So I attended this session on ICT4D – Information and Communication Technologies for Development. Generally, it means to use ICT for providing solutions to developing communities so that it generates value for the people who have problems and of course the solution providers, i.e. the developers and technologists.
The speaker – Mr. Vikram Crishna – highlighted several ICT4D ventures and the necessary do’s and don’ts. He discussed how simplification and standardization is helping Indian states to eliminate tender leakages using NexTenders and how NeuroSynaptic is attempting to provide online health-care by comprehensive and reliable means. He also discussed how a rural wireless network built using off-the-shelf components by the local farmers in Denmark’s area Djursland is bringing connectivity to the community, underscoring the idea of “let’s do it for ourselves” and the must-mention portal that they have to decide about the future course of the network.
Crishna also discussed Amaana from Lahore, which is basically a platform aimed at replacing cash by building a trust-framework on SMS payments. Luckily, a developer from Amaana was also present on the occasion to talk about some of the limitations they have due to SECP regulations and limited number of partnerships. The gentleman also opened up and vowed for challenging the INNOV8 mobile banking solution. Let’s see how that goes, it seemed promising from the face of it, although I personally am still not sure how the cellphone’s text messages will be secure enough to let cash transaction happen on them as they way they propose.
The discussion also turned towards alternative cellphone user interfaces and possibility of using LASER projectors instead of screens in mobile devices and with no or minimal keyboards. The idea of using peer-to-peer wireless telephony also came up and the issues of latency in such an IP network involving multi-hop switching also popped up.
There were interesting ideas referenced from the audience as well, including one about reporting harassment issues with women and solving the meter-reading problem using the the electricity copper, RFID tags and/or any other wireless standard like bluetooth or zigbee. Rehan Allahwalaa’s Baytaar also came on the surface and his equation of whole city wifi connectivity equals two billboard signs on Shahrah-e-Faisal also emphasized the notion that how cheap operating a network from currently non-willing sponsors can be.
On the whole, it was a very inspiring and optimistic session which set the tone for focusing energies on solutions development problems. It certainly has become a relevant question for us – as Pakistanis in particular and an specie in general – as to how we want to bring equality and justification to our actions to actually set ourselves in to a positive spiral of development.