Top 4 Ways ICTs Can Help Defeat the Ebola Crisis

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa is increasingly becoming an international crisis. Recently the World Health Organization counted 5,843 cases of Ebola patients and 2,811 deaths. Even more tragic, the number deaths occurring outside hospitals are not usually recorded, meaning the numbers could actually be significantly higher. The CDC (US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) predicts there if we don’t do anything to stop Ebola in its tracks, the world will have 1.4 million cases before we hit February 2015.

How does this Ebola outbreak compare to others in the past?

So what can the ICT community do? ICTs (Information and Communications Technology) have already made drastic positive differences to healthcare workers around the world, and defeating the Ebola crisis should be no different. Here are four ways aid workers should embrace ICTs to make a bigger impact:

  1. More drones should be used to airlift medicine and supplies. Since aid organizations are continuously crossing borders and healthcare workers don’t always have proper equipment to keep themselves safe, a flying drone can prove useful to send medical supplies to remote locations. It would act as a simple way to either stop or slow down the spread of the Ebola virus. Drones would in no way replace doctors, but they could provide a safer alternative than people travelling to  dangerous areas just to deliver materials.
  2. A 24-hour helpline of doctors should be readily available by Skype, Google Hangout, or video chat. Online video calls would be able to provide consistent and accurate medical information to those living in rural areas. They would also decrease the need for doctors to be on the ground all the time. Finally, residents living in rural areas would be able to report cases more quickly, therefore allowing the WHO and other organizations to collect more accurate numbers on the outbreak.
  3. Apps providing correct information on Ebola should be offered to local community leaders. Fear and cultural insensitivity sometimes deny international aid workers access to areas where often their help is most needed. The answer? Provide local community leaders the same information via apps so they can share it with their own neighbors and friends. This can be done easily on any mobile device, and the apps should be made in or translated into local languages and dialects. In addition, the articles, content, and news stories on the app should be updated nearly every day, making the latest news and information available to entire communities.
  4. Access to social media will help sensitize others to the seriousness of this outbreak. So many west Africans enjoy Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, and other social networking sites. These social media tools should be put to work since users are already enjoying those platforms. As one writer puts it, “Using modern day technology to sensitize the public on the virus, its prevention and particularly the importance of early intervention could be key in preventing the continuation of deaths in high numbers.”

ICTs can make a profound impact on scaling back the devastating effect that Ebola has had on Sierra Leone and other parts of western Africa. It’s time to nail down the best strategies to save precious lives around the world.

Inveneo has been working to provide the best ICTs for communities in need for over 10 years. If you would like to help Inveneo continue its ICT projects around the world, please donate today!


Go to Source. Reprinted from ICTWorks

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Please RSVP Now: Is 3D Printing a Relevant Technology for Development?

3d-printing

IREX Tech Deep Dive – RSVP now

Just as the Internet changed the communications world in the 1990’s, 3D printing is set to change the physical world. We are already way beyond trinkets and keychains. Cheap 3D printers can create prosthetic arms, and even living ears and livers, not to mention metal parts worthy of aviation grade uses.

This new technology can revolutionize the way that we make products, by bringing the factory into the community and allowing computers and the Internet to become the new conduit for skills, innovation and creativity in manufacturing.

Or such is the promise of 3D printing in development. However, what is the reality? And how might it be applicable to the development context, where the poor are often the last ones to benefit from new technologies? Amidst the hype, there are serious questions to ponder:

  • What are the 3D printing opportunities in developing economies?
  • Where could 3D Printing be catalytic or transformational in development?
  • Who is using it now? And what lessons are already learned?
  • What funding and support is needed to develop a successful 3D printing program?
  • How do we ensure that 3D printing value chains are inclusive, and communities can own their own 3D destiny?

Please RSVP now to join the next IREX Tech Deep Dive to explore the potential potential and pitfalls of 3D printing in development. To help us navigate where we are headed, we’ll have three thought leaders sharing their knowledge and opinions:

RSVP-Now

Please RSVP now to join this active, practical event. We’ll have an overview of the state of 3D printing and its usage across the development spectrum, a lively brainstorming on what the future of 3D printing might look like, and small teams creating frameworks for how to get us from the present to the future.

