SI521 "Open Educational Resources at the University of Michigan" Open Textbook/Open ICT4D

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Introduction[edit | edit source]

Technology has had an ever-increasing role in the daily lives of many people for the last fifty years. Just as technological advances have permeated society, they have influenced economic development efforts in developing countries. In the 1990s, these technology-enhanced development projects gained popularity due to the rise of Internet and the field became known by the acronym ICT4D, information communication technologies for development. The ICT4D efforts of the mid-1990s to around 2005 faced challenges in terms of sustainability, scalability, and evaluation. In response to these challenges, experts in the field are calling for a new balanced, holistic, participatory approach in technology for development efforts. This new approach is known by a variety of names: ICT4D 2.0 by Professor Richard Heeks at the University of Manchester, I4D by Professor Steve Jackson at the University of Michigan, and Open ICT4D by the Canadian development agency International Development Research Centre (IDRC). Although open source and other other open content have been a part of ICT4D efforts for several years due to cost, it is only recently that ICT4D projects are starting to explore the other benefits of open initiatives. Web 2.0 and open, participatory initiatives offer new possibilities for ICT4D for development efforts, such as transparency and increased relevance and sustainability of projects due to community involvement. This thread of openness in ICT4D projects has only recently begun and is still gaining momentum. This chapter provides an overview of the projects that have resulted from this exploration into open.

ICT4D: A Brief History[edit | edit source]

Information Communication Technologies for Development, often abbreviated as ICT4D, is a specialization within international development that focuses on the role of communication technology in economic development and poverty alleviation. The concept has its roots in the 1950s in the increased role of mass media of development. In 1966, economist E.F. Schumacher founded an organization called the Intermediate Technology Group that focuses on small, appropriate technology in the fields of agriculture or communication. He places the emphasis on the benefit to the user, not on how advanced the technology used is. He codified this idea in 1973 in a book called Small is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered. During the 1980s, there was a new focus in the development field on telecommunications, not just mass media but the transport of it as well as the other communication gains. The term ICT4D emerged in the 1990, taking a broader approach to the role of communication channels and technology in development. [1]

ICT4D projects include telecenters, cybercafes, municipal wifi, community radio, Base of the Pyramid entrepreneurial initiatives, mobile banking and microfinance, and more. Some of the better known projects are MIT professor Nicholas Negroponte's One Laptop Per Child project,[2] the Freedom Toaster project by the Shuttleworth Foundation in South Africa, [3] and Grameen Phone in Bangladesh. [4] Richard Heeks from the University of Manchester refers to this phase, the mid-1990s through around 2005 as ICT4D 1.0 (a reference to the static content of web 1.0). [5]

Motivation for ICT4D[edit | edit source]

Why give people laptops and Internet access when they have other basic needs that are barely or are not being met? The rationale is that increased communication and participation in the technology transfer is necessary to stay competitive in the world economy. It is an essential ingredient in long-term economic growth. Nicholas Negroponte has often referred to OLPC as "one education per child", likening the long-term benefits of proficiency with technology to those of education. The short-term needs of development, such as food, shelter, or clothing, still take priority over ICTs in most development programs. Professor Heeks adds, “Economic, social, and political life in the 21st century will be increasingly digital, and those without ICTs will be increasingly excluded. We might also givea micro-level answer: Ask poor communities or look at how they spend what little money they have; not always, but sometimes, they prioritize the ICT option." [5]

New approaches[edit | edit source]

The ICT4D 1.0 efforts faced three main obstacles in meeting their development goals: sustainability, scalability, and evaluation. Sustainability was an issue due a mismatch in services demanded and those provided, as well as overambitious goals. Though Telecenters may act as an Internet hub for a community, but they are not a scalable solution. Evaluation was also difficult as most assessment contained anecdotes but not in depth qualitative or quantitative analysis. [5]

In response to these shortcomings of the past 10 - 15 years in the ICT4D field, several in the field are calling for a more comprehensive and balanced approach.

