Tag Archives: ict4d

ICTs to reach & educate at-risk communities

Apps, social media, text messaging/SMS and other information and communication technologies (ICTs) are already playing a crucial role in educating people regarding public health issues, reaching marginalized communities and helping those that may be targets of harassment and discrimination. But in all of these tech4good initiatives, the importance of safety and security for those doing the outreach and those in the target audience is critical. People trying to promote a tech4good initiative do not want the technology to be used by hostile parties to identify, track and target people based on their health, lifestyle or beliefs.

For those interested in using ICTs to reach marginalized communities, or those interested in how to communicate vital information about topics that are frowned-upon in religiously conservative communities, the new publication Pioneering HIV services for and with men having sex with men in MENA: A case study about empowering and increasing access to quality HIV prevention, care and support to MSM in a hostile environment, is well worth your time to read. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) funded this project, and the 48-page publication was produced by the International HIV/AIDS Alliance and co-authored by Tania Kisserli, Nathalie Likhite and Manuel Couffignal. The publication includes two pages on how ICTs help to reach hidden communities threatened by police raids and rising homophobia in the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region – for instance, how applications such as Grindr that are frequently accessed by men having sex with men (MSM) in the MENA region and provide virtual venues for disseminating information on HIV prevention, treatment and support services.”

The publication includes two pages on how ICTs help to reach hidden communities threatened by police raids and rising homophobia in the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region – for instance, how applications such as Grindr that are frequently accessed by men having sex with men (MSM) in the MENA region and provide virtual venues for disseminating information on HIV prevention, treatment and support services.”

This is from the report (note that this is with British spellings):

In 2015, the partners of the MENA programme implemented a pilot online peer outreach project to reach more MSM, in partnership with the South East Asian Foundation B-Change Technology.

In order to improve the understanding of the online habits and behaviours of MSM, two anonymous web surveys were launched online to collect information among MSM (living in Algeria, Lebanon, Morocco and Tunisia), recruited via Facebook and instant messaging channels. The first survey assessed technology use and included questions about mobile devices and tech-based sexual networking. The second survey collected further data on social media behaviours, with questions about using social networks, interpersonal communications, and negative experiences online. The results confirmed the penetration of internet and mobile technologies in urban centres, and highlighted the widespread use by MSM of mainstream social networks (predominantly Facebook) and global gay dating apps, especially in the evening. The predominant website for sexual networking was reported to be Planet Romeo; the predominant smartphone app for sexual networking was Grindr. The results also revealed that while MSM use smartphone instant messaging (SMS and Whatsapp mainly) to communicate and chat with friends, they tend to use the telephone when communicating with health providers. Sexual networking among this cohort demonstrated a preference for web-based methods versus offline (public space) networking. A significant proportion of negative experiences using social media or apps was also reported, in particular cases of breach of confidentiality online.

Based on these findings, the partners designed a pilot information and communications technology (ICT)-based intervention. Experienced peer educators created avatars representing different profiles of beneficiaries, collectively designed an online peer outreach intervention and developed the corresponding standard operating procedures and M&E framework. This was identified as the most feasible output based on existing resources and ICT experience. Building the capacity of community groups for this intervention would result in more effective use of popular social media platforms for MSM-peer outreach activities. Local trainings of ‘online peer educators’ were organised to strengthen digital security, content creation systems, online outreach procedures, conduct of peer educators online, and M&E framework to measure the outcomes towards the HIV continuum of care.

The trained ‘online peer educators’ created ‘virtual peer educators’ accounts/profiles and contacted MSM though internet and social media in their respective countries, mainly on Facebook, Whatsapp, Grindr, Hornet, Planet Romeo, Badoo, Tango and Babel, and mostly during evening and night shifts. The objective was to contact MSM not reached by the usual outreach in public spaces, and hence continue expanding the package of prevention services available to MSM. They provided interpersonal communications on HIV and STIs, disseminated IEC materials online, encouraged them to take an HIV test and referred them to prevention services provided by the partner organisations, as well as public health services in their country.

