Loading ...
Sorry, an error occurred while loading the content.

RE: [bytesforall_readers] Digest Number 366

Expand Messages
  • Maru, Ajit (ISNAR)
    Dear Alfred, Vivek, Earl and Colleagues: First of all, I agree that the most important use of ICT is in learning. The use of ICT enables learning in a
    Message 1 of 3 , Feb 1, 2003
    • 0 Attachment
      Dear Alfred, Vivek, Earl and Colleagues:

      First of all, I agree that the most important use of ICT is in learning. The
      use of ICT enables learning in a community that is not limited by time and
      space. The shared information space of a community (for example,
      Bytesforall) enables learning by a multiple of stakeholders to the
      community. ICT also enables the community to build desirable visions,
      articulate needs and negotiate action with the multiple stakeholders. Earl
      makes a very strong case in this direction by drawing attention to the Jhai
      initiative.

      The shared information space of a community needs constant support to
      enhance their information space. For example, Alfred finds it difficult with
      the technology we use (Yahoo groups) to attach documents. Jhai needed a PC
      with VoIP in a place which did not have electricity. For each community, the
      issues of enhancing their own information space are different.

      I catalogue the issues in enhancing "shared community information spaces" in
      four phases:

      1. Infrastructural phase, where the focus is on infrastructure such as
      availability of and access to hardware, software, content, electricity,
      skills development for computer use etc.;

      2. Operational phase, where the focus is on the architecture and design of
      the information space and its core applications

      3. Coordination and Control phase, where the information space appears to
      some of its members as being uncoordinated, unruly, ineffective, inefficient
      and they try to coordinate it and in some ways control it through
      standardization and putting filters such as of intellectual property rights
      etc.,.

      4. Strategic use phase, where the information space is used strategically to
      achieve the community's goals.

      In each phase, the issues of

      1. Connectivity
      2. Content
      3. Capacity Development of the Community

      are different.

      For example, connectivity concerns in the initial phase are primarily about
      getting a physical connection and not about bandwidth. Content issues are
      about exchanging messages in some way with or without intermediaries
      (English e-mail in rural areas of India). Capacity development is about
      using computers, be it with Windows or Linux, Solaris, Unix. In the second
      phase, connectivity issues are about bandwidth, use of LANS, Intranets, WANS
      etc.,. Content issues are about targeting information and creating
      pluralistic information flows. Capacity development issues relate to
      generating and using information.

      We can use this framework and understand each of our perspectives. I am
      considering the ICT user community in developing countries as still being in
      the infrastructure phase, Vivek is somewhere in between the operational and
      coordination phase and Alfred is looking at it at the Strategic phase.

      All of us, I believe, have a common goal. How do we reduce the time each
      community spends at each phase before it starts to use ICT strategically to
      achieve its development goals? Our concerns on open source software relate
      to what I call "policy" and support to enhance the shared information space
      issues. We have to make this space sustainable and useable and that is where
      the proprietary software versus open source and free software concerns are
      placed. Sustainability is just not financial but encompass issues such as
      security of the information space. Though Yahoo groups is somewhat "free"
      but would we use it if it spreads viruses?

      I agree with Alfred, Earl and Vivek. We, as a community owe it to ourselves,
      to discuss this issue in more depth and clarity so that some action emerges
      from it. The issue is not Windows or Linux but of using ICT to enhance
      information use by communities across the world for their development.

      Warm regards,

      Ajit
    • vgupta
      Dear Ajit and Colleagues: Your framework and ideas for studying ICT development specifically in enhancing shared community information spaces in communities
      Message 2 of 3 , Feb 3, 2003
      • 0 Attachment
        Dear Ajit and Colleagues:
         
        Your framework and ideas for studying ICT development specifically in enhancing "shared community information spaces"in communities is really interesting. However I think that the phases in your framework are not sequential. At times applications development drives the infrastructure, Or in other case infrastructure availability may induce application development. Limitations of infrastructure may lead to failure of applications but availability of infrastructure is no guarantee for its success. Following different trajectories, few states in India concentrated on developing infrastructure as a priority area and others have tried to install infrastructure as and when needed by applications. The state where I reside currently, Gujarat, has a very good infrastructure (GSWAN) for launching e-gov applications, but there are hardly few applications making use of it.
         
