Category Archives: Tech Tools

The legacy of early tech4good initiatives

UNLogoThe Internet changes so quickly. As does our offline world. It’s amazing not only how quickly web sites go away, but how often entire initiatives are scrubbed online as well – even major United Nations initiatives that were covered extensively once-upon-a-time in major media. That’s a big problem if much of your professional work has been for and with online initiatives.

I’ve been working with organizations online since the 1990s, and many of those organizations are long gone. The initiatives I worked with may have gotten coverage from major media outlets and had huge names behind them back in the day – David Bowie, Bill Clinton, Bono, Nelson Mandela and more – and done a lot of great work, but when those initiatives go away, so do their web sites, all their research and all the records of their work – sometimes from the Internet Wayback Machine as well.

You may think outdated information is no longer useful and should go away. The reality is that “old” information is often vitally important. If anything, it often offers baseline data you can use to compare with data now, and together, it shows you, for instance, if the situation has improved for women online, or if the challenges for women getting online are the same now as they were in the 1990s, or if the promises made now regarding technology are the same unrealized promises from 20 or 30 years ago, and on and on. Having access to old information can also help you avoid previous missteps – or rediscover something that never should have gone away that you can use now.

If you can remember a defunct initiative’s web site address, you can often find archived versions of the site at archive.org, a site I use at least a few times a month. But if you can’t remember a defunct initiative’s URL, you may never be able to find deleted information again. And, as has already been noted, archive.org may not have the web site; sometimes, new owners of an organization ask for old web sites to be taken down, and the site complies.

Early in 2016, I started spending a lot of time updating various pages on Wikipedia related to subjects of greatest interest to me, including several defunct tech4good initiatives. Many times, when I’m trying to find information about a now-defunct volunteering or tech initiative, a Google or Bing search leads me to a page on Wikipedia, but the information isn’t always up-to-date or complete. When I can improve an entry, I do. But a big problem with Wikipedia is that someone can come along at any time and rewrite and delete all of your hard work – or even delete an entire page you have relied on for reference for modern research projects and proposals. I’ll keep updating Wikipedia, but I’ve realized there’s a need to create a more permanent archive of some of the volunteering and tech initiatives with which I’ve been associated, as well as those that I know did great work in the past.

So I have created the following pages on my own web site, to more permanently capture this information. Some pages are just summaries, while other sections are comprehensive. Whenever possible, I’ve included the original URLs, so that you can use archive.org to see complete web sites of these initiatives yourself, if they are there at all. I hope this info is helpful to those who worked on such initiatives in the past and would like to reference this work, as well as helpful to those doing research on the impact of nonprofit/NGO tech use, tech4good, ICT4D, volunteering and other initiatives.

I also hope these pages will be a caution to those who launching so-called disruptive technologies, or a tech tool or management approach the designers believe is entirely new and innovative, or a tool or approach with some pie-in-the-sky promises: always look at what’s been done before. You might be surprised to find that what you were promising now, or think you invented, was talked about many years ago:

United Nations Tech4Good / ICT4D Initiatives, a list of the various UN initiatives that have been launched since 2000 to promote the use of computers, feature phones, smart phones and various networked devices in development and humanitarian activities, to promote digital literacy and equitable access to the “information society,” and to bridge the digital divide. My goal in creating this page is to help researchers, as well as to remind current UN initiatives that much work regarding ICT4D has been done by various UN employees, consultants and volunteers for more than 15 years (and perhaps longer?).

United Nations Technology Service (UNITeS), a global volunteer initiative created by Kofi Annan in 2000. UNITeS both supported volunteers applying information and communications technologies for development (ICT4D) and promoted volunteerism as a fundamental element of successful ICT4D initiatives. It was administered by the UN Volunteers program, part of UNDP, and during the tenure of UNITeS, the UNV program helped place and/or support more than 300 volunteers applying ICT4D in more than 50 developing countries, including 28 Least Developed Countries (LDC), making it one of the largest volunteering in ICT4D initiatives. Part of the UNITeS mandate was to try to track all of the various tech volunteering initiatives and encourage them to share their best practices and challenges with each other. UNITeS was discontinued as an active program in 2005.

