The Network of the People

During the e-STAS: Symposium on Technologies for Social Action, Fundación Cibervoluntarios edited a book which gathered small articles by several people around the subject of empowerment.

The book is called Innovación para el empoderamiento de la ciudadanía a través de las TIC (Innovation for the empowerment of the citizenry through ICTs) and features an article of mine entitled La red de las personas: cómo Internet puede empoderar a la ciudadanía (The Network of people: how can the Internet empower the citizenry).

The paper is a slightly evolved — a generalized — version of a former reflection, Cooperation for Development 2.0, that then became a position paper for the first edition of Development Cooperation 2.0: Reticulando la Cooperación — hacia la Cooperación Red: Materiales para un debate (Networking Cooperation — towards a networked cooperation: materials for a debate), and that also served as a kick off point for the second edition of Development Cooperation 2.0.

The abstract reads:

La acción ciudadana depende, en gran medida, de la concurrencia de dos factores. Por una parte, la identificación y difusión de una necesidad de amplio interés y, en la medida de lo posible, en poder reclutar apoyo para dar respuesta a dicha necesidad. Por otra parte, por la capacidad para acceder a los recursos necesarios para cubrir, de forma efectiva, dicha necesidad. En la medida que la información y la comunicación juegan un papel cada vez más importante en ambas cuestiones, las nuevas tecnologías se posicionan como la herramienta por excelencia para el empoderamiento de la ciudadanía.

More information and downloads

e-STAS 2009 (IX). Interview to Jack Dorsey

Notes from Simposium de las Tecnologías para la Acción Social (e-STAS: Symposium on Technologies for Social Action) held in Málaga, Spain, on March 26-27th, 2009. More notes on this event: estas2009. More notes on this series of events: e-stas.

Interview to Jack Dorsey, Twitter, by Sebastián Muriel

Technologies like twitter are little demanding, the concept is simple, there is no need for abstraction. It’s use is pretty straightforward. We’re seeing that applications are becoming more transparent.

And not also technically, but personally: new tools are more transparent also in letting see who’s behind a certain tool (i.e. who’s the person behind a username).

Q: How do we extract knowledge from tools? A: Being aware of all technologies can be overwhelming, but you always have the possibility to turn some of your communication platforms off. Correct usage — or usage that benefits you — must be learned

We have to focus on the content, not on the tool.

Q: is it possible to override mass media through things like Twitter? A: The journalism industry is fed by professionals, providing factual reports, properly crafted. This is difficult to be overridden by casual citizen journalists. Sometimes you don’t want just news, but stories, full stories well built by professionals that gather more information and point you even to more information.

Q: Twitter and geolocalization? A: There’s a big difference between twittering “I’m having coffee”, which gives context to your live, and “I’m having coffee at this place in this city”, which is kind of an invitation to join. We should let the user the freedom to decide exactly what he is meaning to say. Besides, there are matters of privacy that you cannot take for granted… or simply forget about them.

You can’t empower people: you have to build tools so that people can empower themselves. But, the goal is that people stops talking about the tools they’re using, and begin talking about what’s going on life.

Twitter is not a social network, but a broadcast mechanism. In social networks you end up not interacting with a specific person, but with whole his network — which might be your initial goal, but also an inconvenient. In Twitter, we kept the conversation (not the network) as the goal, and this enables commercial uses and businesses entering the platform without having to bother about networking and many-to-many engagement. Twitter did not came up with Yammer in part because of this: Twitter’s aim is to be kept simple. If you have groups, you “think” your message, and this is not immediate and ends up not being simple to just write a message.

Twitter allows for real time enrichment of information.

e-Stas 2009, Symposium on Technologies for Social Action (2009)

e-STAS 2009 (VIII). Conclusions

Notes from Simposium de las Tecnologías para la Acción Social (e-STAS: Symposium on Technologies for Social Action) held in Málaga, Spain, on March 26-27th, 2009. More notes on this event: estas2009. More notes on this series of events: e-stas.

