ICT4D – from passion to practitioner?

Let’s get this on the table, I am not an international development professional.  I’m an IT communications guy with a passion for social good.  A year ago, I was just returning from Uganda, as part of an ICT consulting visit for a partner university.  The experience, I’ve come to realize, has changed me tremendously, on a professional, personal, and even a spiritual level.  Over the course of the last 12 months I’ve developed a passion for how technology can change lives for the better in developing countries.  This field, or community of practice is oftentimes referred to as Information and Communication Technologies for Development or ICT4D for short.

Influence of mobile

In particular, what has peeked my interest is the area of appropriate technology.  Specifically in the form of the mobile device and how this ubiquitous communications tool is being leveraged to make a positive impact for the world’s disadvantaged.  There are so many effective applications of Mobiles for Development (M4D) in the developing world, but I’ve been particularly interested in projects involving SMS communications and mapping.  Two software applications that are making a notable impact in numerous ways are FrontlineSMS and UshahidiProject 4636 with Ushahidi, following the 7.0 magnitude earthquake in Haiti, has created a gold standard for croudsourcing crisis communications, mapping and response.

The FrontlineSMS platform has really peaked my curiosity, the program and their various modules, are being instituted in a number of creative ways to solve problems worldwide.  For the last several months I’ve been working with the FrontlineSMS application, not just to test compatible GSM modems, but to school myself on FLSMS functionality.  I’m fortunate where I work to have access to different modems to test, and up to this point I’ve been testing things on my own time and expense.  A recent development has opened the door to get this above the radar and some seed funding, and I’m very excited about this opportunity.

So this gets me to the title of this blog post, from passion to practitioner.  Since my years in Network Engineering I’ve always had a fascination in how communications networks impact how we live, work and learn.  Lately, I’ve had some encouraging discussions with our Haiti Program on assisting with some ICT initiatives, including exploring FrontlineSMS or SMSMedic to assist in their mission.  In addition, I’m still working with BOSCO-Uganda on brainstorming some ideas around mobile integration and microfinance.

This December the ICTD Conference, which is one of the premier events in the ICT4D field, takes place in London.  I’ve considered attending, but would have to fund this myself, as it is not directly related to my job duties at Notre Dame.  An attempt to barter my services in assisting with conference planning or live video streaming (my specialty) was unsuccessful.  If anyone out there would like to sponsor my attendance, I wouldn’t turn it down 😀  So, I’ll have to be content in watching the live stream, and following the Twitter feed.  Finally, I will continue to pursue my ICT4D passion and find ways to get more engaged as a practitioner.


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