You never stop learning at Spider center!

Il post che segue (in inglese) è stato pubblicato sul sito dello Spider center di Stoccolma, dove ho trascorso i primi 3 mesi del periodo all’estero previsto dal Master dei talenti della società civile. Riassume gli insegnamenti raccolti nella prima fase di “scoperta” delle ICT4D e del framework concettuale costruito dagli accademici.

My three months researching period at Spider is finished and its time to think about which lessons I will bring with me. At Spider I had the opportunity to dive into the wide and challenging world of ICT4D. I had the chance to visit Stockholm as member of the project Master dei Talenti della Società Civile sponsored by the Italian foundation Fondazione Goria and Volontari per lo sviluppo, a news media organization based in Turin. My goal was to investigate on approaches and methodologies in order to help Italian NGOs in putting in use ICTs in an effective and sustainable way in the Global south.

Thanks to a number of inspiring talks I had with Spider’s staff and external colleagues, I deepened my knowledge of ICT4D, adopting a more realistic point of view on technology for development than a so called “techno-enthusiastic”, which now shows to myself its limits.

Here are the lessons learned that I will bring with me in Italy and I will share with the local key actors of international development cooperation.

1. Technology is not the goal, but the tool

At Spider this is probably the first thing you learn. All the projects supported by the centre gives value on the ability to use technology to bridge a gap, instead of rewarding the latest iTech invention. For instance, it is not by chance that many of the initiatives funded by Spider are based on the Interactive Voice Response system, a basic technology that can reach a wide audience in rural areas where people in local communities have easily access to mobile phones but are not able to read sms. Furthermore, in their work in the field NGOs need to understand that the only access to ICTs doesn’t imply the ability to use them for making a difference. This is the simple reason why ICTs are not always the solution: under some circumstances a bike or a face-to-face training are more effective than a laptop!

2. Keep it simple and local

ICTs are not a synonymous of nerd: keeping the technology simple is the best way to create a real impact. Experiences on the ground show that the most suitable ideas on how use ICTs come up from local communities: no one better then them knows the context and which are the real needs of the population. Spider’s policy of sustaining the innovative use of ICTs for development and poverty reduction promoted in grassroots initiatives has enlightened me. It is not rare that tools developed and tailored for the western countries don’t fit at all different social and political scenarios. So, I wonder, why insisting in bringing technologies that cannot survive to the frequent power blackouts or the damage of sand and sun?

3. Networking matters!

Exchange, collaboration, transparency, sharing: these are the key words behind the idea of regional and thematic project networks built by Spider through the years and worldwide. Networking is a way to share successes and failures, to find partners, to make initiatives powerful and to avoid the risk of reinventing the wheel. Moreover, youngsters and women involved in such networks can develop capabilities and independence.

4. Never stop learning

Spider is at the core of a continuous learning process. Thanks to a number of videos, papers and reports available on the website, Spider represents a fundamental repository of knowledge for everyone interested in the topic of ICT4D. The involvement of students and researches in supervising and evaluating projects on the field proves the commitment of never stop monitoring its activities towards a constant improvement.

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