Web2forDev 2007 (IX): Plenary Sessions: Web 2.0 for Development (IV)

Ethan Zuckerman
Web 2.0: Simple Tools & Smart People

It’s not about technology — which, by the way, is quite old —, it’s about people. People have always found ways to communicate through the Internet by using features of applications that were not designed to do so, e.g. chating by using an online chess game.

The mobile phone is the biggest revolution in telecommunications — not laptops, not handhelds… — because it changes all the rules of the game. e.g. in Kenya you can pay a taxi with your mobile phone… but you can’t in the United States.

Interactive Radio for Justice: radio + mobile phone project.

Mobilemonitors.org, to make elections more transparent thanks to mobile enhanced monitoring.

Manal and Alaa’s bit bucket, using blogs as a newsroom.

Blogs for advocacy: Free Alaa!

If you are an activist there’s a great benefit in using Web 2.0 tools. Ironically, the more crap there’s on the Internet, the better: noone will ban a site full of funny, boring, trivial things. Indeed, there’s no need to create a “development site”: you can be banned and you have to develop it and maintain it, so just use what’s out there, the tools that already exist. Forget the notion that you have to build everything from scratch.

Think on who do you want to reach. Second Life? Cool, shiny, but how many users?

Participation, engagement, add content.

The reason to blog: search engines love blogs, because they link and are linked, and search engines do rely a lot on linking.

When 100 million people speak, you need a filter. With 100 million people talking, it’s really hard to listen: Buzzmonitor.

Selection, translation, context: Global Voices

The best tools are those that amplify a message and do it very selective.

One of the problems of the web in general is that is written, so it needs some level of literacy: if we can develop applications for mobile phones, and apply voice recognition on them, you’d be able to talk to the phone — instead of having to type —, get the information you asked for (e.g. price of crops) and have it read for you on your phone by another application — instead of having to read it.

More info:

Thomas Metz
Open Collaboration in an Institutional Context

The Generation Challenge Programme was created to bridge the gap between health and hunger, by using advances in molecular biology and harnessing the rich global stocks of crop genetic resources to create and provide a new generation of plants that meet these farmers’ needs.

CropForge is a collaborative software development site, providing tools and a centralized workspace for developers to control and manage software development, the difference being with SourceForge is that it hosts all kind of information about projects and software related to development, food and food security, hunger, etc., including fora and communication spaces where collaboration, support takes place.

The site also uses mediawiki to run a the GCPWiki to gather information, notes, impressions on workshops, presentations, etc.

Some lessons learned:

  • At the institutional level, it is important to be careful with the intellectual property policy, the code of conduct; the publication and quality control procedures; the reward and recognition system.
  • It is important to preserve transparency and history (of edits, of changes). The sytem must be easy to join, meritocratic and based on a non anonymous use.
  • Concerning content scope and quality, you have to keep in mind that there’ll be uneven quality, coverage and maintenance. But it’s good to make world-wide visible your work-in-progress under a clear disclaimer, where you explain very clearly what this content is about, what’s its quality, what the procedures or content creation and quality monitoring are, the release policy.
  • The major barrier usually are institutional constraints, the (already existing) organizational design, which are not necessarily compatible with how the Web 2.0 works.

Kwami Ahiabenu
Empowering Journalists with Online Tools: Making a Case for Online Training

Journalists need constant training in online tools to ride the tide with the information revolution.

Online tools offer free to low cost options for training. So, set up an online course on Web 2.0 tools for journalists, based on real practice through weekly assignments.

Connectivity not really an issue as most journalists already have connexion to the Internet at their work places.

Learning by doing makes a difference in information and knowledge sharing experience, and skills transfer processes.

Tools used

  • e-mail
  • Yahoo Groups
  • DGroups
  • Google Groups, divided by subgroups (some students didn’t understand the difference between the main group and the subgroups)
  • Blogs, on a weekly basis: classroom blog and students’ blogs
  • Class wiki, as a newsroom where stories where created
  • Flickr, to “put faces to names”
  • Podcasts
  • del.icio.us
  • Skype, though it did not succeed


  • Lack of access to affordable and reliable Internet: hence, focus on e-mail, keep it simple, no Moodle, e-Learning for dummies
  • Sometimes, high bandwidth demanding Web 2.0 applications
  • Time commitment issues
  • Challenge of change: develop an “online” mindset
  • Online collaboration and communication difficulties
  • Information overload issues
More info:


Web 2.0 for Development related posts (2007)

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

Peña-López, I. (2007) “Web2forDev 2007 (IX): Plenary Sessions: Web 2.0 for Development (IV)” In ICTlogy, #48, September 2007. Barcelona: ICTlogy.
Retrieved month dd, yyyy from https://ictlogy.net/review/?p=635

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