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Information and Communication Technologies and Development, 2006. ICTD '06. International Conference on

Date 25-26 May 2006

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  • [Front cover]

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  • 2006 International Conference on Information and Communication Technologies and Development

    Page(s): nil1
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    The following topics are dealt with: information and communication technologies and development; ICT in agriculture; economics of ICTD; innovative user interfaces; ICT in rural service delivery; kiosks; and telecenters View full abstract»

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  • [Copyright notice]

    Page(s): nil2
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  • Table of contents

    Page(s): i - iii
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  • Program Committee

    Page(s): v
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  • Conference Program

    Page(s): vi - viii
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  • [Breaker page]

    Page(s): 1
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  • The Missing Piece: Human-Driven Design and Research in ICT and Development

    Page(s): 2 - 10
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    ICTD projects are usually driven along the three axes of technological innovation, development programs or new market creation. These drivers have to be complemented by a focus on the people served by ICT, and their needs. In this paper, we argue for the importance of human-driven design and research (HDDR) to take into account the four human dimensions of ICT: local practices; participatory design processes; socio-cultural contexts, and political conditions. Building on our ethnographic and design research on the LINCOS project in Costa Rica and Hewlett-Packard's e-Inclusion program, we show how Lincos' success was impeded by its inattention to human design features, the deployment of a neoliberal discourse of community appropriation, and the market-driven focus of e-Inclusion. We conclude by situating ICTD in the larger context of human development, and with reflections on what constitutes sustainable, successful ICTD projects View full abstract»

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  • Computing Devices for All: Creating and Selling the Low-Cost Computer

    Page(s): 11 - 20
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    In the past decade, several projects have explored the possibility of enabling human development for economically underserved populations by giving people direct access to modern computing technology. The main economic and distributional hurdle in the access of such provision has been the prohibitive cost of computing devices. The quest for lowering this bar has resulted in research into solutions aimed at modifying existing technology to reduce the cost through innovation with the software, hardware, and distribution processes. Some common threads are manifested across such projects, both in terms of the approaches to building new technologies, and the subsequent outcomes. Using two important case studies we generate some hypotheses about the possibilities and barriers to new technology development for poor populations View full abstract»

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  • [Breaker page]

    Page(s): 21
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  • COMMON-Sense Net: Improved Water Management for Resource-Poor Farmers via Sensor Networks

    Page(s): 22 - 33
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    We describe the on-going design and implementation of a sensor network for agricultural management targeted at resource-poor farmers in India. Our focus on semi-arid regions led us to concentrate on water-related issues. Throughout 2004, we carried out a survey on the information needs of the population living in a cluster of villages in our study area. The results highlighted the potential that environment-related information has for the improvement of farming strategies in the face of highly variable conditions, in particular for risk management strategies (choice of crop varieties, sowing and harvest periods, prevention of pests and diseases, efficient use of irrigation water etc.). This leads us to advocate an original use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT). We believe our demand-driven approach for the design of appropriate ICT tools that are targeted at the resource-poor to be relatively new. In order to go beyond a pure technocratic approach, we adopted an iterative, participatory methodology View full abstract»

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  • Innovative ICT Tools for Information Provision in Agricultural Extension (December 2005)

    Page(s): 34 - 38
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    aAQUA is an online multilingual, multimedia agricultural portal for disseminating information from and to the grassroots of the Indian agricultural community. aAQUA simultaneously addresses two major challenges in farmer outreach programs - geographic reach and customized delivery. It answers farmers queries based on the location, season, crop and other information provided by farmers. aAQUA makes use of novel database systems and information retrieval techniques like intelligent caching, offline access with intermittent synchronization, semantic-based search, etc. Agricultural content repositories (digital library), Agri-price information (Bhav Puchiye), farmer schemes and various operations support databases (aAQUA-QoS) have also emerged from the experience of aAQUA deployments. aAQUA's large scale deployment provides avenues for researchers to contribute in the areas of knowledge management, cross-lingual information retrieval, and providing accessible content for rural populations. Apart from agriculture, aAQUA can be configured and customized for expert advice over mobile networks and the Internet in education, Healthcare and other domains of interest to a developing population. This paper will showcase the utility of various component databases built into aAQUA to enhance the QoS delivered to rural populations View full abstract»

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  • [Breaker page]

    Page(s): 39
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  • ICT usage and its impact on profitability of SMEs in 13 African Countries