We’ll go from talk to action in just one morning!

3D Printing for Development
IREX Tech Deep Dive
8:30 am -12:30pm
Wednesday, November 5th
Washington, DC, 20005

We will have hot coffee and a catered breakfast for a morning rush, but seating is limited RSVP now, before its too late. Note that this event is in-person only, and RSVP is required to attend.


About IREX Tech Deep Dives

IREX Tech Deep Dives are an interactive discussion series on technology for development hosted by the Center for Collaborative Technologies at IREX in partnership with Kurante.

We convene small groups of established experts to have critical and substantive discussions on the application and impact of new and emerging technology solutions and their relevance to international development.

Participants will gain new insights on current technology trends and gain practical insights they can apply immediately, and over the long term. RSVP now to join us!


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Monitoring and Evaluation vs. Good Management in Development

Last week, I was at the M&E Tech conference in Washington, DC. It was two days of discussion on how to better use technology for monitoring and evaluation of development projects, and how to monitor and evaluate the use of technology for development projects. So ICT4M&E as well as M&E for ICT4D. Got it? Cool.

We were barely done with the second session when I had a quick reaction: We’ve talked a lot about the need to put more time and money into M&E. It’s a perennial issue in development, even ignoring the technology dimension. What’s always struck me as weird about the “spend more on M&E” argument is that the whole idea of M&E is totally unique to development, aid, nonprofits, and the broader social good space. M&E doesn’t exist in the private sector. Why is that?

Short answer: monitoring and evaluation are part and parcel with management. Whether you’re managing a project, store, service provider, manufacturing plant, or whatever, you can’t manage (read: make decisions) without data that creates a feedback loop. That’s monitoring. And you can’t make larger choices about strategic direction or investments without making a summative assessment of past work. That’s evaluation.

M&E is just good management.

But the development sector doesn’t care much for management. We don’t value it. The reasons why are many – relating to funding models, accountability structures, and institutional culture – that I won’t get into here. The practical upshot is that no one gets much traction in the sector by saying, “Let’s improve our management practices.” When good management practices spread, it’s often because they take another form. Our focus on M&E, measurement and metrics is a great example of this. (“Innovation” is another one.)

So as much as I lament our sector’s lack of respect for good management, I’m at least hopeful that better M&E can provide a backdoor for better management.

Dave Algoso is the Managing Director at Reboot and this post was first published as Monitoring-and-Evaluation versus Management


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Drones for Good: Tracking Climate Change with UAVs

enviro-drones

Sadly, developing countries are some of the largest emitters of global pollution. Yet for the poor, the emission of pollutants, and their detrimental effects on the environment, is not usually an overriding concern. The cost of caring about saving the environment is a luxury when individuals are busy worrying about how to save themselves and their families from poverty.

Fortunately Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (aka drones) present a cost-effective opportunity for caring for the environment. At a recent IREXtech Deep Dive, leading development practitioners discussed how drone technology could give developing countries a practical way to tackle environmental challenges.

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The Many Uses of UAVs

For some time now, we have heard of how drones can help us understand the land and the creatures living residing on it. Drones are providing valuable insight for geographers by allowing them to economically geo-map areas and help resolve land disputes. Drones can also map livestock and crop production vital for the food chain.

But the usefulness of drones doesn’t stop here – there are many more ways that UAVs can help us understand the environment. Water and airborne diseases often stem from environmental changes and in order to improve public health in developing countries, we can use drones to better understand the current and future states of land and water.

Drones can take water samples from a river or lake, and assess the water level and quality – the height, consistency and composition of the water and any organism living in it. Launch a UAV into the sky, and it can collect information on the atmosphere’s composition and climate patterns, including pollution levels, using vector-monitoring technology. Drones can also act as a weatherman. By recording weather patterns, the drone can be a resourceful tool for tracking unusual climate changes.

An added plus: compared to other some other technologies, UAVs are also environment friendly. A drone can navigate through the sky or the sea without harming its surroundings, and battery-powered drones are not pollution emitting.

Issues and Concerns

Benefits aside, using drones in developing countries for environmental reasons is not without challenges. To start, any successful model needs to be demand-driven, and if the poor aren’t convinced that they need drones (and that they should be prioritizing the care of their surroundings), then efforts are arguably unsustainable.

