Fifth Annual ICT4D Postgraduate Symposium (X). ICT in Education (I)

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.

Virtual realities on the periphery: towards an anthropology of e-learning and Development
Izak Van Zyl

In South Saharan Africa there have been a few e-learning ventures — Khanya, MELISSA, Life Project — to strengthen educational capacity and encourage grassroots participation. But can we really measure the adoption or the impact of such programmes? How do we perform a social synthesis of this context? What are the narratives, the experiences?

The research will have an anthropological perspective of the previous ventures, incorporating other case studies (RE-ACT, PICTURE) and will hence perform an ethnography.

Argument: in interacting through digital media as a sociocultural practice, communities have begun to fashion “virtual realities” with have been significant in configuring modern forms of identity, participation, collective belonging, etc.

The dissertation will argue for an inclusive practical framework in which to adopt e-learning design, particularly given peripheral virtual realities, being the aim to localise social and cultural paradigms at the heart of ICT4D: an anthropology of e-learning and development.


Tim Unwin suggests exploring e-learning literature to frame the research.

Ismael Peña-López suggests exploring distance learning, web 2.0 ethnographic studies and storytelling.

MLearning: an Inclusive Approach
Alamdar Khan

The MKFC learning model is based on Opit LMS plus online social and communication networks. The reason to use the mobile to provide e-learning is because most students live in remote rural areas of Pakistan, have scarce access to the Internet, but the penetration of mobile phones is very high.

The research will focus on collaboration, ubiquitousness, efficiency and quality of education. The goal will be to see how an hybrid learning model can enhance interactivity, inclusiveness, flexibility and accessibility.

The methodology will be based on a two-part online survey to the students: an online questionnaire and skype meetings and interviews.


Matti Tedre: if one of the results of the research is to build a model of m-learning for development, will it be a technological model? a pedagogical model? a financial model? The suggestion is that the research should be focusing on just one of these and not try to catch all. A: The project is just a part of a whole programme where a multidisciplinary team is covering all the different aspects.

Heli Haapkyla: How is it that the pedagogical model is based on mobiles, but the researcher explains that there’ll be a social networking site component that will take place online. A: This is the general model, now used in Sweden and the idea is that it can also be applied in Pakistan in a hybrid model (SMS + online where available).

Ismael Peña-López: How is it that we assess an m-Learning project and the questionnaire and interviews are on a web survey or via VoIP? A: The project has actually partnered with local schools that have Internet access, and they are collaborating in all the stages of the research, including assessment and online surveys and interviews.


Fifth Annual ICT4D Postgraduate Symposium (2010)

Fifth Annual ICT4D Postgraduate Symposium (IX). Vanessa Frías-Martinez: Telco Industry Research in ICTD: Telefónica R&D, mobiles and development

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.

Telco Industry Research in ICTD: Telefónica R&D, mobiles and development
Vanessa Frías-Martinez

ICT4D research and private sector research in ICT4D

We have witnessed an evolution in ICT research and ICT4D research. During the 50s, there was ICT research without the ‘D’. It was mainly about governments using computers and measuring their impact. During the mid 90s, governments and NGOs began to use intensivelly ICTs to foster development; we saw the raise of telecentres, PCs and landlines and research around these topics. Lastly, in the mid 2005s, the private sector enters the arena of ICT4D research.

What are the roles of actors in ICT4D?:

  • Governments: incentive packages to accelerate actors’ involvement; access to population at large and infrastructures.
  • Private sector: R&D in hardware, software, services, infrastructures to innovate or adapt technology to new uses and users; access to customers base.
  • NGOs & Intl. organizations, academia: access and understanding of local population and their needs.

Some examples:

  • Intel PC Classmate: Intel developed a cheap laptop adapted to kids and which came with (not free) educational software also developed within the project. To provide connectivity, partnerships were established with public internet providers.
  • Nokia Life Tools: C1 and C2 cheap cell phones with an adapted software that cna provide agriculture information, educational content, etc. Again, public-private partnerships are crucial to localize content, etc.
  • Ineveneo analyses standard solutions in the market and does research on how to adapt them to developing countries.
  • M-Pesa used the GSM mobile network to turn it into a mobile banking network.

Contributions so far:

  • Hardware: adapted hardware lowering costs or setting up new specific features, etc.
  • Software: adapting content in local language, new specific needs for specific users, etc.
  • Content, services: new specific content and services that make full sense indeveloping countries, after analysing their needs, context, etc.

ICT4D research at Telefónica I+D

At Telefónica I+D, instead of developing new hardware or software, the focus is put on behaviour: as technology usage leaves a large trace of data behind, it is possible to perform quantitative analysis with the huge usage databases available. This quantitative analysis will come to complement many other qualitative researches that are often the ones taking place in developing countries.

