GuideStar International's Blog

December 7, 2010

Conceptualizing IT for development and social change

Filed under: Uncategorized — guidestarinternational @ 10:23
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By Bernard Nikaj

This post is cross-posted from the NetSquared Community Blog – you can read the original post and any comments here

There is a wide belief that information technology can have an important role in development as well as in social change more specifically in transforming economies (by making them more efficient and effective) and societies (by making them more open and democratic). However, whenever this topic is raised I ask myself: What kind of technology? Is it enough to have computers and access to Internet, or is it rather necessary to use technology in a specific way? Finally, I always wonder what is the role of the IT industry in a country in fostering development and change?
Let’s look at the IT sector of Kosovo. According to IDC In 2008, the Kosovo IT market totaled $98.23 million. The total includes both private and public sector spending. IT market year-on-year growth was 15.3% in U.S. dollars. Measured in Euros, the market expanded 7.8% year on year in 2008. IDC expects the Kosovo IT market to expand at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 8.1% over the five-year forecast period to $144.84 million in 2013.

However, majority of this market is oriented towards hardware and networking equipment purchase and distribution and there is a very small percentage that is composed of software products. Furthermore, about 30% of this market is driven by government purchases, with additional 10-15 % being driven by international organizations currently operating in Kosovo. As such majority of IT providers target the government and international organizations as their main source of income. There are very few companies or individuals that develop tools or provide service to market segments that are smaller, like the NGO sector.

On the other side most of the NGOs complain that the mainstream IT providers are too expensive or that they provide services, which are not necessarily useful in their day-to-day operations.

Another interesting finding from talking to NGOs is that many of them could use some training, in general IT but also in topics that are more relevant to their work. But, if we look at the IT training providers offers in Kosovo, we can find all the mainstream courses, Cisco Academies, ECDL training and so on. These training are not a great help to most of the NGO community members.

So what is apparent from Kosovo case is that developing IT sector can foster some economic development (through taxes, jobs etc.) however, despite potential,  not necessarily it always impacts innovation and social change.
I would like to hear experiences from other countries. What were the incentives or drivers that promoted “technology in use” to drive innovation and change? Are there cases that are replicable to other contexts?
I hope to get some hints on these and other questions during next weeks first meeting of the Community Driven Innovation initiative here in Kosovo. In the meantime, I look forward to any ideas coming from elsewhere.

This post is part of a series exploring social innovation in Central and Eastern Europe. We hope you’ll follow the series, ask questions, and share your experiences! To view all posts in the series, follow the tag cee-innovation

October 26, 2010

Can there be social innovation in post-conflict countries?

Filed under: ICT for Development — guidestarinternational @ 13:57
Tags: , , , ,

By Bernard Nikaj

This post is cross-posted from the NetSquared Community Blog – you can read the original post and any comments here

My name is Bernard Nikaj and in the next couple of weeks I will come to you with a number of posts providing updates on the work we are doing in the Balkans region – and more specifically in Kosovo – to foster cooperation between non-governmental organizations and information technology sector and individuals.

I come to this project after many years of work in the intersection of the two sectors. I started off as an IT manager in an international NGO working to provide shelter and food to returnees after the Kosovo conflict in 1999. Since then I have been involved in a number of projects, mainly advising the government and private sectors on information technology enabled organizational change. When I was proposed to work on bringing both sectors closer, I couldn’t wait but to start the work.

This project aims to basically understand and provide answers to the following questions:

  • What do current tech-help resources look like in region?
  • Who are the leaders, facilitating access to help?
  • What organizations and systems are in place? And finally
  • Where are the gaps, and how might we complement existing structures, systems and approaches to providing NGOs and activists with technical support?

We are trying the answer the above questions by using Kosovo as an initial case study. This undertaking holds the promise of enabling us to explore and understand these issues in a very peculiar setting, for a number of reasons.

Firstly, Kosovo has become an independent country in 2008 making it one of the youngest countries on earth. The very process of statehood has been marked by a large input from the international community, including NGOs, multilateral and bilateral organizations and individual governments.

Secondly, due to high international presence, Kosovo has benefited from quite a vivid not-for-profit sector with around 7000 registered organizations. While not all of these organizations are active, there a respectable number of professional and highly productive organizations working with different groups of people as well as government to advocate for issues ranging from human rights to European integration.

On the other side, again due to international presence and the demand created by the various organizations, Internet penetration in Kosovo is around 38% and growing. Combined with the young population (more than 50% of Kosovars are under 25 years of age) and a sustainable IT industry, the potential to use the information and communication technologies to foster social change and economic development is unprecedented.

Having in mind the above mentioned facts, I have embarked on a campaign to start a dialogue between the IT and NGO communities in Kosovo, with the aim of transferring applicable knowledge and practices  gained in Kosovo to the other countries of the region as well. The initial step, in the last couple of weeks, has been to talk to NGO community and understand their IT usage patterns: software, hardware and networking, most importantly I tried to understand their IT support patterns and their linkages to the IT industry. At the same time I talked to the IT community to see how they might best respond to the identified needs in the NGO sector.

My initial round of interviews has already identified a couple of cases where IT stands at the heart of social innovation. In the coming weeks I hope to build on these experiences to enable sharing not only within the NGO community but also across communities, especially IT and NGO ones.

So far it looks like both sectors are very much eager to talk to each other. In the weeks to come it will become clear whether this eagerness materialises and what’s the best way to achieve that. Stay tuned for more.

This post is part of a series exploring social innovation in Central and Eastern Europe. We hope you’ll follow the series, ask questions, and share your experiences! To view all posts in the series, follow the tag cee-innovation

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