Friday, January 31, 2003


A lot of the stuff on this Blog is clearly going to be of use to only a very limited number of people. This entry is different. It deals with nitty-gritty ICT issues. A lot of people in developing countries are going to need this kind of information.

A joint initiative of six organizations with expertise in computer and Internet training in the South, ItrainOnline responds to the need for a single source on the web containing a selection of the best and most relevant computer and Internet training resources for development and social change. Key sections are: BASIC SKILLS , STRATEGIC USE, WEB DEVELOPMENT, MULTIMEDIA, TECHNICAL, RESOURCES FOR TRAINERS, and RESOURCES FOR WOMEN.

Equal Access to Software and Information
EASI provides online training on accessible information technology for persons with disabilities. It emphasizes access for students.

Leland Initiative - Internet Resource Center: Making the Internet Connection Count
The Leland Initiative seeks to bring the Internet to Africa. The site links to the Leland Internet Training Manual: "Making the Connection Count" and the Leland Web Tutorial Series – “Create your own Web site”. It also provides sector specific resources.

The Network Resource Startup Center
A non-profit organization that has been involved for a decade or more with the deployment and integration of appropriate networking technology in various projects throughout Asia/Pacific, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, the Middle East, and the New Independent States, NRSC provides pro bono technical and engineering assistance to international networking initiatives providing access to the public Internet, especially to academic/research organizations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

The Benton Foundation Toolkit and Technology Literacy Benchmarks
The “Strategic Communications in the Digital Age Website” aims is a gateway to knowledge of and tools for nonprofit use of communications technologies. The “Technology Literacy Benchmarks for Nonprofit Organizations” are another
tool designed to help nonprofit organizations meet the challenges
posed by computer technology.

The Scout Project
The Scout IMesh Toolkit project seeks to assemble a coherent set of tools and standards for the implementation and interconnecting of subject gateway sites; The Scout Portal Toolkit project was designed to provide a near-turnkey software package allowing an organization with a minimum of technical expertise and resources to set up a web portal focused on their particular subject area;

Ed-Resources.Net: Managing Your Museum Web Site
This website run by Jim Angus is directed to people working with museums, but the approach seems to make a lot of sense to anyone seeking to develop a portal.

Thursday, January 30, 2003


RoKS, according to its website, “is an exploratory effort launched by IDRC…to explore, from a developing-country standpoint, the ways in which knowledge is produced, communicated, and applied to development problems, and to investigate the policy and institutional frameworks that govern this process. RoKS focuses on policy issues in the field of science, research, and knowledge, helping to cast light on cross-cutting issues in the areas of environment and natural resource management, information and communication technologies for development, and social and economic equity.” A RoKS research grants competition on the theme “Strengthening Knowledge Policy for Small States: How can small states participate more effectively in local, regional and global knowledge partnerships?” was announced 1/13/2003.

Given that the topic of this blog is Knowledge for Development, and given that there is so much information on the World Wide Web, it occurs to me that I might share some thoughts about websites that are good sources for information on development. Of course, all the large bilateral and multilateral development organizations have websites with considerable amounts of such information.

Most people searching the web use search engines, especially I do so myself, but a search using such an engine may turn up thousands, or even hundreds of thousands of resources. They have algorithms that specify the order of presentation, but I think those algorithms fail to meet the needs of many people interested in international development, and the studies suggest that the search results from such engines are often used simplistically.

There are a number of websites that have been specifically developed to guide users to high value development information. I will mention a few:

The Development Gateway
This is where I am spending my time, and it has many resources:
· AIDA: a data base allowing access to information on several hundred thousand projects funded by development agencies;
· DgMarket: a source of information on procurement plans of development projects;
· Country Gateways: links to more than 40 development portals located in developing nations, and devoted to the development of those nations;
· Topic Specific Resources: more than 20 Topic pages, each with warranted resources, numbering from more than 100 to several thousand;
· Topic Specific Member lists: providing information on and links to members of these topic specific communities, numbering 40,000 plus in total, with several thousand in specific topic communities.

The Eldis Gateway to Development Information
Today the site reports that it contains links to 11,735 Reviewed documents,
4,470 Organisations, and 123,324 Web pages. These are organized by major topics, corresponding to the standard taxonomies of development issues.

Euforic: The European Forum on International Cooperation
This site has resources organized by theme, links to development organizations that can be accessed by a number of routes, and other resources.

E-Community Link to Bridge the Digital Divide
While this site focuses on ICT for Development, its section titled “Social Entrepreneurs” has many resources, organized by topic.

The id21 Development Research reporting service provides a selection from UK-based development research.

The OneWorld database contains tens of thousands of documents from the partners' websites, which can be accessed by topic or geographical terms.

The World Wide Web Virtual Library
The Virtual Library has many facets, each maintained by a different individual. Several are of interest for development. Within the International Affairs section there are facets on “International Development Co-operation,” “Sustainable Development,” and “United Nations and Other International Organizations.” Other facets of the Virtual Library deal with “Regional Studies,” “Economics,” and “Finance,” as well as other fields that would interest some involved in international development.

PRAXIS, maintained by Richard J. Estes provides access to a large array of archival resources on international and comparative social development.

Wednesday, January 29, 2003


This report, prepared for an OECD meeting held in Dubai in 2001, is a little dated. However, it has a great deal of information on the different programs of development organizations in e-commerce,

I have been searching the web for resources that combine these two topics but without success. There are of course many resources that deal with ICT for Development, and the effect of the Information Revolution on the rates of social and economic progress and poverty reduction. I was interested in some rather narrower topics.

First, it seems clear that ICTs have a crucial role in improving the measurement of aid effectiveness. Rapid assessment methods make it possible to assess the progress of aid projects and programs much more rapidly and less expensively than was possible in the past, and these methods owe much to personal computers, PDAs, and the like. One the other hand, remote sensing, data processing of remote sensing data, large scale computer models, etc. offer new alternatives in monitoring large scale changes and in attributing causality. Why is there not a literature on these topics? Am I just missing it?

Second, there should be a literature on the use of ICTs to increase aid effectiveness. A colleague at USAID some time ago suggested that we should entirely reconsider technical assistance in light of the Internet. It is indeed easier to more electrons than people. To what degree are aid agencies utilizing the potential of the Internet to make technical assistance less expensive, more timely, more informed, and more responsive to demand?

Clearly ICTs have an important role to play in the planning of development aid, and I would suspect that the potential here has not been fully exploited. Certainly ICTs should play an important role in improving the administration of aid programs and projects in donor and recipient agencies. Have these potentials been realized? Have they been documented?

Sunday, January 26, 2003


Yesterday I posted links to a number of papers on the role of information and communication technologies in the reduction of poverty. Let me briefly describe what I believe about the topic.

First I think poverty is not simply the lack of money, but that people are also impoverished by lack of health, lack of knowledge, hunger, inadequacy in which other basic human needs are met, and indeed lack of information and of an effective voice in their own and their communities affairs.

Rolling out the ICT infrastructure is important, but so too is how that is done. Getting ICTs to the poor involves shared connectivity. Service providers naturally seem to prefer to roll out first to the highest return-to-cost ratio customers, who tend to be urban and rich; providers need regulatory requirements or incentives to rollout to the rural and poor. If the rollout is done only to the elites in a poor country, it seems unlikely that the poor will have much direct benefit from access to the infrastructure.

