Archive for the ‘Poverty’ Category
Sanjit “Bunker” Roy, a social activist, educator and the founder of Barefoot College, an organisation based in Tilonia, India — that aims to help the estimated 41 per cent of the Indian population who live below the international poverty line. Roy’s model — educating local people through peer-to-peer learning — is transformational in that it relies on the passing on of traditional skills and knowledge rather than an emphasis on outside educators bringing new ideas and influences. Local people are trained as doctors, teachers, engineers, architects, designers, mechanics, communicators and accountants and they use simple technology in innovative and disruptive ways: mobile phones are set to work monitoring water quality through an online dataset, solar-powered cookers are constructed to break dependence on wood or costly kerosene. Some lessons at the college are recorded and uploaded to the internet. There is no hierarchy: everyone eats sitting on the floor and no one receives a salary of more than $150 per month. Importantly, there is financial transparency. Staff bank accounts are published, as are company finances.
The Human Development Index, originally developed by Amartya Sen and Mahbub ul Haq, places education and health as 2 key measures of human development. The founders of Mindset recognised that in order to nurture much neglected human development in South Africa and in other places on the continent, it was essential to place the focus here. As Nelson Mandela once said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
And so, in 2002, Mindset Network was launched by Mr Mandela and has since operated as a non-profit organisation creating, sourcing and delivering high quality educational content for use in the formal education and (since 2004) health sectors where such provision can support human development. Wherever possible, access is made free or affordable to the end user.
The problem is that ICT4D assumes the very results it seeks to achieve. The human intent and competence ICT4D aims to generate must already be in place for the technology to work. But if developing economies had the capacity, there would be no need for an external technology push: capable people attract, or develop, their own technology.
North America, Western Europe, Japan, and several other economically blessed regions are cases in point. They attained their status as economic powerhouses well before digital technologies had a measurable impact of any kind. Their advanced production and consumption of information technology can be interpreted more as a result of economic advances than as a primary cause.