Conclusions session, conducted by Francisco Pizarro, Centro de Iniciativas Emprendedoras, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid

ICTs bring new ways of relationship, of production, of socialization. There’s a change of paradigm, an opportunity to innovate. We must empower not to worsen.

Empowerment begins with one self: if you want to change the world, begin with yourself. Get empowered to empower others.

We empower to innovate, or it is the empowered that innovates?

Empowerment for social change, for independence, for freedom, for democracy. For the local leaders, for the excluded ones.

We have to generate a technological culture, to raise awareness of new ways to engage, to participate. Though keeping in mind that technology is but a means.

ICTs opened windows to raise voices, to get funding.

A new society based on I+I: Information+Imagination.

    Summing up:
  • Change of paradigm: the paradigm 2.0
  • Change of paradigm can bring changes
  • We need leaders to foster empowerment
  • And empower leaders so that they can empower others
  • A need for a digital culture, to keep on working towards universal access

e-Stas 2009, Symposium on Technologies for Social Action (2009)

e-STAS 2009 (VII). Round Table: John LeSieur, Vivek Vaidyanathan, Raul Zambrano

Notes from Simposium de las Tecnologías para la Acción Social (e-STAS: Symposium on Technologies for Social Action) held in Málaga, Spain, on March 26-27th, 2009. More notes on this event: estas2009. More notes on this series of events: e-stas.

Round Table, conducted by Ismael Peña-López, Open University of Catalonia

John LeSieur, People CD

It’s out of question that technology connects people in very powerful ways. The question is how we make sure that the end user provides a good delivery for them.

The Asperger syndrome is part of autism and implies poor or none interaction with the other. An autistic child — LeSieur’s grandson — was introduced to technology, but refused to use it after minor browsing. Order was a must for autistic people. Communication must be picture-like. Browsers just do not work this way. This was the birth of the ZAC browser, a browser specifically designed for autistic people, that allows browsing through icons and minimum clicks.

The ZAC browser was not part of a business plan, or project management plan, but a personal commitment, done on an trial-and-error basis. It was after a first success, that it was decided to share it for others.

There is 1 out of 150 autistic children worldwide. So it made sense to share it worldwide.

Some parents have reported notable improvements in the lives of their children — and their families’ — after having used the ZAC browser. The ZAC browser is used by 750,000 people worldwide.

Now People CD is focusing in technologies widely used, but that are not really designed for a broad range of end users, i.e. paralyzed people. And this software comes out free to be used.

Vivek Vaidyanathan, ICT4D Consultant

He formerly worked at IT for Change to help organizations work in their own domain without bothering about technology. IT for Change promoted the use of ICT applications in development projects. He is now working in “poverty mapping”, using Geographic Information Systems to show impact of projects in developing countries.

In India the debate is not about FaceBook or Twitter, but about issues of connectivity or content in local language. And even if there is a growing ICT Sector, it is not aimed towards the local user, or local development, at least not directly.

The government is now planning to provide universal connectivity though an ambitious telecenter plan. But, nevertheless, it is again a plan to develop more an ICT Sector or Industry rather than providing more and better services to the citizens in a most efficient way. Nevertheless, some interesting e-Government issues started to happen and, hopefully, they will pull other clever uses of ICTs, specially because it’s public information and in your local language.

There is a problem with the sustainability of these telecenters and their services: they all began as a citizen service, which was free, and now trying to turn the citizen into a customer has made of financial sustainability a big challenge. You cannot ask them to pay for what was free.

Besides financial sustainability, social sustainability has also to be taken into account. Many people are left out of the ICT revolution because serving them is just not profitable, entering a vicious circle of exclusion.

Last, technology people should not lead the change, but people that do know the real needs of the end user… but of course work with technologists to know what tools to apply.

Raul Zambrano, UNDP

Freedom as development: development deals with people having the options to do with their lives whatever they want (Armartya Sen).

