Re: [GKD] RFI: How Can A Grassroots Project Obtain Financing From Private Donors In Rich Countries?

2005-07-05 Thread Sam Lanfranco
Dear GKD Members:

I share Janice Brodman's feelings about the fact that good NGOs in
developing countries do not have a presence, and have little voice, when
it comes to dealing with donors, and development issues, as monopolized
by the 'North'.

For example, too much of the dialogue in the North is about ending
corruption and too little about rewarding the deserving, and not with
prizes at global conferences but with funding.

One need look no further than this Saturday's, July 2nd Willfull Media
Distraction (WMD), orchestrated from England, and supposedly designed to
make poverty history, at least in Africa. The voice of Africa has been
almost totally absent in the planning, much of which is in the control
of a small handful of powerful Northern NGOs who will insure that their
own funding sources feel good about the event/affair. They have even
barred touching on poverty in England.

Forget about the selection of the music, the selection and framing of
the issues is not what Africa would have liked to say. Ignoring the
history of debt creation and conditionality, ignoring the trade policies
of the North, etc. is more likely to confuse the general public than
educate it.

After the music dies the same old same old challenges will remain, and
there will be little new to build on. Development is about doing the
right thing right. Good intentions, especially blended with Northern NGO
self-service, are not enough.

With regard to Africa I would like to see Make Poverty History a
subtitle in a larger production called Give Africa A Voice - or more
properly, Let Africa's Voice be Heard. Why is asking so little seen as
asking too much?


Sam Lanfranco
York University





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Re: [GKD] Information Society for All: Devising National ICT Strategies

2005-03-29 Thread Sam Lanfranco
On devising national ICT strategies, Cornelio Hopmann writes:

 The most important outcome of the process is not the final strategic
 plan as a document, but the hopefully new and different dynamics
 established among stakeholders themselves during the process of
 constructing the National ICT Strategy.

Cornelio is not alone in suggesting a shift from a focus on policy
outcomes to a focus on process outcomes. A good (short) read on this
theme is the new UK DFID policy document (March 2005) titled
Partnerships for Poverty Reduction: Rethinking Conditionality.

See: http://www.dfid.gov.uk/pubs/files/conditionality.pdf

It outlines UK Government moves toward process conditionality in the
UK's untied ODA funding. This is in contrast to, for example, the World
Bank's policy conditionality.

This is more than just substituting one conditionality for another. It
is a significant change in both the ODA donor-recipient relationship,
and in what we should pay attention to in the planning process. It also
underscores the roles of participation, transparency and accountability
in policy formation, and calls for greater use of poverty and social
impact analysis (PSIA).

While none of this is new, it is significant that the ideas have
progressed from the evidence-based margins of development debates to the
policy papers of a significant player in global development efforts.

http://www.dfid.gov.uk/pubs/files/conditionality.pdf

Again, the report is a good short 20 page read.


Sam Lanfranco
Distributed Knowledge Project
York University




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[GKD] Sneaking Up on the $100 Computer

2005-03-03 Thread Sam Lanfranco
 watching,
and probably worth migrating to other uses, bridging the digital divide.


Sam Lanfranco
Distributed Knowledge Project
York University




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Re: [GKD] A Nigerian Farmer Using ICTs to Seek Information

2005-01-25 Thread Sam Lanfranco
Dear Colleagues,

This discussion of a Nigerian farmer in pursuit of a tractor is offering
a wonderful opportunity for a useful piece of mini-research if someone
close enough to the actual farmer is willing to undertake it, and if
someone else is willing to tip in a bit of financial resources to reward
the farmer, and interviewer, for their time and effort in the
mini-research.

A number of people have offered sage advice as to what the farmer might
do, based on what we think was a correct transmission of his tractor
dilemma as he saw it. The advice was broad and varied. It would be
wonderful, and enlightening, if someone the farmer trusted were to sit
down with him, with all the suggestions, and go over them one by one and
let the farmer tell us what looks promising, and what is totally off the
mark, and why. Knowledge, including advice, has value and relevance in
context and I suspect that much of what we have suggested has presumed
many things that are simply not true in the context of the real and
pressing needs faced by this farmer. Paying for this participation would
be a decent thing to do.

A good reporter's piece on the farmer's measured views of the various
pieces of advice would likely be an informative experience for many of
us.