In the case of Telefónica, 66% of their customers are mobile users in developing countries, thus their research will be a quantitative one and focused in mobile phones.

Telefónica stores data from each and every call, anonymized, encrypted and always with an opt-out option, so they can be used for research but very difficultly for other unfair purposes.

Data are mainly used for two main purposes:

  1. To improve the service, through usage analysis and pattern recognition.
  2. To provide policy recommendations, by combining data on mobile usage with micro- and macro-economic indicators.

There are, of course some limitations: the representativeness of the sample; the kind of usage (work, personal, etc.) of the mobile phone; the importance of plans or prices; the impact in data and pattern recognition of mobile phone sharing (though mobile sharing is not as usual in Latin America as it is in Africa); etc.

Gender and mobile phones project

Goal: to understand gender-related differences in mobile usage.

Data: behavioural variablesw (number of calls, duration, expenses), social variables (degree of the social network, weight of the contacts, frequency of communications), mobility variables (diameter of mobility, diameter of social network).

The characterization of the results showed that, in general, women (in comparison to men) make/get more out/in-coming calls, make the calls longer, expend more, and have a higher out-degree and weight of their social networks.

Causality tests proved to be less conclusive than characterizations, thus why there is a need to gather more data and define better algorithms.

Socio-economic indicators and cellphones

Goal: to understand the relationship between socio-economic indicators and the usage of mobile phones.

Own data are combined with national statistical institutes’ data.

It is possible, for instance, to know where a telephone is operated by asking the communications tower that handles the call. And this can be compared with geographical data that locates people and wealth indices. Now, we can test the relationships between wealth and telephone usage in a specific geographical area (location of usage is made through towers and not data from billing because only 10% of the users are on contract, being the rest of them users of pre-paid SIM cards).

Research question: does education level influence the SMS/voice/MMS behaviour? does socio-economic levels influence levels of usage or expense? etc.

Mobility patterns

By asking the communication towers we can tell where a phone call was made and, hence, how a calling person moved around while using their mobile phone (side note: 90% of people spent most of the time in just two places).

This can be combined and see where the social network of a person is located, what is the area of influence of a specific user, etc.

Research question: what is the impact of government epidemic alerts in the mobility of people? Can we trace through mobile phones whether people are more likely to stay at home if the government says that there is a high risk of contamination of H1N1 Flu?

The “areas of influence” were modelled during each of these three stages and changes of mobility patterns were looked for.

Results show that 80% of the population only reduced their mobility once in stage 2, but not during stage 1 (medical alert). This shows that the medical alert does not work, but that more interventional approaches (closing common infrastructures) does work, though it is also true that there is a side effect of increased mobility of people visiting other infrastructures (e.g. leisure ones).

Another research that related mobility patterns and urban planning showed that people spend much more time in (and move to) places that are along underground lines.


Pablo Arribas: what is the influence of education in mobile phone usage and the other way round? A: It is difficult to find causality with the data available (CDR, or call data records), so we should stay at the correlation or relationship levels.

Marije Geldof: how can you trust the data that comes from third parties (i.e. national statistics institutes)? A: Normally these are official data are validated at the international level, methodologies agreed, etc.

Ugo Vallauri: is data shared or available between companies? A: companies are on their way to share it, but not yet.

Christopher Foster: will these data be publicly available? A: protocols are being set up so that researchers can be visitors at Telefónica’s research centres.

Ismael Peña-López: if Telefónica reaches a quasi-monopolistic situation in a given country, could that influence users behaviours and thus “corrupt” the data set? A: yep, perfectly possible.


Fifth Annual ICT4D Postgraduate Symposium (2010)

Fifth Annual ICT4D Postgraduate Symposium (VIII). e-Government

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.

e‐Government in the Global South: machine politics as usual?
Ramlal Satyan

Machine politics: electoral/democratic competition and exchange of (in)tangible services for electoral support; political inerference in the bureaucracy; intermnediaries between state and clients; gatekeeping and information hoarding.

The starting point of the research is that politics shapes e-government: there are political incentives and policy outcomes in technology use, and thus technology becomes not neutral.

The fact that poor people rely on intermediaries only aggravates this problem. The expectations are that poor people need to maintain good/cordial relationships with intermediaries, and that these leverage over bureaucracy and telecentres, telecentres are being captured by intermediaries, having these the ability to hoard information and maintain monopolies (gatekeeping).

Some open research problems: no difference might arise; clientelism encompasses more than just (a set of) services; choice of location and e-gov services; telecentres are a form of extra mediation; methods: within cases over time, or between cases?; training in network analysis.

Ward Berenschot Riot politics: communal violence and state society mediation in Gujarat, India.

ICT for accountability, transparency and participation
Johan Hellström

In the last year, of all the national elections in Africa, only one was considered fair in its process: Ghana. In the meanwhile, many people have lost their right to information. Is there a field in ICT for Governance? can we narrow into ICT4 transparency? ICT4 Democracy?