It seems obvious that poor people do benefit from ICTs when they do have access. Many (most?) poor people like radio and TV and spend time with them whenever they have access to programming that they like; examples exist of programming that not only entertains poor people but informs them in socially and economically valuable ways. People who use telephones sparingly probably get more benefit per use than we expect – saving on travel costs, and getting crucial information in important and emergency situations. However, I suspect there are big traps for those who assume that poor people in poor countries will benefit from Internet access in ways similar to the ways rich people in rich countries do.

Building ICT industries is also important, but so too is the way they are built. The emphasis on building export-oriented hardware and software industries is no doubt important, but such industries will provide little direct employment nor direct service to the poor. On the other hand, there are a lot of ICT enterprises that can be developed that will provide services and even employment to the poor. Community radio strikes me as a good example of such an industry -- one that deserves to grow rapidly in poor countries. The Grameenphone approach -- in which poor people are provided with micro-credit to allow them to acquire cell phones, and offer fee-for-service telephone in poor neighborhoods and villages -- seems another great idea that could work in other poor countries.

I believe strongly in the importance of developing applications of ICTs. ICTs can make small and medium enterprises more productive, thus helping them create jobs and provide services benefiting the poor. E-government applications serving the poor can help the poor to access government services, to spend less time satisficing government demands, to influence government, and indeed to reduce the dead weight of so many governments on their poor populations’ necks. I suppose that as a result of my own background, I feel it is especially important to utilize ICTs to improve health and education services for the poor, including but not only through telemedicine and distance education.

Again, I think building ICT industries must be done in a pro-poor policy environment to really benefit the poor. There will inevitably be limited resources available to utilize ICTs to accomplish new purposes, and I think there will inevitably be competition among the potential beneficiaries of those innovations for the allocation of those resources. ICTs can be used to improve hospital services limited only to the rich, or primary health care services benefiting many poor people; they can be used to improve elite education services disproportionately benefiting the rich, or to improve primary education and skills training programs primarily benefiting the poor. If the rich and powerful always succeed in assuring that all the innovations answer their needs, the poor will not benefit much from these indirect applications of ICTs.

Of course, in order for ICTs to be useful in improving performance of those sectors employing or giving services to the poor, the ICT infrastructure must (be extended to) reach the appropriate (public and/or private) enterprises. Moreover, the ICT industries needed to serve those enterprises (including software and hardware distribution and sales, ICT training, maintenance, application service providers, etc.) must also be in place. I suspect that the rollout of the infrastructure and industry to serve these intermediaries will be more important in alleviating poverty than direct rollout of services to the poor themselves, although I admit that I may well be wrong about that.

Now the issues get complicated. The rapid improvement of computer and communications technologies offers potential improvements in productivity in every part of the economy. Moreover, if communications, transportation, and energy industries can be made more efficient (through the application of ICTs), then their improved efficiency will also benefit manufacturing and commerce. Further, if manufacturing and commerce become more efficient, then there are feed-back effects to the communications, transportation, and energy industries. If investments in ICTs turn out to be very productive, it seems likely that people will invest more. In the right circumstances one has not only a virtuous circle, but a huge and complex network of mutually reinforcing virtuous circles leading to a general improvement of the rate of economic growth/

However, this happy state is likely to be achieved only if there are policies and institutions that encourage economic and social development. Then the information revolution can trigger a complex process in which improved rates of progress in the various sectors interlink, with each sectoral improvement further stimulating progress in other sectors. This kind of effect has occurred in the past with the industrial revolution, and other “technological” revolutions, and may well be occurring now triggered most notably by the ICT revolution.

I put the term “technological” in quotes, because history shows clearly that there are vast differences in the experiences of different countries facing the same technological opportunities. Historically the rich countries have on the average taken more advantage of technological innovation than have the poor countries. It is the favorable policy and institutional environment that allows countries to exploit technological opportunities, not something intrinsic to the technologies themselves.

Assuming that countries do utilize the potential in ICT for economic growth, will the poor benefit? Does a rising tide float all boats? I have seen World Bank analyses that indicate that there is a very strong correlation between average per capita GDP growth and reduction of poverty. This seems reasonable to me. On the other hand, it also seems clear that among rich countries in recent decades, the more rapid the process of rolling out and utilizing ICTs, the greater the inequality in distribution of income that follows; it seems reasonable that rapid technological change usually disproportionately benefits those who through education or other means are most able to appropriate the technology to their own purposes.

I conclude that in order for the poor to fully benefit from the Information Revolution, there must be simultaneous efforts to get the conditions right for national economic growth, for rolling out the infrastructure, for building ICT industries, and for utilizing ICTs in many sectors of the economy. Not only is it important for there to be pro-growth policies and institutions in place for the ICT revolution to be translated into economic growth and rollout of infrastructure and services, but it is also important that there be pro-poor policies and institutions in place to assure that the progress is shared by the poor.

Saturday, January 25, 2003


The evidence seems to suggest that the more advanced a country is in the Information Revolution, the greater the inequality in distribution of income and wealth. I think the real question for the international development community is not whether ICT can be used to make the rich even richer, but whether it can be used to reduce or ameliorate poverty. Here are some references that address the subject.

Information and Communication Technologies: Impact on Poverty Reduction
In the infoDev Annual Report 2000, (published in 2001)

The Costs and Benefits of ICTs for Direct Poverty Alleviation
by Charles Kenny, January, 2002.

Information and Communication Technologies and Poverty
By Charles Kenny, TechKnowLogia, July/August 2001.

Development's False Divide
“Giving Internet access to the world's poorest will cost a lot and accomplish little.”
By Charles Kenny, Foreign Policy, January/February 2003.

The Significance of Information and Communication Technologies for Reducing Poverty
A study by Phil Marker, Kerry McNamara, and Lindsay Wallace for the UK Department for International Development (DfID) staff.

Information Communication Technologies, Poverty And Empowerment
By Andrew Skuse; A background paper for the British Government White Paper on International Development; June 2000.

Information and Communication Technologies and Poverty
An April 2001 report by several World Bank staff members.

Information and Communication Technologies and Broad-Based Development: A Partial Review of the Evidence
A February 2001 report by a team of academics and World Bank staff members.

ICT And Poverty: The Indisputable Link
Alexander G. Flor's Paper for Third Asia Development Forum on “Regional Economic Cooperation in Asia and the Pacific” 11-14 June 2001, Bangkok.

Digital Opportunities For Poverty Reduction: Addressing The International Digital Divide
Report of a Global Forum held in March 2001, and organized by the OECD, UN, UNDP and World Bank, to look at the role of ICTs in helping achieve shared development goals and co-operation to bridge the digital divide.

The ICT Revolution: Can Asia Leapfrog Poverty Barriers?
Summary of the discussions at a seminar titled: "The ICT Revolution: Can Asia Leapfrog Poverty Barriers" published in the Asian Development Bank's ADB Review, July - September 2001.

The Development Divide In A Digital Age: An Issues Paper
By Cynthia Hewitt de Alcántara, published by the UN Research Institute for Social Development, August 2001.

A Livelihoods Approach to Communication and Information to Reduce Poverty
A 2001-2002 study that included a literature review and field trips to three countries, Ghana, Uganda and India, to analyse how ICTs can best be used in rural areas to enhance livelihoods.

