International Institute for Communication and Development

A couple of weeks ago I blogged about the International Institute for Communication and Development (IICD) - a non-profit foundation that specialises in information and communication technologies (ICT) as a tool for development.

The following video - "Presenting IICD" - gives an introduction to the work of IICD.

IICD creates practical and sustainable solutions using both modern media and traditional media to connect people and enable them to benefit from ICT, thereby contributing to the Millenium Development Goals. Currently, IICD is active in Bolivia, Burkina Faso, Ecuador, Ghana, Jamaica, Mali, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia in the sectors education, environment, governance, health and livelihoods (agriculture).

The following video - produced by ICT Bolivia and supported by IICD - explains how the monitoring and evaluation process has helped them to understand and improve on their ICT projects.

More information on TIC Bolivia: www.ticbolivia.net.


Wireless Networking

Today I'm returning to the issue of access and connectivity, because I came across some websites and articles with useful information and ingenious solutions.

Wireless Networking in the Developing World

The goal of the wndw website is to help you get the resources you need to build a wireless network that solves your communication problems.

One of the major resources provided is a free book - Wireless Networking in the Developing World - about designing, implementing, and maintaining low-cost wireless networks. In it you will find information about:
  • How to design a wireless network that extends the reach of an existing Internet connection
  • Understanding radio waves, antennas, and transmission lines
  • Choosing and configuring wireless networking hardware
  • Designing a solar energy system to provide power to network devices in remote places
  • Securing, monitoring, and maintaining your network
  • Implementing an economic model that will sustain your project

Wireless Wok

A few years ago, a university lecturer in New Zealand developed what he called the Wireless Wok approach. It is very DIY and low cost, but needs a fair bit of technical support



United Villages provides villagers in Asia, Africa, and Latin America with a digital identity and access to locally-relevant products and services using a low-cost, store-and-forward "drive-by WiFi" technology. Mobile Access Points (MAPs) are installed on existing vehicles (e.g. buses and motorcycles) and automatically provide access for WiFi-enabled Kiosks along the roads. Whenever a MAP is within range of a real-time wireless Internet connection, it transfers the data from and for those Kiosks. United Villages sells prepaid cards to village Kiosk Operators and local sales agents who resell the cards to users at a profit and provide a human interface for our products and services, which include:
  • Sending and receiving voicemails, text messages, emails, and faxes;
  • Purchasing locally-unavailable products such as medicines, books, and seeds, which are delivered to Kiosks on the MAP-mounted vehicles;
  • Accessing value-added services such as job searches, travel bookings, and matrimonials;
  • Browsing locally-relevant websites and information caches.

Other Resources

There is a useful summary of resources at the webpage "Resources for low cost wireless networking".

The materials developed as part of the "Capacity building for community wireless connectivity in Africa" initiative which is funded by IDRC and coordinated by APC are available for trainers at: Wireless networking.

The South African CSIR Meraka Institute's Wireless Africa program is dedicated to making low cost networking accessible across the African continent: Wireless Africa.

A DIY Mesh Guide prepared by the Wireless Africa group at the Meraka Institute: Building a Rural Wireless Mesh Network.


ICT as a tool for development

As well as having insufficient access to food, education and health care, disadvantaged people in developing countries may lack access to public services, technical innovations and even electricity. They may be excluded from political processes, be unaware of what is going on, and unable to voice their needs. ICT can be a powerful economic, social and political tool when placed in their hands. It can help them to access, process and disseminate information quickly, effectively and on an unprecedented scale. Better access to ICT is particularly vital in enabling them to address issues such as poverty, illiteracy and general lack of development.

This is the view of the International Institute for Communication and Development (IICD) - a non-profit foundation that specialises in information and communication technology (ICT) as a tool for development.

IICD creates practical and sustainable solutions using both modern media (such as computers, Internet, email and multimedia) and traditional media (such as radio and television) to connect people and enable them to benefit from ICT, thereby contributing to the Millenium Development Goals.

Together with partners from the public, private and non-profit sector, IICD puts knowledge, innovation and finance to work. Currently, IICD is active in Bolivia, Burkina Faso, Ecuador, Ghana, Jamaica, Mali, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia in the sectors education, environment, governance, health and livelihoods (agriculture).


Conference on national community multimedia centres in Jamaica

A conference under the theme 'Igniting and Sustaining Community Development in the 21st Century' was held from 12 to 14 March 2008 at the Jamaica Conference Centre in Kingston.