The project is to use crowdsourcing tools to monitor 2011 national Ghana elections.

Do we have a theoretical framework?


Ismael Peña-López: I suggest some lines to explore: (1) Knowledge Gap Theory; (2) the debate on whether direct democracy might actually worsen democracy, because it will get people out of the system due to the high costs of being an active citizen; (3) talking to Evgeny Morozov and Ethan Zuckerman; (4) consulting data from the Freedom on the Net index and the OpenNet Initiative (ONI).

Standardization and Regulatory Challenges in the implementation of e‐Government in Ethiopia
Jorro Yigezu Balcha

The development of ICT infrastructure, literacy rate, lack of commitment from leaders, human resources, development issues, political instabilities, legal and standardization issues, etc. are mentioned as the major challenges in the implementation of e-government services. Ethiopia is no exception in this aspect.

Among others, there are dire standardization challenges: local language issue, the process itself of standardization, lack of trained manpower in the area, enforcement of the standards, coordination of major stakeholders, etc.

Regulatory challenges: Manpower issues, lack of legislatures to support the service, enforcement.

The stakeholders that are involved in the process of standardization and preparation of legal framework don’t have equal sense about the importance and urgency of the standards and legal frameworks and their approval and enforcement.


Fifth Annual ICT4D Postgraduate Symposium (2010)

Fifth Annual ICT4D Postgraduate Symposium (VII). Javier Simó: Observing the EHAS-URJC case: symbiosis among ICT4D projects, research and postgraduate teaching

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.

Observing the EHAS-URJC case: symbiosis among ICT4D projects, research and postgraduate teaching
Javier Simó

The EHAS Foundation and ICT4D

How can telecommunications help in development? Who benefits from our technology? Is technology neutral? What and which are the real needs?

Let’s be humble and rigorous. Let’s address one only problem and keep working on it for decades, improving and improving… let’s do as much as possible to make telemedicine to be a useful and sustainable development tool for isolated rural areas in Latin America. This is the aim of EHAS Foundation.

The first thing that was done was a problem tree. Then, communication networks were conceived in order to try and solve the different (communication) problems identified. And, over those networks, create, adapt or improve applications to provide medical services. Everything was to be done with a local partner, always.

A core aim has always been sharing and transferring knowledge, learning together.

EHAS usually works in isolated areas, without any kind (or definitely expensive as satellite) of communications infrastructure, and with snail-mail based services. Thus, the idea is to set up broadband appropriate technologies over which run common services.

The Napo Network, for instance, covers 500Km in the Amazon region, from Iquitos to the border between Peru and Equador, and links several primary healthcare centres and healthcare workers.

How is practice, research and teaching in ICT4D put together?

In a first stage, some “just development – no research” solutions are put into practice. They are based in narrow-band communications, with adapted sets of standard solutions. The problem is that these solutions, though technically sexy (e.g. send e-mail via VHF radio) are often unsustainable: they are too difficult to implement, and difficult to use.

On the other end there’s the possibility to wait until ubiquitous solutions brind all common services everywhere. Which, besides illusory, provides little interest.

The solution is low-cost appropriate technology that requires lots of research and development. Good results are only possible after long-term research and high investments.

But once the network is built, the network itself becomes a laboratory: it permits to evaluate technology, improve strategies for sustainability, a shared infrastructure for several purposes, a platform over which to develop new services (tele-stethoscopy, health info-systems, tele-microscopy), etc. Lots of research subjects arise once the technology is put at work.

After 12 years working this way — development, research, development, research, etc. — it was time to share formally, so here came the URJC’s M.Sc. in Telecommunication Networks for Developing Countries. The master provides an excellent framework where M.Sc. theses can be done.


Fifth Annual ICT4D Postgraduate Symposium (2010)

Fifth Annual ICT4D Postgraduate Symposium (VI). Online Communities

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.

RE-ACT: Social REpresentations of Community Multimedia Centres and ACTion for Improvement
Sara Vannini

Telecentres should fulfil the communication and information needs of the communities where they are located.

Some research states that sometimes telecentres do not work, but there’s increasing evidence that the reason might be of a cultural or social nature, thus not directly related with the telecentre and the technology it provides, but its usage, the context.

Social representation: social psychological phenomena can only be understood if they are seen as being embedded in the socio-cultural context. The function of a social representation is to establish how people interpret their world, and to enable people to communicate with the other members of the community.

Actions for improvement:

  • The use of mobile phones as an instrument of empowerment.
  • The use of ICTs to develop cultural content that reflect the nature and the vision of local communities.
  • Make this content available for visitors, offering chances for cultural exchange and understanding.


