Friday, September 29, 2006

Dollar a day ???

A couple of weeks ago I was watching Hans Roslings' TED talk about the gapminder technology. A very interesting talk about global data; the work they are doing is awesome! After thinking about how they presented wealth distribution and poverty I have started to have my doubts. Hans showed an amazing dynamic graphic of financial distribution since 1970. In the graphic they included the dollar a day as a measure of poverty since 1970. As years passed everything in the graphic moved to the right showing a positive progress in the fight against poverty. One thing didn't move, that was the dollar a day line. The way I calculate it (based on Canadian inflation rates) a dollar in 1970 would be five dollars in 2003. Even though the presentation is impressive, I believe it is flawed. After some reading it would also seem the whole dollar a day calculation could be flawed...
How to not measure the poor.
Poor but pedicured.
How not to measure the poor - a reply.
Don't get me wrong, I think all the work in measuring global poverty is great. I'm just being critical of how progress is being claimed and how is is measured.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Royal Holloway ICT4D Reflection

It's been over a week since the ICT4D Symposium and I have had some time to reflect on what I learned. All the learning has added to my understanding of critical technology, these are my thoughts of what I learned; (it will help if you refer to the critical technology as a graphic from a previous post)

PEDAGOGY - is very much a key to successful development initiatives. Learning needs to be built into the initiative and the learning needs to be localized.

DEVELOPMENT - is a very very important global activity ;) Development needs to be grass roots and fair, collaborative at the community level and have ways to be measured.

TECHNOLOGY - is often misunderstood in the rural developing communities. The closer the community is to large city centres or available connectivity the more technology literacy they have. They still don't understand the why of technology, or maybe it is us who don't understand why have technology? Either way, as we go down the ICT4D path it is important to have a strategic introduction of technology aligned with community initiatives (health, agriculture and education). This will encourage understandability.

CRITICAL PEDAGOGY - was confirmed; as a good number of the ICT4D presentations were critical of technology, particularly how it was implemented. A couple of comments made after my presentation got me thinking about Paulo Freire, see these two previous posts;
  1. Friere's view of differential diagnosis
  2. Millennium Village
It also became very apparent that a tool is required by the critical technologist (and others) to assess the readiness of a communities readiness.

CONSTRUCTIVISM - surprisingly I wasn't the only one talking about constructivist methods, meta-cognition and active learning was mentioned during the conference. It was stressed that active learning methods need to be culturally sensitive regarding learning styles.

ICT4D - ICT requires a community context for it to be successful at the community level (ie. community readiness). ICT is having a lot of success when supporting health information workers.

CRITICAL TECHNOLOGY - I felt the idea was very well received by all in attendance. This was also supported by all the critical content in other presentations. I will continue the development of Critical Technology for I feel it could provide a useful reference for those working in the field.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Transparency and Microfinance

Due to the current UN general assembly there seems to be increased talk about the effectiveness of the UN. As I reflect on all I am reading I began to think about the role of the UN from a very critical perspective. If you consider the UN to have been ineffective in helping developing countries over the last three decades. And if you consider that the UN agenda seems to be "exclusively" directed by the group of eight countries (particularly the US and UK). I begin to wonder if the UN has become a costly intermediary that is no longer required. Now this thinking isn't new.
Currently, there is a huge movement afoot to decentralize and empower the developing world at the community level, and many believe that a decentralized approach would be the most effective. So why do we have such huge amounts of our tax dollars going to support an ineffective global infrastructure?
Think even further about the changes that the internet is bringing. In particular, the concept of disintermediary and the technology tools to bring greater transparency. Why not just allow donors to target thier donations how they see best. Even have an infrastructure that allows everyone to track their donation to the recipient, and see where administrative costs are consumed.
The simple and effective microfinance site of kiva may be leading the way toward people being able to assist as they see best without the added costs of infrastructure.

Millennium Village

Sachs does not only espouse the differential diagnosis at the country level, he also utilizes it at the community level. The Millennium Village project which Sachs is the director is very inclusive of the community in decision making.
Community empowerment through participation and leadership in design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Freire's view of differential diagnosis

During the feedback session after presenting my paper at the ICT4D symposium someone made the comment that a Freirian approach to "differential diagnosis" would be a very community based activity. I though about this and have done some reading and I would have to agree. I'll provide two quotes and then provide my rationale.
Sachs (2005) states, A Differentail Diagnosis, which identifies the policies and investments that the country needs to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.
Freire (1972) states, it is absolutely essential that the oppressed participate in the revolutionary process with an increasingly critical awareness of their role as Subjects of the transformation.
I believe that what Sachs is espousing is a national diagnosis for what "ills" a country. And what Freire is espousing is individual and / or community involvement in the process of finding a remedy for the "ills". Sachs approach is too macro, communities within any given country differ to greatly to have a country level differential diagnosis. A Freirian approach would be a community diagnosis.

Sachs, J. (2005). The End of Poverty: Economic Possibilities for Our Time. (The Penguin Press)
Freire, P. (1972). Pedagogy of the oppressed. Harmondsworth : Penguin.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Lenin's famous statement

I'm doing some reading today about a comment made during the ICT4D symposium and I ran across this Lenin quote, "Without a revolutionary theory there cannot be any revolutionary movement". I agree with this; without a theory behind a movement the movement will falter. It is the same spirit why I believe the theory of critical technology is so important for the success of the critical technologist.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Royal Holloway ICT4D

I'm just back from Royal Holloway University of London where I presented my paper on the Critical Technologist. The paper hit the mark from the critical theory perspective as many people who presented brought up the importance of the right technology at the right time in the right place within the right context. To view all the papers visit the following link;