Honourable Lawrence Sichalwe, Acting Minister of Transport & Communications

“The future of technology is in Africa,” said Facebook’s Public Policy Manager, Emilar Gandhi at the 10th ICT4D, the largest humanitarian aid and development technology conference in the world. 

Over three days, ICT and development professionals from over 80 countries have heard from scores of speakers on leading tech issues like data security and privacy, artificial intelligence, and mobile money. Speakers at the plenary sessions included leaders from Facebook, Catholic Relief Services (CRS), the World Food Programme (WFP), Gartner Executive Programs, SAP Africa, NetHope, The Great African Food Company (in collaboration with John Deere), Farm Drive, Radiant.Earth, the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), and The United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

Honourable Lawrence Sichalwe, Acting Minister of Transport & Communications, opened the conference on behalf of Zambian President H.E. Edgar Lungu, praising the international development community for using ICT4D for improving the lives of those in need. “New GIS technology, monitoring mechanisms, and data management inventions are creating endless possibilities, generating sustainable growth and everlasting hope for a blissful future,” said Sichalwe.

“We must go the last mile,” said Michele Broemmelsiek, CRS Vice President for Overseas Operations, delivering a call to link technology to the most isolated communities. Broemmelsiek also unveiled the results of an international survey on ICT4D which shows connectivity as the top trend and data security as the top concern.  It also suggested that very inexpensive smartphones would help drive development.

Data security was a big theme at the conference. “I’m happy that the ICT4D community is taking this issue very seriously,” said Broemmelsiek.

Further showing the importance of the conference to Zambia, on Thursday afternoon Mulenga M. Chisanga, Acting Director of the Zambia Information and Communications Technology Authority (ZICTA) addressed the participants on the outlook for ICT4D in Zambia, pointing out positive ICT impact in the areas of health, education and agriculture.

CRS is the Lead Organising Partner for the 10th conference, the first of which it founded in Nairobi in 2010. The Conference Strategic Partners are NetHope and the Norwegian Refugee Council. The other Conference Partners are the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA), DAI Global Health, the Digital Impact Alliance (DIAL), ICRISAT (Int. Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics), iMerit Technology Services, the International Rescue Committee (IRC), SOS Children’s Villages, UN Capital Development Fund (UNCDF), UNESCO Chair in ICT4D at Royal Holloway University, and World Vision International. The Key Sponsors are John Deere and SAP.

Survey tags leading ICT4D trends

A major international survey on the use, impact and challenges of ICT in the development sector was released at the conference. It tagged connectivity and ultra-low cost smartphones as the leading trends in information and communications technology for development (ICT4D) in 2018. Data analytics also scored highly and was closely followed by geospatial analysis/mapping.

The survey was carried out by Devex in April 2018, and was compiled from 619 responses from senior development professionals in donor agencies, government, development consulting firms, NGOs, foundations and corporations.

“I was encouraged by the popularity of connectivity and super-budget smartphones,” said Michele Broemmelsiek, Vice-President for Overseas Operations with Catholic Relief Services (CRS).  “This means getting the internet and devices with browsers to currently disconnected communities who could benefit hugely from information on everything from severe weather warnings to education on health and agriculture.”

The biggest concern when using ICT4D was information security/data privacy, followed by the retention of skilled staff. The leading driver or enabler of ICT use in the relief and development sector was seen as the need for easier tools for data collection and analysis in programs.

“As ICT professionals who rely on data to inform our decisions, we have a real lack of data of how our sector as a whole sees and uses ICT4D,” said Broemmelsiek. “This survey is a start to remedying that and will be a great resource for everyone at the ICT4D Conference and beyond.”

The survey also identified a gulf between those who commonly use ICT and those who use it rarely. ICT use was split between those who use it in more than half of their programs – 36% of respondents – and those who use it in less than half – 64% of respondents.

Other results include:

  • The biggest benefits of ICT4D were seen as timely data and higher quality data.
  • Over half of respondents (51%) either had a centralized ICT4D unit or were working towards this.
  • Forty-four percent of those surveyed use different software and devices across the organization and make decisions as they see fit, while 28% chose from a central set of tools that are supported by the organization and do not have the liberty to choose other tools.
  • Just 13% of respondents do not follow the Principles for Digital Development. All other respondents either endorsed the principles (17%), promote and try to follow (20%), promote and proactively follow (23%), or take a best effort approach to adhere (27%).

Eighty-five percent of survey respondents were senior or executive level development professionals.

The conference closed with the announcement that the 11th ICT4D Conference will be held in April, 2019, in Kampala, Uganda.

 

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