This test phase lasted from July to September 2015 in Agadir, Beirut, Tunis and Sousse. The results were promising; during the month of September 2015, the six online peer educators of ASCS in Agadir for instance reached 546 MSM via chat rooms, websites, apps and instant messaging. They referred 148 MSM for an HIV test and 86 MSM for an STI consultation. During this period ASCS noticed an increase of number of MSM visiting the association to collect condoms and lubricant; ASCS peer educators appreciated this new type of outreach work compared to street outreach, the latter being uneasy due to growing harassment of police. Some challenges that peer educators faced online were similar to ‘traditional’ or face-to-face outreach work: high interest in sexual health, initially reluctance to visit association or uptake services, or to change risk behaviour.

“The virtual prevention pilot project has allowed us to reach a significant number of MSM, in particular those who remain hidden and aren’t reached through our outreach activities in the streets.” — peer educator and university student in Morocco

Some of the lessons learned from this pilot project:

  • Overall high acceptability: many MSM are eager to engage in an online conversation about HIV and STI prevention, rights and services; virtual spaces are perceived as safe to talk freely about sexual practices with no face-to-face bias; however, a significant proportion of MSM contacted online refused any discussion relating to sexual health and HIV.
  • Strong operational procedures and human resource capacity are required to maintain a high quality ICT tool that maintains privacy and confidentiality; consequently, organisational ICT capacity needs to be assessed and strengthened before initiating an online prevention project.
  • Monitoring and evaluation challenges: it is not easy to measure service use or user engagement online or to clearly show the link between use of ICT and uptake of services; monitoring of referral pathways between outreach CSOs and friendly providers needs to be aligned to track referral from virtual spaces to services.

One thing I do wonder: were any of these people involve volunteers?

Also see:

Short-term deployments with Peace Corps & UNV

From February 2001 to February 2005, I worked at the headquarters of United Nations Volunteers, in Bonn, Germany. Sometimes, people outside the UN would say, upon learning where I worked, “Oh, you’re just a volunteer?”

My UNV colleagues would get this comment too, and would visibly bristle at the idea that anyone would think they were a volunteer!  They would quickly assure the person that they were not merely a volunteer – they were, in fact, a fully-paid staff person with a UNDP contract!

By contrast, here’s how I would answer such a comment:

Oh, no, I’m not a UN Volunteer. I don’t think I’m qualified to be a UN Volunteer. I would probably be turned away if I applied. International UN Volunteers are experts in their professional field, highly skilled and experienced. I’m just an employee at headquarters, and my role is to support UN volunteers out in the field, doing amazing things.

A UNV HQ colleague was with me once when I said that, and her eyes became huge when she heard my response. Later, she told me she’d never thought of UN Volunteers the way I had talked about them, and that it had never dawned her that, in fact, maybe she wasn’t qualified to be a UN Volunteer either.

I know of two UNV HQ staff, both my colleagues and dear friends, who decided to apply to become international UN Volunteers themselves, were accepted into the UNV roster, and were deployed for two years to a developing country. Both of these colleagues worked in ICT. After those in-the-field experiences, they went on to be employees at other UN agencies, and I thought it was a shame UNV hadn’t worked hard to entice them back to HQ, as they would have brought a much-needed perspective to headquarters.

As I was leaving UNV HQ, where I managed the UN Online Volunteering service and helped manage the United Nations Information Technology Services (UNITeS), I decided to apply as an international UNV myself. I decided that maybe I had acquired the qualifications at last to be a UNV. I was delighted when I was accepted into the UNV roster – the UNV staff that decided which applications to accept were in Cyprus, I had no personal relationship with them at all, and there was no policy (and still isn’t) on automatically accepting UNDP staff as UN Volunteers. I was available only for six-month assignments, however, and those were, and are, few and far between. I interviewed for two such assignments – and didn’t get either. Which should just go to show you how competitive the process to be a UNV is. I eventually got a six-month UNDP gig in Afghanistan, but it was as a consultant, not a UN Volunteer.

Now, at this time in my life, I can no longer do a full six-month assignment, so I doubt I’ll ever deploy as a UNV. When you read about me going to abroad for a UN gig now, it’s for less than four months – like in Ukraine – and, again, it’s as a UNDP contractor (which I love – great colleagues, fascinating work and the pay is good).

But there is this part of me that still really wants to go abroad as a volunteer.