Moreover, the collection of the drone information is only useful if there’s an expert to dissect its use for the poor. The drone itself may be cheap, but the manpower and brains behind the drone come at a higher price.

And like with any drone, the stigma associated with this technology is, unfortunately, far from positive. It’s a hurdle to convince governments to let drones into a country; it’s an additional challenge to persuade the poor that they need drones, as well as the environmentalists that this is a tool they should be capitalizing on.

And Priorities

And maybe, a devil’s advocate would argue, they shouldn’t be convinced to prioritize environmental protection. With constrained costs and opportunities, surely, the focus should be where the poor are already putting it: basic means of survival, jobs and self-sufficiency. What’s more, shouldn’t governments meet basic criteria first (such as acting democratically and caring for their citizens) before we can ask it to care about climate change?

The Earth is big place and, in comparison, current drone technology remains small. Scaling up drone technology, in order to give us a broader, holistic picture of the inter-workings of the Earth’s atmosphere, remains a challenge.

Fortunately, when it comes to technological progress, the sky is the limit.

Maria Andersen is a graduate student at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), focusing on international economics & African development


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Accept the Smartphone Reality in Development. Everyone Else Has

mobile-phone-ownership-tanzania

Recently, Elvis Mushi of Twaweza, shared with me interesting mobile phone survey results from his Sauti za Wananchi program. I find them remarkable in two ways. First, he found that 80% of Tanzanian households own at least 1 mobile phone. Then he found that mobile phone coverage reached 88% of the population.

One of the largest and poorest populations now has near-ubiquitous mobile phone access.

On the other side of the content, Ghana now joins Zimbabwe in having more mobile phone subscriber lines than people. Other African countries will soon follow. Even grand Nigeria, which has 80% mobile phone usage now, has 15 million smartphones.

binu-survey

But Those Aren’t Smartphones!

I know, I heard you mutter that already. And you are wrong. Each feature phone is already a smartphone, thanks to biNU. They can run “smart” applications, from Facebook to WhatsApp to YouTube, just like any “smartphone.” In fact, biNU found a majority of its users think their phone is a smartphone, when in actuality it is a feature phone.

Even better, small, nimble development actors already know this. Check out WorldReader Mobile, where thousands of Africans are reading full-length books on their mobile phones – African content, written by Africans, for Africans.

But What About the Poor?

Yes, the poor have less mobile phone access. They have less of everything, so why would mobiles be any different? At the same time, be careful how large you make your “poor” group. Twaweza found that even the poorest quintile of households had over 50% mobile phone ownership.

In addition, do you really work with that quintile? As development actors, we may talk about them often, and use them in our propaganda marketing, but we usually work with poor to middle level households or with organizations that serve the very poor vs. the poor themselves.

At the organizational level, everyone has a phone, and therefore a smartphone.

Yeah, But.. the Data Costs!

In a recent Technology Salon, someone bemoaned the uptake of mobile devices by the poor, saying they were wasting too much of their limited income on voice and data fees. Beside the blatant paternalism of the comment, it showed a lack of understanding of mobile phone success.

People have their own agency, and are (usually) rational consumers. If they find value in something, they will pay for it, and shift family resources to do so. The same goes for mobile services. If we design services where our constituents find value, they will happily pay for them.

The success of Safaricom, AirTel, MTN and the like shows Africans love their phones enough to pay dearly for them. Let us be challenged to develop content they want to see on their phones.


Go to Source. Reprinted from ICTWorks

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Is Facebook Zero the Future of Public Internet Access?

facebook_zero

Access to information is both empowerment and development. When two thirds of the world’s poor still lack access to the Internet, but three fourths have a mobile phone, it makes sense to try to capitalize on mobile technology in order to increase access and connectivity.

Enter Facebook Zero

The advantage of Facebook Zero is in the name; by waiving regular data charges, Facebook Zero is “zero rate” access to the world’s most popular social media site, which has great benefits for everyone. Facebook cleverly tapped into a new clientele: the billions of poor people in the developing world who already own mobile phones but cannot fork out large sums for internet services.