        I also agree to Ajit that my concerns appear in coordination and control phase of his framework. There are multiple agencies working on the ICT 4 Development without any clear standards and lack of exchange of knowledge among themselves. Because of this,  these efforts largely seem "..ineffective, inefficient.." . These largely focus around implementation of 'e-gov' systems, primarily computerization of government systems. 
         
        The question which emerges next, is moving beyond government to look at specific community needs like dissemination of knowledge and information in rural areas. There have been many pilot projects that have implemented novel ideas in this space like "gyandoot", jhai foundation etc. From your discussion I infer, that your concerns focus on future sustainability of 'shared information space' in this domain with primary concern on costs and affordability of such initiatives. However I think the failures or partial successes in some of these projects 'like gyandoot' has less to do with the costs (at least in present and near future). These projects could not improve upon the initial situation in a radical way because of lack of coordinated applications at back-end to support them. They have only provided a marginal, unreliable improvements (thus benefits) over the past and thus could not sustain the user interests. Drawing from this logic, I see major concerns in development of shared information space catering to community needs, not as costs of hardware but a lack of common application standards and inability to integrate information across departments for creating attractive benefits.
         
        I agree that what we require, is to a look at these problems in a complete cost-benefit framework. Only cost focus or benefit focus is insufficient. Similarly, just focusing on infrastructure may result in increase in computer density but no effective computerization. Thus challenges are to continuously develop applications which make use of the existing infrastructure, and to develop infrastructure to deliver the new applications and learning.
         
        In this context, OSS as a potential solution for cost containment is fine, but it requires clear demonstration of its potential and applicability in our context by
         
        (1) Creation of country level technological base to provide reliable help on OSS in the country
        (2) developing one key application in OSS alongwith porting (migration) software
        (3) Developing local language solutions on OSS
         
        The next set of questions from this are  -
         
        (1) Who should do it? OSS enthusiasts, Government or companies.
        (2) Should government promote OSS blindly without seeing the demonstrated potential of OSS?  
        (3) Does the government has the capabilities to develop OSS platforms, multiple language support on these OSS platforms and OSS platform based applications?
        (4) Does the government has the capability to bring continuous upgradations / absorption of OSS technologies with technological development taking place around the world?
         
        These are some of the pressing questions which I believe should be addressed for promoting OSS. It is important to receive more critical inputs on these issues for new solutions to emerge.
         
        With regards,
         
        Vivek Gupta
         
        *********************************************************
        If I have seen farther than others, it is because
          I stood on the shoulders of giants." Isaac Newton
        *********************************************************
        Vivek Gupta
        Infosys Research Fellow
        Doctoral Candidate, Fellow Programme In Management
        Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad
        Vastrapur, Ahmedabad, Gujarat
        INDIA 380015
        Tel: 91 79 6327903  Fax 91 79 6306896
         
        Section Editor ISWORLD India Page- http://stdwww.iimahd.ernet.in/~vgupta
        India Management Research Page- http://stdwww.iimahd.ernet.in/~vgupta/conf
        *********************************************************
         
        All of us, I believe, have a common goal. How do we reduce the time each
        community spends at each phase before it starts to use ICT strategically to
        achieve its development goals? Our concerns on open source software relate
        to what I call "policy" and support to enhance the shared information  space
        issues. We have to make this space sustainable and useable and that is where
        the proprietary software versus open source and free software concerns are
        placed. Sustainability is just not financial but encompass issues such as
        security of the information space. Though Yahoo groups is somewhat "free"
        but would we use it if it spreads viruses?

