Fifth Annual ICT4D Postgraduate Symposium (XVI). Matti Tedre: In Search of the Elusive ICT4D

Notes from the Fifth IPID ICT4D Postgraduate Symposium 2010, held at the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya, Barcelona, Spain, on September 9-10th, 2010. More notes on this event: ipid2010.

In Search of the Elusive ICT4D
Matti Tedre

The mainstream Tanzanian press equals development with ICT and ICT with development.

Why is there such a hype? Is there a hype cycle? Why is there this media portrayal of ICT and development? How has research covered the topic?

One of the strongest claims made are that you do fight poverty with cell phones, and that mobiles bring people money quite quickly through a mobile revolution, or create a lot of jobs, because the role of technology in development is well known and is a key to economic growth, the revolution is sustainable and there are no downsides, because mobile phones are better than aid and even better than aid.

There is good research backing this, but there’s also good research being critique with some euphoric statements.

A survey on 12 rural villages in Tanzania wiht 400 respondents showed that a majority earned $41-$83 and spent a third of the income in phone bills. Notwithstanding, it has to be said that there is a lot of informal economy, goods exchange, etc. so these figures should be taken with a grain of salt.

In fact, 75.25% disagreed that cost of mobile phones was justified by the benefits, while they reduced time and concentration from other important activities and making them forgo other important things.

So, what is happening in there? Don’t people in Africa read headlines?

A second set of interviews were performed asking why people owned a cell phone, what for, how did it affect their own lives, what were the costs, what was the relationship with benefits, and whether there was a choice at all (in using, in supporting costs, etc.)

First of all, there is a huge difference between rural and urban Iringa (Tanzania). In rural Iringa people pay for airtime vouchers but also for recharging the batteries of their mobile phones, a cost you have to bear even if you only get calls. And it was a high cost indeed.

One of the main reasons to own a phone, despite costs, is that it precisely saves other (higher) costs, like travelling… though the trade-off was neither clear nor always in the same sense.

Same with time: on the one hand, you save time for not travelling around, but you have to walk to a power centre to recharge the phone, instead of working in my shamba and attending my cattle.

There was no evidence of high rates of phone sharing, for matters of availability, of privacy, etc. And beeping can be found disturbing and, over all, consumes a lot of battery.

At the social level, many people stated the dangers or the negative effects of phone usage: corrupts children if not well monitored, destructive if not well used, lying through phones…

On the other hand, people state that they give up things because of the phone, but just few of them could list exactly what.

So, why phones:

  • Because they want to communicate, to talk to each other… like everywhere else in the world.
  • They want to be in touch with the world, not to be disconnected.
  • They want, too, to simplify communications, thereby improving my living standards.

About job creation, it looks like there is more job redistribution than creation: if the demand for plumbing services does not rise, what the phone will do is not create more plumbing jobs, but channel them to the one plumber that is reachable (i.e. has a phone). On the other fact, it is also true that there is a direct impact on jobs, in the ICT and mobile sectors.


  • A side outcome of mobile telephony is that people who have never been part of the formal economy now become a part of it an even start to pay taxes (VAT), because they pay bills in real money (no goods exchange allowed with telcos, mind you).
  • Saves money but costs money.
  • Saves time but takes time.
  • When investikng a significant portion of their income in mobiles, people’s capability to invest in other things is reduced, which may hinder development.

Three dogmas that we should challenge:

  • Delusion of universality of technology: technology is not value-free, not culturally neutral, not universal; local contingencies do matter.
  • Belief in progress through technology: technology does not progess in the course of time; progress is not inevitable; and progress has not a direction. We do have a choice.
  • Faith in liberation: some kinds of technology not inevitably create benevolent social forms; technology not always empowers people and liberates them from oppression and poverty.

(side note: Matti Tedre consciously took a very provocative approach and forgetting that his speech has a specific relaxed, friendly context would be really unfair ;) The discussion that followed — unquotable here — was very rich and constructive)


Fifth Annual ICT4D Postgraduate Symposium (2010)

Fifth Annual ICT4D Postgraduate Symposium (XV). Networks

Notes from the Fifth IPID ICT4D Postgraduate Symposium 2010, held at the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya, Barcelona, Spain, on September 9-10th, 2010. More notes on this event: ipid2010.