Sam Lanfranco
Distributed Knowledge Project
York University




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Re: [GKD] A Nigerian Farmer Using ICTs to Seek Information

2005-01-18 Thread Sam Lanfranco
Pamela,

The scheme the Nigerian farmer is involved in is referred to as the
box in some cultures. Typically 12 people are involved, each
contributes the same amount each month and each month, in a prearranged
order, one member gets the total take of 12 times the monthly deposit.
It is a form of savings scheme that requires no administrative skills, and
peer group pressure to keep people paying in on time. It is easy to
modify the scheme for a different number of participants.

I have seen the scheme used where individuals arrange bilateral swaps of
withdrawal times, to avoid being cash rich at the wrong time, and
getting the cash flow at the appropriate time.

   Sam Lanfranco  [EMAIL PROTECTED]  SASIT, 2005 TEL Bldg
York University, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M3J 1P3
   Phone: York: 416-736-2100 x33235  cell: 416-816-2852




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Re: [GKD] NGOs and Free Software

2004-12-22 Thread Sam Lanfranco
I would like to add some observations to Frederick Noronha's plea that
non-governmental organizations involved in development take seriously
the option of using open source software, both in their internal
operations and in the implementation of their projects. Frederick has
argued that open source (community commons, copyright-left, whatever
variant of label one uses) software should be preferred for a number of
reasons. Some have to do with cost and efficiency. Some have to do with
countering the hegemonic power of the Microsoft Corporation in the
global market place for software.

There is little doubt that open source and proprietary software will,
can and should co-exist, some resident in the global market place, and
some as part of freely shared global knowledge. This healthy combination
of software sources will have the dual effects of (a) driving
proprietary software prices toward competitive non-monopoly prices, and
(b) driving both proprietary and open-source software to continuous
product improvement and produce innovation. As well, open source
software, with its ability for modification, is frequently better suited
for many of the non-standard application areas that are at the core of
NGO activities. Many of these take place in areas where markets fail to
work properly, in any event.

Lastly, there is more scope for learning by doing on the part of
software engineering in developing countries. Whereas there may be an
equal build of capacity to use across proprietary and open source
software, there is an additional build of capacity to build when
dealing with open source software. This offers more scope for
capacity-building in developing countries, and more scope for developing
country expertise to build software at home, as opposed to dreaming of a
job abroad with some big applications developer. This a considerable
benefit to skills and knowledge accumulation in developing countries.

It is not necessary, nor even desirable, for NGOs and those involved in
development to take an ideological position with regard to open source
vs. proprietary software in development projects. It is however a
developmental best practice for NGOs and others to exercise a
Preferential Option for open source applications when the opportunity
for such choices presents itself. This suggests, first and foremost,
that NGOs take it upon themselves to become knowledgeable with regard to
both the issues and the options when it comes to making choices between
open source and proprietary applications in their self-administration
and in their development work. This Preferential Option reflects an
alignment of software choices with the mission and vision that, in the
first instance, propel the development work of NGOs.


Sam Lanfranco
Distributed Knowledge Project
York University, Canada




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Re: [GKD-DOTCOM] Is Profitability Essential for Sustainability?

2004-11-04 Thread Sam Lanfranco
This question is really two questions. The first part is Must a
venture/project earn an adequate return to be sustainable? The answer
is an obvious yes, but leaves open what is meant by an adequate return.
An adequate return must generate a revenue flow to sustain operating
expenses. It should also provide for the replacement of the initial
investment (fixed assets). Whether it needs to return a competitive rate
of return on those initial assets depends on the nature of that
investment. If it is venture capital (from investors) it needs a rate of
return in addition to covering operating expenses. If it is a grant
there may only be need for replacement investment.

The second part of the question is Must the profit motive be a driving
force for success. The answer here is more mixed. The profit motive
includes maximizing revenue, but it also involves minimizing expenses.
The profit motive is as much about good cost management as it is good
marketing. Both are possible without an explicit self interested profit
motive on the part of those who own the assets and receive the profits,
but both are more difficult and require extra dedication and care.

There is a further complication here, in that some development projects
are undertaken because there is what economists call a market failure.
For such development projects this usually means that the benefits are
spread wider than just to those who pay. The market demand for the
service or produce will be less than socially optimal unless there is a
subsidy to reduce costs and lower prices. Education and health are areas
where one frequently finds market failure.

There are then three lessons to be drawn here.

First, profitability as the need to pay attention to keeping costs in
line and worrying about pricing/marketing is essential whether the
operation is a private for profit operation or a social for
community project. Capitalists ignore this at the risk of their
capital. NGOs ignore this at the risk of their projects.