In 1992 the UNDP decided to begin distributing information (part of the Agenda 21 agreed in Rio de Janeiro in 1991) by e-mail, instead of fax or postal mail. This cut down costs dramatically… provided the receiver had e-mail too.

People do not need technology, but have basic needs: water, food, a roof… How can we connect these basic needs with ICTs? There’s a big divide in the application of ICT4D: there’s people that would “rather buy rice and not computers” and other people that would install computers before knowing the real needs of the population. How to merge these two approaches in a middle ground?

“I don’t want this or that technology. I want education. With quality, low cost”. If we can bring this education through ICTs, then that’s good ICT4D. Why don’t we benchmark or do market studies to supply public services? “Would you be using this or that public service? Supplied to you this ir that way?”

Empowerment is also about sharing or distributing power. Public administrations have to share their power with the citizenry. ICT’s enable networking and clustering people around common problems. ICTs enable exchange, communication. ICTs should not replace human networks, but to empower them.

Democracy is that the civil society and governments work together. Thinking of them as opposite powers is either sick or sad (depending on how true it is).

By the way, there’s more technology that ICTs.

Q & A

Q: It’s true that ICT are means (not goals), but how do we design the methodologies, indicators, etc. without mastering them before? Zambrano: impact is usually measured by number of accesses (to technology), not effective usage; it measures quantity of use, not social impact. There’s a need for public policies to foster change, with investment, with regulation. Technology does not change human development, is the supply of services. Vaidyanathan: people want to copy models they see everywhere, but what they actually want is not telecenters, but what people are doing with them (e.g. accessing public services, connecting with their relatives). Is the government focusing on telecenters or in providing these services?

Ignacio Martín: if the democracy is shared power, is it power finite? is it not about creating “more” power and not sharing or distributing it? Zambrano: power, in a democracy, is representative. And there’s a divide between the elected (to whom I transferred my power) and the citizen. This “sharing” of the power is about bridging this gap, of having some feedback of the power I lent to my representative. If democracy impoverishes me, democracy is clearly not working. Some technologies enable if not a direct democracy, at least a mediated representative democracy.

Q: We use technology in a social environment. Does technology unify diversity? Is there a cultural imperialism embedded in the use of technology? Zambrano: It depends of your intentions. You can use technology to impose your culture, but you can use it too to preserve and even recover cultures in risk of extinction.

Ismael Peña-López: Agreed ICTs are tools. But how do we learn to apply them cleverly if we do not dedicate some time at learning or developing new tools just for the sake of it? LeSieur: the Wikipedia approach is a good one where a couple represented by service+technology was issued at the same time and a brand new ecosystem (i.e. wiki enhanced encyclopedia) came out of the blue. Vaidyanathan: the challenge is to start somewhere, just to start. And solve it on the run. Zambrano: It depends on the place. In developed worlds, the divide is mainly digital, so it’s relevant to do R+D on ICTs. But in developing countries, the divide is social and the digital divide becomes trivial. Then, it does not make any sense to think about technologies for the sake of them. And sometimes, it is even the contrary: people do have technology (e.g. mobile phones) but have no rights: it is pretty straightforward to use the existing technology to solve a social issue, a fundamental need.

e-Stas 2009, Symposium on Technologies for Social Action (2009)

e-STAS 2009 (VI). Workshop: The hurdle track from ICT to Human Development

Notes from Simposium de las Tecnologías para la Acción Social (e-STAS: Symposium on Technologies for Social Action) held in Málaga, Spain, on March 26-27th, 2009. More notes on this event: estas2009. More notes on this series of events: e-stas.

Funredes: The hurdle track from ICT to Human Development

Results from a project for UN-GAID.

