Author Archives: Kai Henriquez

The 1%CLUB Uganda research report

frontpage kai After 8 months of extensive research, of which 2 full months have been spent in Uganda, the research report for the 1%CLUB is finished and published online at ICT4Uganda.net. Continue reading

Simple solution for local Development Cooperation

Countries, districts, counties, sub-counties, villages, communities… organizations. There are countless organizations (in Northern Uganda for this case) actively participating in development activities. Continue reading

Stolen quotes on ICT4D

Here is a collection of quotes which describe important issues that need to be taken into account when discussing, researching and theorizing about the use of Information and Communication Technologies within the framework of International Development Cooperation. These quotes have been selected and copied from numerous information resources which aren’t referenced here. All of them accumulated through google! Let information be free and accessible to all!

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Gulu Visit II: SOVCO and questioning ICT4D

SOVCO team in Ongaku

SOVCO team in Ongaku

22 years of internal strife by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) has led to the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people living in the northern part of Uganda. In 2007 a total of 31 IDP camps (which now are called Community Centers) with all together 214,908 people have been administrated to which food aid was being distributed. Now that the situation is stabilizing, many inhabitants are leaving the camps to return to the land that was once their home. But in doing so they encounter a new array of problems and difficult challenges to overcome. I visited two different IDP camps along with 2 different organizations that were active and carrying out projects to sustain the community and improve the lively hoods of the people i.e. BOSCO Uganda and SOVCO Uganda.

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Gulu visit I: BOSCO and ICT4D in Rural Uganda

BOSCO site volunteers Coope

BOSCO site volunteers Coope


22 years of internal strife by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) has led to the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people living in the northern part of Uganda. In 2007 a total of 31 IDP camps (which now are called Community Centers) with all together 214,908 people have been administrated to which food aid was being distributed. Now that the situation is stabilizing, many inhabitants are leaving the camps to return to the land that was once their home. But in doing so they encounter a new array of problems and difficult challenges to overcome. I visited two different IDP camps along with 2 different organizations that were active and carrying out projects to sustain the community and improve the lively hoods of the people i.e. BOSCO Uganda and SOVCO Uganda.

Continue reading

Development Cooperation 2.0 with the 1%CLUB

Exciting new challenges and opportunities are emerging fast for organizations within the development cooperation sector. A paradigm shift is taking place in which web 2.0 concepts and technologies prove to play a vibrant and fruitful role in providing capacities for people in developing countries with which they can realize what’s meaningful for themselves. New structures for development cooperation are thus being formed through the utilization of these new technologies; structures which are centered around the concepts of social networking, massive collaboration, crowd sourcing, collective intelligence, transparency, and equally important, individual responsibility. Welcome the emergence of Development Cooperation 2.0. Continue reading

Visiting KIFAD in Kampala

KIFAD office

KIFAD office

I had the opportunity to visit the Kiyita Family Alliance for Development (KIFAD) last week. KIFAD is a local community based Non Governmental Organization with its headquarters in Nansana Town Council in the Wakiso District of Kampala. As they explain in their mission statement, “KIFAD stands out to challenge and respond to causes and consequences of disease, poverty and ignorance with a commitment to mobilize communities to solve their own problems and live with dignity”. Continue reading

Global Teenager Project Chat @Afrikadag2009

The GTP @ Afrikadag 2009

The GTP @ Afrikadag 2009

“Pack your old bag and let us take you back to school. However, you can leave your pen and paper behind because you are virtually connected to your classmates from all over the world.”

Saturday the 25th of april, around 1500 people from all across the country found their way to “Afrikadag 2009” in The Hague. This event was dedicated to Africa and Development issues concerning Africa. In the morning and afternoon a total of 45 debates and 8 cultural programs were organized on a wide variety of development subjects. There also were various stands where organizations and NGO’s handed out information, gathered signatures for petitions, collected opinions and much more. Continue reading

Text To Change: Spreading the Message to Stop the Virus

t2c1 “Using SMS technology to spread information about HIV/AIDS among mobile phone users in sub-Saharan Africa in order to measure, analyze and improve knowledge, attitude and behavior regarding HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment.”

