Re: [GKD] The $100 Computer is Key to India's Technology Fortunes

2005-07-25 Thread Gary Garriott
On Thursday, July 21, 2005, Tom Abeles wrote:
 I think that it is nice to think about the $100 computer. But one
 needs to remember that cell phones are ubiquitous and relatively low
 cost. One post secondary education institution is developing curricula
 using the cell phone as the device of choice for their students. Cells
 that are both WiFi and work on the cellular bands are on the market, and
 some are predicting the $2 cell phone which is printed, realizing that
 these can be built up with the proper inks, which are even being used to
 make mechanical devices.

Tom,

Hwell, in my experience we ain't there yet when it comes to
the relatively low cost of cellphones in developing countries. In
fact, handset cost is one of the main reasons why they aren't even more
available to the poor. Add other features like WiFi and they will
probably be even more out of reach except for the richest of the poor
and we're back where we started.

$2 cell phones? Isn't that akin to all the promises we used to hear that
telecommunications costs would fall to near zero? (Because they haven't;
even those poor who can afford the handsets frequently opt for the very
low rates that allow them to receive calls, but not make them.)

(Just curious though if you are talking about desktop factories or
fab labs to manufacture such phones at such costs. Who is doing it?)

Best,

Gary

Gary Garriott
Innovation Program Officer, ICT for Rural Development
Winrock International
Voice: +703 525 9430, ext. 614
www.winrock.org




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[GKD-DOTCOM] Citizen Service Centers

2005-05-05 Thread Gary Garriott
Colleagues,

Beginning in the early-mid 90s, Brazil started implementing citizen
service centers in various states. These are basically one stop shops
where citizens can obtain information and transact business (birth
certificates, labor declarations, drivers licenses, etc) with government
entities at various levels, all in a single location. Starting in Bahia,
these centers are now found throughout Brazil (at last count, 23 of 27
states). Mobile units housed in converted buses are also available in
rural areas of Bahia and Sao Paulo States.

A mixed-language (Spanish, English, Portuguese) compendium of
information is available at
http://www.undp.org/surf-panama/egov/kresources.html. Cursor down to
Citizen Participation, Compendium-Citizen Service Centers.

(For those who know me, I have completed my tour with UNDP and am now
based in Washington DC with Winrock International.)

  

Gary Garriott 

Innovation Program Officer, ICT for Rural Development 

Winrock International 

Voice: +703 525 9430, ext. 614 

www.winrock.org




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Re: [GKD] Nigeria: Silicon Valley Transplant

2005-01-13 Thread Gary Garriott
Dear Colleagues,

I have big concerns about using Rostow's five stages of development as
the base paradigm for this discussion (the original title of his work
was The Stages of Economic Growth: A Non-Communist Manifesto so it is
clear where his politics lay). Many authors refuted his theories in the
sixties and seventies (see for example Anthony Galt and Larry Smith,
Models and the Study of Social Change, 1976). The final stage is
supposed to be the age of high mass-consumption which hardly fits the
reality of what is happening in the world today, as developing
societies become less equal and maldistribution of resources increases,
not diminishes.

And yet the stages mentality lives on. This is evident in the
all-or-nothing perspectives on availability and access to ICTs and
Internet. Either you make broadband available to neglected populations
and areas or they get zilch (nothing). No one considers that there is
and has been for many years a range of gap-filling intermediate
technologies (such as email via HF or VHF radio) that could provide,
over time, a platform for creating the higher order critical mass
because it can respond to real, existing needs now on a cost-effective
basis. Such needs, for example, probably do not suggest unlimited web
browsing as a priority response. The problem with uncritically
leap-frogging over these is that, based on experience, the 'leapfrog'
may truly not happen during our (or more importantly, users') lifetime,
and, second, who is worried about who is doing the leapfrogging and who
is being leapfrogged over?

Even these mostly unsung, simpler technologies could be considered
disruptive in the sense of uniquely addressing critical, existing
needs first and then allowing for creative expansion into other topical
areas and geographical locations. For me, one of the prime examples of
this implementation approach is described at
http://www.peoplefirst.net.sb/general/pfnet.htm (interesting to me is
that old-fashioned HF radio-based email is described therein as
wireless, probably to claim kinship with the latest genre). There may
even be ways to technologically leapfrog directly to Wi-Fi (and
special applications, like VoIP telephony) as at
http://www.sas.cornell.edu/cresp/ecopartners/cluster/cluster.htm, but
in both instances a community-needs/community involvement approach is
paramount, working in conjunction with the technology.