ICT4D 2.0[edit | edit source]

Professor Heeks acknowledges that there were physical and technical limitations that hindered the scalability of ICT4D 1.0 efforts. First and foremost, in the 1990s, most Internet connections were through Ethernet and required laying miles of cable. In addition, access to electricity, especially in rural areas, needed to be addressed before telecommunications or electronics could have widespread use. The development of wireless networking technologies offers increases the potential for scalability. Heeks advocates that a new distribution channel is necessary is order to reach more people. He suggests exploring mobile phones, since more than half of Africans have access to mobile phones. [6].

Technology, whether mobile, radio, television, or broadband, is only the medium. Simple, user-appropriate software must be created to serve as "data content handler, interactive communicator, service deliverer, and productive tool"[5] in order to be useful. Here’s where the connection to open initiatives like OER and participatory frameworks like web 2.0 come into play. One of the reasons that ICT4D 1.0 failed was that it was non-interactive and therefore often lacked content relevance. According to Heeks, the early development efforts ignored and isolated information communication technologies (ICT). ICT4D 1.0 projects in the 1990s went to the other extreme of idolizing ICT. Now ICT4D must use integrate and innovate ICT for development goals: "Where 1.0 imposed preexisting designs and expected the poor to adapt to them, 2.0 designs around the poor’s specific resources, capacities, and demands." [5] The future of ICT4D is, therefore, open, participatory and interactive.

I4D[edit | edit source]

Professor Steve Jackson at the School of Information at the University of Michigan criticizes that ICT4D 1.0 efforts have focused too heavily on the technology side, focusing more on broadband connectivity and computers per capita than the ultimate objective of development. [1] Taking a view similar to Schumacher, he argues that the end of goal is the increased well-being and economic development of the individual with technology as an enabler, not an end. ICT for development, perhaps, should not be information communication technologies (with the emphasis on technology) but information, communication, and technology for development - with a more balanced, holistic, and sustainable approach.

Open ICT4D[edit | edit source]

Open ICT4D is a concept developed by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), a development agency run by the Canadian government. The agency coined the term in late 2008 as "hypothesis" about the increasing relevance of openness and open initiatives in ICT4D work. [7] Though IDRC is the only development agency to use term, over a dozen other development organizations or blog reference IDRC's Open ICT4D paper. This citation is an indication of the growing acceptance of their approach.

IDRC identifies three areas of ICT4D that would benefit from or already overlap with open initiatives. The first is universal access to communication tools and information. This is a blend of open access to content and equitable access to technical infrastructure. The second is universal participation, which embraces the concepts of web 2.0 technologies and open participatory learning. Lastly, there is open and collaborative production, which is akin to open publishing. The agency views ICT as enabler of openness - this openness will lead to increased transparency, better collaboration, and improved efficiency in development efforts.

Is Open ICT4D a new field or is it just a new lens on ICT4D? IDRC acknowledges, "Note that openness is not a novel concept, especially with respect to development theory". [8] The agency defines openness as two-dimensional: egalitarianism (universal access) and sharing (equal participation). They further define open ICT4D as "as the use of new ICTs to engage in 'open' processes to achieve development gains. More specifically, open ICT4D is a way of organizing social activities for development benefits." [9] Later in the paper, the authors mention the "Open ICT4D Paradigm." It seems, therefore, that open ICT4D is a new frame for ICT4D. Many ICT4D initiatives in the last several years have included openly licensed content mainly to save on licensing costs. For example, the XO Laptop from the One Laptop Per Child foundation is uses operating system called Sugar based on the open source operating system called Linux. It is also distributed with a local copy of Wikipedia and some open textbooks for children. The Freedom Toaster is a kiosk used to distribute open source software on CDs.

