Archive for cell phones

What about ICT to help gender equality?

 Only 1% of the world’s wealth belongs to women.

Of all the gender-related statistics I have heard lately, that one shocked me the most. Most of the world’s wealth come from developed nations, meaning that in the countries where women already have access to education etc. there is barely anything to show for it.

Yet in developing nations it is still worse, with women of course being treated as half a person in more than one respect. We all know that gender equality is smart economics, but in which ways can we achieve tangible results?

Today I was lucky enough to attend a panel where Naila Chowdhury, the CEO of Grameen Solutions, spoke about the role of ICT to achieve gender equality in the developing world.  In villages with no electricity, a solar-powered cell phone was given to a woman. She became the only one who could communicate with other villages, find out the price of the produce they grew, and it therefore eliminated the middle man who would take some of the profit.

I am a firm believer of communication technology to further development. It is the easiest, fastest most effective way of providing practical information, and we need to continue to find ways of exploring it.  Do you know of any other organizations that are focused on this?




Aps and more aps… all on DCTech

After the DCTech meetup last night I felt predictably overwhelmed in the amount of people, and inadequately underwhelmed with the lack of diversity in presentations. It was a mobile themed- meetup, yet everything circulated around smart phone aps only, ignoring the vast majority of both the industry and users world-wide who are still using and will continue to use regular cellular phones for the foreseeable future.

Don’t get me wrong. I have an iPhone, and I love and depend on aps. The presentations made by the lively Fastcostumer‘s Stephanie Hay,  and the amazing idea of the musicians turned techies with the album, “National Mall”, locational aware music only audible from the green memorial-ridden space, were quite innovative , imaginative and surprising. I cannot wait to go for a run (ok, ok, a walk… Who am I kidding?) around The Capitol and try it out.

Another highlight was the politically incorrect, foot-in-mouth moment by Dalpha Kalman from GetSurc, who expressed that half of their developers “are in Israel, which is apparently now the Mecca of technology”… sigh. I felt what we in Spanish call “pena ajena”, best translated as feeling embarrassed for someone else. She was quickly corrected by @Peter Corbett “You mean the Jerusalem of technology.” Oh my…

Yet besides the new aps on my phone and the cameo by the DC mayor, I was not feeling at all inspired. Yes, having an ap to help you find parking spaces and one to book taxis are both very valuable assets.Yet I wonder how much energy, if any, is spent by the dc tech community on innovation geared toward economic development. Is it sad that I expected DC to be a melting pot of social work, maybe even international one, with technology? I still ponder , as mentioned in my previous post,

Information dissemination? Corruption hot lines? Remittances? Post-conflict monetary aid via text messages? This realm is not particularly untapped,  but its advancement should not be left in the hands of development agencies, whose focus will never be on innovation. They are doing well in supporting already existing technologies and products, but bureaucracies are rarely the breeding grounds of new ideas.

Hopefully there will be a DCTech meetup more on the Tech4Dev fashion, and I can see the bureaucrats and non-profits  instead of the MBA GW students sharing ideas with the tech community. This IS DC after all…