ICTD2010 (III). ICTD 2.0. Peer production and development

Notes from the Information and Communication Technolgies and Development — ICTD2010, held at the Royal Holloway University of London, Egham, UK, on December 13-16, 2010. More notes on this event: ictd2010.

ICT4D 2.0. Peer production and development
Chaired by Mark Graham and Matthew Smith

The session splits in groups to discuss these topics. Here are the main aspects that raised in the groups.

What does the increasing penetration of Internet and mobile telephony mean to policies and practices of development? Is “ICTD 2.0” an over-arcing idea, or are these shifts significant and powerful enough to warrant an entirely new model of development?

Simple access statistics do not tell much.

2.0 is about more participation, and we have to find out where the “participation” is in the technologies we are setting up.

Mobile infrastructures are less versatile than fixed ones, and this is a significant issue that has to be taken into account.

How can systematic exclusions of people/ideas/voices from peer production and crowdsourcing of development practices be countered? How should these exclusions inform the ways in which economic, social and political development is enacted?

There is not an established body of successful practices that policy-makers can face on.

The potential of ICTs has to be disclosed and explain, but above all, it has to be leveraged into real change.

Identify who is excluded.

Understand the environment they are embedded in.

Create ways to get them involved.

Ensure change is bidirectional.

What are some of the most and least successful cases of harnessing the power/wisdom of crowds for development work and why?

Philippines and the SMS; Kenya and Ushahidi; the contested “Twitter Revolution” in Iran (depending on how you look a it is or it is not a success); Syria and WikiSyria; the US Presidential Election, etc.

In general, these are initiatives that enabled local feedback. And all of them had embedded a Free/Open Source Software ethos.

What is the role of online social networks or online communities of practice in ICTD 2.0? What are some examples of successful and failed networks and communities? Why did they or didn’t they work? What does it take to make the available online tools useful in a development context?

Social inclusion, meaning that online communities are embedded into offline ones.

We need to represent all voices, including the ones that have no voice (or not online access), all perspectives, all needs.

Improving research theory.

Using social networks that can actually act, that can operate at the real and applied level.

Social networks to lobby and influence existing institutions, not to fight or circumvent them.

See also

Information and Communication Technologies and Development (2010)

e-Readiness and measuring the Information Society 101

In an exchange of e-mails some weeks ago with Mark Graham from the Oxford Internet Institute, I ended up drafting the outline of what an introduction to e-readiness and to measuring the Information Society could look like.

It has become usual to criticise (and I agree with that) the lack of monitoring and evaluation practices in ICT4D projects — see e.g. the latest example I’ve read about it in the interesting Worst practice in ICT use in education by Michael Trucano — and, notwithstanding, little attention is given in ICT4D courses to the macro indicators related with development and the Information Society, that is:

According to this, now follow what I think would be the basics in an introduction to the concepts and tools around the measurement of the Information Society.

In my opinion, I think there’s a huge revolution in the way the Information Society is measured in 2003 with George Sciadas‘s work Monitoring the Digital Divide… and Beyond that ended up in his acclaimed report From the Digital Divide to Digital Opportunities, being this second reference a perfect starting point for this whole subject.

An adaptation of this methodology (and an interesting reflection) for the case of Africa can be found in Towards an African ICT e-Index: Towards evidence based ICT policy in Africa by Alison Gillwald and Christoph Stork.

Sciadas‘s methodology became somewhat mainstream when was adopted by the International Telecommunication Union to build their ICT Development Index (IDI), which is a merger of two previous indices: ITU’s Digital Opportunity Index (an infrastructure-biased index) and UNCTAD’s ICT Opportunity Index (the first adaptation of Sciadas’s).

Information about the ICT Development Index can be mainly found in:

Besides ITU’s index (which we can assume as to have become the “official” United Nations’ Index), I think it would be very good worth mentioning other international and well reputed indices/tools like:

To end up this introducion, four more recommendations: