IT in Developing Countries Newsletter

'Information Technology in Developing Countries' is a newsletter of the International Federation for Information Processing (IFIP) Working Group 9.4 titled Social Implications of Computers in Developing Countries. Previously supported by agencies like COMNET-IT, Malta and IDRC, Canada, the newsletter is now published on the web by the Centre for Electronic Governance, Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad.

The newsletter carries articles on IT applications in developing countries which have created a socio-economic impact, evaluation of national policies on IT and telecommunications sectors, and paradigms to understand the impact of IT on development. Relevant conferences announcements, and reviews of conferences and books are also carried in the newsletter. The readership mainly consists of IT professionals, academics and administrators concerned with IT policy.

The newsletter has to its credit a legacy of over 10 years of print publication, reaching 750 individual subscribers and 45 libraries in 40 countries. Past issues can be accessed through the WG 9.4 homepage.

Information Technology in Developing Countries
, Volume 18, No. 3, October 2008, [PDF version] includes:


Pursuing Truly Successful e-Government Projects: Mission Impossible?
Stephen Ruth and Robert Schware

E-government in Malaysia: Barriers and Progress
Dr. Sharifah Mariam Alhabshi

How Web 2.0 is Changing the Basic Character of the Internet: An Indian Perspective
Amit Ranjan

Grassroots Involvement for Real ICT Impact: The Experience of a Lone Voice
Kiringai Kamau

Biometric Smart Card (BSC)
Krishnan Devanathan (Kris Dev)

Common Services Centers (CSC) Scheme - Marching Ahead!
Dr. Monisha Borthakur

Base of the Pyramid (BoP) Program


A Guide to Ubuntu

ubuntu logo Ubuntu is a community developed, Linux-based operating system that is perfect for laptops, desktops and servers. It contains all the applications you need - a web browser, presentation, document and spreadsheet software, instant messaging and much more. Ubuntu's work is driven by a philosophy on software freedom that aims to spread and bring the benefits of software to all parts of the world.

"At the core of the Ubuntu Philosophy are these core philosophical ideals:

  1. Every computer user should have the freedom to download, run, copy, distribute, study, share, change and improve their software for any purpose, without paying licensing fees.
  2. Every computer user should be able to use their software in the language of their choice.
  3. Every computer user should be given every opportunity to use software, even if they work under a disability."

If you need to know more about Ubuntu, read this new pocket guide.

Written by Keir Thomas and published by MacFreda Publishing, Ubuntu Pocket Guide and Reference is a concise guide for everyday Ubuntu use.

The Guide focuses on core competencies and background knowledge needed to be an expert Ubuntu user. It is readable, accessible, and easy to understand—even if you've never used Linux before.

The PDF version is available free of charge or if you prefer to read it in print, it is only $9.94 from Amazon.

The book covers the following topics for Ubuntu 8.04 and 8.10:
  • Installing Ubuntu
  • Configuring Ubuntu
  • Getting to grips with the desktop
  • Users and the filesystem
  • Hands-on at the command-line
  • Software management
  • Securing the system


Communication, Media and the Law

Having worked in developing countries that were recipients of UNESCO funded projects, I really admire their open access policy and genuine desire for culturally appropriate capacity building. So please excuse me if I occasionally promote them.

Here are two important, relatively new, UNESCO publications for download:

"Media as partners in education for sustainable development: a training and resource kit" is a training kit to provide media professionals with basic information about some priority issues for sustainable development. It also provides practical exercises to inspire investigative reporting, and draws links to existing experience that may enrich the information resources of media professionals. You are invited to post your comments and discussion points on this publication at the UNESCO web site.

The publication is available for download at this link (PDF 2.3 Mb)

"Freedom of information: a comparative legal survey"

The importance of the right to information or the right to know is an increasingly constant refrain in the mouths of development practitioners, civil society, academics, the media and governments. What is this right, is it really a right and how have governments sought to give effect to it? These are some of the questions this book seeks to address, providing an accessible account of the law and practice regarding freedom of information, and an analysis of what is working and why.

The publication is available for download at the UNESCO web site.


Bold Tech Vision for Western Kenya

Revision of that submitted by tanderson on Fri, 12/12/2008 - 8:00pm.

Harvard Professor plans innovative tech Institute in Kenya. 4 week tech volunteer trip planned. International development expert develops model media lab for community of 60,000 people in Western Kenya where he was born. WCE is looking for templates for design and implementation of a model multi-media center. $4,712 donated during the past month.

Calestous Juma is Professor of the Practice of International Development and the Director of the Science, Technology and Innovation Program at the Harvard Kennedy School. He volunteers as a member of the International Advisory Council of World Computer Exchange (WCE).

Hear BBC about this project
(middle third of their 23 December Digital Planet show)

Recently, Professor Juma took the lead with WCE to help get more schools in the Western Province of Kenya connected to the Internet. He is helping to plan a shipment of 200 donated used computers from WCE to connect seven high schools in Port Victoria in Bunyala District where he was born and raised. These schools have about 4,000 students. The community is a poor fishing community with 60,000 people who will also be invited to use this new tech resource. Dr. Juma has asked WCE to include a copy of the 11-million page eGranary Digital Library that was developed by the University of Iowa.

Dr. Juma said, "I enjoy working with WCE. Together, we are planning to bring a team of volunteers from the U.S. and other countries to help our local volunteers in Kenya redevelop the John Osogo secondary school into a technology resource for students in nearby schools. - and for the community. The John Osogo school is especially important to me because I studied there as a child, long before continuing my education in Britain and long before I started teaching at Harvard and other universities. I was taught there by a Peace Corps Volunteer."

The John Osogo school will serve as the focal point of this WCE shipment as well as a focal point for One Laptop per Child on whose foundation board Dr. Juma serves. In addition, WCE and the school will help to distribute other educational technologies, scientific equipment and books. In addition to the boys' school, a Multimedia Centre will also be established at the Namenya Girls High School. The school is adjascent to the local hospital and plans are underway to explore how to leverage the school curriculum to promote public health education in the community.

The average annual income in Kenya is $1,700 and about 7% of the people are currently using the Internet.

Professor Juma is now contacting his friends and colleagues to explore if they might be willing to join him in financially Sponsoring part of the $22,330 for content materials, sourcing the computers and the logistical and shipping costs needed to make this happen. Dr. Juma said, "I hope they will help to develop “my” Victoria Institute of Science, Technology and Innovation. As part of this, the seven participating schools will match each donation with funds raised from parents, schools, local government, Rotary Clubs and local companies." Their match is a key ingredient in showing the priority they place on their children receiving these computers and ensuring a strong sense of local ownership.

John Ouko, the principal of the John Osogo school said, "The main objective here is to build a strong technological network as the basis for community development in Bunyala District. The long-term vision is for this to evolve into a college and a university offering experiential education. The first project for the students will be computer programming.


Compendium on Impact Assessment of ICT-for-Development Projects

Billions of dollars thoughout the world are invested each year by the public, NGO and private sectors in information and communication technologies for development (ICT4D) projects such as telecentres, village phone schemes, e-health and e-education projects, e-government kiosks, etc. We all feel that these are good things, and yet we have very little sense of the effect of that investment. I know of some that failed because they were too "top-down". I know of others that were a resounding success (e.g., e-Bario) because they used a community development perspective from the start. But these anecdotes do not satisfy funders or governments. Put simply, there is far too little impact assessment of ICT4D projects.

In part that reflects a lack of political will and motivation. But in part it also reflects a lack of knowledge about how to undertake impact assessment of ICT4D. The "Compendium on Impact Assessment of ICT-for-Development Projects" by Richard Heeks and Alemayehu Molla, IDRC & CRDI, 2008, aims to address that lack of knowledge.

"It presents a set of frameworks that can be used by ICT4D practitioners, policy-makers and consultants to understand the impact of informatics initiatives in developing countries.

The Compendium is arranged into three parts:
• Overview – explains the basis for understanding impact assessment of ICT4D projects, and the different assessment frameworks that can be used.
• Frameworks – summarises a series of impact assessment frameworks, each one drawing from a different perspective.
• Bibliography – a tabular summary of real-world examples of ICT4D impact assessment."

Citation details:
Heeks, R. & Molla, A. (2008). Compendium on Impact Assessment of ICT-for-Development Projects. Manchester: IDRC. Retrieved January 09, 2009 from http://idrc-ia-for-ict4d-compendium.doc


Wikipedia and knowledge for all

In order to reach out to the rural communities, Wikipedia.com launched a Wikipedia Academy in Chennai, India on December 12, 2008. The Academy is a community driven initiative among online users. It will focus on spreading education and supporting Wikipedia by contributing articles to it. The Academy, which will have various chapters in India, is a voluntary organisation among online users to basically promote education through wikipedia.com.

Wikipedia Founder and iCommons Board Member, Jimmy Wales, launched the African Wikipedia Academy series at CIDA City Campus in Johannesburg just over a year before - in November 2007.

Check out this great video of the first Wikipedia Academy in Africa at CIDA City Campus.

It made a lot of sense that the first South African Wikipedia Academy took place at CIDA City Campus. Wikipedia is dubbed ‘the free encyclopedia’ and CIDA the first ‘free university’ in South Africa, but it is not only the “cost” that these two pioneering initiatives share. Both are founded on the concepts of community contribution: Wikipedia is built by thousands of contributors from around the world who share their knowledge with their fellow language speakers; CIDA is maintained by the students who help run the university, teach young people during their holidays and help pay university costs of other students when they graduate. It is this sense of community and community contribution that has made both Wikipedia and CIDA so successful in delivering quality education to the poor.

Here's another video of the South African Wikipedia Academy launch.


Distance Learning in Developing Countries

The site Distance Learning in Developing Countries is intended for anyone who is involved or interested in distance learning or distance education in developing countries. It should be useful to students interested in learning by distance, to teachers interested in teaching by distance, or to people interested in research on distance education in developing countries.

Distance Learning in Developing Countries

The website seeks to show how new ICTs - open educational resources, open source, Web 2.0, blogs, wikis, social networking, social bookmarking and other social software - can be used for distance education through online teaching and learning (e-learning).

The site is divided into three main user-sections:
  • For students wanting to obtain online/distance training and education;
  • For teachers wanting to obtain teaching ideas and resources for online and distance teaching;
  • For researchers wanting research ideas and resources for distance education in developing countries.


Global Information Society Watch 2008

It is clearly important that developing countries are not left behind in their use of ICTs, otherwise the digital divide can become a knowledge divide - and in the information economy this can lead to even greater disadvantage, marginalisation and exclusion. But what is the reality in the various countries? Is the current use of ICT being colonised by particular multinationals? Is it a second wave of imperialiasm?

Global Information Society Watch 2008 (or GISWatch), published in print and online by the Association for Progressive Communications (APC), the Third World Institute (ITeM), and Dutch development organisation Hivos, collects the perspectives of ICT academics, analysts, activists and civil society organisations from across the globe in over 50 reports.

GISWatch is both a publication and a process: it aims to build networking and advocacy capacity among civil society organisations who work for a just and inclusive information society. This is reflected in the growing number of participating organisations writing country reports – sixteen more than last year, the first year that GISWatch appeared. By doing this they hope GISWatch will impact on policy development processes in countries, regions, and at a global level.

Thirty-eight country reports have been written by authors from countries as diverse as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mexico, Switzerland and Kazakhstan. At the same time, six regional overviews contextualise the country reports, and cover North America, Latin America and the Caribbean, Africa, the countries that constituted the former Soviet Union, South-East Asia and the Pacific.

The Global Information Society Watch 2008 Report is available for download by chapter or complete in one large file (5213 Kb).


Newly launched Teacher2Teacher Network

I have just returned from a trip "down-under" with my Kenyan partner. She hadn't been there before so it was very exciting. Australia is a remarkable country - well worth visiting - although I guess I'm biased. But as with all travels to new cities or countries, it is so much better if you know someone there or are travelling with a group of like-minded people. Here's a social networking site for teachers that enables this - as well as a lot more.

Teacher2Teacher Network is a safe, private and exclusive social networking community for educators around the world to Connect, Share and Learn. Membership is open to educators from kindergarten through university.

Utilizing Web 2.0 technology, T2T Network is dedicated to harnessing the collective wisdom of its members and has restricted site and community access to Educators Only. T2T Network charges a nominal membership fee with a portion going directly to charity. The first 500 educators to register will receive their first year free.

This new site offers many features not found on other professional social networking sites. G.A.P. Adventures has agreed to provide T2T members significant savings on adventure travel. This allows T2T Adventure Travel Trekker members to come together in an exclusive T2T Members-only group, enabling them to meet and travel with T2T Network members from across the country and around the world. The T2T National/International Home Exchange is the vacation alternative offered to educators around the world. If you are willing to allow someone else to live in your home and you don't mind living in someone else's house or apartment, then this great vacation and travel alternative may be the affordable answer your family has been looking for. A conference and seminar feature allows members to browse many national and international education conferences in places like Rome, Paris and Hawaii. The features also include book discussion forums, teacher exchange opportunities, lesson plan sharing, lecture notes sharing, open source education resources, educational technology resources, discounts and a career center for browsing job openings and uploading resumes.