Results tagged “ICT4D” from Wayan Dot Com

Planting a Future in Philippine ICT4Rice

| in ICT4D

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I am honored and humbled to announce that in January 2017, I will start a new job as the ICT4D lead at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI, pronounced "eerie") in Los Baños, Philippines. This is an awesome opportunity for me to:

  • Innovate with cutting-edge research that impacts more than 3 billion people worldwide who depend on rice as their staple food.
  • Lead technology teams who are deploying practical solutions for the 144 million rice-producing farms worldwide.
  • Experience again the opportunities and challenges of working and living in a developing country, that itself is a major rice producer and consumer.

Yet this decision impacts more than myself. My whole family is moving to Los Baños with me, and I am very lucky that my wife, Amy, is just as excited as I am for this opportunity. This decision also impacts you - my friends, peers, and colleagues.

First, I'm deeply grateful to my FHI 360 family - from my boss, John Zoltner, to his boss, Nadra Franklin, to her boss, Patrick Fine, the CEO. All three have been ardent supporters of even my most extravagant ideas (yes, even JadedAid!), and I cannot speak highly enough of them and all of my peers at FHI 360. I truly love my tenure there, which continues through December, and would highly recommend you working there too.

Next, before you worry, many of my DC-based initiatives will continue on.

  • ICT4Drinks - is already in the capable hands of TechChange, though expect a Manila chapter to be opening shortly.
  • Technology Salon DC - will be run by Rob Baker, who will take it in new directions, while I will still run the overall Technology Salon umbrella organization.
  • ICTworks - will continue with only minor changes, as I will still be the editor, though expect a continued focus on ICTforAg themes.
  • Fail Festival - will still happen this year, so mark your calendars now for December 1 to enjoy the best variety show in Washington, DC.

Beyond that, I need your help. Amy and I will be wrapping up over 15 years of DC living - packing, selling, or giving away everything that doesn't fit in a suitcase, and transporting the whole family to a new country. We'll need your advice, guidance, and support with everything from renting out our house to finding quality beer and wine in Manila.

Got any tips or tricks? We're all ears!

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In addition to switching jobs, I am now starting my Masters of Business Administration at George Washington University. Why? Because I don't have enough going on in my life, what with a new job, a wife, two kids, a dog, house, and all my ICT4D friends.

So to just make it that much more intense, I am in the accelerated MBA program at GW, where we cover a semester's worth of classes in half the time. Called the "AMBA", it will still take me two years of Tuesday nights and Saturdays to graduate, but I can work full time at Development Gateway and bring home the bacon that my young family needs.

At this point, there are two dubious records I hold in the class.

  1. At 38 for the second time, I am the oldest member of the AMBA Class of 2014 by at least two years. My goal was to start grad school before I would have such an honor, but now that I have it, I am rolling with the mental fragility prestige this title conveys.
  2. I also happen to be the most traveled member of the class, with experiences from 82 countries, beating out the next competitor by 10 countries. Funny enough, he is Indonesian with an Italian name, and I am the American with an Indonesian name.

Overall, I am excited about the AMBA courses and the freedom to challenge myself. It seems that most course grades are based on essays and case studies versus quantitative tests, and most people maintain the B average required to graduate, so I feel that I'll do well.

Of course, this is the first week, so check back in a year and I may have a different opinion. In the mean time, check out my team's first two work products:

Well, what do you think - worth an A?

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Goodbye Inveneo, the best job I've ever had

| in ICT4D

peace out, inveneo

Four and a quarter years ago, I joined Inveneo with the dream to accomplish three goals with the company. I aimed to grow the local ICT partner program to a market differentiator for Inveneo, raise the company's profile in the Washington DC market, and get Inveneo on large USAID programs.

I am proud to say that I've achieved each of my goals.

  1. The ICIP program grew to be what sets Inveneo apart from all other ICT companies and has become a major reason we are sought out as a partner and implementer. Now under the leadership of FJ Cava, the program has achieved success in Haiti and around the world beyond my expectations and has inspired similar efforts at other organizations.
  2. Unquestionably, Inveneo is now known in Washington DC. Today, it's rare that I have to explain what Inveneo does or even hand out a business card. All the major players know of Inveneo, many of their staff have met Inveneo staff personally, and the conversations start with "How can we partner?" - with real business opportunity in mind.
  3. Inveneo is now sought out as the preferred technology partner for major USAID RFPs and IQC's, to the point where Inveneo is on multiple primes' proposals as the exclusive ICT solution designer and implementer.

In addition, Inveneo now has a deep pool of staff that can support its Washington, DC business. Sybille Fleischmann has ICT in education deployment experience from Microsoft and in Haiti that eclipses my own. Lisa Lin brings deep experience with USAID contracts beyond any level of detail I would ever want to have. Kristin Peterson and the sales team know their way around the different contracting vehicles and how to read the proposal and partnering tealeaves.

