Thursday, April 29, 2004

Negotiating the Net

I attended a presentation earlier today which introduced a book titled "Negotiating the Net" to be published later this year. The book is the result of more than two years of study on the African continent to identify critical issues that affected the diffusion of the Internet. The authors, led by professor Ernerst Wilson III of the University of Maryland, looked at Critical Negotiating Issues (CNI) that emerged in different countries on the continent, their timing and evolution. The book is based on country case studies and the presentations by various members of the study team followed this country case study approach, with an additional focus on continent wide critical negotiation issues. This link takes you to a different presentation than what I was presented today.

One thought came to mind: This study is clearly in the tradition of the literature on the political economy of reforms. It looks at critical issues of contention that affected the diffusion of the Internet. It identifies key stakeholders within government as well as in the private sector and civil society and it analyzes the arguments and motivations of all sides to better understand the blockages, hurdles and other obstacles that countries have to overcome to promote the rapid diffusion of the Internet.... So, my question is: How was this study influenced by the literature on the political economy of reforms (if at all)? Was this literature on the political economy of reforms taken into account when developing the framework for the study or later on when analyzing the data collected through numerous interviews in the countries selected as case studies? Is there anything that can be learned from the existing literature on the political economy of reforms that would apply to the politics of Internet policy making? What have we learned from reforms in other (non-IT) fields in terms of policy formulation, coalition building, capacity building, transforming policies into implementable action plans, etc... that would apply to Internet and broader IT policy areas? What is different about IT policies?

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Learning Quotations -

Some insightful quotations.... I just bought "Learn more Now: 10 Simple Steps to Learning Better, Smarter and Faster", by Marcia L. Conner and each chapter and sub-section starts with one of these quotations.
The high cost of not finding information: Reinventing is more fun than reusing - Tuesday, April 20, 2004
Why People Do not Ask questions - Wednesday, July 16, 2003
Personal Content Management

A post on Dave Pollard's blog...

I'm increasingly convinced that many knowledge management initiatives fail because they do not sufficiently address knowledge management skills and attitudes at the individual level. Unless individuals become more adept at "personal knowledge management", the higher level goals of knowledge sharing within and across organizational units and all the technology in the world will not really provide solutions. I still do believe that technologies can help us a great deal, but we need first to concentrate on making sure that we, as individuals, are effective users of the tools we have at our disposal.
Revisiting the Magic Box: Case Studies in Local Appropriation of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs)

This FAO study is a follow up to a 2001 article addressing the same issue of "local appropriation". Local appropriation of ICTs "is about communities and groups selecting and adopting communication tools according to the different information and communication needs identified by them, and then adapting the technologies so that they become rooted in their own social, economic and cultural processes," noted the authors of the 2001 article. This document provides interesting case studies from Uganda, Costa Rica and Mexico.

What I was specifically looking for were reference to evaluation frameworks that may have been used to assess the impact of some of the projects and initiatives mentioned in the document.

The original paper had noted the lack of rigorous monitoring and evaluation of of projects and recommended the development of frameworks or guidelines for measuring impact. Yet this document laments that there is "still an absence of analytical tools and methodologies for monitoring and evaluating ICT interventions."

Tracking down 24 case studies that had been originally documented, the study found a clear absence of data that would demonstrate how well they were doing.

I have been trying to argue something for a while and this is the first time I see it written down in a paper: " several projects have received more attention than really justified because of connections with international organizations, while the global community has missed some projects... because of their low media profiles."

Unfortunately, the paper itself does not say much about new methodologies or tools to address the lack of rigorous evaluation of projects. The authors mention an upcoming document by Warren Feek entitled "Virtual Change: Criteria and Indicators for Assessing the Impact of Information and Communication Technologies on Development Trends." I will keep an eye for it then....