Empowering network development cooperation models
Manuel Acevedo

Objectives of the thesis: to characterize networked development cooperation and propose a model for it; and to examine the degree of appropriateness of “enabling networks” that are most appropriate for development cooperation.

One of the main problems today for analysing networks is that everything seems to be a network or to be in one. So a first question should be to clearly identify what is and what not a network.

Despite the aforementioned aspect, development work and the development system does not seem to be really networked and instead be adapting very slowly to the Network Society.


  • The adoption of network processes and structures would contribute to the “efficacy of aid”.
  • The introduction of net main strategies conditions success adoption.
  • The functional profiles of “enabling types” of networks, once in place, are more appropriate for development cooperation.

Conceptual elements: human development (Sen), network society (Castells), openness and access to information (IDRC), innovation as a driver of change and development 2.0 framework (Heeks).

The main purpose is to explore network-based development cooperation mechanisms and see whether capacity is more widespread, whether freedom complements talent, and whether networks are good operational mechanisms to get those results.

We can categorize networks according to purpose (knowledge, project, policy, etc.), morphology, constituents (staff, organizations, volunteers, etc.), working style…

While a representational network acts on behalf of its members, an enabling member pursues the strengthening of the capabilities of the members of the network, taking advantage of the attributes of the network, providing tools, methodologies, helping non-members to join in, etc.

The research will gather evidence on how is/are the cooperation network(s) like and how do they work. After that, the intensity of the network (network intensity index, NII) will be measured to test their performance, especially idenfiying the weaknesses so recommendations for improvement can be made. Issues that the index will cover are structure, management, functionality and results. The difficulty will be, of course, in defining the appropriate indicators and collecting all the data.

Some networks that will be analyzed are, APC in Latin America and the Caribbean, InfoDesarrollo (Peru), TICBolivia, CONGDE, IICD. These are very different networks.


Fifth Annual ICT4D Postgraduate Symposium (2010)

Fifth Annual ICT4D Postgraduate Symposium (XIV). Entrepreneurship and management

Notes from the Fifth IPID ICT4D Postgraduate Symposium 2010, held at the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya, Barcelona, Spain, on September 9-10th, 2010. More notes on this event: ipid2010.

Understanding informal ICT micro-enterprises in developing countries
Christopher Foster

What are ICT micro-enterprises: ICTs as the key input for new products and services; less than 1o employees, majority are owner-operator:

  • Mobile and media micro-enterprises: handset distirbutors and retailers, airtime and SIM resellers.
  • PC and Internet micro-enterprises: goldfarming, LAN houses, PC assembly and reuse.

Informal success relates to niche strategies: niche markets, niche in price, in technology, in arrangements, in customer service…

Micro-enterprises are normally built around networks of enterprises, or ecosystems of ICT micro-enterprises that actually co-operate. Indeed, supply chains are very important in this area.

On the other hand, the sector has some instabilities: the local context, instabilities of technologies, of policies, etc.

A critique to the literature would be that is often focuses on local practices, some small cases, not broad enough scenarios or approaches. We have to see what unique aspects of ICT micro-enterprise over non ICT- micro-enterprises are relevant, and especially relevant in developing countries. And, indeed, how are they related with government policies.

A strong point to consider is the approach on the base-of-the-pyramid and co-creation, in the sense of the uneven relationship between formal and informal, big and micro, etc.

Yet, this is related to another point, which is what is the role of clustering in sustainability, impact, relationships of power, etc.

Modification of ICT in response to instabilities and livelihoods and risk reduction are also approaches to consider.


Ismael Peña-López: what about the non-commercial dimension of ICT micro-enterprises that, like many telecentres do, they also provide a meeting place and other social components? A: It surely can be translated as part of the niche strategies that they design [Definitely :)]

Richard Sleight: how can other organizations be involved in micro-entrepreneurship? A: that is a difficult to answer question. Probably joining clusters, influencing regulation… but it is surely an open question.

Richard Sleight: does it make a difference if the micro-enterprise is the main/sole source of income or if it’s just a part of the income sources? A: There certainly are strategies and tactics to reduce risk and diversify their business models, so it is just possible that different models bring different research results.