UNESCO is cooperating with the Jamaican Ministry of Energy, Mining and Technology (MEMT), ICT4D Jamaica, the Cable and Wireless Foundation, and the HEART Trust/NTA to set up a national network of community access points (CAPs) through community multimedia centres/telecentres in Jamaica.

The purpose of the Conference was to facilitate dialogue among stakeholders in order to consolidate fragmented community-based ICT projects being implemented across the island. It also aimed to highlight the use of CMC/Telecentres as tools for mainstreaming development issues at the national and community levels. Over the three days, the Conference featured presentations, mini workshops and panel discussions to provide participants with an in-depth perspective on lessons learned and best practices in establishing networks as well as the application of ICT for community development.

The involvement of private sector, development organizations, donors and other participants will serve to reinforce the purpose of CAPs and improve collaboration which will contribute to enhanced effectiveness, sustainability, policy and advocacy. The feedback obtained from participants during the conference will be used for further development of the national network.

Click here for more details from UNESCO and here for details from ICT4Dev Jamaica.


ICT for the voluntary & community sector

Just recently came across this very useful website ICT Hub. The hub is a partnership of national voluntary and community organisations (VCOs) who provide a range of services to help organisations in the voluntary and community sector benefit from ICT. Some of their free publications include:

ICT Foresight: Consultation and Campaigning in the Age of Participatory Media

Cons & Camp copy

This report, based on a survey of almost 300 senior managers in the voluntary and community sector; maps out emerging trends in relation to the critical 'voice' and representation roles of the sector.

ICT Foresight: How Online Communities can make the Net Work for the Voluntary & Community Sector

How Online Comms copy

This report examines the impact of the internet on the growing trend for individuals and organisations to come together through online social networking, forums, blogs, wikis and other new technology.

A Guide to Managing ICT in the Voluntary and Community Sector

This in-depth guide covers all aspects of managing information and communications technology. It contains over 100 pages of accessible information that is useful for anyone whatever your level of technical knowledge. This publication has been supported by ESiT.

Download a copy of the Guide to Managing ICT in the Voluntary and Community Sector PDF 1.55MB.


New Media Case Studies

The Media Trust have produced a booklet highlighting 10 VCOs of all shapes and sizes who have used new media to communicate with their audience.

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Future Focus 3: How will we use new technologies in five years' time?

New from the Performance Hub, this guide looks at how ICT is impacting on the voluntary and community sector and suggests ways for your organisation to make strategic choices and plan ahead.

If you would like a copy please visit the Performance Hub website

More free resources available from ICT Hub.


UNU OpenCourseWare Portal

On the February 4, 2008, the United Nations University launched the UNU OpenCourseWare Portal, accessible at http://ocw.unu.edu - a new initiative that offers free online access to training courses.

Initially, the UNU OpenCourseWare Portal offers open access to about a dozen courses developed by three of UNU's Research and Training Centres and Programmes (RTC/Ps) and the Tokyo-based UNU Media Studio.

The intent of the UNU OpenCourseWare Portal is to make the course materials used by UNU RTC/Ps available on the Web, free of charge, to any user anywhere in the world. The initiative is not meant to replace degree-granting higher education or for-credit courses, but rather to provide content that can be used by educators for curriculum development, by students to augment their current learning resources, and by individuals for independent self-study.

The long-term goal of the UNU OpenCourseWare Portal is to promote the development, use and distribution of training materials under Creative Commons licenses. The initiative is part of the Global OpenCourseWare Consortium (http://ocwconsortium.org), a collaboration of more than 100 higher education institutions and associated organizations from around the world with a common mission of advancing education and empowering people worldwide through OpenCourseWare.

Resources available in the initial phase of the UNU OpenCourseWware Portal include six courses on electronic governance, developed by the UNU International Institute for Software Technology (UNU-IIST, Macao); five Ph.D. training courses on the economics of technical change, innovation and development, developed by the UNU Maastricht Economic and Social Research and Training Centre on Innovation and Technology (UNU-MERIT, the Netherlands); and two courses on mangrove biodiversity and integrated water resources management developed by the UNU International Network on Water and Health (UNU-INWEH, Canada). Several more UNU system units are currently preparing course materials for inclusion in the portal later this year.