Second, If the profit motive of owners is not the driver for efficiency
and effectiveness in the provision of goods and services, some other
explicit benchmark measures need to be in place to assess and discipline
the projects. For community projects this needs to be more than
bookkeeping, it needs to be strategic financial planning.

Third, If projects involve addressing externalities an explicit strategy
of dealing with externalities needs to be part of the strategic
planning. Are private sector projects subsidized to better align wider
benefits with project costs? Are NGO project subsidies assessed in terms
of their ability to align wider benefits with costs?

The sustainability of good projects requires profitability as a
performance indicator and performance tool. If the profit motive is
not the driving force for decision makers, something else must operate
as the driving force for cost and marketing decisions. If there are
externalities these must be explicitly addressed in strategic planning
and in how projects are costed, funded, and how their goods and services
are priced.

Lastly, all of these require a level of management, administration and
accountability that is seldom found in development projects.



Sam Lanfranco
Distributed Knowledge Project
York University




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Re: [GKD-DOTCOM] Blurring Corporate and NGO Lines

2004-11-01 Thread Sam Lanfranco
Al Hammond [EMAIL PROTECTED] is correct when he observes:

 Vickram Crishna offers interesting insights--and I accept that the world
 is more complicated and that boundaries are often blurred in practice.
 ...[text deleted].. Nonetheless, until recently, few socially-minded
 entrepreneurs were starting for-profit businesses aimed at serving the
 poor, and few large companies consciously adopted strategies aimed at
 low-income markets, and now it is distinctly more than a few--we are
 looking, potentially, at a paradigm shift here.

We are on a slippery slope here. In one direction we slide into
generalities about what could be. In the other direction we slide into
danger. At the core of this discussion is the helping relationship, or
more bluntly, the gifting relationship. At the core we are talking about
how the haves help the have nots to reduce the quality of life gap
that divides them.

The world has a long history of gifting relationships, most built within
communities and ranging -in practice- from simple giving to more
sensitive joint efforts with all those desirable partnership properties
we are so keen to identify as essential. The world has a long history of
good (and bad) corporate participation in such efforts, some carried on
as charitable gifting and some carried on as social entrepreneur
efforts. It comes as no surprise that within an era where
entrepreneurship is touted, that we have the emergence of NGOs looking
to carry out socially progressive business and focus on social capital
schemes.

The driver at the heart of this is no different than that which has been
at the heart of utopian community efforts across time. Can we work
together and can we do better?

There is nothing wrong with the motive, the WHY. The challenges come
with the WHAT and HOW. The corporate sector may just want to Do good,
it may be looking to More markets, or it may be trying to blend both.
That is obvious and efforts can be judged as they unfold.

What is less obvious but more slippery is the roles for NGOs here. For
most NGOs the WHY motive is laudable. The problems arrise with the WHAT
and HOW. The core problem for most NGOs is access to resources. The
solution, in most cases, is to seek resources from the haves to
help/work with the have not's. There are only three ways for NGOs to
get resources: 1) seek them as donations; 2) seek them as contracted
program/project funds; or 3) act like a business and grow them from
revenues.

The risk here is that the HOW drives the WHAT. This is the problem of
what I call The NGO dance. Simply put, the problem for the NGO is
either Who do you dance with? or Who do you dance for? Dancing WITH
and dancing FOR are long recognized as two very different kinds of dance
activity.

It is worth looking at recent history here. When the United States,
addressing the United Nations, identified NGOs as partners in the US
effort in Iraq, a noticable shutter went through the NGO community.
This, as well as the use of contracted companies for reconstruction
work in IRAQ, blurred the line between NGOs and others in that tragic
situation. There are other factors at work of course, but the safe space
for NGO work has been diminished. Blurring the lines is not always
useful. Likewise, those NGOs who decide to dance to their own music, by
growing revenues from a business model, run the risk of the HOW
perverting both the WHAT and the WHY?

Sometimes the appropriate reponse to an offer of a helping hand, or a
novel internal business strategy, is to say Thanks but no Thanks. This
is frequently the appropriate response for the have nots of the world,
and may be the response that NGOs should consider if they wish to remain
true to their vision and their mission. Better to be small and part of
the solution than to be large and part of the problem. Enter the dance
with caution.