Top 7 Reasons Why Most ICT4D fails
Clint Rogers

If you cannot see the video, please visit <a href=""></a>


Fifth Annual ICT4D Postgraduate Symposium (2010)

Fifth Annual ICT4D Postgraduate Symposium (XIII). e-Health

Notes from the Fifth IPID ICT4D Postgraduate Symposium 2010, held at the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya, Barcelona, Spain, on September 9-10th, 2010. More notes on this event: ipid2010.

Adaptation of video for Tele Echography
Alejandro Tovar de Dueñas

A solution to provide tele-diagnosis to be used for people in remote areas, be them rural areas, a ship in the middle of the sea, etc. A solution that makes video imags from any echography device to be reachable real-time anywhere desired.

The requirements are very high: quality has to be good enough to enable a correct diagnosis, but the constrains are also many, amongst many the quality of the connectivity. Special installations are avoided, so once the video is captured, it is streamed through the net by a streaming server, and any client can access the signal without the need of any kind of software installation, just a web browser.

A key issue is how to capture the maximum frame rate possible with a midrange PC for the possible VGA modes.


Alejandra Pimentel: Are there any network requirements? A: Any network that supports IP protocols and 300Kbps of bandwidth.

Mazhar Ali: What about security in the transmission of sensitive data? A: Access to the video, though free, can be made private by creating accounts both on the streaming server and the client side.

Ugo Vallauri: Could the video be saved instead of streamed, and sent asynchronously afterwards by e-mail or any other way? A: It could be very easy to do to even establish a procedure where the patient is told to follow some simple instructions and send the video their physician.

Development of a real-time digital wireless tele-stethoscope for isolated rural areas in the developing world
Ignacio Foche

Why real time telemedicine instead of store-and-forward:

  • More knowledge about patient’s status.
  • Local health personnel less qualified.
  • BUT: Higher costs for telecommunication infrastructures.

So, the goal of this project is to lower the costs of infrastructures while being able to provide real time telemedicine. But this is no easy problem to solve: the quality needed to send good information valid for diagnosis is very high. This puts a lot of stress both in the sound card and the bandwidth (or pay highest costs or have landlines). Thus, both hardware and software had to be developed to create a capturing device, to digitize and amplify the signal, to send the signal and to retrieve/represent it.

Further research implies substituting the PC with a smartphone, make all the operations through a website, design a stethoscope-oriented software CODEC, thinking in how to apply it in disaster situations, or automatic support and diagnosis.


Christopher Foch: has there been any research on how the patients feel for not having their physician face-to-face with them? What about physicians, being “substituted” by a device? A: in general, even if people prefer face-to-face interaction, the departure point is no diagnosis at all, so it is not about substitution, but about provision. Besides, some physicians have stated that, technically, they’d rather have this digital stethoscope, as it allows amplification, which sometimes is very beneficial.

Biniam Goshu Meknonnen: What if the network fails? A: The device won’t work because it was designed for a real-time interaction, but it could certainly be modified to work in a store-and-forward mode.

Soraya Hidalgo: what’s the cost of it all? A: It adds 120€ to the total cost of a new stethoscope (circa +20%) and, of course, a PC connected to the Internet is needed.


Fifth Annual ICT4D Postgraduate Symposium (2010)

Fifth Annual ICT4D Postgraduate Symposium (XII). Lucas Pardo: netWORKS

Notes from the Fifth IPID ICT4D Postgraduate Symposium 2010, held at the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya, Barcelona, Spain, on September 9-10th, 2010. More notes on this event: ipid2010.

netWORKS: Open Source Software to visualize and analyze networks of human development. Center for Development Cooperation, BarcelonaTECH. With the collaboration of Information Works
Lucas Pardo

netWORKS is a data warehouse to help to visualize development cooperation projects. The aim behind this visualization tool is to optimize the resources used to evaluate and sponsor projects (e.g. at a development cooperation agency) and also to visualize the networks that explicitly or implicitly form when different organizations work in development projects.

netWORKS, the tool, is free, and Information Works, the company behind it, is working to get funding to implement it in development cooperation agencies or any other kind of organization working for development.

