The relationship between ICTs and security receives widespread attention in two, apparently contradictory categories: on one hand, arguing that policing of communities via surveillance information has made them more insecure; and on the other, pointing to the variety of ways that communities use ICTs to deal with stresses and shocks to make themselves safer. Here at SIMLab, we argue that the issues around ICTs and human security are perhaps a bit more complex than that.
The discussion is available for download as a podcast via iTunes or Soundcloud , and we expect the insights gained will be valuable for the international development and tech community for practitioners and beyond. Releasing the event as a podcast is an experiment in providing resources for the community that live on beyond the work itself—let us know what you think in the comments!
Happy Halloween! The 31st October isn’t just your annual opportunity to eat your weight in sweets - it’s also the official birthday of FrontlineSMS, and this year marks the tenth anniversary of its first release! The award-winning SMS management tool was the core of SIMLab’s work for our first seven years - but the first version of the software was actually released for the first time on this day in 2005.
Update! We’ve extended the deadline to apply to this Sunday, 4 October. Don’t delay and apply for our course today!
Humanitarian agencies have made increasing use of SMS and mobile telephony in disaster response since the South Asian Tsunami in 2004-5, but particularly following the Haitian earthquake in 2010, where lack of access to communities and high mobile penetration combined to make SMS an attractive means of distributing key messages about sanitation and available assistance. From the last mile rural community to the most vulnerable in urban settings, the predictable cost, asynchronous but intimate nature, and inherent robustness of SMS make it ideal for moving small packets of information swiftly and reliably. In contexts where communication by other means is costly or unreliable, SMS can be effectively used to manage staff and volunteers, collect management information and monitoring data, and provide a responsive two-way communications channel for beneficiaries and communities.
SIMLab's experience in Kenya: Implementing a mobile money management tool and training approach in the last mile
This case study describes the midterm progress and learning from a two-year project, funded by the UK Government’s Department for International Development (DFID). The project introduced a new mobile money management software to forty ‘last-mile’ organizations, all of which faced significant infrastructure, access and capacity constraints making the transition to cashless processes cumbersome and unpredictable. This case study seeks to shed light on the challenges of extending mobile money to the last mile, through a human and organization-centric lens. Although the project operated only in Kenya, but with the learning is applicable globally.
The Brookings Institute’s Financial and Digital Inclusion Project named Kenya as the top scoring country in the world for financial inclusion based on country commitment, mobile capacity, regulatory environment and adoption of traditional and digital financial services. Yet, SIMLab’s efforts to introduce to mobile money to organizations in rural Kenya have encountered significant barriers to adoption and sustained use by organizations and end-users alike.
In June, I had the opportunity to participate on a panel at the University of Montreal’s Cyberjustice Lab. I chatted about how we use our mission and values to inform our day-to-day work, and felt it might be helpful to put some of what I talked about in writing, to help explain just what it is that we do here.
“All the land records against this wall have been scanned.” Stacks of land records—browning paper tied together with string—lined the walls, the tables, the shelves. White receipts with markered labels flopped out of some of them; processed and scanned. The tahasildar beamed, visibly proud at the progress his office had made. Still, stacks of titles remained, and still more remained unrecorded. And any new records would also be delivered on paper, awaiting digitization.
Aggregating and opening data presents opportunities for deepening civic engagement, addressing decades-long environmental coordination challenges, or highlighting inefficient institutional processes and procedures, among many other potential uses, benefits and information gains. The same data, branded as a public good, is also the subject of many debates regarding risks, agency, and privacy among others. There is a rising need to sort out the ethics of use and power dynamics over decision-making when it comes to open/ing data for ‘development’.