        I agree with Alfred, Earl and Vivek. We, as a community owe it to ourselves,
        to discuss this issue in more depth and clarity so that some action emerges
        from it. The issue is not Windows or Linux but of using ICT to enhance
        information use by communities across the world for their development.

        Warm regards,

        Ajit








        To unsubscribe from this group, send an email to:
        bytesforall_readers-unsubscribe@yahoogroups.com



        Your use of Yahoo! Groups is subject to the Yahoo! Terms of Service.
      • Earl Mardle
        For what its worth ... I agree with Vivek on most of what he has to say and would add some emphasis points. He talks of information dissemination throughout
        Message 3 of 3 , Feb 4, 2003
        • 0 Attachment
          For what its worth
          At 4/02/2003 +0530, Vivek Gupta wrote:
          These are some of the pressing questions which I believe should be addressed for promoting OSS. It is important to receive more critical inputs on these issues for new solutions to emerge.

          I agree with Vivek on most of what he has to say and would add some emphasis points.

          He talks of information "dissemination" throughout the community. It is a common term and very easy to reach for when discussing these issues, but it places the focus in the wrong place. It assumes that the information is held by an authority of some kind and that the technology is a channel through which information can be sent where it  is needed. That is a broadcast model and in fact could be more cheaply achieved by radio/ TV.

          A reason that ICT4D projects have so much trouble becoming sustainable is that the relative cost of using the technology in broadcast mode is actually very high. The parts of projects such as Gyandoot and its clones that work best are those that enable citizens to gain direct access to highly specific, personalised information and to interact with that information. My entitlement to seed subsidies is based on my land tenure and determined by my title deed, my widow's benefit is totally personal and completely customised. Delivering those services face to face is very expensive and probably exceeds the value of the transaction, doing it by broadcasting is not possible or ethical, but ICT enables the transaction at a trivial cost and therefore works.

          The other emphasis I want to make is that the most useful information that people need is very often held not by a centralised authority but by neighbours within a day's walk of home. That information can be health information, both human and animal, agricultural knowledge applicable to a microclimate, social and political news and information, educational resources. It is by trading that information in the form of mentoring, apprenticeship or gossip, that communities are created and bound together. The ability of ICT to support and raise the power of that process is where we need to focus.

          As for OSS, I think the issue is largely one of default. While it may not be the perfect tool, it is, in many cases the only one available that is sufficiently adaptable and susceptible to volunteer participation. To give an example, the Lao language interface for the Jhai project has been led by a member of new York's Lao community who happens also to work for IBM and has done the work as a volunteer.

          To further the point on tools, can I suggest that there are 3 fundamental tools that might be the focus of all such localisation projects and they are
          VoIP which gives language agnostic communications to everyone within a WLAN that can cover the crucial information region very economically.
          Email to enable asynchronous global communication with community members. At a pinch email can also be the default word processing tool, it can be archived as memory and searched.
          Spreadsheet tool because counting and calculation plus recording and accumulating data are vital to more complex economies.

          I also agree with Vivek about the sequence of phases. Although we should be open to the order because we can't control it. If there is infrastructure but no tools, we should focus on tools, if there are tools but no infrastructure, that is where the work must go. I also strongly believe that keeping the scale very small is crucial to the long term success of these projects. Microbanking works in the cash economy because its scale is appropriate to the communities it serves. We should be thinking about the knowledge economy in exactly the same terms. The genius of TCP/IP is that it scales up beautifully, building many small networks will serve a lot of needs, when those needs also include other networks, you just connect them, that's what the Internet does.

          Cheers

          Earl Mardle
          KeyNet Consultancy
          Using Information Technology in the Real World

          29 River St
          Earlwood Sydney
          NSW 2206 Australia

          Ph 61 2 9787 4527
          Fax 61 2 8569 0578

          http://www.kn.com.au
          Blog http://www.livejournal.com/users/rlmrdl/

        Your message has been successfully submitted and would be delivered to recipients shortly.