Information Technology and “Development”
A few years ago, Irish Aid asked us to nominate NGO representatives for a new “Task Force” on Information Technology for Development. And frankly, we were struggling to find anyone in the Irish Development NGO sector who would take the issue seriously.
The prevailing attitude seemed to be that NGOs had no business getting involved with “computer stuff“, in a world where very few people were literate, let alone had access to a reliable electricity source. The “digital divide“, many NGO workers were arguing, was something to worry about after the other divides – food security, gender discrimination, education, health care, you name it – were bridged.
(see also this great infographic about internet use in Africa)
Much has changed since, and stories abound of how mobile telephony and information technologies are transforming not just people’s lives, but entire economies and political regimes. Think Egypt 2011. Think some of these stories from the last few weeks (and some a bit older):
- How innovations from the developing world “trickle up”
- Citizen journalism and the facebook revolution
- Funders lagging non-profits in technology adoption
- Can technology really help the poorest?
And Dóchas has not sat still either. Dóchas, and “Act Now on 2015” are on Twitter and Facebook, and Dóchas has published its own social media policy to frame our social media work. We now also have a blog, which attracts over 1,500 readers a month, and directs traffic to our website. And finally, we have supported web-based initiatives to improve NGO transparency (such as INKEX) or to enhance NGO use of the possibilities of the new media (We are currently helping to conduct trials of voice-based bulletin boards, and a map based donor guide to NGOs).
Our latest contributions are a new page on IT and development on our website, and a list of “apps” that are relevant for global development and can run on mobile phones.
So you see, we in Dóchas definitely think that “technology” CAN play a role in development. And we’re not alone. We dare say that it’s likely we’d have many more NGO staff volunteering to be on any “ICT and Development” task force now, than we did in 2004…
(Although it would be nice if Irish NGOs took Twitter a good deal more seriously)
Related post: “Is there an app for Human Development?”
See also: This guide by The Wheel on Facebook Apps for Non-Profits