So, for more than two years, I’ve been watching listings at the Peace Corps Response web site. This is a program by the Peace Corps that places highly-skilled volunteers in short-term assignments abroad, from four to 12 months. It’s open to US citizens. I’ve been looking for an appropriate four-month gig and, at long last, I’ve applied for a position. I think it fits my expertise perfectly. But I also know that this is a highly-competitive program, and I may not even make the interview round. Still, it was fascinating to go through part of the Peace Corps application process. I’ve also been a reference for a friend that applied for the regular Peace Corps, so I’ve seen that part of the online process as well.

Fingers crossed!

One last note: the Peace Corps Response program, the entire Peace Corps program, and all United States Agency for International Development (USAID), are under threat of severe cuts by the current Presidential administration in the USA, as well as by current Congressional leadership. I encourage you to write your US Congressional Representative, your US Senators, national media and your local media, and let them know what you think of these proposed cuts.

Also see:

 

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.

Kentucky, Tennessee, other parts of USA need digital access help

logoBack in the 1990s, I got into a heated debate somewhere online with someone who said community technology centers and computer literacy programs would be gone by the turn of the century. I knew there would always be a need for such groups, at least in my lifetime. And, sadly, I was right.

I love my home state of Kentucky oh-so-much. I lived there until I was 22, and really enjoy visiting whenever I can. I plan on retiring there some day. I think it’s an amazing state. But I also know that Kentucky has quite a few people who are under-educated, even illiterate, that are living in poverty, that are struggling with nutritional needs, health care, dental care and more. And when it comes to Internet speed, Kentucky is stuck in the slow lane – this story is from 2014, but not much has changed 2 years later.

But in addition, Kentucky, and its neighbor, Tennessee, don’t have many computer literacy projects or digital equity programs outside of its grade schools. Seniors, people in their 40s and over struggling with unemployment, and many others in those two states lack computer literacy skills: they don’t know how to use word processing programs, they don’t understand the Internet, they don’t understand online safety, and they may not even understand what’s installed on their smart phones. The nearest NetSquared group for Kentucky or Tennessee? St. Louis. Chicago. Columbus. Atlanta. Hundreds of miles away for most people in those two states. SeniorNet doesn’t serve either state. There is nothing in Kentucky or Tennessee – and probably a lot of other US states – like there is in big US cities known for their tech-savviness, or even like there is in many large cities in Africa. Portland, Oregon has FreeGeek and an NTEN Nonprofit Tech Club, Austin, Texas has Austin FreeNet and also an NTEN Nonprofit Tech Club, and San Francisco has more programs helping various communities with digital empowerment than I care to try to list here. Heck, I even discovered the Crook County, Oregon Mobile Computer Lab in Paulina, Oregon on a motorcycle ride a few years ago.

Not that there aren’t organizations expressing the need for such in these two states – and others, probably. ElderServe in Louisville needs a volunteer to teach basic computer skills such as how to operate a computer, email, Google, Facebook, etc. to its senior participants. The Louisville, Kentucky public library hosts computer literacy classes at many of their sites. Goodwill Industries of Middle Tennessee has computer classes for clients. in Nashville.

Does the University of Kentucky do anything regarding building the digital literacy of high-poverty communities or under-served people? Western Kentucky University? Eastern Kentucky University? Murray State University? University of Tennessee? Middle Tennessee State University? University of Memphis? Vanderbilt? Not that I could find. I used the names of these universitys, or the largest cities in these two states, and phrases like digital literacy, computer training elderly, and computer literacy at-risk teens to search.

Computer literacy projects, digital equity programs, “access for all” groups, geeks4good initiatives – even in 2016, these kinds of initiatives are still needed, not just in developing countries, but right here in the USA, and not just in Kentucky and Tennessee. I have no doubt that such initiatives could easily recruit qualified, committed onsite and online volunteers in these areas, and attract funding. There are lots of people that would love to teach classes, market the classes, find places for the classes, and build web sites for programs providing these services. Photos of seniors, rural people, at-risk youth and others engaged in these programs, and their testimonials after their participation, would be oh-so-attractive to sponsors.