IT and the Economy
The Information Technology Industry Council site on the effects of IT on economic productivity and growth, surplus and revenues in the U.S. (among other things).

One might also look at the book:
“Information And Communication Technology In Development: Cases From India,” Edited by: Subhash Bhatnagar and Robert Schware, 2000. More information on this book is available on the following website, but the book appears only available in hard copy:


This organization pioneered the development of the Internet in Peru, and thereby was influential in South America. The “Peruvian Scientific Net” is much more than the title suggests. I would note that RCP’s network of scores of telecenters (cabinas publicas) has been especially influential, and Peru now has hundreds of telecenters.

The original web site for RCP was:

It has been replaced by Yachey (Quechua for “wisdom”)


The Communications Initiative focuses on health related communications, but it serves a broader constituency. It is a great site for people interested in how modern technology can be used to communicate important information in developing nations. Its main web site is:

It published a weekly email newsletter, “Drum Beat”, available in English and Spanish. The opening of the current edition is worth quoting.

More than 10 years have passed since the Rio de Janeiro summit. In this time:
* global aid spending fell from $69 billion in 1992 to $53 billion in 2000;
* in 2000, 3 million children under 5 in developing countries died from diarrheal diseases caused by unsafe water supply, sanitation, and hygiene; 60% of the 2.2 million deaths per year in children under 5 are caused by acute respiratory infections associated with indoor air pollution;
* 80% of the wastewater in Latin American cities is discharged untreated into the environment;
* 31 countries, accounting for 8% of the world population, face chronic freshwater shortages;
* in Indonesia 70% of timber production is illegally logged; in Central Africa logging concessions cover more than half of the world's 2nd largest tropical rainforest;
* in 1996, one United States citizen was responsible for producing as much greenhouse gas as 19 Indians, 30 Pakistanis, or 269 Nepalese.

CommInit’s Base Line pages provide information on trends in international development:

Friday, January 24, 2003


On Sunday, January 19, I blogged about volcanoes. Now let me blog about another area in which scientific knowledge combined with remote sensing technology and computer power can contribute significantly to development. I find applied meteorology and climatology to be prototypical as an area in which K4D approaches would improve donor efforts to assist developing nations, but for which there appears little recognition nor support.

Perhaps a place to start this blog entry is:

The Environmental and Social Impacts Group of the National Center for Atmospheric Research:

and especially its section on the
Economic Value of Weather and Climate Forecasts: Case Studies
“Recent case studies of the economic value of weather and climate forecasts which were not included in the book “Economic Value of Weather and Climate Forecasts:

The point is that improved information about atmospheric events has economic value, when people know how and have the opportunity to utilize the knowledge to modify their activities appropriately. Thus, “Improved long-range forecasts of El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) from the National Weather Service can result in an economic benefit worth $100-$125 million per year to the agriculture sector in the southeastern United States.” ( Another “study found that the Tropical Ocean Global Atmosphere (TOGA) climate research program provides an economic return on investment to the United States of at least 13 to 26 percent annually. And that range is conservative because it only includes benefits to the U.S. agricultural industry.” (

If more evidence is needed, go to the Climate Information Project recent information page:
And more generally, CIP

So where does one get information on El Niño / La Niña?

El Niño Theme Page
Of the U.S. National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory

Or the NOAA Office of Global Programs ENSO web site:

And some projects in the area showing what can be done:

Radio and Internet for the Communication of Weather and Climate for Development
RANET seeks to make climate and weather related information more accessible to rural populations and communities. It provides a radio-internet pathway between scientific results and individuals in remote locations for whom "early warning" information might matter tremendously. The program currently operates in Africa and is exploring appropriate roles in Asia and the Pacific.

The Famine Early Warning System
FEWS NET seeks to strengthen the abilities of African countries and regional organizations to manage risk of food insecurity through the provision of timely and analytical early warning and vulnerability information.

Caribbean Planning for Adaptation to Global Climate Change
“The project's overall objective is to support Caribbean countries in preparing to cope with the adverse effects of global climate change (GCC), particularly sea level rise, in coastal and marine areas through vulnerability assessment, adaptation planning, and capacity building linked to adaptation planning. More specifically, the project will assist national governments and the University of the West Indies Center for Environment and Development (UWICED) to: (i) strengthen the regional capability for monitoring and analyzing climate and sea level dynamics and trends, seeking to determine the immediate and potential impacts of GCC; (ii) identify areas particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change and sea level rise; (iii) develop an integrated management and planning framework for cost-effective response and adaptation to the impacts of GCC on coastal and marine areas; (iv) enhance regional and national capabilities for preparing for the advent of GCC through institutional strengthening and human resource development; and (v) identify and assess policy options and instruments that may help initiate the implementation of a long-term program of adaptation to GCC in vulnerable coastal areas.“

Some other interesting and related sites are:

The World Climate Research Program
A joint program of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), The International Council for Science (ICSU), and the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC)




And, for still more links:

Thursday, January 23, 2003


Botanical gardens, museums and zoos were established as scientific institutions relatively early historically. We might consider in this category the entire class of organizations that combine public information activities with science and/or technology, including: nature centers, aquariums, planetariums, space theaters, and children's museums.

While these institutions have important roles in systematic science and science education, they seem to suffer from relative neglect in the donor community. UNESCO is perhaps the exception, but by placing Museums under its cultural program, it perhaps misses the importance of museums of natural history, science and technology –which are of course important within the K4D context.

Here are some sites providing interesting resources related to museums, etc.

The International Council of Museums
The International Council of Museums (ICOM) is dedicated to the development of museums and the museum profession. ICOM is a worldwide network for museum professionals of all disciplines and specializations.

The Association of Science and Technology Centers Inc.
ASTC is an organization of science centers and museums dedicated to furthering the public understanding of science among increasingly diverse audiences. ASTC seeks to provide professional development for the science center field, promotes best practices, supports effective communication, strengthens the position of science centers within the community at large, and fosters the creation of successful partnerships and collaborations. It now numbers more than 550 members in 43 countries. Members include not only science-technology centers and science museums, but also nature centers, aquariums, planetariums, zoos, botanical gardens, space theaters, and natural history and children's museums.

The Natural Science Collections Alliance
A nonprofit association that supports natural science collections, their human resources, the institutions that house them, and their research activities for the benefit of science and society. Member organizations are from the U.S., Mexico and Canada.

The International Zoo Educators Association
IZE is an association dedicated to expanding the educational impact on zoos and aquariums worldwide. Its dual mission is to improve the education programs in the facilities of its members and to provide access to the latest thinking, techniques, and information in conservation education. IZE facilitates communication and professional development among zoo/aquarium educators and supports liaison with related organizations.

World Association of Zoos and Aquariums
WAZA's mission is to guide, encourage and support the zoos, aquariums, and like-minded organizations of the world in animal care and welfare, environmental education and global conservation.

Conservation Breeding Specialist Group
CBSG develops, tests and applies scientifically based tools for risk assessment and decision making in the context of in situ and ex situ species management to produce realistic management recommendations.

The Internet Directory For Botany
This site provides links to: Aborita and Botanical Gardens; Botanical Museums, Herbaria, and Natural History Museums; related professional societies, journals, and other materials.

The Museum Computer Network
A nonprofit organization of professionals interested in the use of computer technologies for developing, managing, and conveying museum information.

