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How Can We Increase Access to ICT, Today?

By Wayan Vota on November 18, 2009

connectivity ghana uganda

1. Keep an Open Mind on What is “ICT”

All too often, we get so caught up in what is shiny, flashy, and new, we come to think of just computers, Internet or mobile phones as the full gamut of information and communication technologies.

We forget that other, older technologies like radio and TV not only have a greater reach, they already have an installed user base that doesn’t need new equipment or training to benefit from increased knowledge via ICT.

2. Keep an Open Mind on What is “Access”

I remember talking with a community organization which was adamant that they needed a cybercafe to provide access to ICT for their beneficiaries who would be denied the knowledge of the Internet any other way. But when I asked how many beneficiaries had email addresses, they said “oh almost all of them.”

So don’t think for a minute that a motivated person cannot get access to ICT. As one Development Marketplace 2009 (DM2009) finalist remarked:

For a chance at $200,000 and a trip to Washington DC, I did what it took to get email. I even explored email over HF radio!

3. ICT Isn’t the Only Communication System

For all the attention we give ICT’s as the world’s greatest communication system, there is one network that is way more effective. One that marketing companies value above all others: word of mouth. Yes, ICT’s can amplify the message, but nothing compares to someone you know, in your physical proximity sharing information with you. Face to face communication has the highest bit rate – just look at how much is spent on business travel.

At the same time, don’t forget analog systems. One DM2009 finalist is mixing satellite images, GPS, and water bottles and church bells as a mudslide early warning system. Why? Because in rural Philippines, church bells are faster than any Facebook or Twitter alert.

4. Major Barriers to ICT Still Exist

Regardless of these workarounds to the question, there are still high barriers to ICT access in the developing world. Organizations like Inveneo are doing our best to reduce these barriers through technology and capacity building, but our work is the easy part.

Time and time again, we relearn that the real barrier to ICT access and adoption is not technological, its cultural, societal, personal, across all organizations, be they business, nonprofit or government. Its people, not technology.

This is a synopsis of my remarks at the recent Development Marketplace 2009 (DM2009) workshop on “Innovative Approaches and Technologies for Effective and Timely Knowledge Sharing for Climate Adaptation”

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Written by
Wayan Vota co-founded ICTworks. He also co-founded Technology Salon, MERL Tech, ICTforAg, ICT4Djobs, ICT4Drinks, JadedAid, Kurante, OLPC News and a few other things. Opinions expressed here are his own and do not reflect the position of his employer, any of its entities, or any ICTWorks sponsor.
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