If you want to start such a program in Kentucky, Tennesee, or wherever you are, there are lots of resources to help you:

  • NetSquared
  • Start a Cyber Seniors program
  • See the San Francisco Bay Area’s Community Technology Network for a model program
  • Archived web pages from CTC Net and its members: go to archive.org and search for www.ctcnet.org and look at any of the web pages from mid 2005 and look up the CTCNet Center Start Up Manual and the CTC Toolkit, with resources regarding
    preparing a business plan, identifying potential partners, determining program focus, staffing, evaluation, budgeting and funding
  • United Nations Information Technology Service (UNITeS) contributions to the UNESCO Multimedia Training Kit, a list of the content UNITeS provided UNESCO in 2005. The overall kit was meant to provide trainers in telecentres, community media organizations, civil society organizations and the development sector with a set of modular training materials on information communications technologies; the materials were intended for use by trainers in face-to-face workshops rather than for self-instruction by learners. UNITeS contributions were regarding volunteer engagement in these community tech initiatives.

And I hope if you do start such an initiative, you will share information about such in the comments below!

Update: for clarification, I’m talking about digital literacy and access for all citizens – I’m not talking about a company hiring people to code or expanding its company operations in either state.

April 17, 2017 update: on a related note: “Tennessee will literally be paying AT&T to provide a service 1000 times slower than what Chattanooga could provide without subsidies.”

Tech & communications jargon versus reality

The Guardian, a media organization based in the UK, has a wonderful online program called the Global Professionals Network, “a space for NGOs, aid workers and development professionals to share knowledge and expertise”. They also have an occasional feature called “The Secret Aidworker,” a column written by anonymous aid workers, talking about the not-so-great parts of humanitarian work.

The most recent blog is an aid worker talking about the “dark side” of humanitarian / development communications. Like me, she trained as a journalist, and it affects both her approach and her ethics regarding public relations and marketing. I was so struck by these two paragraphs from her blog:

The international community is too focused on using gimmicks in outreach campaigns rather than considering who their audience is and what they want. I was recently asked to design an outreach campaign to educate the local community we work in about the work we do. So keeping in mind the low literacy rate of our audience and the limited access they have to online and print media, I designed a communications campaign accordingly. However, that was considered old and outdated.

For my organisation, the use of new technology such as apps and social media held priority over the local regional media, even though I explained much of these were inaccessible to the people we were trying to reach. Too often people think that if a country has access to the internet and mobile phones, every one has access. They don’t consider the cost of mobile data, the literacy rate, or if the locals would even use their devices the same way as in the US and Europe.

Oh, I SO hear this! Not just in humanitarian work, but in all communications work for nonprofits, governments and other mission-based organizations, anywhere. I hear from nonprofits wanting to explore using SnapChat that haven’t updated their web site in months.They want to host a hackathon to develop an app while their manager of volunteers is refused money for posters for a volunteer recruitment campaign. They want to know the best engagement analytics software to purchase while their online community is quiet for weeks, with no staff posting questions, no volunteers sharing information, etc. They want a crowdsourced fundraising campaign but haven’t sent thank you’s to donors this year. They want a viral online marketing campaign to promote something but balk at the idea of a staff person visiting area communities of faith and civic clubs to build personal relationships with local people, especially groups that represent minorities that are under-represented within the organization’s volunteer, client and donor base.

Anyone who knows me knows that I have long been a promoter and advocate of ICT4D. I wrote one of the first papers – back in 2001 – about handheld devices, what were then called PDAs (personal digital assistants), in health and human services, citizens’ reporting, advocacy, etc. I am a pioneer regarding virtual volunteering. I use, and advise on the use of, social media to promote a variety of information and network with others. I regularly post to TechSoup’s Public Computing, ICT4D, and Tech4Good community forum branch about apps4good – smart phone applications meant to educate people about maternal health, help women leave abusive relationships, connect people with emergency housing and more. So I certainly cannot be accused of being a Luddite. But with all that said, I also still see the value of, and know how to leverage, printed flyers, printed posters, paper newsletters, lawn signs, newspaper ads, radio ads, radio interviews, TV interviews, TV ads, onsite speaking engagements, display tables, display booths and other “old fashioned” ways of communicating.

