Posts Tagged ‘scale’
“ICT is not the silver bullet. Find what works and do that.” This idea came out of the Tech Salon “What Can We Learn from ICT4Ag in Ethiopia” held last week, where ICT4Ag leaders discussed some of the current initiatives aimed at feeding 92 million people in Ethiopia.
This is a guest post from Jamie Narkunski, who works as a UX consultant at ThoughtWorks NYC. I recently attended a Tech Salon where the subject of grant applications came up. Part of the conversation revolved around the issue that the complexity, format, and investment required in the traditional grant application process acts as a…
According to the latest GSMA statistics, nearly 50% of people own a mobile phone in the developing world and almost 70% have access to mobile phones. With mobile access increasing daily, opportunities to use mobiles in development initiatives continue to grow and expand. The area of Mobiles for Development (M4D) has attracted investment from all…
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Recently Priya Jaisinghani, Teressa Trusty, and I brought together a few folks to have an informal Technology Salon around the pertinent question of how can the development community get technology to scale?
Whew, I think this was one of the most intense and contentious Technology Salons yet! After an hour of lively discussion around what “sustainability” and “scale” means to information and communication technology programs, we were just starting to pull back the layers around the topics.
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Sustainability Means Many Things
We quickly found that there were many definitions of sustainability and scale. Maybe too many, as these terms differed wildly across implementers and donors. It was even suggested that in the realm of ICT, development has an unbroken string of failures since none of the projects have scaled to the extent of mobile phones.
Before we cast out the entire body of work to date, much of ICT4D is done as experimentation – there is an expectation of failure while we figure out models that would work. At least we have mobile phones to show that there are ICT models that can scale, sustainably.
What do you think is the single most important issue at the intersection fo technology and development? Recently, the twin issues of sustainability and scale have come to the forefront in many conversations, with both peaking in October in several forums:
- Sustainability: This month’s Educational Technology Debate is focusing on ICT4E sustainability and at an IADB meeting, virtually everything that USAID does was suggested to be unsustainable.
- Scale: I was recently reminded that while there is an incredibly vibrant mobile phone industry, after 15 years of PDA and mobile phone pilots there are few, if any, sustained mobile technology development projects that are more than 5 years old, continued after funding ended, and scaled beyond pilots.
But what do we mean by “sustainability” and “scale” in ICT4D?
Now here’s the real issue. What might be our shared definition of both “sustainability” and “scale” with information and communication technology programs in international development?
There needs to be a micro mobile telco solution, an entrepreneur-led, small-scale business model to deliver connectivity to rural or underserved areas not seen as commercially viable by large GSM providers.
In this model, voice communication is the original “killer app” – the key functionality that drives early and widespread adoption and revenue. But should broadband data also be provided, even if there isn’t obvious demand?
Broadband data connectivity is needed for many applications in virtually every development sector, from e-government to e-health, and is often central to any educational intervention. And as mobile carrier backhauls are almost always IP networks, the technology it there.
In fact, there was also consensus that technology was not the main micro mobile telco constraint – costs and functionality continue to develop to the advantage of potential effective solutions like WiFi mesh networks, WiMax technology, and GSM infrastructure.