November 3, 2011

‘ICT4D postcards’: The picture so far

kiwanjaAcouple of weeks ago I sent out an open invitation for people to contribute to the ICT4D Postcards Project. The idea was to gather a collection of postcards from people working in international development who had a technology theme – or influence – in their work. Postcards have been coming in since, and I thought it would be a good idea to post a few up here, ahead of the full collection that will be posted online in the coming weeks.

In short, a postcard consists of a photograph and short narrative that explains why the image is important – or how it relates – to that person’s work. The idea is to go beyond usual explanation and website narrative to reveal more personal insights and motivations of the people who work in our field.

Here’s a selection of five that have come in so far, in no particular order.

Jonathan Donner. Kigali, 2003 | Website | Twitter

In 2003, mobile phones were just appearing in Rwanda. Penetration was just 1.5 per 100 people (1.5%) then. It is over 33% now. I organized some studies to ask microentrepreneurs about how they were using their new phones. Everyone was quite accommodating, letting us ask details about each of the last 10 calls recorded on the phones call log. Though we learned a lot about business processes and productivity, our data also demonstrated just how intertwined these phones had already become into daily life – two-thirds of the calls were with friends and family. I suspect these trends still hold.  At this moment, the interviewer (Nicole K. Umutoni) was probably looking back at me and wondering why I was taking this picture. Now we know! Continue reading

October 26, 2011

The ‘ICT4D Postcards Project’

It was 2004, and I was working on a project which took me to the intersection of technology and international development. Much to many people’s surprise, mobile phones were beginning to make their way into parts of rural Africa, including areas like that in the photo. This is Bushbuckridge – an area which straddles Kruger National Park in South Africa. These women spend most of their days queueing for water, and we pulled up one morning when I took this shot. I use it a lot in my work. It highlights the challenges we face in the development community, and challenges me to think hard about the role of technology – if any – in improving people’s lives.

kiwanjaLuxury Travel Stories is about the idea of connecting the world via ‘stories’ in postcard format. A photo with accompanying text no more than what would fit on the back of a postcard.

Last month I was invited to contribute a postcard to the Luxury Travel Storiesproject, and chose the photo and text above You can view the post, and those from other contributors, here. The whole site is based on the idea of “connecting the world via ‘stories’ in postcard format. A photo with accompanying text no more than what would fit on the back of a postcard.” Like “Dear Photograph” (which I blogged about here), it’s a simple but compelling idea.

One of the things I’ve always maintained is that we often know little about the background and motivation of people working in our field, and how they came to work in it. So in part as a way to rectify this I thought it would be great to put together a slideshow of ICT4D-related postcards to share online.

If you work at the intersection of technology and international development and have a favorite photograph – one you’ve taken – with a technology/development theme and would like to take part, send it to [email protected] with your name, a short description of when and where it was taken and what it means to you. Remember, the text needs to fit on the back of a postcard, so keep it concise. And if you know anyone who you think might want to take part, please pass this on.

Once I have enough I’ll pull everything together and drop it into Slideshare. If enough people contribute it might be fun to map the photos, and stories, on Ushahidi.

Looking forward to reading your stories and contributions!

September 15, 2009

Scale vs. ownership: A conflict in the making?

A guest post by Kelly Sponberg, project manager at RANET

RANET“For about a decade now I have been fortunate enough to work on a small and niche-focused program called RANET (Radio And Internet for the Communication of Hydro-Meteorological Information for Rural Development). The program has a simply stated goal to make meteorological forecasts, warnings, and observations more readily available to rural and remote communities. It does so through a variety of training, system development, and site deployment activities.

The technologies used by RANET have ranged from satellite broadcasts, to satellite telephony, to FM community radio, include HF e-mail networks, a variety of web based applications, and of course mobile phone messaging and data services. We recently began experimenting with and using FrontlineSMS to scratch a particular itch. I’ll try to describe the challenge and problem that FrontlineSMS uniquely addresses well. Continue reading