Moving On

So it's with the satisfaction of knowing I've propelled Inveneo into the highest levels of international development that I now take my leave from the organization. I am moving on from Inveneo on September 7th with a full heart of goodwill and happiness for the organization and my departure from it.

I feel truly blessed to have worked at Inveneo for the last four years. I loved, LOVED, every minute of it, often to the point of tears when I saw our impact on the communities we serve. It was truly the best job I've ever had.

I will cherish the working relationship I've had with the Inveneo team. I will especially miss Kristin and Mark, who were more than my bosses - they became great friends to me and I appreciated their continued support and endless patience.

The Next Challenge

Yet its time for me to take on a new marketing challenge with another organization. Starting September 10th, I will be joining Development Gateway in Washington DC. They develop results monitoring and big data ICT solutions for bilateral and multilateral donors and national governments and are instrumental in supporting the growing momentum around the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI).

Not to worry, I will still be in the ICT4D space and I will not forget Inveneo. I will continue to be a tireless advocate for both. I will start by suggesting that you subscribe to ICTworks, one of the many initiatives I started at Inveneo that I know will live on well past my exit.

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ICT4D presentation feedback

I am often asked to speak at conferences, meetings, and workshops on Information and Communication Technologies for Development - ICT4D. My goal is to be a lively presenter, engaging the audience as active participants in the discussion. I am succeeding at my goal from feedback like the responses above on the Learning@Hand back channel.

So what is my secret to getting kudos like that in talking about technology and development? Here are a few guidelines to being an engaged, exciting presenter.

  1. Start with a storyline: The first step for any good presentation is to develop a storyline. Know the story arch you want to present and build an outline of key points based on that story arch. Note the focus here - in a story. As the great Seth Godwin says, a presentation excites, motivates, inspires. You will educate the audience in the course of the talk, but don't make it the focus. That's a workshop, not a presentation.
  2. Think in photos: Woe to the presenter who puts more than 5 words on a slide. They are confusing a presentation with slide notes. Your slides should accentuate your point, not be Cliff Notes to remind you want to say. Your audience can and will read your words faster than you, and just be annoyed that you read so slowly out loud. Instead just use big, evocative photos that demonstrate your point. Google Image Search is your friend here. And for those that worry about image rights - if they didn't want the image used freely, they shouldn't put it online. For my presentations, I have a goal of less than 5 words for the whole presentation - including my title slide.
  3. Be animated: No one likes to watch grass grow, so don't just stand there clutching the podium. Grab the microphone and move out into the audience. Talk with emotion, point to your photos, point to people in the audience, raise & lower your voice, get excited, cry, do whatever the presentation calls for to get and keep your audience's attention. Trust me, they will remember your point if you make it memorable.
  4. Convert the audience to participants: I love asking questions to specific audience members, especially the engaged ones. Also, I do pop quizzes asking for answers to be shouted out. I make people vote by raising hands or standing up. I ask for gadget examples from the audience, like who has the oldest phone or newest tablet. Anything to make people feel they were part of the presentation, not passive receivers.
  5. Get personal: Big topics, like ICT4D, can often be impersonal and seem remote to the audience. I like to break through this barrier with personal stories - events or actions I experienced that tie the big, global narration to common themes we can all relate to. One of my current favorites is that yes, everyone is on Facebook, even my mom - and she "likes" every single one of my posts. Also, stopping mid-story and asking the audience what they think should happen next, especially when the next step isn't logical or expected, is a good way to make a personal story participatory.
  6. Go funny and positive: I love making people laugh. And if they're laughing, people will accept critique and criticism in a positive light. Often, I am discrediting theories and actions that are popular but ineffective, so the humor goes a long way to get the point across without being booed off the stage. In fact, I know I've hit the mark when the crowd erupts into laughter and then goes "oooo" when they realize the joke it on them for perpetuating these misconceptions.
  7. Be short: No one ever leaves a presentation saying "I wish that talk went on for another hour!" So be brief. Finish early, and spend the extra time getting mobbed by your new fans.

In general, I think I am a pretty good presenter now, or as I like to think of it, a lead discussant, by following these simple rules. Then I happen to see a presentation that really rocks and yet again humble me. Here is one of my favorites, which I re-watch often to learn from: Mark Congiusta on Power Point Failures

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In fact, if you only watch one video to improve your presentation skills, please let it be this one. It gives great guidelines on how present with the right mood: funny, informal, yet highly informative.

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Last year, I started the ICT4D Career Network to help people start and grow their career in information and communication technologies for development. At first, I thought there would be more ICT experts than employers with job openings. Now I know better.

There are more ICT4D jobs than ICT experts

Recently, I spoke at an ICT4D Career Workshop, where employers almost outnumbered those seeking jobs. Each was hungry for quality applicants to staff their many job openings and all told of hardship in finding ICT4D experts.

