7 November 2007

Summary of IDIA Conference Panel Discussion

Topic: Challenges of development informatics in developing regions

Summary by Assoc Prof Graeme Johanson


Jacques Steyn, Eduardo Villaneuva, Josea Sanchez, Theresa Rivera, Ludmilla Maguni, Melih Kirlidog.
Chair: Graeme Johanson.

Process and conclusion

Each participant was asked to identify three major challenges. After discussion the overall finding of the panel was that it is essential to identify core issues of concern in each developing region and internationally, and then to select appropriate information and technologies to assist in their resolution. It was agreed that a reverse approach was guaranteed to lead to badly-constructed and unsustainable outcomes.

The three challenges identified by each participant were as follows:

Jacques Steyn, South Africa

Energy-efficient tools, and renewable energy are fundamental.
Smart pervasive devices will reduce problems of access caused by distance. The suitability of all sorts of media tools should be explored.
Improve literacy.

Eduardo Villaneuva, Peru

Define minority communities so that they are included in the mainstream, but not overwhelmed by it.
Maximize the use of the mass media to reach the bulk of the population, without submerging them in normative homogeneity.
Increase dialogue between developing nations, and adopt technologies which respect local identity.

Josea Sanchez, Dominican Republic

Improve access to knowledge and better information flows (e.g., resource good public libraries).
Advocate more political support for better telecommunications.
Commit to better training for information literacy across the board.

Theresa Rivera, Philippines

Political upheaval inhibits the implementation of good policy, and global commercialisation of information and communication technologies actually limits access to important information.
Development informatics research must be encouraged further, in order to keep up with rapid changes.
Communities must have the opportunity to create and participate in research projects, and the results should be widely disseminated among communities.

Ludmilla Maguni, Mozambique

Health, education and agriculture are greater challenges in Mozambique than information and communications technologies, and the national government resources them accordingly.
Government policy for ICTs exists, but it needs better resourcing. It requires both human and institutional support.
Connectivity is too costly in Mozambique because one telco owns all the infrastructure without competition.

Melih Kirlidog, Turkey

Growing middle classes in many developing countries are selfishly tying up wealth and not sharing it with the disadvantaged.
Adoption of Open Source software will empower grass roots movements and social actions. Bottom-up participation is essential.
There is just a little evidence recently that productivity is increasing as a result of the spread of ICTs, but there is an urgent need for top-down strategies to improve the situation in developing areas. More research into benefits is required. The World Summits on the Information Society, and their aftermath, are helping.