This is a nice, related site:

Ed-Resources.Net: Managing Your Museum Web Site
This Web site created by Jim Angus, of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, provides specific tips and for museum web site, including a step-by-step guide to how to design and build a Web site for a museum. He also includes information on how to market the site once it is completed, and a handy listing of resources for the museum Web developer.

Tuesday, January 21, 2003


President Bush has re-ignited debate in the U.S. about racial preferences in university admissions.

Does a K4D approach offer anything to this debate? I think so, because it illuminates the fact that higher education is a policy instrument used by government to achieve long term objectives of economic and social development.

It seems clear that government does have the right to a say in the admissions policies of universities. The University of Michigan, which is the specific defendant in the case prompting Bush’s remarks, is a state university created on the basis of a federal government land grant. Not only does the university enjoy a state subsidy, but the federal government also provides support in the form of scholarships, research funding, tax financing (e.g. tax deductions for educational expenses, education savings accounts, repayments of educational loans), and loan guarantees. He who pays the piper gets a voice in selecting the tune!

Merit based admissions to universities have had a major impact in the U.S. in the second half of the 20th century. ( Making higher education available to all, and admitting students increasingly on the basis of educational potential resulted in higher education becoming a vehicle to social mobility, resulted in great benefits to the country at large as well as to huge numbers of people.

Still the college admission tests only have been validated as predicting success at the university. Selecting students on this basis is rather like selecting horses to bet on for a mile and a half race, on the basis of how fast they run the first quarter mile. Early speed is desirable, but is not necessarily predictive of how well the entry will run the whole course. It may well be the case that race or ethnicity might be helpful in predicting which students will not only do well in school, but who will produce socially valuable services during their later professional careers. It would seem likely to me, for example, that native American health professionals would be more likely than others to make careers providing health services in the underserved reservations of this country, and so merit preference for training. I think no one is suggesting that there be a reduction of federal government support for historically black colleges and universities, that clearly play an important role providing opportunities for economic advancement through education to black communities in the U.S. still suffering from economic and social discrimination.

U.S. colleges and universities carefully plan their academic structure, and thence their course offerings, to provide human resources to the economies that they serve. Thus they will create engineering, business and other professional schools to meet the needs for trained professionals in these disciplines. (This is not always done well. Thus we have lots of university programs training people to be professional athletes, but very few career opportunities in the nation for the graduates of these programs.)

I think supply and demand analysis is a useful framework. If there is a rich supply of training opportunities in a field, and relatively little demand for that training, then the qualifications required for admission to the training will be relatively modest. If the training opportunities are scarce, and the demand heavy, qualification demands for entry will be high. Thus we already have a system that is full of discriminatory demands for qualifications for entry into higher education programs, discriminating according to the future careers the students are likely to follow (not to mention the geographic areas in which they live, and the schools to which they choose to apply). The issue is not whether to allow such differences at all, but under what conditions they may be justified.

Clearly, U.S. law should not continue to allow discriminatory admissions practices based on racial prejudice. Equally clearly, educational policy should select people for training who will perform the services needed by society in the future. Clearly, merit based admissions are important within U.S. culture, and should be defended. Equally clearly, the playing field should be leveled for people who are at a disadvantage due to prejudice-based policies of the past. It will be interesting to see how the U.S. Supreme Court deals with this case.

Monday, January 20, 2003


In several past postings I have been musing about the World Bank view of Knowledge for Development, and specifically how the ideas related to the project cycle. I suggested that K4D works well as an analytic framework, and that related project work is done in ICT infrastructure development, higher education, and science and technology.

I would like to suggest here that K4D also might work well as a project level approach in specific sectors. That analysis might also suggest ways that the K4D conceptual framework might be improved. Consider the health sector. Below I address some of the key issues defined in the Development Gateway, Knowledge Economy Topic Page:
( and how they might be utilized in a health sector context.

Knowledge Strategies: One might consider both
· “health sector strategies for knowledge”: The issue is what kinds of strategies in the health sector would encourage strengthening of knowledge systems within the sector. These might include professionalization strategies for health professions, strategies that encouraged ICT utilization within the sector, etc.
· “knowledge based strategies for health”: Thus one might emphasize the importance of improving the bases for health policy from epidemiology, health economics, medical sociology, etc.
Project activities could include training, technical assistance, and other institution building activities to strengthen knowledge strategies in the sector.

The approach could also be extended, perhaps in less common areas. In developing countries, pharmaceutical distribution is often done through direct purchase from unregulated pharmaceutical retailers. While in the U.S., perhaps one-third of people use “alternative medicine” some of the time, while many more people utilize the services of curers, traditional birth attendants, bone setters, and other non-physician practitioners in developing nations. A “knowledge strategy” for the sector might focus on how to reduce the amounts of these practices based on bad, or unvalidated information. Thus one might seek ways to improve the information available to consumers about pharmaceuticals bought without prescriptions, or one might find ways to diagnose erroneous information held by traditional practitioners and to correct the dangerous errors. I predict that there could be rich approaches to project development using such approaches.

ICT Infrastructure: Telemedicine, improved applications of ICTs health planning and administration, electronic media applications in health communications all come into play, and could be the focus of project activities.

I think improvement of health information systems might be a broader and more useful concept than ICT infrastructure. These information systems include epidemiological information systems that provide nations with pictures of the distribution of diseases; systems for the reporting of the amount and nature of hospital and outpatient service in the nation; financial data systems dealing with health service expenditures, etc. Projectizing improvement of health information systems would fit very well within a health K4D approach.

Intellectual Property Rights: IPR concerns are important in the area of pharmaceuticals and perhaps to a lesser degree, medical equipment and medical devices, and so could be included in a Health K4D project.

I would suggest that there are a number of related knowledge institutions that might also be considered. One would be drug licensing, and strengthening of food and drug administrations might be considered in a K4D health project. Another would be standards, and improving the ability of developing nations to measure pharmaceutical quality, and to define standards for pharmaceutical products. In the health sector, one faces problems of assuring that materials maintain their potency through the factory to patient chain, such as the problem of assuring that vaccines have in fact been protected by the cold chain, and not degraded by being overheated during transport to the location in which they are to be used. There are similar concerns for assuring that clinical laboratories are up to standards, and that diagnostic devices such as x-ray machines are properly calibrated. A health sector K4D project might profitably deal with a variety of such issues, and indeed it could deal with the capital investment needed to build the infrastructure needed for these aspects of the health system.

Innovation policy: I suggest that policies that encourage innovation in health service delivery are in many ways analogous to those that encourage innovation in the private sector. Indeed, there are aspects of the health sector that are often private sector, such as private medical practice, pharmaceuticals, medical equipment, traditional health practitioners, and health insurance. Moreover, all the information on innovations in the public sector can be brought to bear. (See in this respect the Development Gateway Portal’s Innovations for Development page:

Lifelong Learning and Higher Education: Education of health practitioners (doctors, dentists, nurses, pharmacists, public health officials, etc.) is of critical importance in the health sector, and could benefit from the thinking being done about restructuring higher education and continuing education programs utilizing K4D concepts. I would place special emphasis on the role of distance education in these activities. Again, this would be a rich area to explore for project components in a health K4D project.