This aid workers blog reminds me of the early days of the World Wide Web, when I would hear an executive director of a nonprofit or the director of a government program talk about how great the agency’s new web site was, but as they talked, I realized they’d never looked at it themselves, and weren’t really fully aware of what the Internet was.

wizardToo many senior staff are bedazzled by buzzwords and jargon they’ve heard from consultants, giving their employees orders to do something based only on what they think is “hip” now. I am just as frustrated by organizations that overly-focus on the latest social media fads for communications as I am by organizations that ignore all things Internet and smart phone-related.

What should you do if you face this in the work place? Use small words and lots of data with your senior staff, and stay tenacious. Remember that a list of potential expenses and budgets for time can make a case for you to do a comprehensive, realistic communications plan. And be explicit and detailed on how your communications efforts will be evaluated for effectiveness.

My other blogs that relate to this:

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.

Tweeters re: Cuba development & ICT4D

A follow-up to my post yesterday, about my visit to Cuba last month and a review of Internet access / digital literacy in Havana. I’m compiling a list of Twitter accounts relating to Cuba, particularly regarding human, community and environmental development issues and ICT4D. So far:

  • @ONU_Cuba – Sistema de Naciones Unidas en Cuba (various United Nations agencies in Cuba)
  • @FAOCuba – Noticias e información sobre alimentación, agricultura y lucha contra el hambre compartidas por la Representación de la FAO en Cuba
  • @cubaperiodistas – La Unión de Periodistas de Cuba agrupa a los profesionales de la información y se creó el 15 de julio de 1963.
  • @AcnuUnacuba – ONG cubana sin fines de lucro. Defendemos y divulgamos principios y la Carta ONU. Tenemos Status consultivo ante ECOSOC.
  • @ETECSA_Cuba – Empresa de Telecomunicaciones de Cuba S.A. Fundada en 1994. Operador de servicios de telefonía Fija, Móvil y Datos.
  • @MINCOMCuba – Las Comunicaciones al servicio de la sociedad
  • @CubarteNews – Music, dance, painting, theater, the extraordinary, dynamic, intense Cuban cultural setting.
  • @CubanSP – Cuban Partnerships, Hosting #BroadcastCuba2015 in Havana for #broadcast #telecom #radio #TV professionals.
  • @economistacuba – El Economista de Cuba
  • @fossworkshopCub – Foss Workshop Cuba (hasn’t been updated since 2015)
  • @tinamodotti71 – Cubana, periodista y editora del portal www.cubasi.cu
  • @cimarron61 – Rafel Campoamor, ciberactivista por el empoderamiento ciudadano a través de las TICs en Cuba y el Tercer Mundo. Bridging the digital divide. Empowerrment through ICT.
  • @InformaticaHab – Evento internacional del sector TIC con mas de 20 ediciones celebradas, tiene lugar en La Habana, Cuba cada dos años. Also @InformaticaHav.
  • @ffxmania – Firefoxmanía, comunidad de Mozilla de Cuba
  • @BloghumanOS – humanOS surgió para contribuir al fomento del uso del software libre en Cuba.

Feel free to add to this list! You can add such in the comments, or tweet me at @jcravens42

Internet access / digital literacy in Havana, Cuba

I went to Havana, Cuba in February. It’s been a life-long dream, and I’m so glad that I had the resources and professional profile to go at last – and before the country undergoes the anticipated massive changes that will come with normalization of relations with the USA – I hope to get to go again to see what those changes lead to.

A shock for me on my trip was that, other than just before the airport departure gates, I never saw an Internet public access center. I had heard they had them, at least for youth, but I didn’t see any. For instance, the Wikipedia.org español entry for Internet en Cuba says:

En 2009 el gobierno permitió el libre acceso a Internet en las oficinas de correos y el pasado año 2013 se abrieron 118 salas de navegación en todo el país, que se unen a los más de 600 joven clubs de computación y electrónica que funcionan en la Isla.

My translation: In 2009 the government allowed free access to the Internet in post offices and in 2013, 118 Internet access rooms or centers were opened throughout the country, used by more than 600 young computer and electronic clubs that operate on the island .

What I did see, more often at night, were groups of people tightly huddled together on steps and walls outside of hotels, phone and computer stores, and the offices of the Cuba Internet provider, with their laptops and smart phones, all looking at screens, some talking on Skype.