The tool enables the user to quickly identify the most relevant actors in one field or in one place. It also helps in identifying points of intersection between two or more organizations or between two or more fields of work. It is actually easy to see what organizations are relate one to each other, which one is a key node or a hub that many others work with, which projects are related in a way that they cover similar issues and could end teaming up and working together, etc.

A good exercise to do is analyzing personal networks: searching for a contact, the visualization shows who is a central person but also what people are strongly related amongst them so that they form a team or an active and close community. It also will show who is only slightly connected to that community — through one or two nodes — and would benefit from a closer and broader relationship with the rest of the members of that community.

The tool can also help in finding out the best contact, how diversified or specialized is a person. It can indeed help to find or to decide how to choose a non-existing profile: by performing complex queries, it is possible to cross data from projects, people and topics and find out, within the database, who would be the best candidate to lead the next project.


Fifth Annual ICT4D Postgraduate Symposium (2010)

Fifth Annual ICT4D Postgraduate Symposium (XI). ICT in Education (II)

Notes from the Fifth IPID ICT4D Postgraduate Symposium 2010, held at the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya, Barcelona, Spain, on September 9-10th, 2010. More notes on this event: ipid2010.

Using Affordable Technology for Digital Storytelling in Rural Africa
Marcus Duveskog

A workshop was developed to educate on HIV and AIDS issues. The workshop was designed as a game, combining storytelling with HCG gaming concepts. The workshop used a platform that was collectively designed on a participatory design basis, and was used with XO-1 laptops.

The course run on 10 sessions in several weeks, with 11-15 y.o. children in Tanzania, and its theme was dreams, figuring out ambitions and interests of children, and figuring out the treats in reaching goals/dreams. Children were asked to come up with strategies to overcome potential life challenges.

Some of the threats were death of parents, keeping the health, not being able to get school fees, bad performance at school, becoming a prostitute, etc.

The workshop consisted in sharing the dream, sharing the challenges, one of them related to HIV and friendship and another one related to choosing a life partner/marriage.

The “HIV” challenge was about how will being infected with HIV affect reaching one’s goals, interaction with their peers (family, friends, etc.), having a life partner/marriage, etc.

More information about the workshop can be found at

The workshop succeeded in enabling students to use the technology in creative and expressive ways. It was good that everything started from the student, and that the whole story came from them, as the conclusions on HIV/AIDS became more legitimate as they came from their peers.


Vanessa Frías-Martinez: can the workshop scale? can other schools implement it? A: The workshop is being modellized (publication forthcoming) and should provide some guidelines on how to reuse it, thought the project the workshop is part of does not plan to repeat it anywhere else.

Ugo Vallauri: did the workshop depend heavily to the technological solution chosen? A: It does not seem that the kids felt they were tied to a specific solution, but used it in a very natural way.

Development, Capabilities and Technology – an Evaluative Framework
Mathias Hatakka

What is the development potential of Open Content and Internet Resources? But… what is development? And how can we measure it?

There are several evaluation frameworks that aim at measuring development, but they usually are complex and hard to be put into practice. Besides, many frameworks are more about enabling development rather than development itself: enabling of freedoms, removal of barriers to such freedoms, etc. That is, indeed, the core of Amartya Sen‘s Capability Approach.

Some of the problems of the Capability Approach Framework is that it does not take into account the role of technology, the importance of context, and the difference amongst potential functionings and achieved functionings. Enabling something does not mean that people actually choose to do something.

A proposed framework would link initial intervention with a capability set of potential functionings (intended and unintended) that would open up a choice. This choice would determine actual achieved functionings restricted by some conversion factors (personal, social, environmental). Indeed, Conversion Factors both affect the capability set and the achieved functionings.

The framework is being tested in the Bangladesh Virtual Classroom, where e-learning is provided through mobile phones. And the test has shown that the technological part of the project works perfectly, and that the main problems come from the Conversion Factors.

As concluding remarks, it can be said that the framework can be used for planning and evaluation of projects; it definitely shows the importance of context, and that bottom-up is needed. The problem with the framework is that it is very difficult to capture capabilities and make them part of the scheme.


Christopher Foster: how can the different factors be integrated, how can the individualist approach turn into a collective approach and vice-versa? A: It is not solved: so far, the framework looks very much into the context and some individualities scape at its scope.


Fifth Annual ICT4D Postgraduate Symposium (2010)