To ICT or not to ICT?

I often sit in on meetings and presentations, where people talk of ICT's, and how they will transform the work that we do, and how we do it. What worries me is that we never follow this debate through to its conclusion, and look at the truth of this all. ICT's are amazingly powerful, and can take NGO's and their work to new and exciting places. I do think that we fail to acknowledge that these ICT's can and will only take what is there (on a day-to-day basis) and magnify it. If you are a disorganized shambles, you will be an even bigger one in cyberspace, and the opposite is true as well. To illustrate why I am saying this. Back in 1999 I was attended the ThinkQuest Awards Weekend in LA, where teacher/student teams collaborated internationally across the net, to produce educational websites, which were adjudicated for prizes. There was a team consisting of students from Hong Kong, and their Indian Partners, who worked on a medical website. The students from India lived in a rural area, with old hardware and an incredibly slow internet connection. In addition, these students had an erractic power supply, that was more off than on, and yet they managed to make this amazing contribution and received a silver award. What this shows, and this is often a case in Africa, is that we think if we throw money (i.e. hardware and software) at a problem, that everything will be alright. These students succeeded, because they had that spark inside, which made them work hard, despite being under resourced and severely disadvantaged. Hard work and success is about something within the human spirit, and we need to interrogate this, as we try to devise intelligent and effective development solutions, involving ICT's. We cannot be complacent about this technology and its power, by falling for easy explanations and understandings of it, and where it can take us, and those involved in the projects we run. Robin Opperman Director-Umcebo Trust robin@umcebotrust.co.za

Author(s): 
Robin Opperman

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