In the health sector, there are important educational functions carried out by the professional associations, such as medical and nursing associations. Project activities could focus on improving the institutionalization of such functions. Similarly, licensing plays an important institutional role in assuring that professionals maintain up-to-date technical knowledge and skills, and a health K4D project could help improve such systems. I would also note that there is a great deal of technical information transferred within the material supply systems in the health sector. Thus, “detail men” and other functionaries in the pharmaceutical industry provide considerable information on new drugs as part of the marketing of their products to pharmacists and physicians. A focus on the knowledge systems in the health sector might well help to identify project activities that could improve the knowledge flows through a variety of relatively novel mechanisms to improve human capital in the sector.

Science and Technology: Biomedical research, epidemiological research, health service research, and other areas of health science could be supported within a K4D health sector project approach. Focus on technology in the health sector has traditionally been limited to concern for medical and clinical devices. Indeed, there are important economic issues in terms of the appropriate imaging technology to different epidemiological, economic and clinical circumstances. I would suggest however, that much of the area of medical quality assurance deals with issues of whether the appropriate technology is embodied in the health practitioners, equipment, facilities and supplies brought to bear on patients with specific needs. Again, a K4D health project focus might suggest interesting and useful S&T activities to improve health care.

K4D approaches should of course deal with direct empowerment of the people, and especially the poor, with knowledge – not just with knowledge in bureaucratic and market systems. In the case of the health sector, one might look at the way in which radio and other media are used to provide better health information to the general public, as well as to health education in such locals as the schools, clinics, pharmacies, and practitioners’ offices.

I think that in the health sector, a K4D project development approach would be quite novel, and might result in implementable projects with unusual impact and cost-effectiveness.

IT skills are needed in the Knowledge Economy. How do workers efficiently demonstrate that they have such skills, and how do employers efficiently screen when employing for jobs that need such skills? In Europe, increasingly certification provides a solution to these concerns.

EUropean Certification of Informatics Professionals
Provides two levels of certification:

The European Computer Driving License Foundation
The ECDL is a more basic certificate of ability dealing with basic computer applications.

It is owned by CEPIS, the Council of European Professional Informatics Societies

Sunday, January 19, 2003


There are some 1,500 active volcanoes in the world, and on the average some 35 or 40 eruptions per year. Many of these are in developing nations. (

There is a good source of general information on volcanoes on the web:

Individual volcano eruptions have killed people by the tens of thousands, and destroyed property worth huge amount of money. Thus a lahar (or flow of mud and debris) set off by the eruption of the Nevada de Ruiz in Colombia in 1985 is estimated to have killed 25,000 people. But knowledge about volcanoes, and information that allows prediction of major volcanic events would be a big help. It could be used to plan development to avoid areas of volcanic peril, and to get out of the way of impending eruptions. See for example, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) site about monitoring volcanoes:

The European Space Agency’s Envisat, among its functions, is intended to provide that kind of information.

According to a story in the January 18-24, 2003 Economist magazine, Envisat is equipped with interferometric synthetic aperture radar that can give ground elevation with millimeter scale accuracy. It should allow affordable, worldwide monitoring of the kinds of shifts that indicate magma pressure buildup precursors of eruptions. Envisat also has the ability to detect gases, such as sulphur dioxide linked to volcanic activity.

The NASA Landsat-7 and Terra satellites

have instruments that provide data that could be used to monitor thermal hot and cold spots in volcanic areas, and could be used to detect thermal changes that may be predictive of volcanic activity.

Similarly, acoustic warning systems have been placed in operation in danger points around the world that to provide advanced warning in case of a lahar:

As we think about knowledge for development, and about the role of information and communications technologies in providing information for development, there seems to be a tendency to focus on ICTs providing direct services to the poor. Telecenters providing shared access to telephone and internet service to the poor, telemedicine and distance education, e-government and e-commerce are all important. However, I suggest it is also important to recognize that the application of satellite remote sensing, combined with computer data processing of the masses of data generated by remote sensing, and combined with other advanced ICT applications has a major role in development.

Indeed, these kinds of advanced technologies have a critical role in poverty reduction, if you recognize one of the aspects of poverty to be powerlessness in the face of often disproportionate risk. After all, it tends to be the poor who are most endangered by volcano eruptions and similar “natural disasters”. Providing the information needed to predict and avoid such disasters empowers the poor, and thus reduces their poverty.

Saturday, January 18, 2003


Siva Vaidhyanathan’ Blog
This Weblog concerns media, globalization, cultural policy, politics, economics, technology, music, philosophy: Siva Vaidhyanathan is an assistant professor of Culture and Communication at New York University.

Tech Law Advisor: copyright, trademark, parody, fair use and technology legal issues
Tech Law Advisor is a legal web log (blawg) edited by Kevin Heller, an attorney admitted in New York and New Jersey.

Bag and Baggage
Blog of Denise M. Howell, an attorney specializing in appellate and intellectual property litigation.

CNET Radio
CNET Radio is technology & business News/Talk, and this is its Blog.

And for something completely different, the Blog of William Gibson, the science fiction writer who did so much to help us visualize cyberspace:

Friday, January 17, 2003


Martin Luther King Day is coming up. It is a relatively new U.S. national holiday. joining others such a Independence Day, Thanksgiving, Memorial Day, Veterans’ Day, and Presidents’ Day in 1986. (There is a great site that supplies -- in many languages -- information on national holidays in various countries:

It occurred to me to think about who or what might be considered as the next national holiday. Perhaps there should be a day to celebrate advances in scientific and technological knowledge, and to honor the scientists, inventors and technological geniuses who have contributed so much. Many nations could personalize such a day with their own knowledge heroes: the U.K with Newton and Darwin; the U.S. with Einstein, Edison, Ford, Whitney; France with Descartes and Pasteur; Sweden with Linnaeus; Pakistan with Abdus Salam; Argentina with Luis F. Leloir and César Milstein (both Nobel Prize winners); India with Venkata Raman and Amartya Sen (certainly I would celebrate the social sciences); etc.

By the way, Eli Whitney deserves more credit than he is usually given, having not only invented the cotton gin, but also pioneered in the introduction of manufacturing based upon interchangeable parts and introducing the machinery needed to produce such parts – the so-called American System of Manufacturing.

In the U.S. there is an International Public Science Day (sponsored by the AAAS in collaboration with the Franklin Museum Science Museum and Unisys) but it only seems to be celebrated by some museums and cities.

International Public Science Day 2003

India celebrates a National Technology Day. Indonesia has a “National Awakening of Technology Day”.

I understand that there are nations (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Russia, Tunisia, Ukraine) that celebrate “Knowledge Day”.

Of course many organizations have very local celebrations of science, technology and knowledge.

Perhaps the idea is not too farfetched.

Wednesday, January 15, 2003


I spend a lot of my time contributing to the Development Gateway Portal. It occurs to me that I should suggest here, in my K4D Blog, that people interested in the topic should consider becoming members of at least three DG communities:

Knowledge Economy

Information and Communication Technologies for Development

Innovation for Development

I would hope many people interested in K4D would also be specifically interested in joining one of the following communities:



E-Commerce for Arts and Crafts

Becoming a nominal member of one of these communities is easy. Just go to the Member Directory box on the right side of the web page with the URL cited above, and click on “become a member”. You will have to provide a little information.

As a member, you will get alerts to new resources, and occasional newsletters. Your name will be added to the member list, and others will have the means of contacting you by email.

I would especially welcome those of you who are interested in becoming active members. At the simplest level, you can be active by posting an occasional contribution of some resource that you think may interest your fellow members.