What Was NetAid?
A history of the NetAid initiative, part of which became the UN’s Online Volunteering service. This is what I was referring to specifically with all that name-dropping at the start of this blog.

Lessons from onlinevolunteering.org
Some key learnings from directing the UN’s Online Volunteering service from February 2001 to February 2005, when I directed the initiative, including support materials for those using the service to host online volunteers. This material, most of which I authored, was recently removed from the latest version of the OV service.

Tech Volunteer Groups / ICT4D Volunteers
A list of tech volunteering initiatives, some defunct, some still going strong, that recruit tech experts to volunteer their time support either local nonprofit organizations or NGOs in developing countries regarding computer hardware, software and Internet tech-related tasks.

The Virtual Volunteering Project
In 1995, a then-new nonprofit organization called Impact Online, based in Palo Alto, California, began promoting the idea of virtual volunteering, a phrase that was probably first used by one of Impact Online’s co-founders, Steve Glikbarg. In 1996, Impact Online received a grant from the James Irvine Foundation to launch an initiative to research the practice of virtual volunteering and to promote the practice to nonprofit organizations in the United States. This new initiative was dubbed the Virtual Volunteering Project, and the Web site was launched in early 1997. After one year, the Virtual Volunteering Project moved to the Charles A. Dana Center at The University of Texas at Austin, and Impact Online became VolunteerMatch. I directed the project from December 1996 through January 2001, when I left for the UN; the project was then discontinued. This is an archive of the Virtual Volunteering Project web site just before I left.

Early History of Nonprofits & the Internet
The Internet has always been about people and organizations networking with each other, sharing ideas and comments, and collaborating online. It has always been interactive and dynamic. And there were many nonprofit organizations who “got” it early — earlier than many for-profit companies. So I’ve attempted to set the record straight: I’ve prepared a web page that talks about the early history of nonprofits and the Internet. It focuses on 1995 and previous years. It talks a little about what nonprofits were using the cyberspace for as well at that time and lists the names of key people and organizations who helped get nonprofit organizations using the Internet in substantial numbers in 1995 and before. Edits and additions are welcomed.

Also see:

Incredibly Sad News re Gary Chapman Internet Pioneer

This article from the Nonprofit Quarterly about nonprofits losing critical archives as tech changes rapidly. In the article, the Atlantic is quoted:

Digital space is finite and expensive. Digitally stored data can become corrupted and decay as electrical charges used to encode information into binary bits leak out over time, altering the contents. And any enduring information could be lost if the software to access it becomes obsolete. Or a potent, well-timed coronal mass ejection could cause irreparable damage to electronic systems.

Facebook use to organize Women’s Marches: lessons learned

womensmarchThe women’s marches on Saturday, January 21, 2017, may have been the largest single day of marches in US history. Somewhere between 3.3 million and 4.6 million marched in cities across the USA, according to political scientists from the Universities of Connecticut and Denver, who are compiling a mammoth spreadsheet listing turnouts, from the roughly half a million that demonstrated in Washington to the single protester who picketed Show Low, Arizona. There were also marches around the world.

Facebook was an essential tool in organizing women’s marches all over the USA. Most everyone I know personally who was a part of a march got their information from a Facebook group set up specifically for their city’s demonstration.

I joined two of the online groups, for Portland, Oregon and for Washington, DC, and it was fascinating to watch how the groups were used. Some things I learned observing the online organizing:

  1. March organizers realized that they needed a web site or public google doc associated with the group, because group discussions quickly became unwieldy – there needed to a place to find all of the essential information, without having to scroll through what seemed an endless stream of Facebook group messages. It also mean that people that were not on Facebook could access the basic information.
  2. Constant facilitation and moderation were essential. FAQs are great and absolutely necessary, but there will always be people that don’t read them and ask the same questions over and over. Also, a quick, even immediate, response to rumors and misinformation was essential, and it took more than just one post to counter such.
  3. Rumors and misinformation were posted *regularly*. There were people posting that march permits were denied, that the marches were canceled, that the starting point had changed, that bus parking was being denied, that mass transit was going to be canceled that day, and on and on. Not sure if it was people just thinking/wondering out loud (many posts began with “I heard from someone that…”), if it was individuals trying deliberately to disrupt, or if it was people part of an organized effort to disrupt.
  4. Constant updates, often several times a day, were essential, particularly in showing response to criticism and questions.
  5. Facebook created a written record of the behavior of organizers. If they made a misstep, it was there for all to see. If they did things right, it was there for all to see. It was forced transparency for organizers.
  6. Deletion of critical comments was often NOT a good strategy. In November, Portland, Oregon March group moderators began deleting comments, even entire threads of conversation, that they deemed as critical of the march, such as those by people that felt the march was too focused on the experiences of white women, and did not address the unique challenges and perspectives of other women. Many people didn’t just want inclusiveness; they wanted specific statements regarding the particular challenges of black women, Latino women, Asian women, and transgendered people. Deleting those criticisms made people angrier. At one point, major allies such as Planned Parenthood and the NAACP Portland chapter decided they wouldn’t participate. Constance Van Flandern, an artist and activist in Eugene who was the Oregon’s official liaison to the national Women’s March on Washington, said in this article, “These women were overwhelmed by people coming to their Facebook page and asking about issues of diversity. It was just delete, delete, delete.” So Van Flandern started a new Facebook group for the march and invited nine women who had been complaining to her about the lack of inclusion on the other page to join. The page quickly replaced what had been the official page, and the march was saved – in fact, at 100,000, it was the largest march in Portland’s history.
  7. These marches weren’t at the initiative of paid staff at large organizations; they were started at the grassroots level, and powered by independent, spontaneous volunteers, who took on high responsibility roles and recruited and managed other volunteers, mostly through Facebook. And by all accounts, they managed brilliantly – not perfectly, but show me an event managed perfectly by paid staff! I also think their organization and popularity caught a lot of traditional women-focused organizations off guard, and they had to play catch-up. Often, grassroots folks are far ahead of traditional groups in taking a stand – and I think this is going to happen more because Facebook makes it so easy for any group to start getting its message out.
  8. Facebook played a significant role in getting the word out about these marches. But the reason these marches were so well attended, far exceeding predictions in terms of crowd size all over the USA, including DC and Portland, wasn’t just because people knew about the marches. I hope people don’t start thinking all they need is a Facebook group to get lots of people to attend a march.

What lessons did you learn in watching Facebook be used as the primary organizing tool for the women’s marches? Share in the comments below.

January 30, 2017 update: New York Times article, The Alt-Majority: How Social Networks Empowered Mass Protests Against Trump.

vvbooklittle The Last Virtual Volunteering Guidebook, by Susan J. Ellis and myself, is our attempt to document the best practices over the more than three decades virtual volunteering has been happening, in a comprehensive, detailed way, so that the collective knowledge can be used with the latest digital engagement initiatives to help people volunteer, advocate for causes they care about, connect with communities and make a difference. It’s a tool primarily for organizations, but there’s also information for online volunteers themselves. It’s available both in traditional print form and in digital version. Bonus points if you can find the sci fi/fan girl references in the book…

Also see:

OpenOffice needs volunteers – & a plan for future engagement

foss_opensourceforu
I love FOSS software! FOSS means Free and Open Source SoftwareOpen source software allows users (including online volunteers!) to study, change and improve the software at the code level, rights normally reserved for the copyright holder – usually, a large corporation. Free software usually refers to software that grants you the freedom to copy and re-use the software, rather than to the price of the software. But when I talk about it, I really am talking about cost-free-for-the-user software: it doesn’t cost a user money to use it, though donations are encouraged (and, yes, I donate).

As I’ve said before, It bothers me when I see people in countries where I work or visit – Afghanistan, Ukraine, Egypt, etc. – using pirated Microsoft software rather than LibreOffice or OpenOffice. Or when I see nonprofits struggling with expenses and spending huge amounts of money on proprietary software from multi-billion dollar companies rather than FOSS software. FOSS products are powerful, constantly debugged and upgraded, and feature-rich. The support forums for them are as good as anything large software corporations provide.