In fact, I publish dream ICT4D job announcements every day, and yet there seems to be more job opportunities than I can keep up with. Yet there are still only a handful of people looking to start an ICT4D career.

You too have the needed ICT4D skills

Interestingly, most people assume they need to know how to code software or install communications hardware to get a job in ICT4D. However, the majority of employers I talk to are not looking for these "hard" technology skills. IT techies can be found all over the world now.

What employers are looking for is staff with the "soft" skills like clear, concise writing, which is always a critical skill in a development organization, and people skills, which is really flexibility and adaptability. Another key skill is the ability to tell pie in the sky tech ideas from on the ground reality, and the ability to innovate within the real life context of the beneficiaries you work with.

If you've been working in the developing world, or in the fast-paced technology field (and not even as a techie) then most likely you have the needed skills to success at ICT4D. So what is stopping you? Start networking and jump start your career today!

Wanna get job search advice & ICT4D job opportunities? Subscribe to the ICT4D Career Forum!

datawind aakash difference from olpc

Recently, the CEO of Datawind presented his case to the World Bank on why the Aakash tablet computer will revolutionize education in India. During his talk, he presented this slide as justification that his tablet was not the XO and that Datawind would be more successful in reaching a 5 million units sold milestone than OLPC.

While I agree that Suneet Singh Tuli's business plan of selling tablets directly to consumers based on clear market advantages is more sound than Nicholas Negroponte's idea of selling millions of laptop to governments based on a handshake with presidents, I do not see a better education plan. In fact, I see none.

What I do see is Datawind and OLPC focusing on hardware sales. OLPC started the netbook revolution - cheap laptops for everyone, and Datawind is starting a "netlet" revolution - cheap tablets for everyone. Congratulations to both. But without a serious focus on educational software and content, and the integration of both into the national curriculum and into teachers' daily instruction, the Aakash will have the same issue as the OLPC:

It will be a cool gadget that pushes boundaries in computing, and leaves education as moribund as before.

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Dear Mom,

Whenever you hear of how poor, hungry, or desperate Africa is, I want you to think of this photo. This is innovation happening in real time in Nigeria. Two teenagers have a business with a laptop and an SD card reader. They take DVD movies people buy in the market and convert them to digital format. Why? Because few have DVD players but many have mobile phones, and these two found opportunity moving data from one to the other.

Replicate this over a country, a continent, and believe that Africa is not a basket case, nor makers of just baskets. Africa is dynamic and money is being made everywhere.

Love, Wayan

This is my entry in Ken Bank's ICT4D Postcards project. Join us with a post card from your perspective

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Yesterday, Erik Hersman (aka. White African) dropped a blog bomb into the sometimes contentious debate around the term ICT4D - information and communication technologies for development. In his The Subtle Condescension of "ICT4D" post he says:

I have cognitive dissonance over the term "ICT4D". The term "ICT4D" is confusing, hypocritical and has a whiff of condescension that makes me cringe. As I understand it, it's what NGO's do in places like Africa and Asia, but if the same things are done in poor communities in the US or Europe, it's not called ICT4D, it's called civil society innovation or a disruptive product.

To be honest, at first I felt Erik was being confusing, hypocritical and condescending himself, as he is the co-founder of a very successful project, Ushahidi, which is an amazing free-to-the-user grant-supported tool for crowdsourcing information and visualizing data that was sometimes thrown into an emergency as an instant cure-all to those under served and misrepresented - the best and worst of ICT4D all in one.

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But then I calmed down, thought about how ICT4D might look like to the average African. They might be seeing it as OLPC, the poster child for all the wrong ways to go about ICT4D. I spent six years of my life kicking OLPC in the shins to try and change their approach as I believed that they we sullying a good idea with their foolishness.

Now I will take six minutes of my life to change the ICT4D debate to make sure good ideas are better understood.

ICT4D and ICT4$ are two whole different industries

Let us not confuse two whole different uses of ICT. In the tech start up world, ICT is a means to make money. Software developers code products like MXit or M-PESA and hope to sell them at a profit to to venture capital funders and people that are currently under served by the market place. The focus is on $. This is ICT4$ and they should be proud of their efforts.

In the international development world, ICT is used to deliver education, healthcare, etc more efficiently. We have great products like FrontlineSMS, ChildCount+, and Ushahidi, and sell them to donor funders so we can deliver them free or subsidized to those under served by government or in market failure situations. The focus is on impact versus $. This is ICT4D, and I am proud to use the term.

Notice the different focus. In no way should a tech startup and its funders seeking to maximize profit seek to work in ICT4D, just like it would be laughable for a development organization (funder or implementer) to run a tech startup to be the next Facebook.