 

Over the past decade mobile phones and services have taken Uganda by storm. Thanks to the ease in getting a prepaid phone number and the relatively cheap phone prices and phoning costs, mobiles have penetrated the largest part of the population. The mobile phone has provided people, ranging from the densely populated cities to rural communities, with the powerful and life influencing means of distanced communication. These developments have opened-up new doors for health, awareness and education initiatives. With HIV/AIDS being a large health issue, Text To Change  (TTC) is “harnessing the powers” of mobile phone technology by “using it as a medium to communicate health related issues and to support existing prevention campaigns”.

Through an interactive SMS-quiz which lasts several weeks, questions and information about HIV/AIDS is spread among a large amount of mobile phone users about 3 times a week. During the pilot project in 2008 (which has been a great success) a total of 15.000 active mobile users in the Mabarara region were targeted.

  1. First an announcement SMS is sent to the target group announcing the quiz taking place, giving them the chance to enroll in the program.
  2. Then the target group receives, about 3 times a week, questions regarding issues on HIV/AIDS and its prevention, the main focus points being “General knowledge about HIV transmission” and “The benefits of voluntary testing and counseling”. The target group are opted to reply to the questions, and when they do, they receive additional information on that issue if they answered correctly or they receive the right answer with additional information if they answered wrong. Users can earn/win airtime by engaging in the program and answering the questions correctly.
  3. At the end of the program users are provided with information on health clinics near them, and are stimulated to go there for a free checkup and HIV testing.
The TTC system/process chart

The TTC system/process chart

During the program a significant increase has been noticed on patients who came in for testing during a six week period, from 1000 to 1400. This shows the actual impact the project has and the potential it possesses to support in education, awareness and combating disease.

Through this program valuable data and information is collected on the current state of knowledge and awareness amongst the population, which in turn is relayed to health clinics and other organizations in order to improve programs and methods. As they state, “Text to Change aims at establishing partnerships between governments, public and private companies, non-governmental organizations (NGO’s), financial institutions and medical experts. Joining forces to achieve a common goal for mutual benefit by sharing skills, resources and risks could be the key to an actual change”.

All together, the TTC project provides a solid base for communicating relevant knowledge to the masses, educating the nation and fighting disease strategically. By seeking a broad range of partnerships and redeveloping their software in open-source they expand the range of possibilities and thus the impact the program can have nationwide (and even continent- or worldwide). Therefore Text To Change is in my opinion, well on its way in achieving their ambition, which is, “to become a global platform of telephony health services”.

Battery Operated Systems for Community Outreach in Uganda

BOSCO Uganda
Battery Operated Systems for Community Outreach

picture-22

For decades war has been raging in Northern Uganda. With civil casualties ranging in the hundred thousands, thousands of child abductions and many millions of refugees, this war has been labeled to be “the world’s most forgotten humanitarian disaster”. Today, in total a number of 53 IDP camps (Internally Displaced Persons Camps) provide the safety of shelter for approximately 2 million war refugees who live under inhumane conditions in total poverty. But projects are being setup to better the lives of these people and aim to develop a prosperous future for them.

BOSCO (Battery Operated Systems for Community Outreach) is such a project initiative that aims to give these IDP’s a voice; a chance to access and share information, and the possibility to connect to others and the rest of the world through the use of ICT. In short, the project provides internet access and VOIP (Voice Over IP) telephone access to, at the moment, 20 of the 53 IDP camps in Northern Uganda.

A common problem noted by Kevin Baily  is that when supporting development through ICT, most of the time:

  • Schools and IDP’s have no access to the power grid
  • Computers they get are produced in 1990s and consume large amounts of energy which schools and IDP’s cannot afford
  • Regions that are connected to the power grid don’t have the infrastructure supporting the use of the computer and internet, this is like “providing a car without wheels”.

But BOSCO provides means for a sustainable ICT infrastructure by providing low-power PCs that can run on a 12 volt battery charged by a small solar panel and by transmitting the internet signal over radio waves that can reach to places 60 miles from the central hub. Next to the technological support for the ICT infrastructure needed to accomplish the project, BOSCO also provides a training program that educates the local community in using the ICTs to “articulate and communicate their own needs better than any outside actor”.