Philipp Schmidt, who is responsible for the project at UNU-MERIT and who recently participated in drafting the Cape Town Open Education Declaration, said, "So far, the OpenCourseWare movement has focused on distributing content from the developed to developing countries. Through our partnership with institutions like the University of the Western Cape in South Africa, we are trying to reverse this trend and make locally created content more accessible."


ICT in education resources from UNESCO

The UNESCO Bangkok "ICT in Education" provides helpful material about the use of information and communication technologies (ICT) in Asia-Pacific education. Here is some material that has recently been added.

ICT Resources for Teachers CD-ROM

This CD-ROM contains a set of ICT-based resources for teaching and learning of science, mathematics and language for secondary-level students, including simulations, video clips, interactive learning objects for quizzes, animation, and other kinds of multimedia learning activities.

The materials are organized according to subjects and a separate directory is provided to give an overall view of the types of resources available. This CD-ROM, titled “ICT Resources for Teaching and Learning of Science, Mathematics and Language”, was created as part of the UNESCO SchoolNet Project, “Strengthening ICT in Schools and SchoolNet project in ASEAN Setting”.

Web Tools for Educators CD-ROM

This CD-ROM, “Web Tools for Educators”, contains free web-based tools (computer software that is accessible via the Internet) that are useful for people working in the education field. In particular, this CD-ROM contains software that teachers can use to enhance teaching and learning, and software that education administrators can use to improve productivity and efficiency.

Each of the tools on this CD-ROM comes with a “tutorial” which explains what the tool can be used for and what its educational or efficiency advantages are. In addition, clear instructions are provided regarding how to download and install the tools.

Multimedia Resources CD-ROM

When creating local teaching and learning materials, teachers often need to incorporate multimedia such as clip art, presentation backgrounds and audio clips. This CD-ROM is a collection of such multimedia resources, compiled by the UNESCO ICT in Education Unit. Teachers can utlize these resources freely and share them with colleagues.

Free and Open Source Software CD-ROM

The UNESCO Bangkok ICT in Education Unit has created a CD-ROM which contains a selection of free and open source software (FOSS) tools, useful for a variety of contexts.

The software on the CD-ROM are divided into the following categories: audio and video; games; graphics; internet; learning; office; and utilities. Each software application has been thoroughly tested and verified by a team from the ICT in Education Unit, to ensure its effectiveness and safety. The software have also been checked to make sure that they do not include any viruses, adware, malware or spyware. This CD-ROM may be used and copied freely, and distributed among educators, students, and any others who would like to use it, thanks to the flexible licensing terms of the software developers.


Mapping the Internet

Continuing the theme of connectivity, today's blog looks at some research that shows that even though the Internet only exists in cyberspace, it is nonetheless strongly "territorialized".

Dr Matthew Zook's research focus can be broadly described as an interest in technological change and shifting geographies of globalization. Given his long standing interest and work with domain names, he decided to create a map in kmz format (deployed in Google Earth) to create a representation of the domain name system. Details can be found at his website at: http://www.zook.info/tld_map.html

The map below highlights the political and technical locations of the domain name system.

Of particular interst to me is the proliferation of top level domains (TLDs) in the Caribbean.

More on Mapping Cyberspace.


Solar-Powered Wi-Fi

My blog is mainly about the use of the Internet for education and development. Note that I did say "use" not "access". But often in my job I get someone saying, "Oh, but people can't use the Internet for education in village X because they don't have access to it or to electricity". Well today's blog is precisely about how we can get around these problems.

As solar power becomes more affordable, it is possible to bring Wi-Fi to previously inaccessible locations. Here is one success story - Green Wi-Fi.

Green Wi-Fi

The mission of Green Wi-Fi is "to help deliver the world's information to people in developing areas seeking knowledge, hope and opportunity in a digitally divided world." It seeks to bridge the last critical mile in Internet access using nothing more than a single broadband connection, rooftops and the sun. Green WiFi has developed a low cost, solar-powered, standardized WiFi access solution that runs out-of-the-box with no systems integration or power requirements.

Self healing network Green WiFi nodes can then be deployed on rooftops to form a self-healing network that hops the source signal over a virtual 802.11b/g grid. Because these nodes require no fixed installation or power tie-ins, they can form an unplanned, mobile grid that can grow or be relocated as needed. Working with other programs Green WiFi aims to complement and extend the power and promise of initiatives such as the UN/MIT One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project, Intel's World Ahead Program and other NGO efforts dedicated to providing affordable computing capabilities to developing areas.

More about wi-fi.