GuideStar International's Blog

September 22, 2011

Mediating Voices And Communicating Realities

Filed under: ICT for Development — guidestarinternational @ 09:19
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By Keisha Taylor. This was originally posted on the TechSoup Global blog.

This report by Evangelia Berdou speaks about the benefits of using open source tools like the Ushahidi platform and OpenStreetMap. It examines the use of open source, open data, crowdsourcing, and digital media more generally in the developing world. The way in which use of such technology can change relationships between producers and consumers of information is highlighted. It suggests that this can empower communities.

However, the report also examines the obstacles that arise in implementing projects that use such tools. It examines the ways in which they could negatively affect marginalised and vulnerable populations. A study of Map Kibera, a community information platform that utilises OpenStreetMap in Kenya aids analysis. The report also briefly examines community mapping initiatives in Peru and Georgia and SMS reporting in Egypt and Haiti.

Packed with interview excerpts and useful analysis, it provides insight into the use of open source technology in developing countries. The report says that if open source tools are to be used effectively:

  • Education and training are important
  • There is a need to build awareness of why the tools are useful and how they will benefitcommunities.
  • It must be truly inclusive of citizens
  • Mutual trust and transparency must exist

Potential problems identified with the use of open source crowdsourcing platforms and open mapping data initiatives include:

  • Questions surrounding the use of crowdsourced information: “Many of the questions concerning the character of crowdsourced data and their place in the evidence chain touch upon fundamental ethical issues of journalism,social science and action research, but involve new capacities, networksand practices that have yet to be systematically explored.”
  • Uncertainty surrounding the agendas and values of those that advocate for the use of such tools. It was pointed out that “The ease with which these platforms can be deployed means that marginalised groups may be viewed simply as data sensors, cheap sources of hard to get information.”
  • Risks introduced because of the increased and global visibility of local and vulnerable communities supported through these tools.
  • Difficulty in promoting the use of such initiatives for policy and advocacy: “The greatest challenge, for them (involved in Map Kibera), laynot in the production of the map but in promoting the use of the map in policy and advocacy”.

However, this should not devalue the benefits of open source technology in developing countries. As the use of Ushahidi in Haiti has illustrated it is beneficial for many in times of crisis.  Inter-governmental Organisations (IGOs) United Nations and governments are exploring ways in which such tools can be used to further development. Interestingly, the report also notes that “the commercialization of open source software has generated insights on how altruistic motives for participation can coexist with more selfish, individual goals.”  However, as this report reveals, more needs to be done to ensure that it is used informatively, effectively and appropriately. It must be used in a way which supports yet protects the marginalised and vulnerable.

See the full report here:

Mediating Voices And Communicating Realities: Using Information Crowdsourcing Tools, Open Data Initiatives, and Digital Media to Support and Protect the Vulnerable and Marginalised

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May 24, 2011

May Net2 Think Tank Round-up: Improving Lives in Rural Communities with ICTs

May 17th marked the World Telecommunication and Information Society Day (WTISD). To celebrate, NetSquared used this year’s WTISD theme, “Better Life in Rural Communities with ICTs” to guide their Net2 Think Tank question for May and there was a tremendous response from many members of the public. Individuals working with nonprofits, academics, librarians and entrepreneurs  based in countries around the world responded. NetSquared had some of their best Net2 Think Tank responses to date!

Specifically, they asked you to share your ideas for closing the digital divide for people living in rural areas all around the world. The responses have been compiled and is now available on the NetSquared blog.

Topic: How can the lives of people living in rural areas be improved using ICT? What are your tactics and best practices for helping rural communities using web or mobile technology? And, which projects are already doing this well?

Also while this month’s Net2 Think Tank is now closed, you’re always welcome to add your feedback on the subject at the bottom of the NetSquared blog post.

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