For the next month (July 13th to August 7th, 2009) I am teaching — actually guiding — a course on the Digital Divide and e-Participation at UNDP‘s Escuela Virtual para América Latina y el Caribe [Virtual School for Latin America and the Caribbean].
This is part of a project run by the UNDP and the Instituto Distrital de Participación y Acción Comunal de la Secretaría de Gobierno de la Alcaldía de Bogotá (IDPAC: Participation and Community Building Institute at Bogotá, Colombia) whose main outcome will be the creation of the Escuela Virtual de participación y gestión social del IDPAC [IDPAC’s Virtual School of Local Participation] — see also Digital Divide, Government and ICTs for Education.
The course is framed in one of the last stages before the actual creation of the Virtual School and it mainly deals with the definition of the overall strategy, identifying the context and the characteristics of the environment and see how the network of telecenters the school will heavily rely on have to be adapted to provide the expected output: digital competences and a much higher degree of e-Participation amongst the population.
The (my) course has four parts, two of which are related to knowing the grounds and concepts of the Digital Divide and e-Participation, and the remaining two deal with writing an Action Plan and reviewing the Strategic Plan in the framework of the Colombian Plan for the Information Society.
I here share the bibliography for the first two, would it be of any help to anyone: Brecha Digital y e-Participación ciudadana
Basic concepts: Analysis of the Digital Divide
Ministerio de Comunicaciones (2009). Plan TIC Colombia. En Línea con el Futuro
. Presentation by María del Rosario Guerra, Ministra de Comunicaciones, Bogotá D.C., mayo 28 de 2009. Bogotá: Ministerio de Comunicaciones de la República de Colombia.
e-Participation: Use of telecentres to foster participation
Peña-López, I. & Guillén Solà, M. (2008). Telecentro 2.0 y Dinamización Comunitaria
. Conference imparted in El Prat de Llobregat, November 5th, 2008 at the V Encuentro de e-Inclusión, Fundación Esplai. El Prat de Llobregat: ICTlogy.
The Escuela Virtual para América Latina y el Caribe (Virtual school for Latin America and the Caribbean) is an organization (depending from the UNDP) whose mission is to build capacity and impart training in the fields that can promote social transformation, namely human development and democratic governance. As its name reads, it is a fully online school and uses ICTs as a means; but it is also worth noting that the Virtual School is in itself a showcase on how to apply ICTs in Development (ICT4D), specially in what we’d call e-Learning for development.
A successful project, it is now in its way to train other organizations not only in their missionary content, but also in the “how to” part of the story: how to build up a virtual school (for government, for empowerment) in Latin America. These days (10th to 12th March 2009) it’s taking place a training-consultancy for people at the Instituto Distrital de Participación y Acción Comunal de la Secretaría de Gobierno de la Alcaldía de Bogotá (IDPAC: Participation and Community Building Institute at Bogotá, Colombia), so that they can build their own Virtual School of Local Participation.
I have been invited to give a conference on e-Learning for Development, entitled La Brecha digital y el uso de las TIC para la Educación (The Digital Divide and ICTs for Education).
The presentation has four different parts:
- Slides 1-6: A brief introduction and some highlights about the crossroads between participation, governance, human rights and the changes that the Information Society is bringing in. The topic just frames my introductory presentation, and is later on developed in depth by professor Jaime Torres, Universidad de los Andes.
- Slides 7-12: Second part is a characterization of the Digital Divide. It actually is about the digital divides, which is absolutely my point: there are many of them, and most of them usually kept out of the spotlight.
- Slides 13-21: Third part is about networks. It is focused in development and development cooperation. There’ll be time to explore online volunteering, development 2.0, the gift economy, etc.
- Slides 22-31: A last part is about (how great it is) e-learning for development issues, from different points of view: efficacy, efficiency, suitability, convenience, etc.
Citation and downloads: La Brecha digital y el uso de las TIC para la Educación.
I want to thank Andoni Maldonado and Gemma Xarles for their kind invitation, and to Nicolás Padilla for assistance and patience.
e-STAS is a Symposium about the Technologies for the Social Action, with an international and multi-stakeholder nature, where all the agents implicated in the development and implementation of the ICT (NGO’s, Local authorities, Universities, Companies and Media) are appointed in an aim to promote, foster and adapt the use of the ICT for the social action.
Here come my notes for session I.
Raul Zambrano, UNDP
ICTs, Digital Divide and Social Inclusion
Four stages of ICT Development
- connectivity, get people connected
- content and have people have capacities to deal with it
- participation, Web 2.0
- Within countries
- Among countries
- Within and among countries
The difference between the digital divide in developed countries and developing ones is that in developing ones is but another manifestation of other divides — this is not necessarily this way in developed countries.
How can technology bride social divides, not technological divides?
Divides: differences attributed to knowledge, and differences dues to more physical and human capital.
Both the speed of adoption and the speed of diffusion of technologies are have very different paths in developed and developing countries [So, it’s not just that leapfrogging can be made possible (adoption), but it has to be actually fostered (diffusion). But, part of fostering diffusion to achieve quicker and broader adoption is about giving the population what they need and/or are asking for].
Thus, in the policy cycle (social gaps, awareness raising, citizen participation, agenda setting, policy design, development focused, implementation, evaluation/assessment, reduction of social gaps, new emerging issues), these population needs must be taken into account when designing public policies.
In this policy cycle, networking is crucial to gather all sensibilities and ensure that participation does take place. If there is not citizen participation, public policies are likely to be government’s or lobbies’ interests biased.
All in all, it’s about empowerment.
I ask whether it’s better push (public led) or pull (private sector led) strategies.
Raul Zambrano answers in the framework of developing countries. In these developing countries, the Estate is to foster and create aggregated demand, it is the main purchaser, investor and installer of ICTs (infrastructures, services, etc.).
On the other hand, it is true that there is a latent demand from the citizenry, and there already is a manifested need for ICTs.
About the private sector, the problem in developing countries is that the private sector might not have resources enough to set up pull strategies. Or maybe they could, but it still makes poor sense for them when looking at the Return of Investment. This is especially true with developed countries firms trying to get established in developing countries, though local enterprises might not think (and behave) alike, and find it’s huge benefits what elsewhere might not even make it worth it trying.
So, put short, in developing countries what seems to be working is a centralized model but progressively decentralized [as the subsidiarity principle in the European Union, I’d dare add].
Do we need to keep on working on access (if everyone already has a cellular)?
Yes, definitely, but not as an independent variable but as a dependent one [this is one of the cleverest statements I’ve heard in months about the digital divide].
Paco Ortiz (AHCIET) intervenes in this issue: incumbent telecomms normally pay a ratio of their profits to governments so the latter can help solve the last mile issue. The problem being that once these governments have cash to do so, the sometimes shift the funds to other priorities — no critique intended: these priorities can be Education or Health. Thus, legitimate or not, the result is that universal access is never achieved, but not at the private sector’s fault.
One person from the audience harshly attacks governments for their corruption, which invalidates them to foster any kind of policy or to get any kind of funding from whom ever.
Raul Zambrano states that it is precisely transparency and accountability one of the main goals of ICTs in the sphere of the government.
e-Stas 2008, Symposium on Technologies for Social Action (2008)