"Curious: What do you think about ICT initiatives?"
If you don't want to hear my answer, hit the delete key now...
I have to come clean and admit to being an ICT fetishist. But, my
definition of ICTs includes radio, print, video, sticks in the dirt,
crayons, walkie-talkies, t-shirt silk-screening, telephones, cave walls
for paintings, beepers, flip-chart paper & markers (my favourite!),
video-conferencing systems, email, sky-writing, and coloured chalk on
sidewalks. See the DevMedia website that I maintain:
ICTs enable people with *access* to them to communicate information and
share knowledge over space and time. Access is a key issue. Access is
generally determined by a combination of political, cultural, and economic
circumstances and is often linked to relationships of power. Blah, blah,
The electronic ICTs are fun, interesting and often very appropriate in
developing world contexts... but sometimes they are not. In rural
villages in northern Ghana, people generally desire access to ICTs such as
telephones (electronic), radios (electronic), and pens (not very often
electronic). I get a bit concerned when I see people parachuting ICTs
into contexts where there has been little consultation about what people
want to communicate about, how they might prefer to communicate, which
ICTs they find appropriate and which ICT use they can sustain and manage.
My focus is on access to practically and appropriately useful ICTs that
enable rural people to communicate. My activities generally involve
participatory processes designed to enable rural stakeholders to
articulate their information and communication needs, and to enable
them to participate in the planning, design and management of their
access to ICTs.
I started out with community radio among rural/native communities in
Canada, got involved extensively with community access television and
community video in Canada, and then got seriously interested in rural
telecommunications (or the lack of rural telecommunications) and Internet
access. About a decade ago someone got me hooked into a participatory
video project in Pakistan and since then I have been dividing my time
between rural telecom stuff in Canada and community media/rural telecom
stuff in developing countries.
I now focus about 90% of my energy on telecommunications for rural
development via a consulting group - TeleCommons Development Group -
http://www.telecommons.com which is affiliated with a rather
techno-fetishist group of high end web hackers that specialize in
agricultural Internet applications - http://www.agribiz.net
My number one project right now is a rural telecom business planning
initiative designed to put together private sector funding for an
extensive wireless rural telecom/telephone/communication shop initiative
in rural areas of northern Ghana. This planning involves EXTENSIVE
community consultation (a team of 17 people in the field for an extensive
period of time) and ICTs such as sticks in the dirt (participatory
mapping), GIS, GPS, video, print, t-shirts, face-to-face meetings, and
two-way radio. I'm also working on a similar initiative in rural Peru, and
am involved in the IFAD/IDRC Electronic Networking for Rural Asia Pacific
(ENRAP) project - http://www.enrap.org - with a specific focus on
assisting rural stakeholder organizations to plan and partner on locally
useful electronic networking applications.
Sorry if I have bored anyone.