OpenOffice has been one of my favorite FOSS tools for years. It has word-processing, spreadsheet and presentation features every bit as powerful as Microsoft, at least for my needs, and it’s opened Microsoft files, and created them for me to send to others, as easily as it is for Microsoft to open old versions of its office suite, which many of the people I work with are still using.  But I also use LibreOffice, which is also a FOSS office suite, with all the same features. Why do I use both? Because, sometimes, one will do something the other won’t.

With all that said, there is a history behind these two FOSS efforts that is worth your reading, if you are interested in community engagement, volunteerism, responsive-management, transparency and mission-based organizations. The history shows how clashes regarding commitment and goals between paid leaders and devoted volunteers can lead in splits in programs, and shows the importance of ongoing cultivation of new volunteers – in contrast to assuming volunteers will just magically materialize, the way they always seem to have.

When the company that produced OpenOffice was purchased by the the for-profit corporation Oracle in 2010, Oracle became owners of OpenOffice. The thousands of volunteers that had been contributing to OO, constantly refining the product, as well as promoting it to others, were concerned at Oracle’s lack of activity on or visible commitment to OpenOffice. These volunteers are passionate advocates of FOSS, not just OO, and they were dedicated to seeing the tool not only continue, but continue to evolve, as all software must to survive. A group of OO devotees created the Document Foundation, a nonprofit organization to either manage OO once Oracle let it go – which everyone thought they would – or to create an alternative software. Oracle was invited to become a member of the Document Foundation, so that they Oracle could help with the transition when they discontinued OO. Instead, Oracle surprised everyone: the company demanded that all members of the OpenOffice.org Community Council also involved with the Document Foundation to step down from the council, claiming a conflict of interest, and things turned hostile. LibreOffice was born, and volunteers left in droves to join the effort to refine and promote it. In 2011, Oracle announced it was, indeed, ending development of OpenOffice and that it would give OpenOffice code and trademark to the Apache Software Foundation. OpenOffice continued to be refined and new releases came to fruition, but LibraOffice won the battle for volunteer developer participation.

From what I’ve read, I get the impression that the Apache Software Foundation folks envisioned that the developer pool for OpenOffice would come from seeded by IBM employees, Linux distribution companies and public sector agencies – in short, they thought other organizations would donate talent, because they had before, but they didn’t think about recruiting online volunteers themselves. And now the foundation is struggling with recruiting volunteer developers for Open Office. Things are so dire that the Apache Software Foundation recently outlined what discontinuing the product could look like.

Volunteers deliver the program of both of these foundations. Here’s what the Apache Software Foundation says on its web site:

All projects are composed of volunteers and nobody (not even members or officers) are paid directly by the foundation for their job. There are many examples of committers that are paid to work on the projects, but never by the foundation themselves, but rather by companies or institutions that use the software and want to enhance it or maintain it. Note that the ASF does contract out various services, including accounting, Press and Media relations, and infrastructure system administration.

I love that so many open office projects, including the Document Foundation/LibreOffice, have a commitment to their program being delivered by volunteers rather than paid staff, NOT because they want to save money, but because of the nature of their program itself, which they believe is best delivered by volunteers. They believe volunteer engagement is community engagement and that volunteers are the best people for program delivery – a radical idea I’ve promoted to a lot of nonprofits and gotten a LOT of pushback for.

One of the things I love about these FOSS efforts fueled by thousands of online volunteers all over the world is that they involve volunteers based on what they call meritocracy: new volunteers start by completing microvolunteering tasks, such as sending little patches for problems with the software they find, or sending helpful suggestions regarding improving the software, or replying to official online discussions about the software. Their micro contributions are valuable and consistent. When they have proven themselves to be reliable, trustworthy and helpful, they may be asked for more substantial contributions, or they may offer to take on a larger task themselves, and then complete it successfully. The core group of volunteers may feel the person has proven him or herself as a volunteer, that their commitment to the project is genuine and ongoing, and, therefore, their contributions merit their full inclusion in the development community, granting them direct access to the code repository and to conversations with other volunteers. This increases the number of volunteers and increases the ability of the group to develop the program, and to maintain and develop it more effectively. It’s a method of volunteer screening and recognition, all in one!