Relevance to OER[edit | edit source]

It is worth noting that ICT4D 2.0, I4D, and Open ICT4D, are not a type of OER. They are, in fact, concepts which encompass much more than OER. They - the Open ICT4D frame in particular - view open initiatives as an ecosystem where the aggregate benefits of increased of access to content (OER, Open Health), technical infrastructure (open source software, open standard, and Internet or cellular connectivity), and communication networks (web 2.0 technologies) can have a substantial impact on economic development and democratic governance. It is looking at open initiatives beyond the user and consumer level, and even beyond the institutional level. It is looking at it from microeconomic, community, and macroeconomic levels.

The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) publishes an annual report about the level of development for countries using the Human Development Index (HDI). In addition to financial indicators such as GDP per capita, the HDI considers health, food security, education, life expectancy, and other dimensions of well-being. Information scholar Yochai Benkler observes that commons-based activities and peer production models have a strong relationship with many of the indicators used in the HDI. He notes that each indicator "is a function of access to information, knowledge, and information-embedded goods and services." [10]

File:Benkler 9.1.png
Benkler's diagram on the influence of information and commons-based activities in the Human Development Index. CC BY NC SA Yochai Benkler (Wealth of Networks)

Dimensions of open efforts in the ICT4D field[edit | edit source]

This section will explore three dimensions of open ICT4D efforts: social, technical, and content. [11]

Social Dimension[edit | edit source]

The social dimension considers cultural, institutional, political, and economic structures and interaction between them.

The cultural structure is essential in development approaches - especially ones that are initiated from abroad. In order for developing countries to participate in the production and consumption of open resources, educational or otherwise, those resources must be contextually appropriate. For example, those resources should be available in a local language or licensed in a way that allows and encourages translation and other forms of reuse and adaptation.

Featured Project: Creative Commons License Suite

The Creative Commons License Suite addresses the institutional and political intellectual property regimes which can hinder the legal sharing and adaptation of Creative Works. The chapter on copyright provides an in-depth look at the various licenses offered through Creative Commons licenses. Since Creative Commons offers an international licensing option through its unported licenses. These unported licenses are supposed to be the most transferable between countries. In addition, Creative Commons offers licenses in fifty-one jurisdictions/countries with eight more currently in progress. From 2004 - 2007, Creative Commons offered a special license for developing countries.[12] The license allowed sharing and reuse as long as attribution was given and that redistribution and reuse occurred only in developing countries. It was similar to the current Attribution 3.0 license[13] but licensing those rights only to developing nations, not universally. In June 2007, Creative Commons chose to discontinue the license citing the reason as, "Did not permit worldwide non-commercial verbatim sharing, inadequate demand." [14]

Technical Dimension[edit | edit source]

By 2007, only 20% of people in the developing world had internet access. However, 45% had access to mobile phones. [15] These mobile phones do not have Internet access, but are widely used for voice and SMS communication. This change in medium offers new challenges in distribution of information and resources, but it also offers great freedom. Wireless networks, such as the radio spectrum used for mobile telephony, are much easier to scale than traditional wired ones. If policymakers were to offer radio spectrum as a commons or Open Spectrum, universal Internet access would be met along with the potential for new, innovative services. IDRC adds, "Open spectrum at the personal and local area wireless network level, in particular, can address last mile problems in areas where Internet infrastructure does not currently exist, or in areas where instability and socioeconomic issues make the development, maintenance and upkeep of physical infrastructure problematic... While voice and SMS are dominant, these users are locked out of the larger Internet and all its associated benefits." [16]

Standards, such as the ones the govern the structure of data sent across the network, can also hinder or enable use of the network. The use open, neutral standards such as TCP/IP or XML, makes collaboration possible and more equitable.

Content Dimension[edit | edit source]

The IRDC report identifies eight arenas of open content which intersect with ICT4D development efforts:

  1. Open Source Software
  2. Open Government
  3. Open Education
  4. Open Health
  5. Open Knowledge/Science
  6. Open Society
  7. Open Business Models
  8. Open Capital

Due to to the theme of this textbook, this section will focus on Open Education and Open Health. (The chapter on open data touches on many of the concepts related to open knowledge/science.)