Sam Lanfranco
Distributed Knowledge Project
York University




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Re: [GKD-DOTCOM] Cyber-Security and E-commerce

2004-09-30 Thread Sam Lanfranco
On Monday, September 27, 2004, Global Knowledge Dev. Moderator asked:

 When countries are branded as unsafe for e-commerce, what can innocent
 companies do to rescue their own e-commerce efforts?

The hallmark of e-commerce is that it involves a transaction that takes
place across time and space, and in the first instance involves a
virtual transaction (the order, the payment, etc.) with the good or
service to follow. This is in contrast to a commerce transaction at a
time and a place, where frequently the produce is examined (book,
appliance) and received or consumed (food, parking) at the time of the
purchase.

It comes as no surprise that fraud artists try to take advantage of this
temporal and spatial distance to engage in deception. In the past the
same has been done via postal service, telephone service, fax, and any
transactions venue where there is a degree of seperation between the
perpetrator and the intended victim. Scams and fraud can go in both
directions, with either the buyer or the supplier as the victim. For
developing and transition economies, newly emerging on the global
economic stage, the larger victim is the growth of their e-commerce
sectors.

However, what is different about e-commerce is that the distances can be
greater but the speed of transactions is faster. This has a negative
side, but it also has a positive side. The negative side is that it is
harder for the client (consumer, buyer, etc.) to carry out due diligence
with respect to the integrity of the supplier, and it is harder for the
supplier to prove (or build) a reputation for trust and integrity. Both
factors cause reluctance on the part of potential clients and stiffle
the growth of the e-commerce sector.

Previous postings to this thread have focused on the role of governments
in promoting the integrity of the e-commerce sector, either via internal
policies, or adherence to international standards. That is well and good
but presumes that national governments have that top down
administrative ability and power, when many do not.

There is a second avenue that should not be minimized, one that involves
a bottom up strategy. The same digital venue that makes e-commerce
possible across time and space also makes collaboration possible across
time and space. E-commerce ventures residing in locations where they are
likely to be tarred with a negative brush - because of location - can
consider strategic alliances with relevant e-commerce service providers
that are located elsewhere, and that have brand name acceptance. This
need not be a subservient relationship, nor a permanent relationship,
but it can be a stepping-stone relationship that allows a country's
e-commerce sector to grow to the level where it can stand on the world
stage in its own right.

One of the strengths of the digital venue is that it supports
collaboration across time and space. Collaboration in the building of an
e-commerce sector will likely produce a healthy national, but globally
positioned, e-commerce sector faster than trying to just go it alone and
hope for governmental top down policy help.


Sam Lanfranco
Distributed Knowledge Project
York University




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

2004-06-16 Thread Sam Lanfranco
On Tue, June 15, 2004, YEYEROLLI1 posed the following question to my
analysis about the need for organizational change (Knowledge Mangement 
Learning Organization Behaviour):

 Why then did developing Countries in Africa embrace the typewriter,
 mobile phone, and fax machine? I submit, that the notion of
 organizational cultural changes as a significant prerequisite for ICT
 skill development is flawed.


YEVEROLLI1 is correct in this observation. The suggestion was not that
organizational cultural changes are a prerequisite for ICT-enhanced
skill development. The suggestion was that they are a co-requisite if
the local society expects to both effectively utilize those skills, and
to keep those skilled personnel in local residence, for service to the
local society. There is no question that skilled personnel are turning
to ICT-enhanced opportunities on an as can basis. For evidence of
this, one only has to look at how wireless telephony (cell phones) have
raced ahead, and been widely deployed, in contrast to all other forms of
ICT-supported applications. The challenge is to keep the skilled
personnel in service for local society.


Sam Lanfranco
York University
Distributed Knowledge Project




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Re: [GKD] RFI: Impact of ICT on Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises

2004-02-18 Thread Sam Lanfranco
 and successful application of ICT for poverty reduction,
but because there is no penalty for the major players if they get it
wrong, and it is a lot harder to get it right. The stakes are always
high for the poor, but they don't get to play in the game, just suffer
the consequences. For the donor organizations, the agencies in the
middle, and the local agencies/NGOs, they get paid just to play the
game. They win so long as there is a game to be played, no matter what
the outcome may be.

So long as this is the case there will be no real research and no real
evidence. Eventually the poor will gain some access to ICTs and - no
doubt - the donors, agencies in the middle, and local agencies/NGOs will
cite such uses as evidence of their success. The wide adoption of the
cell phone (the real ICT success for poverty reduction) demonstrates
that the technology can make a difference. The unanswered question is
can the donors and their dance partners make a difference, especially if
they get paid just to dance with each other.

