I am enrolled in a course on Mobiles for International Development and recently, there was a discussion on why most ICT4D projects fail–(ICT4D means Information Communication Technology for Development). Below I share with you the a video and some interesting discussions that followed.
In this video, Dr. Clint Rogers shares interviews and insights from faculty and professionals from around Africa on why they feel most ICT4D Projects fail. Included in the video are important questions for reflection and discussion.
The video generated a lot of responses some of which I share below;
#1Africa is considered poor partly due to mismanagement of huge resources and unfair competition. Most ICT4D projects tend to ignore indigenous knowledge and inclusion of the local people in developing the idea through to evaluation of projects. What then happens is that the projects are implemented without participation and ownership from the local people hence, the projects become unsustainable with their life cylce cut short—-references were made in the video in cases where projects failed to continue after donor funding run dry.
An alternative will be to study the local terain and include indigenous knowledge of the people in conceiving the idea, through implementation and evaluation as well as building the necessary capacity for project life to continue long after facilitators have left.
Tehnology I must say is not also foreign to Africa, the forms of technology might differ but exploring local grassroots technologies to address challenges will help prevent a situation where local people are overwhelmed and hence cannot participate in the process of adopting such technologies.
Mobiles gadgets especially phones have revolutionlised the way people access healthcare, financial products, market information for their produce among others. However, research has also found out that, in the case of those who do not have such gadgets they go out of business, hence the mobile gadgets in themselves are not a panacea to solving all the challenges faced.
#2 I find this video very insightful and yet it raises more questions in my mind. I think that the issue raised about the lack or inadequacy of the relevant local content is very real. In the past I had facilitated a Local Content Generation and Dissemination workshop for Community Information Centre (CIC)/Telecentre managers in Ghana and also for District Information Officers from 10 districts in Northern Ghana and it was amazing the kind of knowledge they have. I think that a lot of our ICT4D projects that we have adopt this top-down approach to planning and execution and in the end, we end up having difficulties with ownership and sustainability of the projects.
Further, knowing very well that in my part of the world we have energy challenges, the question I will like to ask is: Do we invest in energy sources as we invest in ICT4D Projects? Will ICT4D Projects be sustainable without investment in energy? In making budgets for our ICT4D Projects, do we assign budget for energy?
#3 I really like this video – it confirms a lot of the common failures. Sometimes I wonder why we (those of us in the field of ICT4D) keep repeating the same failures though! John, I’ve been thinking a lot about energy also. I think we could all do a lot more on that aspect. If we assign a budget, what happens when the project ends if we haven’t figured out a sustainable way to manage energy? I for one would like to learn a lot more about solar and other alternative energy sources. And also the aspect of e-waste – what are we doing to make sure that African countries and other “developing” countries don’t become dumping grounds for old equipment….
I also liked the point about ICTs not creating any new wealth, but rather redistributing existing wealth. I’m working quite a bit on girls access to ICTs and I wonder if ICT access for girls and women may be threatening in some places, if girls and women access ICTs and it enables them to enter into some markets that have been traditionally held by men.
#4 One of the points in this video that really struck me was on the discussion of using mobiles for farming – specifically, “if the farmer has a ripe tomatoe, he has to go the market and sell it or the tomatoe will rot. I fear we are giving farmers the wrong information.” While I agree with this point, I think there is power and benefit from providing information that farmers can leverage to attain a fair market price. At the end of the day, the tomatoe will have to be sold, but there may be an opportunity to maximize margins/profit by having insight into information previously unavailable.
The discussion continues. However, critical issues are being raised as to the trumpeting of ICT’s and technology as the next big thing in development when this is not matched by content building with focus on knowledge that is useful and easily understood.