    Page(s): 40 - 47
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    This paper reports on a small and medium enterprise (SME) survey carried out by the ResearchICTAfrica (RIA) in 14 African countries. It argues that the negative return on investment reported in the literature can be attributed to the failure to distinguish between the formal and informal sectors. This paper demonstrates that informal SMEs have a higher profitability than formal ones. It further shows that ICTs are input factors for informal as well as formal SMEs. The paper argues that there is still demand for fixed line phones amongst SMEs, but that mobile phones have become the default communications tool because fixed lines are either too expensive or not available. The primary policy recommendation arising out of this is that applications for SMEs need to be developed using mobile phones View full abstract»

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  • Mobile Phones and Economic Development: Evidence from the Fishing Industry in India

    Page(s): 48 - 56
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    There is considerable speculation about the correlation between investments in telecommunications and economic development. Mobile phones, by virtue of their role as carriers and conduits of information, ought to lessen the information asymmetries in markets, thereby making rural and undeveloped markets more efficient. This research tests this assumption using a case-study from India, where the fishing community in the south-western state of Kerala has adopted mobile phones in large numbers. We find that with the wide-spread use of mobile phones, markets become more efficient as risk and uncertainty are reduced; there is greater market integration; there are gains in productivity and in the Marshallian surplus (sum of consumer and producer surplus); and price dispersion and price fluctuations are reduced. The potential efficiencies are, however, subject to easy access to capital, without which the market remains less efficient than it could be. Finally, the quality of life of the fishermen improves as they feel less isolated, and less at risk in times of emergencies View full abstract»

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  • How the Telecommunication Market in Developing Countries Differ from that in Developed Countries

    Page(s): 57 - 62
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    We examine the difference of telecommunication market between developed countries and developing countries by using adopter categorization which divides consumers into five categories: Innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority and laggard. The results indicate that the size of innovators in developing countries is smaller than that in developed countries; on the contrary, the size of early adopters in developing countries is larger than that in developed countries. The time interval of early majority and late majority in developing countries is smaller than that in developed countries. The analysis suggests that the strategy of MNCs need to dynamically change when adopter category enters into a new phase along the new product diffusion life cycle View full abstract»

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  • [Breaker page]

    Page(s): 63
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  • Multiple Mice for Computers in Education in Developing Countries

    Page(s): 64 - 71
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    A distinct feature observed in computer use in schools or rural kiosks in developing countries is the high student-to-computer ratio. It is not unusual to see more than five children crowding around a single display, as schools are rarely funded to afford one PC per child in a classroom. One child controls the mouse, while others are passive onlookers, without operational control of the computer. Learning benefits appear to accrue primarily to the child with the mouse, with the other children missing out. The obvious technical solution is to provide each child with a mouse and cursor on screen, thus effectively multiplying the amount of interaction per student per PC for the cost of a few extra mice. To our surprise, both the concept and the implementation appear to be unique to date, for the specific application to computers in education in resource-strapped communities, with previous work restricting studies to two mice, or for largely non-educational applications. We have developed software that allows multiple coloured cursors to co-exist on the monitor, along with two sample games with some educational content. Initial trials with both single-mouse and multiple-mice scenarios suggest that children are more engaged when in control of a mouse, and that more mice increases overall engagement. Our results suggest new areas of research in pedagogy for computers in education View full abstract»

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  • Text-Free User Interfaces for Illiterate and Semi-Literate Users

    Page(s): 72 - 82
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    We describe work toward the goal of a user interface designed such that even novice, illiterate users require absolutely no intervention from anyone at all to use. Our text-free user interface is based on many hours of ethnographic design conducted in collaboration with a community of illiterate domestic labourers in three Bangalore slums. An ethnographic design process was used to understand what kind of application subjects would be interested in, how they respond to computing technology, and how they react to specific UI elements. We built two applications using these principles, one for job search for domestic labourers, and another for a generic map that could be used for navigating a city. The resulting designs are based on key lessons that we gained through the design process. The paper describes the design process, the design principles which evolved out of the process, the final application design, and results from initial user testing. Our results confirm previous work that emphasizes the need for semi-abstracted graphics and voice feedback, but we additionally find that some aspects of design for illiterate users that have been previously overlooked (such as a consistent help feature). Results also show that the text-free designs are strongly preferred over standard text-based interfaces by the communities which we address, and that they are potentially able to bring even complex computer functions within the reach of users who are unable to read View full abstract»

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  • Speech Recognition for Illiterate Access to Information and Technology