Nevertheless, the discussion is timely as I have frequently wondered if
the nearly fifty-year old ghost of Rostow's stages keeps us from
recognizing the value of these experiences and expanding them to all the
hinterlands, even if take off to high mass consumption will never be
the end result.


Gary Garriott (former ICTD LAC SURF Adviser) 



On Tuesday, January 4, 2005, Jeff Buderer wrote:

 This is an interesting conversation and I see the points from both
 sides. I think Ken is right in questioning the idea that you cannot as
 Tim says skip the first three stages and go straight to flying.
 
 I want to make an important distinction here between infrastructure
 approach and readiness and mental/organizational capacity/readiness.
 There are preconditions to take off such as outlined by former
 Kennedy/Johnson advisor Walter Rostow:
 http://64.233.167.104/search?q=cache:RcpyDDw_J4wJ:www.duke.edu/~jcd10/SO
 C126/Devolop1.doc+stages+to+take-offhl=enlr=lang_en
 
 I feel also that these preconditions to nation-state development
 critical mass also apply today. Because what Rostow is talking about
 applies not just to nation states but to all aspects of human
 development. His stages to take-off are a generalized set of criteria
 relating to developing momentum towards a critical mass within a
 particular system towards rapid growth and replication.

..snip...

 The concept of disruptive technologies offers another new concept to the
 mix. When disruptive technologies as well as approaches are applied
 effectively as part of a comprehensive package of solutions to address
 not only development, but world urgent issues like global warming, AIDS
 and loss of biodiversity, we start to see that the old rules of
 development don't always apply.

..snip...




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Re: [GKD-DOTCOM] What Do We Mean By Poor?

2004-11-22 Thread Gary Garriott
Colleagues:

In previous posts Cornelio Hopmann has placed a heavy emphasis on the
need for before-after or target-control group evaluations and analysis
when designing interventions using ICTs. When we are talking about the
rural poor, I am wondering if there are limits to our ability to make
such assessments sufficiently predictive to be useful in multiple
venues.

The reason is that even (and perhaps especially) in poor villages
(however defined) the economic-socio-cultural milieu is, surprisingly,
extremely complex and dynamic. So the best we can do using conventional
methods is to take uncertain snapshots at a point in time which may not
be particularly valid. Given that the ICT knife (or any technology)
cuts both ways (it is both a creator and destroyer of values and norms),
perhaps it is not so surprising that sometimes ICT is the most
cost-effective solution and other times it is not, as Cornelio himself
reports. Add the usual socio-political manifestation of the Heisenberg
Uncertainty Principle where the act of observation itself changes what
is being observed and a fair question is, what have we learned that is
truly useful?

If uncertainty is an inherent feature, what is the alternative? I recall
that nearly thirty years ago when I was involved in an academic
competition involving renewable energy projects, an engineering
professor strongly suggested that instead of analyzing and optimizing
sub-systems individually, that we simply sequentially change input
variables (such as the average tilt over time of a solar collector
facing the sun) for the entire system taken as a whole to see what
happens to the output. In others words, treat the entire system as a
black box without worrying much about what was happening between and
among the various subsystems inside the box. At the time, this approach
created such an epiphany for many in his audience that he was bombarded
with requests for copies of his presentation which I have kept to this
day. What the professor described, without access to the lexicon we have
available today, was a practical way to deal with a complex system.

Fast forward about twenty-five years to the advent of the concept of a
development dynamic described in the Digital Opportunity Initiative
http://www.opt-init.org/. This new paradigm was based in part on the
recognition that both the new network dynamics made possible by ICTs as
well as development dynamics were complex and could only ever be
partially understood. So the emphasis was placed instead on exploring a
strategic framework to guide action. The field of action for the DOI
was at the national level, but I think the same principles could be
applied at local levels as well.

If we were to do this, we would more willing to try different approaches
(obviously informed by past experience, knowledge, and context) and to
allow those to be tweaked until we and our partners get it right for
that particular milieu, ie, vary the inputs (eg, more community
discussions which could lead to more computers in schools available for
use in the evening), one by one, to obtain the desired output (eg.,
greater adult computer literacy). Another situation/venue would likely
require a different mix to achieve the same result, not to mention a
different result. But we would cease to be so preoccupied with applying
the ultimate in evaluation methodologies because we would realize that
prediction and description are only partially achievable at best anyway.
So we would take risks and focus on action. Not all risk-taking efforts
would lead to desired results, but we would be doing something instead
of holding endless meetings and intellectual discussions that do nothing
except set the stage for the next round of meetings and intellectual
discussions. I do not think we have this luxury anymore.