More ambitiously, the editors seem to be quite happy in adding guides and advisors to help with the planning and organization of the resources.

Tuesday, January 14, 2003


Currently available selections from one of the world's best technological laboratories:
Top Ten Technologies by 2005;
Top Ten Most Innovative Products by 2006;
Top Ten Breakthroughs for Household Products by 2007;
Top Ten Challenges and Opportunities by 2008;
Top Ten Healthy Home Trends by 2010;
Top Ten Drivers of Consumer Value by 2010;
Top Ten Energy Innovations by 2010;
High Tech Haven: Forecast Predicts the Top Ten Innovations in Home Comfort and Convenience in 2012;
Strategic Technologies by 2020.

This seems to be a great resource for engineering, mathematics and computing:

Note for example its engineering Internet tutorials

and its online books of Internet Resources for these fields:

Monday, January 13, 2003


Here are a few professional societies for people working to provide the basic understanding of social and economic processes that underlie K4D programs.

Society for the History of Technology (ShoT)

Society for the Social Studies of Science (Technoscience)

Science, Knowledge and Technology Section of the American Sociological Association

Societal Impacts of Science and Engineering Section of the American Association for the Advancement of Science

The IEEE Society on Social Implications of Technology

Special Interest Group on Computers and Society of the Association for Computing Machinery

Association of Internet Researchers (AoIR)


Richard G.A. Feachem had a piece in the Opinion section of yesterday’s Washington Post about HIV/AIDS ( He is the executive director of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria ( In 2001, it was estimated that 5.7 million people died of these diseases: 3 million from AIDS, 1.7 million from TB, and one million from malaria. That works out to 15,616 deaths a day. Every day.

That may be understating the case. It has been estimated, for example, that there are between 300 million and 500 million clinical cases of malaria a year, with between one million and three million deaths from malaria alone (

And the situation is getting worse, not better. Current projections are that the AIDS epidemic will not peak for another 40 or 50 years. TB is resurgent in many parts of the world, in part do to the increase in infections from drug resistant forms of TB that are expensive and difficult to treat. While great progress was made against malaria by the much maligned Eradication Campaign, efforts to control the disease have still left us with a million deaths per year, and increasingly complex problems of drug resistant parasites and insecticide resistant mosquitoes.

Jeffrey Sacks of the Earth Institute at Colombia University has underlined the importance of mobilizing global science and technology to address the crises of public health. ( I would suggest in the context of this Blog, that “Knowledge for Development” engage with the problems of communicable diseases of poverty, and most importantly with these three: HIV/AIDS, TB and Malaria.

“Knowledge for Development” is an approach. It should be a broad enough approach to be used against the most critical public health problems of our time. Certainly research and development of new tools with which to fight these diseases is a part of the K4D approach. I would note the International AIDS Vaccines Initiative (, and a number of malaria initiatives (

The work of United Nations agencies, such as the World Health Organization (, is very important in organizing and communicating the knowledge base about medical and public health approaches to these diseases. Their technical assistance to developing nations is invaluable and irreplaceable. One might underline the importance of donor assistance in communicating about best practices in the organization of health services and about quality assurance in such services.

I might also point to the Cochrane Collaboration ( as a prototypical organization. The Cochrane Library is composed of meta-analyses of the biomedical research literature, providing summaries of the states-of-the-art for diagnosis, prevention and treatment of major diseases. Not only is the Cochrane approach important for public health, but it should serve as a model for the organization of technological knowledge in other fields.

The Communications Initiative ( is a great organization that supports health and population program communications in many ways, but is perhaps especially important in providing information on how to communicate to the public directly about public health problems.

The United States is spending enormous amounts of money on the War Against Terrorism. That is a concern that has mobilized the developed world. Yet worldwide the terror inspired by the enormous mortality and morbidity from AIDS, TB and malaria is far worse than that inspired by acts of terrorists. Indeed, the mortality from terrorism is lost in the noise of global death statistics, however prominent it may be in the media. Perhaps the key challenge for K4D is to help people in developed and developing nations to understand where their greatest enemies are to be found.

Saturday, January 11, 2003


The terms “Knowledge Economy” and “Knowledge For Development” seem often to be used synonymously. I suspect that to be a mistake. K4D perhaps ought to be seen as composed of several facets, including “Knowledge Polity” and “Knowledge Culture”, as well as “Knowledge Economy”.

The first of these topics is intended to refer to knowledge systems in governance institutions. In the case of the knowledge economy, attention is directed to technological knowledge, market knowledge, innovation systems, etc. The difficulties of achieving development with governments that are unresponsive to the needs of their citizens, corrupt, or simply unaware of the information that could inform better policy and strategic choices are severe. The “Knowledge Polity” (KP) may well be of comparable importance with “Knowledge Economy” for development.

KP includes knowledge systems in the political process. Donor assistance Democratization programs (e.g. that of USAID: relate to an important aspect of this concern. In democratic societies, democratization concerns would relate to the role of knowledge in elections and participation of the electorate in governance. Perhaps it would be better to frame the issues in a broader way, focusing on the ways in which citizens learn about public issues, and the ways in which the views of the citizens are communicated to and affect public policy and strategy. One specific area in which donor efforts might prove to be useful here is in improving the news service of the media (I think that donors such as the Open Society Institute - -and the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung - - do in fact work with the media.) Similarly, improving civics education in the schools might be useful.

Let me suggest that KP also includes improving knowledge systems in the legislative, executive and judiciary branches of government. Thus one might improve the use of scientific and technological knowledge in government (as the US tried to do by creating the Office of Technology Assessment, or the executive branch by institutionalizing science advisors and the Office of Science and Technology Policy, or as the judiciary struggles with in dealing with expert testimony and alternative ways to deal with highly technical information and issues.) While improving Knowledge Management in government organizations is a part of the approach, I am suggesting a more general understanding of knowledge systems than KM theorists usually use. Thus I would be concerned with the means that government agencies have to exchange knowledge with the people they serve. It seems to me that the “Rule of Law”, and the operation of the judiciary system also has significant relationship with the judiciary knowledge systems.

Lets go then to Knowledge and Culture. I suspect that it is not a coincidence that the Age of Enlightenment is correlated with the breakout from the poverty trap, both in time and in the geographic location in which they occurred. I think the cultural shift to modern scientific and technological knowledge systems is strongly related to the shift to democratic political institutions and to market based economic institutions. These are all fundamental changes in knowledge systems in major institutions, and perhaps related to deeper cultural shifts in the approach to information and knowledge.

There have been some recent papers suggesting that development depends most fundamental on fundamental institutions ( such as: Voice and accountability, Political stability and absence of violence, Government effectiveness, Light regulatory burden, Rule of law, and Freedom from graft). For example, see “Tropics, Germs, and Crops: How Endowments Influence Economic Development” by William Easterly and Ross Levine. (

The World Values Survey ( has suggested that more dependence on rational-secular values (versus traditional values) is correlated with higher per capita GDP (see the figure on the cited page labeled “Economic levels of 65 Societies, superimposed on two dimensions of cross-cultural variation”). It has also suggested that there is a strong negative correlation between dependence on rational-secular values and emphasis of survival over self-expression values, and that these are linked to general cultural roots (see figure labeled “Mapping Authority and Survival or Well Being”).