The foundations and open courseware chapter identify some of the global benefits of open educational resources. To recap:

  • OER increases access to high-quality educational materials worldwide. This has an especially strong impact in developing countries where access to such materials is scare.
  • OER increases the transparency and accountability of educational institutions. If an institution publishes their materials, they are subject to increased scrutiny - both internally (faculty, administration and students) and externally (tax payers, scholars from other institutions). This increased attention often improves the quality of the materials as well as the associated presentation of the materials by the teacher to the students.

Open Education

Education can have positive development effects beyond the individual. For example, when a child receives an education, they don't learn about academics only, they also learn about personal hygiene and health. The child's family benefits from that education through conversations at home. Education is also connected to open government as, long-term, it can lead to a better-educated citizenry which leads to better elected leaders in government. Education is also widely believed to lead to economic growth at the GDP level, though there have been mixed empirical results. Research has shown that education leads to increased individual earnings, deepened cultural appreciation, and a better-educated citizenry and elected government officials. For these reasons, universal primary education is one of the Millennium Development Goals. UNESCO in particular has made their Education for All (EFA) campaign a top priority in their development efforts.

OER removes traditional intellectual property and cost barriers to high-quality educational materials providing free and universal to the content. By decreasing the cost of materials, schools and institutions to re-allocate their funds to other needs such as hiring additional teachers or lowing school fees for students.

The OER projects of the last decade have made thousands of high-quality educational resources available to teachers, students, professionals, and self-learners around the world. Although much of the material is at a higher-education level and in English, there is an increasing portion of K-12 level resources as well as non-English materials. The Teacher Education in Sub-Saharan Africa (TESSA) project is one example of a "research and development which creates open education resources for [K-12] teachers and teacher educations working in the region." [11]

Open Health

Health is an essential ingredient in development efforts. A person's health not only affects their productivity in the workforce and economy, it also affects their ability to care for their family and participate in their community. The chapter on open health efforts in OER explains the importance that the United Nations members, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and institutions have placed on health in the Millennium Development Goals. The development of health OER and adaptation by healthcare professionals in developing countries increases access to high-quality educational health resources. It also has the potential to improve student and therefore patient outcomes, decrease the global healthcare worker shortage, and move the profession towards better international standards for health science education.

Conclusion[edit | edit source]

This chapter has provided a brief overview of the ICT4D (information communication technologies for development) field. Open initiatives, open source software in particular has been an integral component of ICT4D projects for over a decade due largely in part to the cost-savings they provide. Several experts in the field have recently advocated for an increase in open in ICT4D - open in terms of transparency, participation, accessibility, and intellectual property. There is potential for OER to enhance the content dimension of ICT4D efforts in the areas of education and health in particular, as well as governance and science. Though these open ICT4D concepts are in their infant stages, they are starting to gain momentum in the development field.

Citations[edit | edit source]

  1. a b Steve Jackson, Presentation to the Community Information Corps Seminar on October 31, 2008.
  5. a b c d e Richard Heeks, "ICT4D 2.0: The Next Phase of Applying ICT for International Development," Computer, vol. 41, no. 6, pp. 26-33, June 2008,
  6. insights/insights69/insights69.pdf
  7. IDRC. "Open ICT4D" Abstract. November 2008.
  8. IDRC. "Open ICT4D" November 2008., 4
  9. IDRC. "Open ICT4D" November 2008., 5
  10. Benkley, Yochai. The wealth of networks: how social production transforms markets and freedoms. New Haven, Yale University Press.
  11. a b IDRC. "Open ICT4D" November 2008.
  15. IDRC, Open ICT4D Working Paper, 17
  16. IDRC, Open ICT4D Working Paper, 19

Suggestions for Further Reading[edit | edit source]

Appendix 1: Partial list of ICT4D Organizations engaged in open initiatives[edit | edit source]