Harnessing Collective Intelligence for Sustainable Development


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Presentation given by Stuart Macdonald at the International Workshop on ICT and e-Knowledge for the Developing World in Shanghai International Convention Center, Pudong, Shanghai.

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  • EDINA is one of the two JISC-funded National Data Centres in the UK based at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland
    This is a particularly large and emotive topic to discuss in 20 minutes.
    There are many initiatives, utilities and emerging technologies that I’ll not have time to cover. I will however try to be representative in terms of the types of utilities and web services available.
    So what I’ll endeavour to do introduce some socio-technical or Web 2.0 concepts
    provide examples of organisations that are facilitating this process through innovative approaches
  • ICT4D is an interdisciplinary research area in its own right
    web models moved from informational to interactional to transactional
  • In a web 2.0 realm
    Or as some people say it should be about unharnessing collective intelligence
    As a facilitator or enabling technology on a large scale using the web as platform
  • e.g. blogs, wikis, social networking sites, video sharing sites, hosted services, web applications, mashups, numeric and spatial visualisation utilities
    Microfinance and peer-to-peer lending, Crowdfunding 2.0 – tribefunding (with hundreds of would-be lenders)
    Steering clear of the semantic web which expresses relationships between web objects using ontologies and fixed or standard vocabularies
  • Extends the analogy of outsourcing work for economic gain using cheaper labour
  • There are over 1500 organisations in the Kabissa network from all areas of Africa
    Ethnos Project - Site for scholars, activists, government agencies, NGOs, indigenous groups
    Resource database containing items related to ICT for social change, open developments, mobile innovations, technologies & publications
    improve quality of life for people on their own cultural terms
  • Microfinance orgs across the globe whose mission it is to alleviate poverty
    Field partners must adhere to Kiva’s regulations and terms and conditions
    Microfinance - financial services to low-income clients who traditionally lack access to banking and related services.
    Those who promote microfinance generally believe that such access will help poor people out of poverty
    StormPay, Clickbank, Paymate – micropayment sites
    Fairly typical microfinance workflow
  • Kopernik - The public fund the most promising proposals in order to make them a reality
    Applications can also be used to collect information e.g. surveys conducted by mobile phones can be used to collect information on access to health services or types of crop grown in a specific region.
  • Volunteer computing also known as public resource computing, cycle scavenging or @home computing – many volunteer computing projects in existence
    One of the main sponsors is CERN, Software without Borders)
    Software acts as a screensaver which periodically uploads results (during an idle time) and downloads output to
  • User Generated Content
    Channel information from various online sources into one ‘portal’ for use in a crisis situation
  • Necessity is the mother of invention
  • Other Cultural and social contexts including religion, roles within the family or within the community, family history and life expectations
    So what I’ve just been describing is encouraging and full of altruistic intent however lets put things into perspective to an extent – there’s still a lot to do, technology will take us part of the way but the rest is down to us, the individuals who can contribute and particiapte.