According to Facebook, the launch of the modified site was an effort to “make the world more open and connected” – precisely the same goal of those concerned with pubic access options in development. On the Asian continent, for example, roughly 6% of the continental population is on Facebook, a figure that is attributable to the cost barriers associated with Facebook’s data charges, as well as general costs to internet subscriptions.

facebook-zero

Does Facebook Zero Increase Internet Access?

Full Facebook usage (vs. Facebook Zero) on the African continent doubled every seven months when it first appeared, with the largest number of Facebook users in Egypt, South Africa and Nigeria, respectively. Some of the highest Facebook growth rates were seen in the Central African Republic and Somalia, countries that are often “off the grid” and should be on it, precisely because we want them to be aware of their serious governance and development challenges.

But can we really credit Facebook Zero for an increase in Internet access amongst the poor? While we do not have usage rates for Facebook Zero, there is no denying that Facebook is empowerment.

For many of the poor, Facebook is the face of the Internet, and a source for gathering information and news. Facebook is also a vehicle for voicing concerns and finding like-minded individuals (case in point: the Arab Spring). Interestingly enough, in Ghana, the Electoral Commission posted election results to Facebook, rather than to their own webpage, because they acknowledged that Ghanians go to Facebook to obtain their information.

Is Facebook Zero A Community Space?

Physical access points, like Telecentres and Cyber Cafes, serve as hubs of Internet access, but also, and equally as important, as community spaces. Sure, as a social media platform, Facebook facilitates social interaction between its users, but there is something to be said about the value of face-to-face communication. If Facebook Zero is the future of public community spaces, we may be looking at a future with less physical interaction, which, many, would consider a grave loss.

Facebook Zero is an Inspiration

There are already signs that Facebook Zero has generated a sustainable model for Internet connectivity. The usage of Facebook Zero has given the poor a stronger reason to want access to regular, broadband Facebook.com, so that they may view status updates and photos. Already Facebook Zero has garnered competition, like Google’s “Free Zone” and Wikipedia Zero, and we can be optimistic that, with time, this competition drives up the quality and options of Internet access for the poor.

Above all else, Facebook Zero’s private ownership is an attractive model of public access because it bypasses regulations and rules established by governments. Authoritative leaders often desire to restrict the flow of information and tech freedoms to the poor. But if we believe that the poor have a right to knowing what’s going on in their communities, their country, the world, then access to Facebook Zero is surely a great starting point.

Maria Andersen is a graduate student at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), focusing on international economics & African development


Go to Source. Reprinted from ICTWorks

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Is Selling Mobile Phone Airtime Really Entrepreneurship?

ooredoo-mwomen

Ooredoo and the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women made a Clinton Global Initiative commitment to enable 30,000 women by 2016 to become entrepreneurs by selling prepaid Ooredoo airtime to their communities. They will equip each woman with a business kit containing a mobile phone, promotional materials, and an operating manual. The women will also receive hands-on training on how to run their businesses.

When I first head this, I was quite skeptical. I didn’t see how selling airtime was really entrepreneurship, versus a survival tactic when employment options were rare to nonexistent. Yet, research by the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women and GSMA mWomen convinced me otherwise.

mwomen-entrepreneurs

In “Women Entrepreneurs in Mobile Retail Channels: Empowering Women, Driving Growth“, they make a clear case for women’s participation in the mobile value chain and the benefits of such participation both for mobile network operators and for women entrepreneurs.

When we interviewed women participants in the MVC, clear benefits emerged which outweighed the risks. While the profit from the small-scale selling of basic mobile products is not adequate to provide a livelihood, it is helpful as a supplement to other commercial activities due to the steady demand for these products.

Monthly income generated through mobile sales varied across markets, but ranged from USD42 to USD298. Selling mobile products is also a relatively simple business with low barriers to entry, providing women with an easy opportunity to gain experience and business skills as independent entrepreneurs.

It will be interesting to see what happens in Myanmar as these women become more business savvy and the government starts to notice the huge impact all these businesswomen will have on their communities. It will be even more interesting when government and NGOs start to think creatively on how to leverage the mobile channel as a service delivery mechanism.


Go to Source. Reprinted from ICTWorks

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