One solution would be to raise the stakes for the donors and the
implementing agencies. Maybe their efforts should be funded through
micro-credit loans to them, rather than funding them to administer
micro-credit to others. Then they would face risks if they failed.

Sam Lanfranco
York University
Toronto, CANADA




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Re: [GKD] RFI: Pico Hydro Power and ICT Deployments

2003-10-18 Thread Sam Lanfranco
This is a partial response to Venkatesh (Venky) Hariharan's request for
information with regard to pico hydro power systems. I am responding to
the list since the following may be of general interest. My own
experience and knowledge is with wind and photovoltaic cells but much of
what is known applies equally to systems driven by small water powered
generators. I reside on the windy shores of one of North America's great
lakes, in a region where both pico and mega-scale sustainable power
projects are under serious consideration.

The starting point in desiging any pico system in support of ICT is, in
the design stage, to design the installation to minimize the use of
power (e.g. notebooks vs. desktops, LCD vs CRT, etc.). Work out the
economics of installing greater power capacity vs. installing equipment
with a lower power need. If the power generated is to be for other uses
(lighting, radio, TV, etc.) the same principles apply. Use and configure
devices to conserve and minimize power need. Work out the economices of
various combinations. Lesson one: do both the technical and economic
benefit/cost analysis.

Several recent (Canadian) publications designed to assist those with
minimal technical skill to work though the taks of evaluating and
designing stand alone pico power generating facilities are listed below.
The market for system components, be the system pico hydro, wind, or
solar panel, is increasingly global, and the technical issues -and
solutions- are increasingly the same, varying essentially as a function
of needs (uses, scale) and energy sources (water, wind, solar, and even
the promising fuel cell technologies).

Two recent Canadian sources that work through the design and evaluation
steps are:

The Renewable Energy Handbook for Homeowners, W. H. Kemp 
See information at http://www.aztext.com  and 
Private Power Magazine 
See information at http://www.privatepower.ca

While the focus in on home systems, the design and evaluation
information will serve any scheme for a sustainable energy ICT project.


Sam Lanfranco
York University




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Re: [GKD] Using Instant Messaging with Volunteers

2002-11-21 Thread Sam Lanfranco
I would like to follow up on Margaret Grieco's plea, which we hear from
multiple sources, for some way of taking stock of what we know and
what we have learned in the area of ICTs for Development. The uses of
SMS for development is - of course - just a subset of that larger body
of knowledge.

It is worth spending a few words reflecting on why we are a couple of
decades into using ICTs for development and still unable to draw lines
around what works where, what doesn't work, and what we have learned.
Part of that answer is - again of course - that project funding and
unfunded grassroots initiatives seldom have a budget to do a proper
assessment of lessons learned. We are left with good news and bad
news versions of what happened, and in some cases public relations
stories about things that actually didn't happen or didn't happen that
way. Is there any way forward here?

One way forward would be to actually have an inventory of those actually
involved in the ICT and development projects, and - based on that
involvement - have some expertise in the area.  Several projects
attempting to do this have stalled at the moment so I won't mention the
respectable agencies involved.

A collaborative multi-layer network-of-networks of regional and
area-specific inventories of expertise could support knowledge
networking and collaboration across projects. Much of that collaboration
would be virtual, using the tools themselves. The parts are there, but a
strategy for efficient and effective knitting together is lacking.

A second way forward would be for us to train ourselves to be more
careful when we talk about successess and failures. We need to describe
them in ways that lend the lessons learned to knowledge transfer. We all
know the unique properties of successful, and failed, projects: the role
of champions, and of stakeholder buy-in, the importance of attention to
context etc. We need to describe them as key parts of lessons learned.

All to often we point to the WHAT we achieved (or the technology used),
but not to the HOW we achieved it. We may waste a lot of words on the
WHY we did it when that was the obvious part. Of course, we still should
subject the WHY to ethical and strategic review and not just accept it
at face value. The three most dangerous words in the WHY of a project
proposal are don't you agree...

At a minimum we should be able to put the WHY of our successes and
failures into four categories:
1. Unique solutions to unique problems (context is everything)
2. Common solutions to unique problems (high diffusion potential)
3. Unique solutions to common problems (high diffusion potential)
4. Common solutions to common problems (why doesn't it diffuse?)

and go on with:
1. Unique failures to unique problems (low diffusion potential)
2. Common failures to unique problems (high diffusion potential)
3. Unique failures to common problems (high diffusion potential)
4. Common failures to common problems (what are we missing here?)