We are losing the race toward achieving the MDGs. Poverty is rampant and
growing. Everywhere the have-nots are increasing along with the
attendant despair and violence. Quality of life disparities between
rich and poor are greater than ever before. Our exquisitely planned
and intricately analyzed interventions are not working.

The Undecidability Theorem in mathematics suggests that the fastest way
to test software code is just to run it and see what happens. It is also
impossible to wring out uncertainties in applying technology without
also eliminating creativity in a development context. Perhaps the
corollary in the development game given the present exigencies is to
just do it.

There is a wonderful graphic at
http://www.chaordic.org/commons/graphics.htm illustrating that living
systems thrive in a narrow band between chaos and order. I think that
development also happens in this narrow band. Unless we are willing to
spend the energy and take the risk of using technology to find this
region wherever we are working (and doing it over and over again,
however imperfectly), ICTs as significant poverty-busting tools are a
lost cause.


Gary Garriott

Re: [GKD-DOTCOM] What Are the 'Right' Resources to Foster Professional Development?

2004-06-22 Thread Gary Garriott
I was happy to see this post advocating a return to the concept of
development of basic supporting infrastructure. Especially over the
past couple of years I have been in countless meetings and seminars in
which many learned participants have climbed all over each other to see
who can be the fastest and the loudest to go beyond connectivity. The
basic reality is that these fundamentals are not yet in place for huge
numbers of people, including significant rural and urban populations in
Latin America. My personal experience in rural development for more than
a quarter century is that if people have the basic infrastructure and
tools available, that their own innate creativity and
entrepreneurial/survival skills will figure out how to use them. A few
well-timed catalytic inputs by others (from the north or south or
both) don't hurt either.

In UNDP we have talked about a development dynamic in which a
structured dialogue involving multiple aspects of ICTs takes place
represented by all sectors of society and that this process, once set in
motion, can lead to enlightened and sustainable national policies and
strategies toward the information society http://www.opt-init.org/.

I would submit that something quite similar can also happen at the local
community level when innovative technologies and creative social
inventions are combined as in
http://www.dos.cornell.edu/cresp/ecopartners/project.htm and continue
to be leveraged in a virtuous circle.

But does anybody care? Why aren't such local solutions being clustered
instead of stove-piped by development agencies and governments so as
create a basic supporting infrastructure?  If they don't do it, who
will? The private sector?

Gary Garriott
E-governance Adviser
LAC  SURF - UNDP
PO Box 6314, Zone 5
Panama City, Panama
Tel. 507 265 8168/8153
Fax  507 265 8445 



On June 17, 2004, Keith Birkhold [EMAIL PROTECTED] wrote:

 ...If a technology can improve productivity or quality of life, if the
 infrastructure is there to support the new technology, if the people
 with the need have the money or financing for the initial investment,
 and if those people have some exposure to the technology so that they
 can see how it will improve their situation, then you are correct - they
 will adapt the new technology.
 
 ...snip...
 
 Development of basic supporting infrastructure is how I have seen the
 most dramatic tranformation take place.
 
 ...snip...
 
 I would propose that changes can be made in other countries by finding
 local solutions for basic supporting infrastructure as well. Once that
 foundation is in place, then information networks, economies, etc...
 will evolve.




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Re: [GKD-DOTCOM] Bringing Connectivity to Under-Served Communities

2003-11-20 Thread Gary Garriott
Aaron Sundsmo's call for low-cost, low-bandwidth email technology is
exactly what VITA pushed for many years through the low orbiting
satellite store-and-forward email system designed for remote areas. We
had wonderful demos using this technology, but, sadly, the technology
could not be commercialized on a for-profit basis. Efforts continue,
however, on a humanitarian basis. For probably $100K or less,
replicable ground segment (ground-based terminals) could be tweaked and
field tested (major development has already occurred). For the space
segment (satellites) we would either have to go piggy-back on someone
else's satellites (using the UK-based Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd
proven platform) or, if an underwriter could be found for about $3
million, launch a dedicated satellite.

If anybody would like more info on this or would like to offer
suggestions, please write me offline (and I will be happy to
collate/share responses with the network).