So, with all that said… can OpenOffice be saved? Yes – as long as the Apache Software Foundation leadership can make a strong case for OpenOffice to not only Microsoft, but LibreOffice as well. If they can, then attracting new volunteers is relatively easy – at least it would be for, say, me, to develop a very effective recruitment strategy for such, if they have a commitment to carrying it out. OpenOffice was downloaded more than 29 million times in 2015 – that to me says there is a lot of interest in this initiative continuing. Oh how I would love to help them make it so…

Mobile Phones & Public Health – online course, March 28-April 22

Reminder: use the code “liberation” to get $295 course price.

TC309: mHealth – Mobile Phones for Public Health

March 28th-April 22nd 2016
 
Course Description

In 2016, the number of global mobile subscriptions will reach 8.5 billion — more than the number of people on this earth, and it took a little more than 20 years for that to happen. Yet at the same time, health systems around the world are struggling to:

  • Provide access to affordable healthcare for all
  • Treat infectious diseases such as Ebola, HIV/AIDS, Malaria, and Tuberculosis
  • Address crippling maternal and child mortality rates in low-income countries
  • Manage non-communicable diseases like heart disease, cancer, and Diabetes
  • Tackle infrastructure and supply chain challenges in remote settings
  • Train frontline health workers to provide care to vulnerable populations

Increasingly, Ministries of Health, companies, NGOs, and various bilateral and multilateral donors are looking to mobile phones as part of a solution for responding to these challenges.

This four-week, online certificate course will focus on building mHealth skills that revolutionize approaches to patient care and management, point-of-care support, health education, remote monitoring, diagnostics, supply chain management & logistics and more.

A growing number of mHealth projects have been implemented across the world from Guatemala to Uganda, from India to Argentina – we will explore what has worked and what could be improved with each example, and invite participants to share their own experiences in managing ongoing projects.

Apply Now: https://www.techchange.org/online-courses/mhealth-mobile-phones-for-public-health/

Course Topics and Featured Tech
Week 1: Introduction to Mobile Phones for Public Health
Week 2: Strengthening Health Systems
Week 3: Citizen-Centered Health
Week 4: The Future of mHealth

Course Objectives

At the conclusion of the course, participants will be able to:

  • critically analyze both the opportunities and the pitfalls that emerge when working with mobile technology to improve public health outcomes
  • connect relevant development theories to the technological strategies and tools discussed in the course
  • manage specific mHealth software platforms and tools
  • design dynamic and effective strategies for using tools and platforms to improve mHealth efforts
  • become more confident using mobile technology to address public health challenges

Course Methodology

  • This course is delivered entirely online over a period of four weeks.
  • This course features several live interactive guest expert sessions each week with leading practitioners, software developers, academics, and donors.
  • Every live event is recorded and archived for you to watch later.
  • This course also features a unique hands-on learning environment with animated videos, technology demos, practical activities, networking events, office hours, participant presentations, immersive simulations, and more.
  • TechChange recommends budgeting a minimum commitment of 5-7 hours per week and scheduling time for the course around your existing obligations.
  • Participants will have access to all course content for at least 4 months after course completion so the material can be completed and revisited later.

Course Price

  • $295 if you use the discount code: “liberation”
  • $495 if application and payment is submitted by course start date
  • Group discount rates available. For more details, please contact us social@techchange.org.

UNICEF invites orgs to apply for funding for tech innovations to help children

global_logo_2013UNICEF is inviting technology organizations developing tech solutions with the potential to improve the lives of the world’s most vulnerable children to apply for funding from its recently launched Innovation Fund.

UNICEF Innovation Fund plans to invest in open source technologies by increasing children’s access to information, opportunity and choice. UNICEF identifies opportunities from countries around the world including some that may not see a lot of capital investment in technology start-ups. They are hoping to identify communities of problem-solvers and help them develop simple solutions to some of the most pressing problems facing children.