When I began in the development business in the 1960’s theory linked development with modernization. The term at the time certainly was tainted with ethnocentrism, the thought that citizens of developing nations had to become more like “modern” Europeans and Americans to progress. It seems to have gone out of favor, perhaps due to an increase in respect for cultural diversity in the international community. Certainly, cultural imperialism is to be avoided, and many cultures (from the French to the Moslem) are justly concerned with undue, unwelcome, and unacceptable foreign cultural influences. Still, it seems to me that culturally knowledge systems must change for development to progress. Knowledge must be subjected to strenuous validation, and much of the validation should be done in “modern” knowledge institutions. Validation of knowledge must be more based on evidence, and indeed on replicable evidence obtained under controlled circumstances.

This is hard to achieve. Indeed, the Economist pointed out in last weeks edition, that not only is the United States “far more traditional than any west European country except Ireland. It is more traditional (in contrast to rational-secular) than any place at all in central or Eastern Europe.” Moreover, the article notes that virtually alone among developed nations, the United States is registering more traditional in the last 20 years on the Values Survey. (Living with a superpower, January 2, 2003.) The continuing wars over the teaching of evolution in the US illustrate the clash between traditional and scientific knowledge systems.

Friday, January 10, 2003


As I have noted before, there is a K4D site at the World Bank:

The K4D program rests on the basis built through the preparation of:

The World Development Report, 1998/99: Knowledge for Development

That report was perhaps one of the most effective applications of K4D thinking in the Bank. Other important examples include:

China and the Knowledge Economy: Seizing the 21st Century
By Carl J. Dahlman, and Jean-Eric Aubert. 2001. (PDF, 196 pages)

Korea and the Knowledge-based Economy: Making the Transition,
By Carl Dahlman and Thomas Andersson, 2001 (PDF, 149 pages)

To date, however, I don’t know of any comprehensive K4D projects that have been funded by the Bank. Thus the K4D approach until now has apparently proved more valuable as an analytic and didactic approach to development, than as a project development tool.

Olaf Brugman's Blog on non-governmental organizations

Where I found:

The Triumph and Tragedy of Human Capital: Foundation Resource for Building Network Knowledge Economies
This is a highly relevant presentation by William H. Melody. It focuses on building human capacity for the knowledge economy, and the role of universities in building that capacity. University of Witwatersrand. 18 September, 2002.

Learning to Make Policy: the emergence of knowledge-based aid
"Aid agencies are becoming increasingly influenced by debates about the knowledge economy and its implications for development, on the one hand, and private sector practices of knowledge management on the other. This project explores the nature of the resultant knowledge-based aid and asks whether it is indeed in the interest of those in the South who are supposedly the partners in development cooperation."

where in turn I found a link to:

"The purpose of this book," according to the editors, "is not only to highlight problems of learning in development
co-operation, but also to use the insights of the contributions to the book, to develop suggestions as to how effective learning can be implemented in development co-operation." The editors believe that the book has "identified a set of critical, sometimes structural, problems in development aid that need to be overcome, if learning is to become more effective than it is today."

Olaf Brugman is also moderator on the following site:

KnowledgeBoard: The European KM Community
The European special interest group on knowledge management for non-government organizations. This is a great web site for those interested in the topic.

Thursday, January 09, 2003


Here are an interesting set of sites from the World Bank in addition to the previously noted
· K4D site
· and Constructing Knowledge Societies New Challenges for Tertiary Education

Education for the Knowledge Economy (EKE)
EKE is a three year analytical program, initiated by the Human Development Network of the World Bank, to understand and articulate how education and training systems need to change in order to meet the challenges of the knowledge economy, and to offer practical and sustainable policy options for developing countries.

Lifelong Learning in the Global Knowledge Economy: Challenges for Developing Countries
This study seeks to reflect the increased need for people to continue learning created by the growing knowledge economy, and recommends major changes in the way educational services are conceived and implemented. It was prepared by a World Bank team led by Toby Linden and Harry Anthony Patrinos and published in October, 2002. (PDF Format, 128 pages).

Strategic Approaches To Science And Technology In Development
This (draft) paper was produced by a World Bank team, and dated June 26, 2002. (A second volume is apparently available from the Bank EXE program.) It suggests the Bank strengthen its S&T efforts, seeking to increase awareness of the role of S&T in development, and to increase efforts in four programmatic areas: human resource development for S&T, promoting private sector S&T demand and utilization, promoting public sector support for S&T, and support for ICTs. (PDF, 46 pages)

Review of World Bank Lending for Science and Technology: 1992-98
A review of World Bank S&T lending done by Michael Crawford in 1999.

World Bank & Education for the Knowledge Economy
This is the site for an International Conference held in Stuttgart, October 9-10, 2002. The site has links not only to the conclusions from the conference, but also to a number of major online reports on topics highly relevant to the Knowledge Economy.

Tertiary Distance Education and Technology in Sub-Saharan Africa
Bill Saint's study reviews tertiary education in Sub-Saharan Africa, in light of persistent pressures to expand access to education, despite declining quality, and mere funding possibilities. According to Saint, distance learning may provide an answer, complemented with a selective application of information, and communication technologies.

Tuesday, January 07, 2003


The World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), with meetings in 2003 and 2005, is already the subject of a number of preparatory conferences and will be expected to generate a major set of findings.

The last few years have already seen a number of important policy documents relating to ICT for Development. Here are links to some:

The United Nations General Assembly Meeting on Information and Communication Technology for Development (June 2002)

Report of the Secretary General of the UN on ICT Activities to ECOSOC's Annual Meeting 2001

The role of the United Nations in promoting development, particularly with respect to access to and transfer of knowledge and technology, especially information and
communication technologies, inter alia, through partnerships with relevant stakeholders, including the private sector: Report of the Secretary-General (2001)

Report of the ICT Advisory Committee to the UN

The reports from the UN ICT Task Force:

The World Bank ICT Sector Strategy Paper

Report of the Digital Opportunities Task Force (DOT Force) May, 2001

COMMUNIQUÉ of the G8 Meeting in Genoa, July 2001.


The World Economic Forum Proposal on the Digital Divide to the Okinawa G* Summit

The World Economic Forum Annual Meeting Report for 2001 (including other materials, 7MB plus)


Digital Bridge to Africa Final Report (from a meeting held in the UN Complex in New York, July 2002)

Anyone who has seen wire toys of Africa must recognize a kind of inventive talent in the region. Here are a few web sites that attest to a more "modern" inventive potential in the region.

WIPO Regional Seminar on Invention and Innovation in Africa

International Federation of Inventors Associations - AFRICA DEPARTEMENT

Technology Policy and Practice in Africa

Sunday, January 05, 2003


Lets consider three areas of ICT4D:
1. The ICT physical infrastructure, which I take to include telephone and computer infrastructure, radio and television infrastructure, and (if pushed) the print media infrastructure – including both the presses that publish newspapers, magazines and books, and the physical infrastructure involved in their distribution;
2. The ICT industries. There seems to be focus on export oriented ICT industries, such as the software industry in India, the chip manufacturing industry in Costa Rica, and IT-enabled services, such as back-office services (accounting, credit card processing). There is an argument for export-lead ICT industry development, but developing nations will also have to develop ICT industries for domestic use, including in addition to those described, wholesale and retail distribution of ICT products, ICT maintenance, ICT consulting, Internet value added services, etc.
3. Utilization of ICTs in all the other productive sectors of the society. These include the often cited telemedicine, distance education, e-commerce and e-government, but also applications of telephones, mass media, and computers to business and government that have long been common in developed nations, but are still uncommon in developing nations.