Gary

Gary Garriott
ICT for Development Advisor
Panama SURF - UNDP
PO Box 6314, Zone 5
Panama City, Panama 
Tel. 507 265 8168/8153
Fax  507 265 8445



Aaron Sundsmo wrote:

 I completely agree that there always needs to be a feedback loop built
 into any project. What we are currently doing is using a hub and spokes
 model where one site has a connection to the Internet (usually dial-up)
 and can email feedback, but this has generally been very expensive and
 unreliable. Where this is not available, First Voice is also using
 telephone, snail mail or face-to-face communications as appropriate.
 However, we are always looking for a low-cost low-bandwidth connection
 primarily for email use that can be used in remote areas throughout
 Africa and Asia and will not require excessive government licensing. If
 anyone has any suggestions of these technologies I would greatly
 appreciate it.





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Re: [GKD-DOTCOM] Bringing Connectivity to Under-Served Communities

2003-10-31 Thread Gary Garriott
Colleagues:

I have great hopes for this discussion as the topic is as relevant today
as ever and perhaps more so, given the recent backsliding in rural
infrastructure as a direct result of truncated privatization processes.

Here in Panama we have an interesting situation. I undertook a mission
on behalf of the UNDP country office to the remote Darién region to
learn why the public telephones (usually only one per village of 2000 or
more inhabitants) don´t work. To my surprise, I found that the basic
infrastructure is not only in pretty good shape but relatively
sophisticated as well (would support up to 9.6 kbps data). The problem
is in the last 100 meters between the rural radio tower/antenna and the
telephone booth where situations with relatively simple solutions cause
80-90% of the problems (like people getting their coins and other
objects jammed in the coin slots, short circuits in the interconnecting
cable because of attempts to rob service, infrequent visits by
supervisory personnel to remove full coinboxes). We are now working with
the multinational corporation that operates the system and various
development programs in the region to come up with a win-win project
design that would include community education in system care, basic
technical training, and local management.

Meanwhile, the government has levied a stiff fine on this multinational
for similar problems throughout the country. The company maintains that
rural telephones are unprofitable and cannot be easily maintained, even
though they constitute a lifeline for thousands of people. This is, of
course, only a specific example of a more generic situation, but it was
the inspiration behind the attached draft policy position. I would
invite comments on it as well as ideas from the community on which
organizations/donors might be interested in developing a regional or
even a global program to comprehensively address rural connectivity and
access issues.

(More information on PFNet mentioned in the position note is available
at http://www.peoplefirst.net.sb/General/PFnet.htm).

Gary Garriott
ICT for Development Advisor
Panama SURF - UNDP
PO Box 6314, Zone 5
Panama City, Panama
Tel. 507 265 8168/8153
Fax  507 265 8445 

+ 

Rural ICT Infrastructure is the Forgotten Frontier 


The Position 

In the rush to jump on the ICT bandwagon, the attention of all donors
and implementing agencies tends toward increasingly sophisticated and
networked health, education and governance applications in urban areas
where the latest hardware, reliable connectivity and available bandwidth
are taken for granted. Forgotten are the hundreds of millions of people
living in poverty and extreme poverty in rural and isolated regions
where fundamental physical infrastructure including the provision of
electrical energy is nonexistent. Except for one-off pilot projects that
tend to be special cases of donor interest and resources (and recognized
for their obvious public relations value), rural-based infrastructure is
seen as passé and uninteresting. UNDP and other agencies that invest in
poverty-reduction strategies should look more closely at implementing
strategic rural access and connectivity programmes.


The Context 

Most bilateral and multilateral aid agencies have limited their
activities on behalf of rural ICT infrastructure to assisting host
governments in writing universal service and access policies to be
implemented by the private sector winners of telecommunications
privatization processes. And yet the common experience worldwide is that
once a private franchise or concession has been awarded, the promises
made to extend service to rural areas are gradually forgotten as the
difficulties of installing and maintaining unprofitable rural
infrastructure mount.  A significant back-sliding in rural ICT
infrastructure is thus occurring as privatization proceeds.


The Need 

Reliable access to information may be just as critical in isolated rural
areas as in urban centers. The basic need to communicate with family,
friends and associates is fundamental, but so is the acquisition of
crucial health, agricultural and market information, not to mention
ready access to education and training resources. However, rural needs
are more easily satisfied with basic infrastructure supporting email and
file transfer rather than more sophisticated web-based technology and
applications. Very few policy-makers are aware that a range of
relatively inexpensive intermediate or appropriate technology solutions
exist to support lower end uses, such as email. Legitimate information
needs can be immediately met with simpler technologies while demand and
an information culture are built up to justify the same infrastructure
being enjoyed by urban areas with greater population density and
disposable income.


The Evidence 

The proliferation of UNDP-supported PFNet email stations using packet
radio technology in the Solomon Islands as a way to enhance