The fund focuses its investments on three portfolio areas:

  • Products for youth under 25 to address a range of needs including learning and youth participation;
  • Real-time information for decision-making; and
  • Infrastructure to increase access to services and information, including connectivity, power, finance, sensors and transport.

The projects must be open source and have a working prototype. They can involve developing a new technology, or expanding or improve upon a preexisting technology.

Key Dates

  • 1 February 2016: Launch of global Requests for Expressions of Interest
  • 26 February 2016: Closing date of the Requests for Expressions of Interest
  • Early-March 2016: Selected companies and institutions will be contacted and will receive a Request for Proposal
  • Mid-March 2016: Virtual or in-person pre-tender briefings with selected companies and institutions will be held
  • End-March 2016: Full technical and financial proposals are due from selected companies and institutions
  • Early-April: Contracts will be awarded to selected companies and institutions

More information about the challenge and how to submit an idea.

For more information about UNICEF’s work in innovation, visit: www.unicef.org/innovation and www.unicefstories.org

Follow on Twitter: @UNICEFinnovate

Also see this TechSoup thread about UNICEF’s Wearables for Good Challenge 

 

Using a Cell Phone or Feature Phone as a Smart Phone

Millions still use a cell phone or feature phone, not a smart phone. For them, text messaging remains powerful, even essential.

I just updated this list of tips for Using a Cell Phone or Feature Phone as a Smart Phone. You might be surprised on just how much people all over the world – and right here in the USA – are doing with a cell phone!

More resources would be welcomed.

Wearables for Good Challenge by UNICEF

The Apple Watch, the Fitbit, Google Glass and many other wearable tech are luxuries for tech-savvy consumers. But could wearable tech be used for diagnosing deadly diseases, monitoring pregnant mothers’ health, tracking air quality, alerting people with “push notifications” or warning of an earthquake’s early vibrations?

UNICEF, in partnership with the microprocessor company ARM and the design firm Frog, is hosting the Wearables for Good Challenge. Blair Palmer, innovation lab lead at UNICEF, says in this summary story from DevEx that UNICEF’s interest in convening the challenge is to “ask these questions and provoke the industry and people to think differently on a global level and not just have these things come out of Silicon Valley. The wearables challenge seeks applications that can provide low-power, unintrusive, highly durable solutions in low-income settings, and many sensor technologies fit that bill. Close to 1 billion more people are expected to come online by 2017, and UNICEF is taking note, Palmer said.

The challenge is now closed to applications. The challenge has garnered 250 submissions from 46 countries across 6 continents, with nearly 2000 registrations from 65 countries. 10 finalists have been selected. Each finalist will then be assigned to work with 1-2 coaches during 2 calendar weeks (10-28 September). Coaches will provide feedback to finalists in order to help hone their ideas for final submission. The challenge partners will award $15,000 to two winning proposals for wearable and sensor products with social impact potential. The winners will be announced by November 2015.

A summary of the finalists:

Communic-AID: A wearable device that facilitates record keeping, aids in the tracking of medications that have been distributed in a post-disaster context and allows the patient to take part in their treatment.

Droplet: a wearable water purification device in the form of a bracelet, to make safe drinking water available to everyone

GuardBand: a system that helps protect children from abuse and observes their health.

Khushi Baby: a wearable platform to bridge the world’s immunization gap is a system for tracking vaccination and mobilization in the last mile.

Raksh: named after the Sanskrit word “safeguard,” this is a low cost (25$) bluetooth-based, ear-worn multi-parameter monitoring platform.

SoaPen: a wearable and portable soap re-designed to encourage hand washing amongst young children to reduce the risk of catching and spreading disease thereby increasing their lifespan.

teleScrypts: seeks to solve the challenge of providing health care workers with advanced healthcare technology in low resource communities at a low cost.

TermoTell: a real time temperature monitor and alert system, designed to save the lives of children under five at risk of Malaria.

Totem Open Health: an open platform and ecosystem for wearable health technology, including: sensors, data collection, storage, sharing, analysis and algorithmic interpretation.

WAAA!: Wearable, Anytime, Anywhere, Apgar is a mobile phone, text-based surveillance service that systematically transmits live APGAR data via soft patch sensors located on a newborn baby.