This photo is in the daytime, obviously, outside the Habana Libre hotel.:

In lieu of an Internet cafe in Cuba

Internet access here at this hotel, or any other, is not free – they had to pay for this access, just as we did for an hour or two at the same place, but we got to sit in an air-conditioned lobby, even though we weren’t staying at that hotel – they didn’t. I have a feeling this situation is going to change rapidly and community technology centers, and better in-home Internet

I have a feeling this situation is going to change rapidly and community technology centers, and better in-home Internet. My casa particular host will be so happy – she has to beg her guests to never, ever send her any attachments to email to her – she just doesn’t have the bandwidth.

Which reminds me: the Community Technology Network, based in San Francisco, California, USA, is leading a delegation to Cuba in April. “This will be a unique opportunity to observe Cuba at a pivotal point in time as its government, NGOs, and social institutions work together to close their digital divide.” More info about the trip here – it includes information on organizations working towards digital empowerment in Cuba.

I picked up some UN materials at their booth at the Havana book festival – didn’t find any UN staff members to talk to (they may have been there, but the crowds and chaos were overwhelming). The UN info has details on several topics I’m heavily interested in, like public health and women’s empowerment in Cuba, but nothing on digital literacy efforts the UN might be undertaking. I’ll be watching the United Nations Online Volunteering Service closely, hoping that opportunities to support Cuban organizations will start to become plentiful. In addition, I’ll be doing these searches periodically to see what comes up: Brecha Digital e Inclusión Social Cuba, Software Libre Cuba, Internet Tecnología Cubapenetración a la red Cuba, red social and tech ayuda Cuba.

Some resources I’ve found as a result so far:

And one more thing, off-topic for the digital divide, but it’s a cause near and dear to my heart: I did a lot of research once I was back in the states to find an NGO working to help the situation for dogs and cats in Cuba, because the situation for them is heart-breaking. I found The Aniplant Project, Inc. (TAP), a nonprofit in the USA dedicated to the protection of animals, and its primary activity is to support Aniplant (Asociación Cubana para la Protección de Animales y Plantas) of Havana Cuba. Aniplant is not part of the Cuban government and receives no financial help from that government, but it is the only animal protection organization permitted to function in Cuba. Aniplant’s HQ is in Havana, but it provides services throughout most parts of Cuba. In 2014 Aniplant sterilized over 5,000 dogs and cats in its traveling weekend clinics which move throughout the country. I’ve made a small donation to TAP in support of dogs and cats in Cuba, and I so, so hope you will do the same, and like their Facebook page, to stay up-to-date on their work.

Additions later on the day of this blog’s publication:

In conjunction with the June 2015 seminar on “Socialist Renewal and the Crisis of Capitalism” at the University of Havana, Peter Miller developed a 2-page community technology proposal that was the conclusion to his presentation there , an effort to develop an alternative rootsofhope-type technology assistance demo or project in collaboration with, even under the guidance of, officially recognized Cuban institutions and nongovernmental organizations. “It seemed pretty obvious to me that, no matter what one’s politics, that’s the collegial way to begin in the spirit of rapproachment that we share.”

Che Guevara and ICT4D in Cuba,” a December 17th anniversary summary of follow-up research, brought to my attention by this blog by Peter Miller. This draft consists of four or five parts, beginning with its titled introductory section, slightly revised and formatted as a short paper submission for the June 3-6 ICTD conference in Ann Arbor, Michigan (ictd2016.info). Miller says, “This brief summary of Che Guevara’s little-known contribution to the field provides a frame of reference for looking more closely at some more recent and current examples of ICT4D in Cuba — collaborative projects and studies involving inter-university ICT capacity building and Open Source, and problematic U.S.-based governmental and nonprofit “’community development’ technology efforts involving USAID and the Alan Gross and ZunZuneo fiascos, and Roots of Hope and the Hackathon for Cuba.”

Fewer Pilots, More Scale: Making Digital Development Work

Back in September 2014, I starting whining about the lack of anything sustainable coming from most of the hackathons / hacks4good / apps4good I was seeing popping up all over in support of nonprofit organizations, government initiatives and various communities, in the USA and abroad. My whining culminated in this blog, where are the evaluations of hacksforgood / appsforgood?