It seems to me that development for each of these three areas requires development in the others as well. Thus without ICT industries and utilization of ICTs in the productive sector, there will be little incentive to develop the physical infrastructure. Similarly, without the infrastructure, there would be little opportunity to develop ICT industries nor applications. All three areas should develop in parallel, creating a virtuous ICT4D circle.

Where in this circle does leadership matter? Probably everywhere! I suspect that there will need to be large number of individuals innovating. Business leaders will have to show entrepreneurial leadership in finding new business opportunities in building the physical infrastructure, creating and expanding ICT industries, and applying ICT to development. Government and civil society leaders must similarly become social entrepreneurs, finding new and expanding existing ICT opportunities.

I suspect that at a deeper level, it is critical to develop social, economic and policy environments conducive to such leadership, and to ICT innovation. Indeed, countries that are maintaining high rates of social and economic progress probably have such an environment stimulating to ICT leadership and innovation, and countries with poor development environments will probably not make an exception for ICT4D.

Still one must note the benefits that have come to nations that opened the Internet and telephone industries to competition, that regulated to encourage universal telephone coverage and cost-based telephone pricing, that eliminate excise taxes on personal computers, that provided tax financing for ICT investments, and that have established policies promoting ICT applications in government services. Leadership in establishing the general conditions under which others can lead and innovate is especially important.

I guess several other kinds of leadership are also especially important. Technological leadership is one; that is leadership in identifying the technologies that provide new and growing opportunities, and adapting those technologies to local needs and circumstances.

Leadership in education and training is another. Skilled people in large numbers will be needed to develop the ICT infrastructure and industries, and to apply ICT to development problems. Developing this cadre of people is a major responsibility, and will probably be needed before most people in the society recognize the need for an ICT literate workforce. Similarly, leadership in developing the policies that will encourage these trained people to remain at home (or return home) and apply their skills, rather than contributing to the brain drain.

Leadership in institution building is also critical. Thus without leaders developing the education and training institutions in which people can learn to use ICT, little will be accomplished. Similarly, leadership is needed in developing governmental ICT policy and regulatory institutions, in developing markets for ICT products and services, etc.

One of the things I have come to believe in many years of work is that leadership should be rewarded. Money is nice, but often leaders also need recognition and appreciation for the work that they have done.

Wednesday, January 01, 2003


I recently read that there are more than three-quarters of a million web logs, or blogs, now in operation. These are of course people like me taking the opportunity provided by very user friendly blogging web sites to post messages frequently that can be widely read. Some of them deal with Knowledge for Development or related topics.

Bret Fausett’s icann.Blog
A Los Angeles based lawyer’s Blog about the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers activities.

Steve Cisler's Blog
Cisler is one of the people most active in bringing Internet access to communities worldwide, and his blog is a useful addition to the materials he has placed on the web on his home page and other sites.

e-Government & Technology Middle East
An Information site for furthering information society and eGovernment (eGov) collaboration. ArabGov.Com represents a forum for the sharing of news, ideas and initiatives between the governments of Middle-Eastern and Gulf countries.

Lawrence Lessig's Blog
An important leader in thinking through the institutions determining whether the Internet will be a commons or privatized.

Smart Convergence: New Technology and Business Opportunity
A Blog produced by Eduardo Prado in Brazil

Rajesh Jain's Weblog on Emerging Technologies, Enterprises and Markets.
(Entrepreneur, Mumbai, India, Emergic, Netcore, Internet, IndiaWorld, Sify, IIT-Bombay, ColumbiaUniv)

Smart Mobs
A Website and Weblog about Topics and Issues discussed in the book
Smart Mobs: The Next Social Revolution by Howard Rheingold

FLORA Blog is an independently owned and operated volunteer service that acts as part of the Community Networking movement.
It acts as a sort of commons or free-space where organizations can set up lines of communication and provide information to members of the community.

This is an online science magazine in the form of a Blog, with advertising.

Tom Munnecke
A journal of thoughts and activities of a Visiting Scholar at the Stanford University Digital Visions Program

Ilkka Tuomi’s Blog
Mr Tuomi is a Finnish author and columnist on topics science, culture, technology and economy who is is currently a visiting scientist at the European Commission's Joint Research Center, Institute for Prospective Technological Studies, Seville, Spain.

Peter West’s “Citations for Knowledge Workers”

David Brake’s Blog
A UK-based consultant, journalist, and virtual community builder provides news and comments on the Internet, digital TV, community regeneration, and more.

A weblog about the politics of new and old media, foreign policy, tech, culture, philosophy, and photography. It is maintained by Dru Oja Jay, who variously calls himself a student, journalist, web designer, and writer. He lives in Sackville, New Brunswick, Canada.

“laws, lies, legal research and the internet”; a research project by Maximillian Dornseif.
Research interests are primary in interactions in a highly interconnected environment between safety, security, laws and policy. PhD Student University of Bonn.

There are also relevant Blogs in other languages:

Jorge Arabito Facso
This Argentine lawyer has a Blog dedicated to “The Social Impact of New Technologies and Something More”.

Knowledge Discovery Room
“a repository of knowledge and ideas discovered in everyday reading life.” In Spanish, French and German as well as English (via automatic translation).

Blogs of some more PhD students

PHD Web Logs
This is a site which links to a number of graduate students, including some working on topics within the area of my blog such as those identified below:

Eszter's Blog
Sociology, the Net, academia, teaching, research, books and movies, current events, fun Web stuff, art, gadgets andt anything else that comes to mind of Eszter Hargittai, a PhD student at Princeton.
Kara Kerwin is a student at the University of Buffalo at the School of Informatics, Department of Communication.

Among the many web logs that are somewhat related to our topic:

Innovation Weblog
InnovationTools is a Web site designed by Chuck Frey to help busy executives to be more innovative in their businesses. This is the associated Blog.

Ray Schroeder's Techno-News Blog
Keeping up with the changing technologies, issues and related developments in education, distance education, and online learning.

Terry W. Frazier’s Blog focuses on publishing and information-sharing, but crosses over into politics, law, technology, process, and business strategy when those things intersect with the aforementioned focus.
Telecoms, Internet and Convergence

Shauna Curphey
Shauna Curphey is a freelance writer living in Long Beach, Calif. She was an editor at Microsoft's Encarta eLearning Center and at Smart

Glenn Reynolds InstaPundit
A law professor's whose recent topics have included stories on the US elections, Islamic terrorism in Indonesia, a debate on the American gun culture and the more down-to-earth subjects of sex and music.

Note some organizational web logs:

The Scotish Center for Online Learning and Assessment has organized a Blog for short communications..

On line learning Europe
This site has also developed a Blog for short communications on online learning.

Another online learning site:

the online journal of the iSociety research project at the Work Foundation.

Some sites that help find Blogs:

Claims 13869 blogs on file.

8623 weblogs as of 01.01.03.

Search 7500 News Sites and Weblogs for Current Events and Breaking News

Globe of Blogs
Claims 3121 weblogs have registered so far.

The Weblogs Directory of braZil and Portugal
Listed by categories, countries and languages. Also lists new and updated blogs.