Projects can be ICT4D and ICT4$

Having said that, there is overlap. A product can be both ICT4$ and ICT4D. Let us take Mxit and Ushahidi as examples.

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MXit is certainly ICT4$ - its sole aim it to create wealth for its developers. At the same time, MXit can help promote literacy, expand needed communications, and be a foundation on which development organizations do their efforts more efficiently. That would be an ICT4D use of an ICT4$ product.

Ushahidi certainly started as ICT4D - its sole aim was to help those without a voice be heard. At the same time, it can be sold as ICT4$ as a tool for business to increase their profitability. Say Coke uses it to track stockouts or customer satisfaction - in Africa or Arkansas. I would cheer on that usage of Ushahidi just as much as Haitians did after their earthquake.

Neither ICT4D nor ICT4$ is perfect

Now Erik does point out that there are many development workers who parachute in, talk too much, then leave too quickly to have their projects make any real difference. The same can be said of a number of software developers too. We've all met arrogance in every field.

Erik also points out that many ICT4D projects are not financially sustainable - they exist as long as the grant funding does. The same can be said about startup companies. The current Silicon Valley metric is that only 20% of startups succeed. The World Bank says 30%-60% of theirs succeed.

Now we can argue what "success" means, but the greater point is that failure happens everywhere. We should not be ashamed of it - in fact we should celebrate failure. At least we're doing something.

ICT4D and ICT4$ should be symbiotic

I am firm believer that ICT4D has the same overall goals as ICT4$ - to do well by doing good. We are all here to make money, even if we do it different ways. And we want to feel good about our work, regardless of the end client.

So I wish Erik all the best in keeping his distance from ICT4D while a co-founder of a great ICT4D project. I remember a conversation we had once where he reminded me he is a web technology professional first, and made more from that than Ushahidi. I'll be the first to tell a venture capitalist that they should invest in his next startup, or in any African software developer's big dream. There is real money to be made in Africa. I support efforts like VC4Africa and Coded In Country every way I can. And I have certainly pitched the idea of investing in African companies to VC's before - often to jeers and laughter.

But VC's dismissal of African opportunities hasn't stopped me from investing my time and efforts into a nonprofit tech startup, Inveneo, which is combining the best of ICT4D and ICT4$ the best we can. We sell our consulting services, we sell hardware, and gladly take grants and donations. We are certainly mercenary in our business approach - there are no "charity" projects. Yet our services are all designed to do good while we do well.

We work through local ICT companies, who often make much more than us on projects, and a few have even grown larger and more profitable than Inveneo itself. We do not "parachute" anywhere - if a project is not designed sustainably, we don't do it (yes, we have walked away from projects and left cash on the table). And we tirelessly promote good ICT4D practices, because Erik is right, "ICT4D" can be a loaded term to some.

I work every day to make sure the load "ICT4D" carries is a positive one that benefits those who need it the most, first. I ask you and he to do the same.

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Fail Faire DC 2011 is a celebration of failure. We will have great speakers with fun, fast, Ignite-style presentations of their professional failures. Audience participation is not only encouraged, it is mandatory! We are all peers and none of us is perfect. Expect much laughter as we navel-gaze at where we have all gone wrong in ICT and international development.

Yet we will LEARN from failure. Failure is no reason to be ashamed, and there is great value in examining our mistakes. So while we encourage irreverence and humor, we will be improving our profession too.

We will have light refreshments to lubricate the conversation and there will be an after-party to continue the celebration. However, an RSVP is mandatory for attendance and space is limited, so sign up today!

Fail Faire DC 2011 Sponsors

Fail Faire DC 2011 will happen on October 13th at the World Bank.Those that RSVP will be sent the specific room location just before the event.

Fail Faire DC 2011 is brought to you by theWorld Bank, Development Gateway, and Inveneo.

Agenda:

  • 6:00pm: Welcome and drinks
  • 6:30pm: #FAIL-Slam
  • 7:30pm: Open Discussion
  • 8:00pm: Mingling, learning, networking, more drinks

Featured Speakers (so far)

  • Dr. Tessie San Martin, CEO, Plan International USA
  • The World Bank on their 70% ICT4D failure rate
  • Ian Schuler, Internet Freedom Programs, U.S. Department of State
  • You? Apply today!

Remember, you must RSVP to attend.

Do you want an international development job in information and communication technology? An exciting career where you travel the world using ICT to improve peoples lives? Or to find the perfect ICTD colleague or employee to help you do that?

Then join the ICT4D Career Network to get career tips, employment ideas, and job offers in ICT4Dev.

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Personalized Career Support

To connect with thought leaders and experts working in ICT4D, join the network, introduce yourself, and start asking questions. The Network is a global support community via moderated emails to help you understand the international development and foreign assistance employment landscape.