  • Harnessing Collective Intelligence for Sustainable Development

    1. 1. Harnessing Collective Intelligence for Sustainable Development Stuart Macdonald EDINA & Data Library University of Edinburgh stuart.macdonald@ed.ac.uk ICT and e-Knowledge for the Developing World, Shanghai, China, 27 September 2010
    2. 2. PC powered by car battery charged by solar panels The application of computing within the field of socioeconomic or international development. • ICT4D 0.0: 1950s to late-1990s. Main-frame computing / data processing. • ICT4D 1.0: late-1990s to 2010. Millennium Development Goals and Internet • ICT4D 2.0: 2010 onwards – emergence of mobile technologies and the focus on the poor as producers and innovators with ICTs (as opposed to just consumers of information). ICT4D – Information & Communication Technologies for Development
    3. 3. Harnessing Collective Intelligence One of Tim O'Reilly's seven principles in the noteworthy 2005 article, What Is Web 2.0. “the synergistic and cumulative channelling of the vast human and technical resources now available over the internet to address systemic problems” * Collaboration of people’s knowledge, web technologies and information for the common good! * Harnessing Collective Intelligence to Address Global Climate Change (2007), Malone, T.W. & Klein, M.,Innovations: Technology, Governance and Globalization, Summer 2007, Vol. 2, No. 3, Pages 15-26. URL: http://www.mitpressjournals.org/doi/abs/10.1162/itgg.2007.2.3.15
    4. 4. Socio-technical concepts Web 2.0 (or participatory web) – tools and services that enable user interaction and collaboration, information sharing, interoperation between applications using the web as a platform Social media / social networking – Channels and technologies include: blogs, picture-sharing, vlogs,email, SMS, music- sharing, social networking sites, data visualisation tools, virtual communities, and voice over IP etc. Crowdfunding – the collective cooperation of people who pool their money together via the Internet to support efforts initiated by other people or organisations. See Smarter Money - http://www.smartermoney.nl/ for a list of crowdfunding platforms
    5. 5. Crowdsourcing - a large group of people or volunteers (‘the crowd’) who individually do a small amount of work to complete a larger task Citizen science - individual volunteers or networks of volunteers, many of whom may have no specific scientific training, who perform research-related tasks such as observation, measurement or computation. Mashups / APIs - the combining (“mashing”) of two or more pieces of complementary data or functionality to create a new web application or service. This is usually achieved through the use of an Application Programming Interface (API). Open Access – a ‘technological ideology’ whereby access to scholarly output via the Internet is free for all to read and use Socio-technical concepts
    6. 6. Social Media Kabissa – http://www.kabissa.org/ a volunteer-led NGO that promotes ICT to connect people and organisations for positive change in Africa using a social media platform. • 1500+ organisations in the Kabissa network each with their own profile • Kabissa members can set up their own groups to suit their own needs (private or open collaboration spaces, community blog, announcements, etc) • Public posts to all Kabissa groups can be browsed via common tags • Public groups – ICT Peer learning, ICT Trainers complete with discussion forums and blogs to discover relevant technologies, tools and training manuals, workshops • Kabissa Internet Relay Chat Room • Twitter Dashboard, RSS feeds, recent public posts to discussion lists
    7. 7. Crownfunding Initiatives Kiva – http://www.kiva.org/ - combines microfinance with the internet to create a global network of people connected through lending: 1. Kiva partners with microfinance organisations (Field partners - FP) 2. FPs know the local area & distribute loans to entrepreneurs from their own pocket 3. FPs collect entrepreneur stories, pictures, loan details and post to Kiva.org. 4. Lenders browse loan requests and select those they’d like to fund. 5. Kiva aggregates funds from lenders & gives them to the FPs replenishing the loan they made to the entrepreneur. 6. FPs also collects repayments from entrepreneurs as well as interest due. Interest rates are set by the FP. 7. Kiva doesn’t charge interest to FPs & doesn’t provide interest to lenders. 8. Kiva repay lenders from FP accounts. Lenders can re-lend, donate to Kiva or withdraw funds via PayPal.
    8. 8. Kopernik – http://www.thekopernik.org – an on-line store of innovative technologies (e.g. solar powered products, water purification devices) Samasource – http://samasource.org - aims to bring small amounts of computer-based tasks (‘microwork’) to women, youths and refugees living in poverty. Services include data entry, book digitisation, audio transcription, video captioning. Samasource forms partnerships with local organisations that provide computers and basic training. Grameen Foundation – http://grameenfoundation.org – provides micro-lenders in poor communities access to the capital they need to make micro-loans to women who want to start a business. The GF Application Laboratory provides services using mobile technologies which allow people to access information on topics such e.g. through text messages a farmer can receive tips on treating crop diseases, learn local market prices, get advice on preventing malaria.