They have developed a web 2.0 style strategy in providing these means for education. The educational model consists of the following steps:

  1. It starts with the formation small user groups willing to learn the uses of the computer and the internet to gain competence
  2. They get email and gain access to the BOSCO intranet and are encouraged to post pictures, write blogs and create educational content to the BOSCO Wikispace. This space is accessible to children and adults in schools, community centers and IDP camps involved with BOSCO.
  3. Collaborators from the rest of Uganda and across the entire world get the opportunity to log onto the wikispace to view and share user content created on the Wikispace.
  4. Collaborator input is linked back to the volunteer groups and the North Ugandan Users of the space, creating a circle of information interaction.

This initiative connects both people in the most impoverished rural areas of Uganda to the rest of the world and the other way around. Giving the people in those places voices to be heard across the entire globe, giving them the means to communicate their needs, questions, and thoughts. Giving them the ability to access, create and share information, and next to that providing the world with the awareness of their living standards and ways of life.

For more information on the project go to their homepage! 
For up to date reports, keep track of their Weblog!
And collaborate on their Wikispace!

See here an inspiring segment from Global Challenges aired by CNN International, about the impact of a BOSCO related ICT installation in rural Uganda.

MUBS Online

mubs-online

mubs-online

 

MUBS Online is an online academic resource platform for students and lecturers of Makerere University Business School. The platform is aimed at promoting research collaborations and the sharing of knowledge among students and lecturers in the school and with other researchers in Sub-Saharan Africa and Beyond.

MUBS Online welcomes publications and contributions from lecturers and students of MUBS and also from other researchers interested in research on ICTs, Business, and Development in Sub-Saharan Africa.

The Makarere University Business School hosts an online platform to which researchers can register to share and gain access to academic resources. The platform which is a collaborative project between the Makarere Business School, Kampala, Uganda and the International Center for Information Technology and Development has been launched in late 2008. At the moment (March 16th 2009) it counts a total 45 registered members from a variety of countries. These researchers are encouraged to publish their research results, publications, abstracts and dissertations in order to enhance international knowledge sharing and collaboration on the following topics:

Next to that it provides subscribed collaborators with the ability to create communities, communicate with each other, and it provides an ever growing inventory of relevant web links to:

All in all, the relatively new, MUBS online proves to be a reliable online research and teaching platform, open for contributors seeking and sharing knowledge and information. Because it is a relatively new platform, improvements can be made on certain collaboration and knowledge sharing techniques. The addition of, as of now still lacking, discussion boards might bring significant improvements to the platform. But, over the years this initiative does promises to grow into a vast knowledge and collaboration base for people who are interested in the topics discussed above.

Be sure to check it out and collaborate!

Deconstructing ICT4D with Soenke Zehle

ICT4Uganda with Soenke Zehle

ICT4Uganda with Soenke Zehle

On Tuesday the 3rd of March we went to Stayokay in Amsterdam for a meeting with Soenke Zehle who, amongst others, founded the ‘incommunicado’ project along with our thesis advisor Geert Lovink. It proved to be a valuable meeting in which Soenke guided us in thinking critically about the term ICT4D and provided us with a theoretical approach on deconstructing the significance and use of the term ICT4D.

ICT4D (Information and Communication Technologies for Development) is a term being used increasingly in defining the interdisciplinary research field which is concerned, according to Wikipedia, with overcoming the barriers of the digital divide. “It is an emerging field within the discourse and agenda of organizations working to support development efforts as well as within the development agendas of developing countries and development-oriented organizations in developing countries” [Source]. But what does ICT4D actually imply? And how can we critically assess the use of it?

We started with writing down what we understood under ICT, what we understood under 4 and what under D in about 5 keywords. By doing this we could create a generalized concept of the term.

  • Under ICT we identified key terms as infrastructure, devices and networks.
  • Under 4 we identified the terms connectivity, usage, access, opportunities and empowerment.
  • And under D we understood conceptions of cultural and societal differences and a certain need for improvement, change and innovation.