This is much more than a simple jobs board. The forum will help:

  1. Job seekers start and succeed at an ICT4D job search
  2. Mid-career professionals explore options to improve an existing ICT4D career
  3. Employers and recruiters find and hire quality ICT staff and colleagues

This advice and support comes from leaders in ICT4D and will help you find new and amazing ICT4D jobs, and most importantly - start and grow your ICT4Dev career.

Job Announcements

We scour the Internets to find the best ICT jobs in international development and as a subscriber, you'll get these job ads as we find them. If you are a recruiter, join to advertise your jobs to the best ICT candidates.

Personalized Support

We are here to answer your questions around starting or growing your ICT career. Join to ask experts for help and receive detailed feedback on how to improve job searches, expand employment options, and advance careers. The personal advice is anonymized and shared with the wider network so we can all gain from the collective employment expertise.

General Advice

We also share general job search and career advancement tips that can help you plan for a career change or achieve a promotion. Join to get this unique advice on the ICT4D industry.

Your Investment

The ICT4D Career Network is a pay service - $5 a month. This is a pittance when participation should reduce your job search efforts and helps you gain a promotion or a raise. Yet by paying you show that you are serious about your ICT4D career and we are serious in helping you.

Join Now

Once you complete the Amazon.com payment process, you should receive a confirmation request email. Please confirm your membership and be sure to whitelist the email address. You are paying for it after all.

Recently my friend Sabahat asked a very intriguing question about information and communication technologies for development (ICT4D) that I could not answer quickly:

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Hello Wayan - I am interested in the ways that technology can enhance dev work but I'm not a techno geek. What books and/or journals would you recommend to someone like me so I don't sound like an idiot when talking with the tech folks on an ICT4D project?

I'm not a complete moron when it comes to tech stuff. It's just that up to this point, I've been more of a consumer than "producer" of technology.

For someone who professes to be an expert in ICT, I was a bit taken back that I couldn't reel off a dozen resources quickly. As a blogger more than a book reader, the best I could do was point to ICTworks.org, Educational Technology Debate, and the ICT4D RSS Feed I use to find content for both sites.

What I am missing are ICTD books and journals, and other blogs and websites. So please, do me a favor, list your favorites in the comments below. Especially books and journals, which are a big blind spot for me. I will compile everyone's entries into a shared master list.

Thanks in advance.

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In May 2009, infoDev at the World Bank launched the Educational Technology Debate in conjunction with Unesco with its first topical discussion, "Are ICTs the Best Educational Investment?" between Tim Kelly of infoDev and Wayan Vota, consultant to infoDev. From this humble beginning, the Educational Technology Debate is now an expanding community of practice.

The long-term goal of the Educational Technology Debate is for it to become a focal point and catalyst for an informed discussion and debate around practical implementations of information and communication technology (ICT) solutions in education globally, bringing innovative technology and best practices to the overall ICT for development (ICT4D) effort.

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It's well on its way to achieve this goal, and become a commanding presence in the ICT for education (ICT4E) conversation, through three interrelated activities:

  1. Stimulate a public, holistic, and documented discussion on appropriate low-cost ICT solutions for educational systems in developing countries.
  2. Become a primary knowledge repository and knowledge transfer mechanism to support implementations of low-cost ICT devices in education.
  3. Increase the effectiveness and efficiency of low-cost ICT device implementations in educational environments of the developing world.

The Educational Technology Debate is central to the ongoing global discussion around ICTs and learning. Through its 100+ posts by subject matter experts on 17 topics central to ICT in education, its gained over 550 subscribers to its content, and generated over 740 comments by technologists and educators. In fact, leaders in the ICT for education field (ICT4E) say:

"Educational Technology Debate is invaluable. I used an excerpt of Atanu Dey's Live Debate presentation in my efforts to educate the Ministry of Education on ICT4E best practices. I footnote and link to ETD throughout my reports." Edmond Gaible, PhD, CEO of Natoma Group

The Educational Technology Debate utilizes social networking tools to expand its reach and has even bridged the on and off-line world with a Live Debate that was broadcast around the world. You can read about this progress in the Educational Technology Debate Year 1 Report.

In the next year, expect the Educational technology Debate to expand its dialogue and continue to push for a greater discussion on low-cost ICT initiatives for educational systems in developing countries.

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Recently, Ken Banks put forth an interesting question in his post "Mobile community: The holy grail of m4d?" He essentially asked "Who is the mobile community?" and hinted that there is a lack of clarity in the definition and therefore the need for a specific mobile community.

Taking his hint, Nate Barthel suggested we think of a Venn diagram of the m4D community as overlapping the ICT and development communities, with Prabhas Pokharel creating this one so we could visualize a m4D community.

