From non-techie to ICT4D enthusiast

posted by guest writer Patricia Mtungila


I first heard of the term ICT4D in May 2014 during the TERENA Networking Conference that I was privileged to attend in Dublin, Ireland in 2014. One of the participants there mentioned that he was studying ICT4D and it seemed like total Greek to me. I was a not a technical person. At that time ICT related issues were very new to me as I had just started working as Communications Officer for UbuntuNet Alliance, a regional organization of people involved in managing and using high speed data networks.

It was this desire to learn all that I could learn about my job and about ICT and Internet issues that lead me to apply for the Technological Innovation for Social Change in the Global South offered by ONG 2.O. So, when I was offered the scholarship in February 2015, I was thrilled. Despite the fact that I had no idea what the course would entail, I knew that this was the Course that would make me to better understand ICTs and to be innovative and stellar in my job as Communications Officer for the Alliance.

Like any worthwhile venture, challenges tend to present themselves. My biggest challenge was a caution by colleagues that the slow and unreliable Internet in Malawi would not be able to support five months of training via webinars! My dream of becoming ICT4D savvy was about to end as mere cloud in the Malawian sky. I decided to die trying and pursue the ICT4D Course anyway. And like most girls from Southern Africa my biggest challenge turned out to be really a battle of courage and confidence, a battle in the mind.

Five months later, precisely today, June 28, I have received my certificate from our ICT4D Course Coordinator Serena Carta. I am overwhelmed with gratitude and I hope it would not be cliché to say: thank you ONG 2.0. Thank you for taking me from a state of not knowing the meaning of ICT4D, or never having being part of a webinar to a present state of being able to practically assess and establish the innovation needs of my organization and to present a clear roadmap to efficiency is a wonder. I really do wonder if there is another course out there that could do this.

I am by no means fully knowledgeable on all that there is to know about emerging and present appropriate technology but I have a sustainable understanding of what it is that development organizations should avoid in implementing projects to promote agriculture, health, democracy and even learning. Through the theoretical modules, I have acquired the gut or indeed skill to design monitor and evaluate development projects that can use different technology from the radio, basic phones and smart phones, to the Internet and web-based platforms such as COMCARE to the technology that is still treading along ethical lines like the drones or unmanned vehicles.

Through practical sessions with tech leaders and facilitators like Paola Fava and Maurizio Bricola who have implemented very successful and practical ICT4D projects, I have gained practical skills in designing ICT4D projects. It has been inspiring to see Projects by these innovators that are revolutionizing the public health sector in my country, from a death trap to a sphere of hope and a leader in e-health and m-health innovation in the region.

I know, now, that ICT4D have real life impact. To learn text messages enabled by the application TextiT are helping save expectant mothers by reminding them of antenatal visits is inspiring. I am inspired by these new technologies that are saving the lives of women and babies in my nation because I personally can count the number of women that I knew who died in childbirth or due to preventable maternal related issues.

Now, from studying this course, I can categorically state that ICTs are channel for attaining development. Practical would be for development organizations not to shun these new technology but to consider them as potential accelerators for their efforts. Innovatively leveraging on these technologies is the principle. For the “tech-thirsty” organizations that are salivating to be the first to apply the newest and fastest tech in the game, remember that “ICTs are not an end in themselves”, as others have already said.

So be it a Project using drones or the feature phones that I am faced with managing, I am passionate and confident to know that I can manage it for the greater good thanks to this online Course in Innovation and ICT4D in the Global South. It has been a win-all situation for me. I would recommend that more people from the developing world should attain this Course in the soonest. On the other hand, I am not waiting for the future to share my newly found cause, my journey to illuminating my nation, Malawi, and the Africa region to the world of innovation and ICT4D has already started.


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