While we setup this list of conceptions a discussion arose in which critical questions came up which helped us explore in broader detail what ICT4D implies in reality. We often think of ICTs as being purely physical devices and/or hardware we implement and use to support us in information and communication processes. Along with their means of use, like software, these devices extend human bodily capacities and supposedly improve the lives and daily processes of people. Therefore ICTs are often conceived as a grand vehicle for development because they provide technological means of empowerment and “life changing” opportunities through an increase in connectivity and access to digital information.

But what is often overseen and largely misunderstood by actors within the development scene, is that the implementation and use of ICT involves more that solely setting up the physical infrastructure and providing devices and means. Through implementing and using ICTs, immediate transformations of social and cultural structures take place. In this sense the “focus” in development issues shouldn’t solely lie within the domain of merely physical technology, but largely in the much broader domain of the socio-cultural transformations. Anticipating these socio-cultural transformations, provides the backbone for sustainable development.

The problem encountered then is that values and uses are embedded within the implemented infrastructures and devices used for development. From this the question arises: How do you implement an infrastructure and technology that doesn’t predefine its own use? Cultures and societies differ in needs, interpretations, standards, intrapersonal relations etc., so when assuming that the implementation of a functional technology for one country will have the same functionality and will provide the same solutions and opportunities in the other (to be developed) country means that no attention is given to social and cultural mechanisms that are actually of biggest importance to take into account.

This leads us to questioning the main actors in development processes. Who gets to speak and decide for the people in need? Who defines the development trajectory? And what actors take the actual decisions that eventually shape cultures and transform social structures? Within this perspective we identify local, national and international actors which all can have a say on the development means. So, when talking about ICT for Development, the term development is loaded with predefined conceptions, assumptions and stratifications of cultural and societal differences between states, the one lagging behind or rising above the other. We can separate the voices and actions of inhabitants, end users and recipients, of governments, collectives and opinion leaders, and of major development organizations and investing/donating states. But the ones defining the needs for development and the trajectory of the development process differ largely and puts great questions to the legitimacy of the contemporary forms and structures of development in which ICT is used as empowering agent.

Eventually, Soenke advises that, irrespective of these three categories of actors and stratifications of societies and cultures, it’s important to map entire regimes development initiatives will influence and reflect on the totality of transformations that can and will take place.

Facts and Figures on ICT in Uganda

In order to do research on ICT in Uganda it is good to start with orientating on the initial facts and figures that describe the usage of ICT and the key points on what to focus.  Therefore some valuable information sources have been inventorized to provide this information.

The Uganda National Council for Science and Technology (UNCST)  has developed a great deal of knowledge on this subject. The UNCST is a semi-autonomous government agency established in 1990 by the parliament to advise, develop and implement policies and strategies for integrating science, technology and research development in Uganda. Here you can find an extensive report on the status of ICT in Uganda in 2002, executed by the UNCST and implemented by the National Foundation for Research and Development (NFRD).

A case study conducted by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) in 2001 on the status of ICT in Uganda you can find here. And here a powerpoint document presenting the information gathered by ITU.

In the Ministerial Policy Statement for the Ministry of Information and Communications Technology , for the financial year of 2008/2009, a great deal of information on the governmental policies, implementation plans, achievements and expenditure can be found. This document states the mandate, mission and vision of the Ugandan Ministry of ICT, it outlines achievements in physical and financial terms and reports challenges encountered in 2007/2008.
Here a document on the ICT policy in Uganda of 2003. It emphasizes the importance of a national ICT policy and gives insight in the status of ICT systems, the telecommunications infrastructure and focuses especially on emerging issues.

Here you can find information on extensive orientating research done by “Reflect” in 25 villages in Kabarole region of south west Uganda. Their results on key development priorities, existing communication practices and other extremely valuable information to keep in mind for conducting research on ICT for social change is presented here. And some more information on research they’ve done in Africa.

Here some interesting facts and figures of the Uganda Investment Authority on the state of the information and communications sector. And a briefing on the growth of the ICT sector from 2002 to 2007. Their website also provides a rich resource of valuable information and assistance in establishing businesses in Uganda.