I'd like to present my own Venn diagram of m4D, adding in Apps4D:


Now here is each category explained, along with its placement in these respective communities:

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  • ICT
    Information and communication technologies represent the full array of solutions, from FM radio to cloud computing that the world uses to create and relay information electronically.
  • Mobile
    Mobile technologies, from the mobile phone to the iPad are a subset of ICT that, like the name suggests, are primarily focused on allowing the user to interact with ICT while in motion.
  • Development
    Often called "international development", its the industry seeking to increase the economic and social development of disadvantaged communities and countries.
  • ICT4D
    Where the use of ICT is for the purpose of developing a community, its referred to as ICT4D (ICT for Development).
  • m4D
    Where mobile technologies are used for development, this is called m4D and is a subset of both mobile and development.
  • Apps4D
    Where software applications interact with mobile technologies, often but not always as software on the mobile device itself, for development, it is Apps4D.

Now this does not mean that m4D should not have its own community - it should. I only wanted to show its location, and to an extent its size, relative to the other communities.

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Power. That's the real problem for information and communication technologies (ICT) in the developing world. Specifically, electrical power, and the lack there of. All the coolest ICT tools, from radio to computers, the very Internet itself, require electricity, and usually vast amounts of it.

solar power in Africa
$10 per Watt in Africa

Yet in the developing world, electricity is very rare and expensive. National electrical grids don't extend past the national capitol or major trading city. Outside of population centers, electricity is generated by local, even personal generators.

Often noisy, polluting, diesel or petrol generators that need constant repair, or very expensive and delicate solar panels that break or disappear overnight. Either way, electrical infrastructure costs usually exceeded the ICT investment, often by 2-3 times.

These two opposing forces collided during the 2000's, as the international development industry, local governments, and communities themselves tried to bring ICT to rural and underserved areas, with disastrous results.

Untold millions of dollars, man-hours, and even computers were lost in these ICT for development (ICT4D) projects when energy sucking computers starved themselves and their hosts, as they gorged on rare, expensive electrons.

We would still be wasting silicon and staff today, if it were not for one, very small invention that has literally revolutionized an industry: the Intel Atom processor.

Atom CPU: Disruptive ICT4D Innovation

In 2008, partly in response to the hype around One Laptop Per Child, Intel announced the Atom series of processors. Here was a processor that had enough power - 1.6 GHz clock speed - to do most applications that users deemed necessary.

Intel Atom motherboard

It also was very energy efficient - 2.5 Watts - and Intel sold them at very cheap prices to computer manufactures.

The power envelop in such a cheap and energy-efficient package was truly a disruptive new-market innovation that has shifted the ICT demand curve.

New-Market Innovation

Clayton Christensen, the originator of the disruptive innovation concept, says that "new-market" disruptive innovation is when non-consumers - consumers who would not have used the products already on the market - are now able to consume.

In the information and communications technologies for development (ICT4D) field, we've been using a number of different solutions to try and bridge the gap between high-powered computers and the low-resource environments we want them to work in.

We've tried everything from only using older, lower performance technology like AMD Geode-powered computers, to reducing the number of computers involved to match the amount of electricity a community can support.

But these were only stopgap measures. Every day the grid-powered world got better, faster technology and everyone else got farther and father behind. We, and the communities we served, were non-consumers of the faster, better technology.

Our clients could not afford the infrastructure for modern computing or had to travel great distance and expense to use it in major cities.

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Making ICT4D Affordable

With its low price, and low power consumption, the Atom was doubly affordable in ICT4D applications. We could move from non-consumers to immediate, large-scale consumption of modern information and communication technologies.

The Atom's lower processor price meant that the end computing product, be it a netbook or desktop PC, would have a lower retail price. In fact, quality netbooks can now be had for $400 - less than half the cost of the cheapest laptops just 3 years ago. But these savings, while significant in isolation, pale in comparison to the power-cost savings.

The real disruptive innovation is the Atom processors power profile. The chipset is so energy-efficient, Inveneo could develop computing solutions that draw less than 20 Watts - the output of a battery - and free ourselves from direct generator power or large solar panel arrays. This drastically reduced the electrical costs of computer deployment, making ICT even more affordable.

A typical desktop computer can consume 200 Watts of electricity in normal operation. In Africa, where a solar power installation costs an average of $10-15 per Watt, that's $2000+ just for the power infrastructure for one computer. An Atom-powered desktop can use just 17 Watts, requiring only a $170 solar power investment - 1/10th the cost of comparable computing systems.

In fact, with Atom-based computing, the total cost of computer ownership drops below free. As we calculated above, even donated traditional computers actually cost at least $2,000 - their electrical infrastructure cost - while a new Atom-based computer and is power infrastructure is less than $1,500.

Inveneo Computing Station

Significant Market Impact

At Inveneo, we've switched to an all-Atom product lineup and our sales have jumped. We're seeing double-digit growth in our equipment sales. Our Computing Station performance meets the needs of our clients at a fraction of the absolute and total cost of traditional computers - even donated ones.

