVIIIth century, there is pretty much evidence — and growing — that Information and Communication Technologies are reshaping the world, and to the point that we might be living a Third Industrial Revolution. Some even talk about a Digital Revolution, at the same level of the Agricultural Revolution or the Industrial Revolution.
So, digitize yourself or disappear. All society should enter this digital revolution — and the start is skills — to transform itself: not doing it might involve walking the same path developing countries took when the Industrial Revolution took place (for several and very different reasons, of course). Because the digital revolution, as the industrial revolution did, will affect both the ones that can access it and the ones that cannot. You just cannot switch the computer off and forget about the Information Revolution.
Web 2.0 and the role of the user (source)
So, is the Web 2.0 the solution to empowerment, to digital literacy, to democracy and so? Criticism states that surveys show that the concept of the prosumer is a fallacy and that almost everyone is a lurker, a voyeur 2.0.
My opinon is that, besides comparing horizontally (i.e. how many contribute to Web 2.0 sites and how many don’t), we should also compare vertically: how many now and how many before, just when there was no Web 2.0 or, even more, when there was no Internet at all.
The simile of democracy is perfect: better a dictatorship, a non-universal suffrage, or a democracy, even if statistics show that just half of the population actually votes while the rest does not even care standing out of the couch?
I guess that, being the subject so recent, it is no frivolity to speak of the potential and not only facts. Yes, facts are great, and facts — not suppositions — is what gives bread to our tables and pays our mortgages, so we cannot go on talking about the potential benefits of the Web 2.0 eternally and nothing else changes. But, that this potential exists — and let’s hope it sooner or later materializes — is a way good interesting change.
Last Friday 23rd I had the luck to attend the third day (out of three) of the IV Encuentro de e-Inclusión: e-inclusión para la construcción de la ciudadanía, a national meeting of telecentre instructors about e-Inclusion that focused on participation and the Web 2.0, and was organized by the Fundación Esplai.
I had committed to impart the opening speech about the general concepts that the Web 2.0 metaphor usually talks about. You can see my simple presentation here:
And also download it both in Spanish (the original) and translated to English:
But, as it is usual in this kind of events, the best was yet to come. The audience — around one hundred telecentre educators — was richest, with a deep knowledge of their work, target, resources and possibilities, mainly due to their highest level of compromise that kept them informed and enthusiastic about e-inclusion, digital literacy and so.
About the different input that I had — during and after my speech — I might stress the following concerns about the role of digital literacy in this three subjects:
- Privacy: What happens with my data spread in all those Web 2.0 apps? Should we teach the user what the implications are of using these platforms
- Reputation: how do I filter content? Will the semantic web really work? What’s the role of virtual communities? is the wisdom of crowds reliable?
- Online Participation: e-Participation is participation? What’s an online volunteer? through e-Participation, can I suggest or also decide? (As an answer to these last questions, I dare suggest reading my paper Online Volunteers: Knowledge Managers in Nonprofits
After my speech, the group split in three workshops, two of which I could parcially attend.
Lead by Jordi Barreda and David Gateu they defined e-Knowledge as the
knowledge built with Web 2.0 technologies and the Web 2.0 as
technology that allows interaction: simple, but pretty clear and effective.
They projected Michael Wesch The Machine is Us/ing Us and Lee Lefever at Commoncraft’s Wikis in Plain English and Social Bookmarking in Plain English, explained the importance of XML and the importance of culture in the use of tools: tools ain’t good or bad, is our use that shapes them.
I lacked the rest of the workshop, but I guess it’s worth citing here some of Jordi Barreda’s comments on his own blog:
The three main ingredients for a social web to work are:
– Personal interest
– A common space
– A management system
[…]everything heading towards a common goal.
The second workshop — lead by Marta García Moreta — was equally interesting.
They collectively gave a definition for e-Participation:
The commitment, at different levels, between people and/or institutions that contribute, cooperate, collaborate in the development of a collective objective, whose goal implies social transformation. [by means of Web 2.0]
The telematic channel should improve and complement the actual mechanisms of participation, including the generation of new ones only possible by means of the Net, and all of them should be taken into account when designing a new integral model of citizen participation. This should, by no means, exclude the existing ways of participation.
And presented some examples of the different types of e-Participation tools, following Alberto Ortiz de Zárate’s typology:
- online synchronous chat
- open forum, not moderated
- online moderated dialogue, with a defined subject
- online survey with a defined subject
- comments function
- political simulation
- online (open) petition/suggestion
- online votation
- online scoring
- direct dialogue through e-mail
- offline channels
- collective editing
- community building
- campaing platform
- signing of petitions
Some of the examples:
The Evaluation of e-Inclusion Projects
Last event of the morning — just before conclusions, etc. — was the presentation of the report of the The External Evaluation Model of Red Conecta and Conecta Joven by Rosa Baez, Cristina Pulidoa and Laura López from the research group CREA, University of Barcelona.
They used Critical Communication Methodology to evaluate projects and introduced how Habermas, Chomsky or Beck were authors that tried to unify theories of social action.
Some results of their survey that evaluated the impact of telecentres and the design of their (educational) model:
- Shift from just access to motivation + access + competences / capacity building (based on Paolo Freire)
- Incorporation of learning/apprenticeship in daily life
- Impact on daily life: work, business
- Impact on the community: the telecentre becomes a referral for the community
- Sustainability: economical and social… and of the model itself
- The need to establish an evaluation system, including an interactivity/feedback system with the community
- The evaluation of the network of telecentres has also shown that there’s a sense of network, mainly based on personal affinities or coordination needs (e.g. geographically) but there’s room for further collaboration, specially using the virtual platform to exchange knowledge
Today I imparted a seminar belonging to the Executive Master in e-Governance organized by the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne and partnered by the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya.
I just want to thank the attendants to the course for being such an interesting audience and for making me think because of their witty questions.
Information and Communication Technologies for Development: ICT4D
- Food or computers?
- Efficacy, efficiency
- Leapfrogging Development
- Second Bests
- Endogenous development
The concept of access and the measurement of the Knowledge Society
- The Telecommunications Model: limitations
- The Broadcasting Model: limitations
- Access vs. Ownership: different solutions
- Access vs. use
Digital Divide: a holistic approach
- A five tier model
- Old and new divides
- The broadband divide
- Informational Literacy
- Content and Intellectual Property
- e-Awareness and the leadership divide
e-Readiness and Web 2.0 for e-Governance in Developing Countries
- e-Participation and e-Democracy
- Censorship circumvention and freedom of speech
- Transparency and accountability
- Law enforcement
- Open Access and access to knowledge