ICTs are but a tool. But there are some barriers to them:

  • Physical access
  • Financial access, affordability
  • Sustainability
  • Functional basic literacy (read and write)
  • Content in local language
  • Effective usage
  • Technology appropriation, technological literacy
  • Use with sense, informational literacy
  • Social appropriation, content creation with sense for my community
  • Empowerment
  • Human Development

Needs:

  • Education and culture: about networking, about information, about processes
  • Ethics: about networking, about information, about processes
  • Engagement, multistakeholder, committed, along the whole process
See also

e-Stas 2009, Symposium on Technologies for Social Action (2009)

e-STAS 2009 (V). Round Table: Jorge de la Hidalga, Millán Berzosa, Jorge Pascua, Óscar Espritusanto, Pedro Cluster

Notes from Simposium de las Tecnologías para la Acción Social (e-STAS: Symposium on Technologies for Social Action) held in Málaga, Spain, on March 26-27th, 2009. More notes on this event: estas2009. More notes on this series of events: e-stas.

Round Table, conducted by Nuria Castejón, Observatorio de Cooperación Universitaria al Desarrollo

Millán Berzosa, Comunitae

Comunitae is a microcredit community, to enable people that would never have the possibility to borrow (or lend) money to be able to.

Jorge Pascua, Bubok

Bubok lets you publish everything you’ve written as a book. Publishing it’s not about technology, but also a cultural issue which Bubok aims at bridging.

Jorge de la Hidalga, Infoprision

There was a lot of misinformation about the life of people in jail, which caused refusal and exclusion. To bridge this problem, he issued Infoprision, as a guide for families with relatives in jail to look for information, guidelines, resources, etc. on how to behave, how to support relatives, where to ask for information, etc. It’s a virtual community too where people share their experiences and findings.

Óscar Espritusanto, Periodismo Ciudadano

Periodismo Ciudadano looks for best practices, translates documents, etc. so than the citizenry can set up their own citizen journalism projects. Periodismo Ciudadano is not a citizen journalism project, but a project for citizen journalism projects, a how to initiative.

Q & A

Espiritusanto: it’s not only about empowerment, but about the democratization of the channel, of the platform.

(Pedro Cluster, from indigencia, joins the round table and explains his experience with his blog about being homeless)

Ismael Peña-López: these empowerment projects, do they have an embedded criticism within? should they criticised the systems they are replicating or substituting? Pascua: there’s no substitution, it’s complementary; thus, no criticism intended. De la Hidalga: these projects are just citizen watchmen that remind the system — that generally works well — that there are some imperfections that need being polished, and that there are control devices that the citizenry is using. Berzosa: there’s both a complementarity and a criticism in these experiences; they are new models that both represent a criticism but that, at the same time, they provide alternative ways of doing things that the Internet just made possible. Espiritusanto: these models represent evolutions of existing systems; they are pioneers that go one step ahead of the rest of the system. Cluster: these empowerment projects defy the concept of the expert, which is the one that the “system” is based on.

Q: Is there a market that differentiates what is good from bad on the Internet? Pascua & Espiritusanto: it’s important that we have a sufficient level of digital literacy so that digerati oligarchies dominate not the debate or the digital tools. Then the “crowd” will be able to decide wisely.

Francisco Pizarro: How do we replicate our innovations? How do we go from pilot to mainstream, specially in social innovations? Berzosa: Competence is good, so being copied is a way to spread your ideas. De la Hidalga: a literate citizen will be able to tell good from bad and resonate the good things and mute bad ones. Espiritusanto: collaborating with your competence is getting more common every day, there are synergies in doing it and some projects even rely on this for success.

Espiritusanto: the most amazing thing is that the Internet has disclosed brand new ways of doing things, or doing things that we’d never thought before of. For instance Spot.us.

Pascua: the Internet is a mirror of real life, where some people succeed and some do not. The difference is that probability of being heard and sustainability are much higher. Ideas can be enabled and fostered as never before.

Marta Pastor: we’re investing in a medium (the Internet) that we do not control, but that is controlled by carriers, telecoms, etc. What if net neutrality is lost? Berzosa: net neutrality won’t be lost, it’s too important to allow it. Espiritusanto: alternatives would rise instantly, so no wonder about it.

e-Stas 2009, Symposium on Technologies for Social Action (2009)