And we are not alone. Almost everyone else in the ICT4D space is all-Atom all the time as well, and from what I hear, also experiencing a noticeable uptick in product sales and project sustainability.

The Atom chipset also spawed the netbook, which has opened up computer sales to two new buyers:

  1. Urban elites in Africa and South Asia who can now afford a laptop for themselves and their families
  2. Mobile phone companies like Safaricom, who are selling subsidized netbooks to increase data network sales

In addition to the developed world buyers, they've helped drive netbook sales to $11 billion in 2009 - over 20% of the entire mobile computing market from 0 in 2007.

So for all of us in ICT4D, I'd like to thank Intel for the disruptive Atom processor innovation. Its a bright spot for an otherwise cut-throat hardware industry that often ignores ICT4D needs.

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Inspiring Women in ICT for Development

| in ICT4D

As a new father of a young daughter, the recent Educational Technology Debate on Gender Equality in ICT Education was a very personal for me. I look at the strong women I see in technology and I hope, dream, that some day my Hanalei will be a leader in whatever profession she chooses.

So was with great interest that I read about how Brooke Partridge and Karen Coppock found inspiration for their achievement in ICT. To complete the triptych of women in ICT that I admire, I also interviewed Kristen Peterson, a co-founder of Inveneo and now its CEO.

She's built the organization from just an idea in 2002 to a leading ICT4D organization I so admire, that I pretty much begged her to hire me (and she's now my boss). Here, I interview her about how she came to be in the technology industry:


Its interesting that she noted the importance of parents & mentors, especially her early mentor source: TV. Through this often maligned ICT, Kristin saw powerful women role modes to emulate and give her inspiration. I hope that times have changed enough that my Hanalei can find her own inspiration in real women she sees leading the world.

4P Computing Device Survey for infoDev

| in 4P Computing

Back before there was One Laptop Per Child and the 4P Computers it spawned, we had to hunt for information on ICT projects. Finding low-cost devices or the initiatives behind them was a challenge only solved by infoDev's comprehensive Quick Guide to low-cost computing devices for the developing world.

I can remember pushing to get the Geekcorps' Desert PC listed, and the pride I had in our entry. Flash forward five years, and I'm now tasked with updating this list. Time has changed more than my involvement with ICT, its also changed the entire ICT field. Now, new 4P Computing devices are coming on line every day.

Yet so are great data gathering tools, like this Google Docs form below. Please let me know what's your favorite ICT device via this simple interface:




And be sure to spread the word far and wide via email, Twitter, and the like. You can even re-tweet the survey using this handy, short snippet:
Help update @infoDev's Quick Guide to low-cost ICT devices - please RT and add your favorite 4PC today! http://bit.ly/ict_device_survey
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In April of 2008, I started the Technology Salon as a forum where technology and development professionals could share there opinions on emerging trends in information and communication technologies and international development in an intimate and informal discussion around:

  • technology's impact on donor-sponsored technical assistance delivery, and
  • private enterprise driven economic development, facilitated by technology.

Now, almost a year later, the Technology Salon is developing into a real community of practice - a network of development and technology professionals who share a common passion for ICT4D, and through regular interaction and communication, are improving their knowledge and implementation expertise in empowering development with technology.

From its inception and reinforced through feedback from its participants, I've found there are three attributes keys to the Technology Salon success and growth:

  1. Conversation, not presentation
    The Technology Salon is primarily a forum for discussion, so presentations are discouraged and Power Point is generally banned. Speakers have only 10-15 minutes at the beginning to present their activity, before participants are free to ask questions, share their own experiences, and drive the conversation in a direction that interests them. This both brings forth the group's knowledge and keeps participants engaged for the full meeting.

  2. Intimacy of participants:
    The Technology Salon attendance is capped at 15 people to make sure each participant has the opportunity to speak and share their experience. This cap also encourages pre-registration and subsequent attendance. Last but not least, it allows for quality pre-and post-event networking by participants.

  3. Confidentiality of opinions:
    The Technology Salon employs the Chatham House Rule - what is said in its discussions can only be attributed to the Salon itself, not to any specific participant. At the same time, the Salon is not recorded nor the discussion transmitted outside its meeting place. These precautions allow participants to speak their opinions freely, thoughts that would not be shared if participants worried about attribution or out-of-context quoting.

In 2009, I look to improve on the Technology Salon's success while maintaining its three key attributes - conversation, intimacy, privacy. Its goal is to evolve beyond its current exclusive nature into a standard of discourse between technology and development professionals. To achieve this greater scale and legitimacy, and make its impact felt beyond its direct participants, the Technology Salon will need to improve its:

  1. Event promotion:
    The Technology Salon has grown organically, mainly through word of mouth and a small announce-only email list I manage. It could benefit from a larger promotion in the technology and development space, reaching practitioners who as yet have not heard of it, and attracting higher-profile speakers and attendees. At the same time, this new interested needs to be balanced with the intimacy that differentiates the Salon.