Just doing this on SMS would provide a start to a systematic approach
for gathering what we know, and who knows it, with regared to ICT.

Sam Lanfranco
***
   School of Analytic Studies and Information Technology
 http://www.atkinson.yorku.ca/frschasit.htm




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[GKD] Simple Computers and Software: For Complex Problems?

2002-07-31 Thread Sam Lanfranco

I would like to pick up on a theme linked to recent postings on Lindows,
the Simputer, etc.

One iron law of technology is that technology is only appropriate in
context. The cost of a technology, and its easy of use are only two
aspects of appropriateness. Two obvious additional aspects are (a)
necessary complementary inputs, and (b) its output value in use.

We are always impressed by machines that are both better and cheaper. We
are sometimes impressed when they are a lot cheaper, even if a little
less better. The Simputer is an example of such a machine. Lindows is an
example of such a software.

One iron law of markets is that success begets competitive imitation.
The Simputer and Lindows are not revolutionary new technologies. They
are efforts to reduce the cost of existing technology choices. With
their arrival the technology choice set is expanded. But what is yet
to be shown is whether or not they are appropriate (and used) for a
revolutionary (radical or extended) array of new applications.

There are lessons to learn from the rapid deployment of cell phones, at
what appear to be high prices, in those self same settings where we hope
that better and cheaper computers (Simputer or IBM) and software
(Windows or Lindows) will proliferate.

There are two ways at going at the question here. One is to paint
pictures of where better and cheaper might be used. This is the tool
looking for a use. Many of us were guilty of that in the early years of
the computer. We knew it was just a machine, but what a machine!. We
made shopping lists of possible uses. This approach frequently went
bad because context was ignored.

We have to get back to discussion within the context of existing complex
realities and development goals. It is only from within that difficult
perspective that we can safely return to examining whether and where the
technology has been, or can be, usefully deployed. The machine and its
software are not the lead change agents, we are, but only in context.


Sam Lanfranco, Chair
School of Analytic Studies and Information Technology
York University,
Toronto, Ontario,
Canada





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Re: [GKD] Proposed Open Knowledge Network

2002-06-03 Thread Sam Lanfranco

As one of the early players in the ICT for Development efforts of the
1980's  and 1990's, for several years I have deliberately gone quiet in
these global discussion forums. The time has gone into some rewarding
ICT and Development  work and into considerable intellectual soul
searching, trying to understand  why the willfull failure to learn
remains an integral part of much of we do in the development community.
Bad ideas have the persistance of malaria and successful activities
have almost no knowledge diffusion and no spread effects.

Warren Feek's and Peter Armstrong's recent postings have coaxed me out
from the solitude of our small ICT  Development skunk works to make
a small point. Part of it the paradox of our failure to learn from our
concrete successes (a kernel within Warren Feek's posting). Why don't
these successes spread?

Another part of it is captured in the well meaning wording of Peter
Armstrong's posting which falls prey to the meta-language of the
Dotforce process.

Citing the proposed:

  facilitating the exchange of local content on developmental themes. The
  idea is to link up existing initiatives in the South in a p2p network,
  using agreed standards for metadata and 'open content' IPR licenses.

The development community is not asked to assess what this means. The
Dotforce consortium does not really ask to assess, existing
initiatives in the South. Unfortunately, theprocess whereby
initiatives register on the radar at this level is not bottom up
evidence driven, it is top down priorities driven.

This is followed by:

  We are hoping that this proposal will attract significant support at the
  forthcoming G8 Summit, and the groups working on it (IDRC, Swaminathan
  Foundation, OneWorld, IICD, Accenture, IDRC, Harvard and others) would
  very much like feedback on how to improve the model.

No matter what words are used to describe the process, the model, and
the objectives, there is something very closed loop about this. There
is no way to move beyond the meta-language and the key funding player
assumption that the  model is basically correct. That the only
acceptable form of criticism is  suggestions for making it better. The
idea that the ambitious model may be flawed at its core is
unacceptable. Any extent to which that is true is also a challenge to
the role of the currently constituted key players, the legitimacy  of
their claims to resources and their rights to voice with regard to ICT
 Development, Knowledge Networking, whatever [select your current buzz
word].

