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Inveneo ICT Sustainability Primer: What to consider when designing ICT projects in the developing world

By Wayan Vota on September 20, 2010

Since 2006, Inveneo and our Certified ICT Partners have delivered innovative information and communication technology (ICT) solutions reaching more than 1,500,000 people in over 500 communities in 25 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and Haiti.

We’ve learned a lot of lessons along the way on how to make an ICT project sustainable in resource-constrained environments, and we’re like to share them with you.

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Inveneo ICT Sustainability Primer

Inveneo specializes in delivering sustainable solutions for challenging rural and underserved environments. We design and build affordable, robust and reliable ICT systems for locations that have little power or Internet service. These areas often lack the local expertise necessary to successfully deploy and maintain technology. Therefore, we devote a large part of our efforts toward skills development.

One aspect of that skills development is ICTworks, which aims to be a premier resource for sharing and expanding knowledge on appropriate ICTs and the implementation processes that can make them sustainable in rural and underserved communities across the developing world.

Our goal with the Inveneo ICT Sustainability Primer (PDF) is to present these lessons via ICTworks as guidance to those planning ICT-intensive projects in low-resource settings in order to help them avoid common pitfalls. We cover everything from project management to ICT and power infrastructure, to support and facilities.

Yet we don’t pretend to have all the answers – we welcome your feedback and input to improve the sustainability of all ICT projects. Please add your comments below and we’ll incorporate them into future editions of the Primer.


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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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One Comment to “Inveneo ICT Sustainability Primer: What to consider when designing ICT projects in the developing world”

  1. Sarah Webber says:

    Great checklist and pointers, good stuff!

    Having recently set up a computer lab at a school for people from Burma in Thailand, I would add a few things from my own experience.

    Support: Comprehensive, clear documentation is essential. Pictures are great. Make sure people know where to find it, and that it’s owned by local management, not just techs, to ensure it doesn’t disappear.

    Don’t just train onsite techs, get them to work with you from the outset. Work with them as apprentices who have buy-in, get them involved in decision making; they may have a better idea of what will work on the ground. Get them to run the user training and presentations on ‘what we are doing and why’ and ‘how you can help keep things running’.

    Consider remote control / remote support software. Get this set up early on. Train people in how to get remote support. Use it to provide ongoing training and contact with onsite techs.

    Transition: Hold workshops to discuss how people will use the systems for maximum effect / productivity; there are some systems which only work well if everyone is using them the same way (e.g. shared storage). Provide key insights and leadership, but avoid mandating decisions unless necessary.

    Consider simple documentation for users; training often only happens once, but users come and go, and key messages get lost over time (sometimes, as soon as you leave). Again, pictures are good. Follow up training (including remote contact, even by email) is also great.

    Security: as well as anti-virus, would be good to include pointers (to external resources?) re. simple steps to protect your network (e.g. WiFi settings, default Router passwords), systems (e.g. OS and software updates), user factors (cybersafety).