  2. Meeting regularity:
    Owing to its informal nature and my hectic travel schedule, the Technology Salon meeting have been ad-hoc - scheduled with speakers are available or a topic of interest presents itself. The only regularity has been its timing - on a Thursday from 8:30am to 10am. For it to become a fixture in professional life, it needs to have a regular schedule, but one that can be balanced against the opportunity for guest speakers and capturing of fast-moving topics.

  3. Publication of outcomes:
    Until recently, the Technology Salon has been forcefully off-the-record. Few if any details of the Salon or its conversation points have been documented or shared publicly. For the Salon to have a larger impact, it needs to publish more of its outcomes - be they points of consideration and interest vs. formal pronouncements or conclusions. Yet this grater transparency needs to be balanced carefully with the need for confidentiality for individual participants - which if anything, seems to be the key success metric to date.

  4. Sponsorship:
    To date, the Technology Salon has enjoyed informal sponsorship by its host, the UN Foundation. For it to gain greater legitimacy as a professional forum, it needs to have a formal organizational sponsor that allows the Salon affiliation and yet autonomy in topics and conversation - so that the Salon remains driven primarily by its participants.

And in the spirit of its participant-driven organization, I encourage your ideas and suggestions for improvement, especially if they can help me with the four areas I want to focus on for 2009: publicity, regularity, publication, and sponsorship.

Better yet, are there topics of ICT4D interest you'd like to see at an upcoming Salon, where you can also provide the speaker?

With the explosion of mobile handsets and the faltering of the "$100 laptop" idea, the international development community is focusing on the mobile phone as an empowerment tool, while questioning investments in computers. Is this wise? Is there a data continuum that includes both? Or should development dollars really shift to one platform at a loss to the other?

cell phone africa
The primary development platform?

Please join us for a spirited debate where Troy Etulain of USAID will push us to envision a future where development objectives are achieved on mobile phones, while Wayan Vota will back computers, desktops even, as the true tool of choice to accelerate development with technology.

Katherine Townsend of State will moderate the discussion with an eye to finding realistic recommendations for the development community.

Our gracious host is the UN Foundation and I'll have coffee and donuts for a good morning sugar rush to wake everyone up.

Mobile Phones vs. Computers: a False ICT4D Choice?
February Technology Salon
Thursday, February 12th, 8:30-10am
UN Foundation Conference Room
1800 Mass Avenue, NW, Suite 400
Washington, D.C. 20036 (map)

Do note that seating is limited and the UN Foundation is in a secure building. So the first dozen (12) to RSVP will be confirmed attendance and then there will be a waitlist.

The Technology Salon returns to Washington DC this September 25th to explore an innovative initiative from USAID: ICT4D Challenges.


Let's solve his ICT4D challenges

Akin to the contests that had Lindbergh cross the Atlantic and Rutan/Branson cross into space, ICT4D challenges (contests, makeovers, and competitions) will leverage user-driven innovation to create ICT-based solutions for major development challenges, with the incentive of cash prizes and possible inclusion in a USAID project.

These challenges will spur innovation at the nexus of development and technology while forging new connections between the technology and development communities.

What better forum to explore where USAID is going with these challenges and help shape that path than the Technology Salon, our intimate and informal discussion of technology and development?

Leading the conversation will be Seema Patel, Alliance and Management Specialist for DAI, who is consulting with USAID on the Global Development Commons Initiative - the sponsor of the ICT4D challenges. Our gracious host is the UN Foundation and I'll have coffee and donuts for a good morning sugar rush to wake everyone up.

September Technology Salon: USAID ICT4D Challenges
Thursday, September 25th, 8:30-10am,
UN Foundation Conference Room
1800 Mass Avenue, NW, Suite 400,
Washington, D.C. 20036 (map)
Do note that seating is limited and the UN Foundation is in a secure building. So the first dozen (12) to RSVP will be confirmed attendance and then there will be a waitlist.

About Wayan Vota

| in
wayan vota
Wayan Vota on 60 Minutes - CBS News

Wayan Vota is passionate about technology and international development. He is convinced that information and communications technology (ICT) can accelerate the social and economic advancement of the developing world.

Wayan is a Technology Advisor at FHI 360's TechLab. Previously, he was senior staff at Development Gateway, Inveneo, and IESC Geekcorps, and a consultant to infoDev at the World Bank.

He co-founded Kurante, ICTworks, ICT4Djobs, ICT4Drinks, Technology Salon, Educational Technology Debate, and OLPC News. You can read his full work profile on LinkedIn.

When not off in distant lands or coveting clock-stopping hot technology, Wayan lives in Washington, DC, with his lovely wife Amy, daughters Hanalei and Archer, and the family mascot, Taxi Dog.

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