When evidence is counter to, or supports, the ideas of the poor, the
ideas of the poor are marginalized. On the other hand, the ideas of the
rich stay front and centre, not because evidence is on their side, but
because the rich have the resources to claim voice.

Open Knowledge Networking, how so defined, is not a way out of this
dilemma so long as the resources for voice and action are power based.
The only way forward is a more transparent and democratic process at
each and every layer in the process. It is an old remedy but none the
less a wise starting point. Alas, it is unlikely however to find a
doorway into the closed loop thinking atthe G8, Dotforce level, no
matter how well meaing are the individual participants, and no matter
how much a closed system attempts open consultation.


Sam Lanfranco,
Black Creek Research Foundation
South Bay, Ontario, CANADA





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Re: [GKD] Acknowledging the Digital Divide

2002-01-07 Thread Sam Lanfranco

Margaret Grieco, of Napier University (Edinburgh) focuses in on the
persistant problem of muzzling expert opinion within the international
development community and singles out the World Bank for its internal
problems. While the World Bank may be an example of this problem it is
probably unfair to single out the World Bank, although it does manage to
act as a lightening rod in such issues.The wider problem is a (willful?)
failure to learn at a number of levels. One level is the effective
muzzling of expert opinion within developing countries themselves. This
is achieved in several ways.

One is the simple export of intellectual capital because of lack of
employment at home and the fact that the industrial nations import
that expertize (across a number of fields) as a cheap alternative to
investing in their own people.  In many cases the annual values of the
outflow of intellectual capital (measured at its cost of production) is
greater than the inflow of development assistance.

Another way in which valuable expertize is muzzled is to marginalize
it by not allowing it to participate in those very activities where its
mix of expertize and knowledge of context (local conditions) would
prevent many of the persistant shortfalls of international assistance.
There is a persistant bias toward foreign expertise with numerous well
documented shortcomings. As well, this practice drives the export of
local intellectual capital, and prevents the building of local capacity.

Lastly, when valuable local expertize does achieve employment in its
field, that does not mean that the expertize gets utilized. When it is
expatraiated, to work with international organizations, it is frequently
both alienated from thinking about local context, as well as being
muzzled by institutional policies. When it achieves employment within
its home country and could contribute from both its expertize and
knowledge of local context, it has to deal with the tremendous power
imbalance between the external funding sources, and the internal
development organizations.

Argentina today is a case in point. There are many within Argentina who
would have had the country take a different path, especially with regard
to dollarization and pegging the peso one-to-one with the U.S. dollar.
However, there were strong forces within the IMF and the U.S. Treasury
Department who saw this as a great opportunity for an experiment. They -
of course - thought it would work, and effectively had the power to
force the experiment. However, only Argentina has to pay the price of
failure. In the pre-IMF days at least the foreign debt holders were
exposed to risk as well.

There is an excellent recent book on these issues, published jointly by
Kumarian Press and the Canadian International Development Research
Centre (IDRC) and edited by Ian Smillie for the Humanitarianism and War
Project. It is titled Patronage or Partnership and while its focus is
on local capacity building in humanitarian crises, it is really about
the willful failure of international development efforts to learn, both
from their mistakes and from their successes. I can think of no other
200 pages I would rather have my development colleagues reading at this
time.


Sam Lanfranco, Chair
School of Analytic Studies and Information Technology
York University, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, M3J 1P3
[EMAIL PROTECTED] tel 416-816-2852 fax 416-946-1087




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Re: [GKD] RFI: Cost of Bridging Digital Divide?

2001-12-05 Thread Sam Lanfranco

With a similar smile/smurk I want to take Nikhil one step forward and
one step backward at the same time.

It is worth recalling that the language of the Digital Divide sprang
into our vocabulary after the Group of Eight meeting in Japan counld not
reach agreement on their key agenda item, that being debt reduction for
heavily indebted poor countries. Like schooling fish following a crazed
leader the entire development  community re-set its compass to that new
navigational star.

This of course came as quite a shock to those of us who had been working
on the challenges of ICTs and Development for the previous two decades.
But, we had seen it before and there was no surprise. There is also
little surprise to realize how little serious reflection has taken place
with regard to what the digital divide means. Do we close it by closing
the gap, by bridging the gap, by what and why?