Matti Tedre raises the point of telecentre vs. Internet café, and public/universal access vs. profit and sustainability. I would like to bring back a previous writing of mine: Public Internet Access Points: impact vs. sustainability.

Citizens’ Understanding and Definitions of Democracy during Internet Campaigns
Amara Thiha

Authoritarian states usually moraliza and define democracy in their own particular way. Why moralized? Intentions to practice and implement democracy collide with some interpretations of the third way of democratization / of liberal democracy. How do authoritarian states take up the web 2.0 and politics 2.0?

The research consists on the comparison of three authoritarian states: Myanmar (dictatorship), Iran (multy-party authoritarian state) and China (single party authoritarian state). A case is developed analysing the political blogosphere.

Web crawling analysis provided data to perform both quantitative and qualitative analysis. Ethnography also provided a good qualitative insight.


Matti Tedre: is the blogging community representative of the whole population?

Mazhar Ali: how do you define an authoritarian regime? A: there are objective/established definitions that take into account the number of parties, the political freedom and citizen rights, etc.

Vanessa Frías: how are data extracted? A: some blogs are read, all of them are treated with text analysis tools. Vanessa Frías: natural language processing is a methodology.

Ismael Peña-López: did you include in your sample pro-government (i.e. hired by the government) bloggers? A: yes, definitely.

Online networking for Development: an exploration of
Sharon Mc Lennan aims at gathering Honduras available human capital by means of ICTs, aims at harnessing resources and knowledges across international boundaries. provides space for introductions, encouragement, coordination, sharing, teaching and learning… It is done through Yahoo! Groups, Facebook, Twitter, etc.

But online activity is clearly low. Why is it so? Difficulties of physical access, design of the website, attempted migrations to Facebook, language issues, lack of digital skills, lack of interest and/or time, organizations and individuals up skill, philosophical issues…

And nevertheless people keep saying that the site is interesting/important.

One of the reasons is that has three layers: the website, the network and the community. The last one, enhanced by the former two, is invisible, private and unmediated, so difficult to measure but where outcome happens. This layer will be the target of this research.


Ugo Vallauri: has the analysis been done online or offline? A: both of them.

Ismael Peña-López: could it be that — like Pippa Norris or Howard Rheinghold say — that people gather around actions and not principles/projects, and that would explain the short term relationsihps or the online diaspora? A: what is really happening is that people neither gather around principles/projects nor actions: they just get in touch personally, offline, at the “invisible” level to get things done. They do not bother going online or going “visible” unless their needs require asking for collective wisdom.


Fifth Annual ICT4D Postgraduate Symposium (2010)

Fifth Annual ICT4D Postgraduate Symposium (V). Mireia Fernández-Ardèvol: Practical research: mobile telephony and development

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.

Practical research: mobile telephony and development
Mireia Fernández-Ardèvol

Project to analyze mobile telephone usage in Latin America. Diffussion or mobile penetration, though not as high as higher-income countries, it does have a certain level of penetration that sometimes almost reaches 100% (higher-income countries reach up to 120%). Penetration is though unevenly distributed.

Research question: does mobile communication affects (impacts on) socio-economic development in Latin America? That was a new question in the region of Latin America, and it was relevant and ambitious, and wide, as a whole research network of several people and institutions worked together to answer the research question.

The levels of analysis: macro (economics, econometrics, context), meso-organizational (institutions, markets) and micro. It was very important too to maintain a multidisciplinary focus to gather all the shades of meaning of such a complex topic.

Case study: micro perspective

Case in Puno, poor rural region in Peru, where mobile telephony had been recently introduced, with very low fixed line coverage.

Does the diffusion of mobile communications affects welfare? and what is welfare? how are we going to measure it, what indicators are we going to use? Final consumption was used as main indicator, and a comparison was made amongst mobile users vs. non-users. Data were gathered using a survey were the respondents listed their goods or their assets (e.g. “I got a TV set”). Of course income does not equal consumption, but it is easier to trick on income than on consumption. On the other hand, it is true that welfare is not welfare (what about health?) but it was considered as a good proxy.

The target communities were articulated through weekly street markets, so people going to the markets were surveyed, using both ethnography and structured surveys. Ethnographic research helped in knowing what was happening, who were the people, how did they think. The structured survey provided the quantitative data to complete the qualitative approach.

Results show that mobile phones increased welfare (as measured in the research) in those households where the household head had been using a mobile phone for one year or more. The mobile phone is something that is not extraordinary, it is embedded in everyday’s life and it thus has an impact. Having more information helps you in making better decisions (e.g. go and sell your cheese in another market where prices are higher), but you have to be used to the device, have to be literate in the platform, be using it naturally so that it naturally enters your business, your economic sphere, etc.

Social networks are managed through the mobile phone, including both familiar and commercial networks. It is an appropriation process that improves well-established habits.


Fifth Annual ICT4D Postgraduate Symposium (2010)