I’m so pleased to see this outstanding blog (IMO) by Ann Mei Chang, Executive Director at U.S. Global Development Lab at USAID, which says, in part:

“despite the potential impact, distorted incentives encourage one-off, flashy pilots (many sourced through hackathons, contests, and PR opportunities), undermining the potential for sustainable and scalable digital solutions. In fact, the proliferation of duplicative and uncoordinated mobile health applications caused an overwhelmed Uganda Ministry of Health to call a moratorium on further efforts in 2012, to ensure a focus on interoperable and sustainable systems… (in developing countries, there is) a lack of relevant platforms and infrastructure (that) means that developers end up spending the vast majority of their time rebuilding similar components from scratch, ending up with less time and money to truly innovate. Too much time and effort is wasted on duplicative work like beneficiary registration and tracking, negotiating and integrating with mobile operators, and promotion and distribution. The result is one-off systems that are fragile, unintegrated, not designed to scale, and unsustainable.

“This cannot continue. The development community needs to invest in reusable systems and the collaboration necessary to build and use these systems. This will mean smarter solutions designed for scale and sustainability.”

Right on, Ann Mei Chang & USAID!

In addition, Ben Ramalingam’s recent Institute of Development Studies blog points out that responsible digital development must also consider the risks of unintended consequences, exaggerating existing inequities, security, and repression.

USAID helped draft the Principles for Digital Development, a set of best practices for building technology-enabled programs, starting with the user. The Principles have been endorsed by over 50 development organizations, including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Sida, UNICEF, WFP, and USAID. In February, USAID launched a report based on conversations with donors, implementing partners, and development practitioners to better understand how the Principles work in real-world contexts and how we can best integrate them into our organizations.

Also see:

 

role of networked mobile technologies in improving sanitation

From a report on the role of networked mobile technologies in improving sanitation:

More than mobile phone ownership, the level of sophistication of mobile services in many countries, such as mobile money, mobile internet and machine-to-machine connectivity, starkly contrasts with the status of sanitation services. For example in Kenya, where access to sanitation is reported at 30%,10 people are more likely to conduct financial transactions through their mobile money account (59% of the adult population use mobile money) and browse the internet on their mobile phone (up to 40% of the population), rather than benefit from the dignity, privacy and convenience of a well-maintained toilet.

This year, with the transition from the Millennium Development Goals to the Sustainable Development Goals aiming to set targets for the next 15 years, there is no doubt mobile devices, technologies and services have a role to play to support bridging the current infrastructure divide.

The GSMA Mobile for Development Utilities (M4D Utilities) programme sees an important opportunity for mobile ecosystems to help solve some of the sanitation access challenges in emerging markets, including data collection, monitoring, operation and maintenance, financing. Adding to our ongoing work in the energy and water sectors, this new report aims to outline how mobile channels can support sanitation service delivery while building new engagement models with customers in underserved settings.11 Unlike the energy sector where mobile tools are increasingly integrated12 in decentralized solutions, mobile in the sanitation sector is at an early stage of development. What is needed to better understand the role and impact of mobile in this sector, is a collaborative approach to mobile technology integration, grant support for developing and piloting such innovative solutions and rigorous monitoring and evaluation of the impact of these innovations in the service delivery.

To be more blunt: convincing communities of the benefits of using toilets and of the health risks of open defecation are first, critical steps in implementing successful and sustainable sanitation services, something in which the world vitally, critically needs. This kind of convincing is done through involving communities in the design, operation and monitoring of sanitation services, and messaging that forces them to recognize that open defecation and similar unsanitary practices causes sickness and disease. Such convincing needs to be done through a variety of measures, and these activities can be supported by text messaging, social media, even ring tones.

This report is from the GSMA Mobile for Development Foundation, created in 2007 and bringing together mobile operators, donors and the international development community in demonstrating the positive social impact of mobile technology. The foundation has a board of directors “independent ” of the Groupe Speciale Mobile (GSM/GSMA), an industry group representing “the interests of mobile operators worldwide. The GSMA Foundation provides resources and support to GSMA programmes in the vital areas of healthcare, agriculture, finance, digital identity, utilities and the inclusion of women and girls in the digital economy.

(a little late for #worldtoiletday, I know – sorry)