To keep this short and simple, consider the following. What is the cost
of closing the transportation divide, the fact that some people have
access to  transportation and its benefits and that others do not. Does
this mean Cars  for All? Of course not. Does it mean Bus Tokens for
All? Of course not. What does it mean. It usually means what can be
done with transportation, as in intermediate instrument variable, to
improve the conditions of life for some  groups, usually the poor.

The same applies to the digital divide. Does it mean Computers, Access
or Connectivity for All? It shouldn't but for some it seems to. If we
measure success by access and connectivity we comit the mistake, well
recognized in medical research of confusing efficacy with efficiency.
They goal is to make  the lives of some (usually the poor) better. If we
try this by placing  computers in the schools where the poor are not
even students our efficacy may look great, and our costs will be high,
but our efficiency in terms of the  degree to which we attain our
ultimate goal will be low. If we ask how might we use computers to
increase the eductional achievements of the poor, a question where the
answer might be to put them in telecentres where groups of local
teachers are brought together for skills training, our costs are much
lower but our efficiency is much higher.

Just as Cars for All doesn't make sense to solve the problems of
physical distance and the poor, anything that confuses efficacy with
efficiency in the  deployment of ICT for development doesn't make sense.
It also costs a lot more. Lastly, if we can justify our ICT deployment
at the micro-level, project by  project, we don't need to worry about
what it will cost. We will carry the costs project by project and - if we
wish - aggregate those costs if someone is interested in the totals. On
the other hand, if we estimate costs at some macro level and ignore the
micro-level evaluations, costs will always be greater than benefits,
unless of course you are the seller of equipment, or of consulting 
services, to the projects in question.


Sam Lanfranco
Distributed Knowledge
York University
  



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Re: [GKD] Revisiting National E-Readiness and E-Strategies

2001-11-28 Thread Sam Lanfranco

Along with Daniel Taghioff I too have followed this discussion about
foreign consultants and local expertise. I agree that scepticism about
consultants is healthy. However, in the bias toward external consultants
and against in-country expertise, I see the problems differently.

While it is important to examine why there is a plethora of foreign
consultants and a shortage of local experts, I would rephrase the
question and ask why local expertise has such a hard time being used. A
market model would suggest the employment of lower-cost local expertise,
which would capture an economic rent as demand unsatisfied by local
expertise drew in more costly foreign consultants. However, foreign
consultants capture the economic rent while local expertise remains
unemployed. As with Nobel Prize economist Joseph Stiglitz, I am
unwilling to accept that this is explained by quality. Something else is
at work here, something that calls for research and correctives.

Also, I would note that Taghioff's suggestion of participatory research
is misplaced here. Participatory research includes research subjects as
partners in research. Local expertise is not a research subject. It is a
research input, and frequently more sensitive to context and richer in
tacit knowledge. Local expertise is a potentially competing or
complementary input into the research and consulting process. Such local
expertise may object to a research agenda, but this is quite different
from problems surrounding the idea of research itself.

It is both wise and right to caution that the urge for instant action is
misplaced, that topics cannot be decided lightly, and that real
structural change does not happen in a hurry. We have the time to do it
right, especially since wrong doesn't do it at all. We do need to
understand why developing country expertise is so poorly utilised at
home, while foreign expertise continues to provide services whose
efficacy appears high (the report is produced) but whose efficiency is
low (little happens).

Much of the knowledge of a consultant is expertise tempered with
contextual and tacit knowledge. It is imperative that consultations
include explicit provision for the broader identification and greater
inclusion of appropriate local expertise. This would result in both
increases in consultant dollar efficiency and growth in the stock of
developing country expertise.


Sam Lanfranco



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Re: [GKD] Information Revolution's Impact on Democracy

2001-06-25 Thread Sam Lanfranco

One interesting test of the impact of IT on democracy is the current
decision of the World Bank to cancel its Barcalona meetings which were
set for next week, and instead hold a closed video-conference. The
driver behind this was the potential for disruptive protests at
Barcalona, of the sort that have followed other high level global
meetings in recent times.

The World Bank has argued that the teleconference will extend access, by
allowing participation of people who could not attend the physical
meeting.

At the level of optics this is a blending of the glass is half empty
or the glass is half full. In 10 days the teleconference will have been
over and many of us would like to see an analysis of whether this has
contributed to democracy (through participation, transparency,
accountability, or whatever) and how.

We are lead to ask, what are the plans - designed in advance of the
teleconference - to test the assertion of greater participation from
the evidence of the conference?



Sam Lanfranco
Chair
School of Analytic Studies and Information Technology
York University, CANADA



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