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How to Improve Technology Tenders in ICT for Development

By Wayan Vota on April 30, 2012

Yet again, I see another government tender for technology to improve the social and economic development of a country that is based around processor speed or operating systems. As if the sole determinant of ICT4D projects success is sufficient RAM.


Apples, Oranges, and Bananas

We now live in a Post-PC world, with great differences in technical characteristics between traditional computers (desktop or laptop) and mobile devices (tablets and smartphones).

Could anyone say that the 1GHz ARM processor in a iPAD is less powerful than a netbook with AMD of 1.8Ghz? Or a netbook with 2GB of RAM is twice the power of a Samsung tablet with 1GB? Or that iOS is more or less functional that Microsoft 7?

Focus on Use Case, Not Hardware

Now what if hardware tenders focused on functionality instead? What if it said that the equipment is expected to allow students access to digital texts, produce videos, interact with multimedia content, program applications, share information graphically in a classroom? Or had as its performance requirement, the ability to play a YouTube video at 720p.

This would free up the respondents to look beyond strict definitions of hardware and both experiment and innovate in their proposals. It would also ensure that buyers could create the experiences they sought.

Because at the end of the day, beneficiaries are excited by progress, not processors.

You may be interested in: 5 Steps to Win Technology Tenders and ICT Requests for Proposals


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Written by
Wayan Vota co-founded ICTworks and is the Digital Health Director at IntraHealth International. 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 IntraHealth International or other ICTWorks sponsors.
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4 Comments to “How to Improve Technology Tenders in ICT for Development”

  1. JimTeicher says:


    Well said!

    I believe that government tenders for technology are often written by technologists. They believe that content and training will fall in place once the equipment arrives — that technology is the magic bullet that has been lacking for so long in developing nations. What they don’t realize is that they are shooting themselves in the foot. What both research and experience shows, time and time again, is that ICT4D fails when it is not driven by content and effective training. Use inevitably drives technology, not the other way around.

    At this point a massive education campaign is in order. The leading global funding agencies of ICT4D need to emphasize that carefully crafted usage scenarios must drive government tenders. At CyberSmart Africa, our approach is to start with very little technology and ask the users to optimize the configuration based on lessons learned from the field.

    Jim Teicher

  2. Bob Kozma says:

    I’ve seen this happen so often, Wayan, most recently in Thailand where the new government is in the process of purchasing 900,000 ‘tablets’ for all Primary 1 students based on a campaign promise. There is no accompanying policy related teacher professional development and curriculum and assessment reform. Without such policy changes, it is difficult to see how such purchases will support economic and social development.

  3. Wayan Vota says:

    Here is a tale of woe on this very subject with the Aakash in India. The New York Times reports:

    I.I.T. Rajasthan’s eagerly awaited testing criteria [for the Aakash] were not delivered until mid-January. When they arrived, DataWind executives were shocked.

    The criteria included being able to withstand four inches of rain, enduring shock tests when “mounted in a vehicle,” and when subject to “sudden acceleration, braking, or turning while transporting the units.” These tests are commonly run on military-grade laptops designed to be used in battlegrounds that retail for thousands of dollars. In fact, some of the criteria appear to be lifted from those designed for Hewlett Packard’s rugged notebook launched in 2004.

    “You can’t impose U.S. military standards on a Rs. 3,000 device,” Mr. Tuli said told Mint newspaper at the time.


  4. Very valid and important topic Wayan, the more connectivity use is raised the better. I was involved in a study that looked specifically at this “use” aspect of ICT across business, government and consumers and tying it back to GDP. Also a very important distinction is that the ICT drivers for resource & efficiency driven countries (developing) and Innovation driven (developed) are different an often overlooked point. For example does it make sense to compare Nigeria with Sweden? Where the one is could challenged with infrastructure and the other with e-commerce.

    I take more about it here http://wp.me/pm7Fi-e