Technology has revolutionalized the way we communicate, changing political, social and economic landscapes across the globe. How have these changes impacted international development, and what will this mean for those in the international development community and citizens of the Global South?
#1 Remittances sent via mobile phones
#2 ICT is removing barriers-to-entry
- NOTE: Here, Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development (DFATD) could play a major role in providing core funding for incubators and capacity building programs. As evidenced by home-grown success stories coming from various firms in Waterloo, Ottawa-based Shopify and DFATD’s Canadian Technology Accelerator program, as well as the desire of many Canadian millenials to pursue global opportunities, Canada stands to gain serious ROI – just take a look at USAID’s poverty reduction incubators.
#3 Not all viral content promotes stereotypes
#4 The internet = transparency and accountablity
#5 Alternative modes of fundraising
#6 Rapid mobilization of grassroots movements
#7 Crowd sourced data
Crowd-sourced data is also playing an important role in disaster management. During the recent earthquake in Nepal, local incubator Kathmandu Living Labs created the mapping platform QuakeMap.org, which relied on user-submitted information to connect those who needed help with those who wanted to provide help, while in the process mapping areas affected by the disaster.
By soliciting immediate, real-time information from those directly affected by an issue (be that street harassment or an earthquake), crowd-sourced information provides immediate, relevant assistance to those most in need of it.
#8 The “sharing economy” in the Global South
#9 Massive Open Online Courses
#10 Satellite data and climate change
Thus, counter-efforts must take a similar stance: rapid, global and technology-aware. Academics and practitioners across affected fields (engineering, national intelligence, international development, economics and so on) should work together. Allies should collaborate on initiatives to harness the power of information communications technology for the better, such as Terre des Homme’s 10-week sting responsible for catching 20,000 would-be predators in connection to a CGI 10 year-old Filipina girl named “Sweetie” (the suspects’ names were later forwarded to police).
It is no longer sufficient for governments, civil society and NGOs to “hum and haw” about the risks of being engaged online and with technology in general, as those profiting from the harmful effects of technology on international development are not waiting. As a result, they’re seen as more credible and authentic by their supporters through their calculated use of technology in furthering their mission.
Ultimately, all students and practitioners of development should be aware of ICT opportunities, challenges and general trends in their sub-field (health, gender, environment, economics, global governance, etc.), as technology has implications across all sectors, especially in a rapidly globalizing world. Much like the Industrial Revolution, we have entered into a new age – there’s no going back from here.
While some may choose to bemoan these changes, I’m reminded of a conversation I recently had with an Uber driver here in Ottawa: born and raised in the Netherlands, he likened the growing tensions between taxi drivers and Uber to the tensions that arose when windmills gained popularity in Holland. Critics at the time threatened a chaotic “Brave New World” where no job was secure, even that of the millwright! Windmills were burnt, pitchforks were raised and… well, life went on.
As humanity makes different discoveries and our world continues to get smaller, we’re bound to face a few growing pains in filling the associated labour market gaps. Everyone – educational institutions, policymakers, the private sector and most of all, individuals – has a role to play in this shift.
Will the implications of an increasingly connected globe solve all of the developing world’s problems?
No – but I’m optimistic to see what comes next!