    Page(s): 83 - 92
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    In rural Tamil Nadu and other predominantly illiterate communities throughout the world, computers and technology are currently inaccessible without the help of a literate mediator. Speech recognition has often been suggested as a key to universal access, but success stories of speech-driven interfaces for illiterate end users are few and far between. The challenges of dialectal variation, multilingualism, cultural barriers, choice of appropriate content, and, most importantly, the prohibitive expense of creating the necessary linguistic resources for effective speech recognition are intractable using traditional techniques. This paper presents an inexpensive approach for gathering the linguistic resources needed to power a simple spoken dialog system. In our approach, data collection is integrated into dialog design: Users of a given village are recorded during interactions, and their speech semi-automatically integrated into the acoustic models for that village, thus generating the linguistic resources needed for automatic recognition of their speech. Our design is multi-modal, scalable, and modifiable. It is the result of an international, cross-disciplinary collaboration between researchers and NGO workers who serve the rural poor in Tamil Nadu. Our groundwork includes user studies, stakeholder interviews and field recordings of literate and illiterate agricultural workers in three districts of Tamil Nadu over the summer and fall of 2005. Automatic speech recognition experiments simulating the spoken dialog systems' performance during initialization and gradual integration of acoustic data informed the holistic structure of the design. Our research addresses the unique social and economic challenges of the developing world by relying on modifiable and highly transparent software and hardware, by building on locally available resources, and by emphasizing community operation and ownership through training and education View full abstract»

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  • [Breaker page]

    Page(s): 93
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  • The Livestock Guru: Demand-led knowledge transfer for poverty alleviation

    Page(s): 94 - 100
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    The application of ICTs to meet development objectives has increased dramatically in recent years, nevertheless, there is a little overall evidence regarding the impact of these tools on the poor. Therefore, the following paper describes the creation and assessment of the Livestock Guru, a multi-media, interactive programme for poor livestock keepers in India and Bolivia. Learning outcomes were explored among 424 farmers in 17 communities across the two nations. The study also compared the impact of the software with more conventional media such as videos and written extension material. The authors found that the uptake of new knowledge was highly related to the specific topic involved. Not surprisingly, the level of challenge to existing beliefs also affected learning. Nonetheless, by utilising visual cues and referents which supported traditional knowledge frames, the software messages showed greater levels of knowledge than messages delivered by more traditional means View full abstract»

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  • Changed governance or computerized governance? Computerized property transfer processes in Tamil Nadu (India)

    Page(s): 101 - 109
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    This paper reports on the first large-scale e-government project in the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu. Called STAR (Simplified Transparent Administration of Registration), this project uses ICTs in the administrative processes involved in transfer of ownership of real estate. A World Bank study (Tamil Nadu Governance Challenges published in October 2004 <http://siteresources.worldbank.org/INTINDIA/Resources/TamilNadu-Gover nanceChal lenges.pdf>) identified a bloated government workforce, poor levels of transparency and accountability, high levels of corruption and the poor quality of public services as the significant governance challenges faced by Tamil Nadu. Tamil Nadu, however, has the advantage of a high-quality ICT infrastructure built for promoting IT and IT-enabled services industries. E-government is generally believed to have the capacity to increase productivity, promote higher levels of transparency and accountability, and contribute to increased quality of public services. It is interesting, therefore, to examine how the government of Tamil Nadu is using ICTs to meet its governance challenges. The Registration Department of the government deals with registration of documents relating to sale, mortgage, lease of real estate properties, providing title search reports and similar functions. Before STAR, the department followed procedures unchanged since colonial times. The department had a reputation of being corrupt, arbitrary and unfriendly. The paper reports the results of a study of the objectives, implementation, funding, and actual working of STAR, as well as a survey of stakeholders on the impact of this project. Based on these, it discusses the effect that key policy choices made have on the impact of e-government projects View full abstract»

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  • Augmenting Rural Supply Chains with a Location-Enhanced Mobile Information System

    Page(s): 110 - 119
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    In recent years, there has been increased interest in the market potential of rural communities in the developing world. In the developing world, the lack of information and communications infrastructure has left companies with manual paper-based information methods as the only means of analyzing and aggregating data. This primitive approach to rural supply chain management creates a barrier to efficiency and a barrier to entry for many companies. In this paper we discuss a field study conducted with a company involved in the marketing, sale, and distribution of products in rural India. We describe the participants in this company's rural supply chain, highlighting inefficiencies in the information and material flow. We show how a technology-based solution could help optimize distribution routes and reduce inefficiency. By knowing the location and details of transactions, the company can better direct rural marketing strategies and manage human and material resources. We present the high-level design of this system and enumerate the possible technologies that can be used to determine a user's location via a mobile device, including GPS, GSM triangulation and Placelab using GSM (LaMarca et al., 1999). To assess the potential of GSM-based methods, we describe the results of an experiment we conducted to determine the extent of GSM coverage along common rural sales routes. Our results indicate that GSM-based methods are sufficient for some purposes, but can not be used to determine the exact position of all rural transactions, especially those that occur in rural villages. We discuss scanning location-specific barcodes as a possible way of localizing transactions to individual villages and customers View full abstract»

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