    9. 9. Africa@home – http://africa-at-home.web.cern.ch - a website for volunteer computing projects which contribute to African humanitarian causes Volunteer computing utilises the spare capacity of home PCs when idle to solve scientific or resource intensive problems Volunteers download Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Networking Computing (BOINC) software from the web. The Malaria Control Project is a grid computing project run by Africa@home – harnessing computing power from 1000s of PCs around the world to improve the ability of researchers to predict (through simulations) the spread of malaria in Africa Citizen Science
    10. 10. Mashups and APIs Ushahidi – http://www.ushahidi.com – provides a free and open source platform for aggregating information from the public for use in a crisis response. Any person or organization can use to set up their own way to collect and visualize information. Core platform will allow for plug-in and extensions so that it can be customized for different locales and needs The Ushahidi platform allows anyone to gather distributed data e.g. SMS, RSS, email, digital photograph, microblog entry and visualise it on a map or timeline.
    11. 11. Submit an incident Category of incident RSS, email, mobile Images of missing people Person finder tool OpenStreetMap visualisation of reported incidents
    12. 12. Open Access HINARI (World Health Organisation) – http://www.who.int/hinari/en/ HINARI provides free or very-low cost online access to more than 7000 major journals in Biomedical and related social sciences to local, Non-profit institutions in developing countries. Institutions in countries with GNI per capita below $1250 are eligible for free Institutions with GNI per capita between $1250 - $3500 pay $1000 p.a. Eligible categories of institutions include: universities, research institutes, teaching hospitals, government offices, national medical libraries
    13. 13. Examples of enterprising technologies Delay (or Disruption) Tolerant Networking (DTN) - technical solution to create continuous connectivity across networks operating in mobile or extreme terrestrial environments. Multiple Mice – In developing countries children often don’t have access to individual computers. Research in rural India showed that with shared computers there are clear patterns of inequality for children based on who controls the input. UC Berkeley and Microsoft Research India have developed multiple mice. They found that children learned more in shared modes with multiple devices than they did even when each child had a dedicated computer. Ruggedized computers - specifically designed with robust and simple components to operate in harsh environments, such as extreme temperatures, and wet or dusty conditions. Audio Wiki – a repository of spoken content that can be accessed and modified via low-cost telephone and is accessible to illiterate Users create, edit and listen to content without having to read any text using a hybrid of keypad navigation and speech recognition
    14. 14. Steps in the right direction but…. • ICT policy from local/national government • Infrastructure such as roads, health services, power • Corruption/exploitation • Illiteracy • Lack of exposure to basic technology and subsequent training • Socio-cultural aspects such as religion specific to indigenous communities Improve quality of life for people on their own cultural terms!! External issues which impact on ICT4D include:
    15. 15. Thank You stuart.macdonald@ed.ac.uk EDINA National Data Centre: http://edina.ac.uk Credits: All images are CC Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic or Attribution 2.0 Generic: CC image by ecstaticist courtesy of Flickr - http://www.flickr.com/photos/ecstaticist/1337749333/ CC Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported Image courtesy of Inveneo: http://wiki.inveneo.org/index.php/Image:Solar-battery-computer.gif CC image by Sean McGrath courtesy of Flickr – http://www.flickr.com/photos/mcgraths/3597037843/ CC image by Blogging Dagger courtesy of Flickr – http://www.flickr.com/photos/bloggingdagger/3937076329/ Image courtesy of Flickr – http://www.flickr.com/photos/laszlo-photo/1899390628/ CC image by Malkav courtesy of Flickr – http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2370/2262952280_0b03c07db9_o.jpg CC images by Grant MacDonald courtesy of Flickr – http://www.flickr.com/photos/grantmac/2734755871 CC image by Tuis courtesy of Flickr – http://www.flickr.com/photos/tuis_imaging/515380689/ CC images by M. M. Alvarez, T. Shinbrot, F. J. Muzzio, Rutgers University, Center for Structured Organic Composites courtesy of Flickr –http://www.flickr.com/photos/11304375@N07/2326596014/ Open Access logo, originally designed by Public Library of Science CC image by Ecstaticist courtesy of Flickr – http://www.flickr.com/photos/ecstaticist/321582062/ CC images by philippe Put courtesy of Flickr – http://www.flickr.com/photos/34547181@N00/4203882645/sizes/z/in/photostream// CC image by monkeyc.net courtesy of Flickr – http://www.flickr.com/photos/monkeyc/216415962/
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