Follow #WEARABLESFORGOOD and @UNICEFinnovate on Twitter for updates about this and other similar campaigns.

Principles for Digital Development – one that’s missing

digitalprinciplesThe Principles for Digital Development were developed per the efforts of individuals, international and local development organizations, including non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and nonprofits, and donors who have wanted to improve the use and promotion of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in development projects. The Principles for Digital Development were created in consultation with The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Omidiyar Foundation, the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA), the United Nations’ Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the UN Development Program (UNDP), UN Global Pulse, the UN Fund for Population Assistance (UNFPA), the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), UN Women, the World Bank, the World Food Program (WFP), the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the U.S. Department of State, and the World Health Organization (WHO).

For instance, principle 1 is design with the user. The description says, “Too often in the field of international development technology tools are created, or tech-enabled projects are designed, without sufficient input from the stakeholders whose engagement and ownership are critical to long-term success.” The design with the user principle provides recommendations to avoid this.

You can download this one page Principles for Digital Development flyer and post it (for instance, post it in your office for any visitor to see), include it in an information packet, etc.

Tweets about this initiative use the tag #digitalprinciples

The only thing missing? Something very significant: a principle regarding equal access: regarding accessibility for people with disabilities and people using assistive technologies, regarding ensuring that women and girls have full access to ICT resources developed (in a harassment-free, intimidation-free environment), regarding access by minority groups to resources developed, etc.

Also see:

  • Women’s Access to Public Internet Access, resources and ideas to support the development of women-only Internet centers/technology centers/etc., or women-only hours at such public Internet access points, in developing and transitional countries, to ensure a harassment-free, intimidation-free environment.
  • Archive of the United Nations Information Technology Service (UNITeS) , a global initiative to help bridge the digital divide, one of the first UN initiatives on the subject (maybe the first?). UNITeS both supported volunteers applying information and communications technologies for development (ICT4D) and promoted volunteerism as a fundamental element of successful ICT4D initiatives. UNITeS was launched in 2000 by then UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.

 

 

A “Yelp” or “Angie’s List” for Migrants – to avoid exploitation

Contratados.org launched in October, 2014 as a resource for workers—mostly from Mexico—to anonymously rate the employers and recruiters who bring them to the USA for temporary jobs under the H-2B, H-2A, and J-1 visa programs. It bills itself as “the Yelp for migrant workers.”

Migrants working legally in the USA on temporary visas can end up as virtual slaves. They can’t change jobs, they’re often paid less than minimum wage for 80 or more hours a week, and they can’t usually return to the U.S. to sue their employer in court—there’s no visa program for that.

Most migrants do not have smartphones, so designers created the Contratados.org website so it could also be accessed like voice mail. Much of migrants’ internet access is done in internet cafes which charge a few pesos an hour for fairly slow web service, and that meant the videos originally envisioned to be a part of the site were scrapped—too much bandwidth. Also scrapped was an interactive map of the players in the employment side of the equation—although such a map and database can be found in another section of the organization’s website. (It was built from public documents in order to help legislators understand what is happening in the migrant labor program.)

What did get into contratados.org are audio novelas—short dramas telling workers what to watch out for, what to expect, and who to contact in case of trouble as they uproot their lives to try to make a living here doing seasonal work. And they can listen to information about their rights and follow along with comic-book-style illustrations.

Full story at Baltimore’s CityPaper.

Wildlife Crime (prevention/response) Tech Challenge

As demand for products from wildlife has skyrocketed, criminal networks and corrupt officials exploit porous borders and weak institutions to profit from wildlife trafficking. These syndicates are more organized, sophisticated, and technologically advanced than ever before.

Are you a mobile developer, conservation biologist, engineer, forensic scientist, social media analyst, or entrepreneur with a great idea? USAID’s Wildlife Crime Tech Challenge will reward the most innovative science and technology solutions—at any stage of innovation, from anywhere in the world, and from all areas of expertise—that can be scaled to address one or more of the four issues identified on the page: detect transit routes, strengthen forensic evidence, reduce consumer demand, tackle corruption.

Follow on Twitter at @wildlife_tech