Archive for ICT4D

Eco classroom. al-mo-st-the-re

At the beginning of this year, some fellow World Bankers and I won the Youth Innovation Fund award for $11.000.  I should have been writing updates of what was going on as the process has gone on,  specially because y’all keep bugging me about it,  but honestly, it was all so convoluted and time-consuming that I shivered at the thought of explaining it. I also think it’s relevant since it was thanks to this project that I began my interest in ICT4D, and therefore that this blog was born. See? It all comed full circle.

How did it happen?

I never thought I would be interested in doing operations work at the bank. I work in online communications, and before here, as a reporter. But the moment I heard it was the World Bank Institute that was giving the award this year, I suddenly became interested in joining my two friends in their endeavor. The requirements for the proposal were that our project should use “innovative communication technologies” to further development, and this is something I’m certainly interested in.

I had received a question on the Bank’s youth web site, youthink.bancomundial.org, which asked “cómo puedo construir un aula?” (how can I build a classroom?) We got off from there, since David Argente, good friend and working as a Junior Professional Associate in the Latin America vice president’s office, knew of a good NGO that specialized in building classrooms. And oh yeah, they were good for the environment too.

Together with David, Nishesh Mehta and Lina Karaoglanova the idea of ecoclassroom.org was conceived.  The two other winning teams have projects involving Access to Information in Sierra Leone and capacity building in Haiti.

None of us had any idea how much work it would entail until much after we actually won. Our first concern began once we realized that we had cleverly packaged two projects into one.  The building of a classroom, and the web site. The building of the classroom per se was to take place through the NGO, and we would support the training and facilitate the process. Our role ended up being bigger than that, so a part of the project we thought would be a breeze ended up being the hardest part.

We recorded the construction of our prototype in Huixquilucan, Mexico, step by step, to accrue tutorials for communities world-wide to be able to replicate the project. The wiki, which will be launched in English and Spanish at the end of November, is meant to empower communities to help themselves by sharing data and practices rather than depend on external aid. The project was showcased among the most innovative projects at the World Bank this year.

Our great back-end web producer has been great in adapting my design into a very-user friendly site, and even had the initiave of switching CMS from Tiki-wiki to Joomla, just because he was not feeling very well about the performance of the former. This is the kind of good will that I wish I could see more often from web consulting vendors.

Anyhow, I hope next time I blog we will be LIVE.  We also need to start thinking on how to convince other organizations into sharing tutorials on how to build their ideas… if you know of any good candidates, please do not hesitate and shoot me an e-mail.

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?