EJISDC (2009) 38, 9, 1-18                                                                      2(McNamara, 2003, Levey & Y...
EJISDC (2009) 38, 9, 1-18                                                                     32. APPROPRIATE TECHNOLOGYIn...
EJISDC (2009) 38, 9, 1-18                                                                                        4does not...
EJISDC (2009) 38, 9, 1-18                                                                        53.1. Appropriate ICTIn l...
EJISDC (2009) 38, 9, 1-18                                                                                          61. Cul...
EJISDC (2009) 38, 9, 1-18                                                                   7Figure 1: The Foundation of t...
EJISDC (2009) 38, 9, 1-18Table 1: Key guiding questions for Appropriate ICT DevelopmentPhase       Hardware               ...
EJISDC (2009) 38, 9, 1-18Figure 2: Some tools and methodologies supporting the design and implementation ofAppropriate ICT...
EJISDC (2009) 38, 9, 1-18                                                                                     105.1. Deter...
EJISDC (2009) 38, 9, 1-18                                                                                 11       Through...
EJISDC (2009) 38, 9, 1-18                                                                       12administration decides o...
EJISDC (2009) 38, 9, 1-18                                                                    13efficient ways of working a...
EJISDC (2009) 38, 9, 1-18                                                                        14political aspects (invo...
EJISDC (2009) 38, 9, 1-18                                                                    15general project managers.  ...
EJISDC (2009) 38, 9, 1-18                                                                 16Dravis, P.J. (2003) Open Sourc...
EJISDC (2009) 38, 9, 1-18                                                                 17        %29/96F7F7BE45C6A0F6C1...
EJISDC (2009) 38, 9, 1-18                                                                  18       Foundation for Design....
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Appropriate ICT as a Tool to increase Effectiveness in ICT4D: Theoretical Considerations and Illustrating Cases


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The need to bridge the digital divide is no longer a point of discussion and therefore focus has shifted to the design and implementation of programs that have the potential to close the information and knowledge gap between the developing and developed nations. Unfortunately, the majority of these programs are small and mimic what has been successful in the developed world. It has become increasingly clear that these successes do not necessarily translate well in the context of developing nations. This paper develops the hypothesis that Information and Communication Technology (ICT) projects in developing countries will become successful only when they are adapted to local conditions. The general concept of Appropriate Technology (AT) will be explored for the field of ICT. AT has already been embraced by fields like architecture, building technology and agriculture, but has not yet been rooted in ICT.
The paper proposes a preliminary theory of Appropriate ICT along the lines of existing theories in AT and System development. The theory identifies Appropriate Technology principles at three levels: hardware, software and ICT change management. By means of real life mini cases in the ICT for Development context in Africa, the guiding principles for Appropriate ICT are illustrated. The paper will conclude with an agenda for further research in
the three identified levels. The research agenda targets academia, governments, NGO's and industry.

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Appropriate ICT as a Tool to increase Effectiveness in ICT4D: Theoretical Considerations and Illustrating Cases

  1. 1. EJISDC (2009) 38, 9, 1-18 APPROPRIATE ICT AS A TOOL TO INCREASE EFFECTIVENESS IN ICT4D: THEORETICAL CONSIDERATIONS AND ILLUSTRATING CASES Victor van Reijswoud Divine Word University Papua New Guinea vvanreijswoud@dwu.ac.pgABSTRACTThe need to bridge the digital divide is no longer a point of discussion and therefore focus hasshifted to the design and implementation of programs that have the potential to close theinformation and knowledge gap between the developing and developed nations. Unfortunately,the majority of these programs are small and mimic what has been successful in the developedworld. It has become increasingly clear that these successes do not necessarily translate well inthe context of developing nations. This paper develops the hypothesis that Information andCommunication Technology (ICT) projects in developing countries will become successfulonly when they are adapted to local conditions. The general concept of AppropriateTechnology (AT) will be explored for the field of ICT. AT has already been embraced by fieldslike architecture, building technology and agriculture, but has not yet been rooted in ICT. The paper proposes a preliminary theory of Appropriate ICT along the lines of existingtheories in AT and System development. The theory identifies Appropriate Technologyprinciples at three levels: hardware, software and ICT change management. By means of reallife mini cases in the ICT for Development context in Africa, the guiding principles forAppropriate ICT are illustrated. The paper will conclude with an agenda for further research inthe three identified levels. The research agenda targets academia, governments, NGOs andindustry.Keywords: ICT for Development, hardware design, software design, Africa, appropriatetechnology1. INTRODUCTIONIt sounds pretty normal: when you plan a mountain hike you ensure that you wear strong bootsand a pullover against the cold at higher altitudes; in case you go to the tropics you choose alight, well ventilated tropical out-fit and a hat or cap against the merciless sun. You have beentaught that you need to adapt to the local circumstances. In disciplines such as architecture,civil technique and industrial design, identifying, selecting and introducing appropriate andsuitable technology is well recognized, but in the field of ICT (being a young discipline) thisprocess is still in its infancy. Not only computer hardware and software, but also methods and techniques for designand implementation of information technology, are almost without exceptioninvented/developed in the developed countries (Europe and North America). The contextualand cultural elements of these countries are ingrained in the design. These elements limit thetransferability of the technology to other, different, environments (Collins, 1992; Evans &Collins, 2007). Tacit assumptions become clear in case of breakdown of operations (Winograd& Flores, 1986) and will form the start of an explanatory of problem solving-discussion ordiscourse (Habermas, 1985). In the field of ICT for Development (ICT4D), this discussion onthe limitations of commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) ICT tools, softwares and methodologies inthe context of developing countries has been initiated (Gurstein, 2003, Gairola et al., 2004,Dymond & Oestmann, 2004, Reijswoud & Topi, 2005) but is still young. The field of ICT4D has grown dramatically in size and importance over the past decade The Electronic Journal on Information Systems in Developing Countries http://www.ejisdc.org
  2. 2. EJISDC (2009) 38, 9, 1-18 2(McNamara, 2003, Levey & Young 2002). ICT4D is based on the premise that ICT is able tobridge the digital divide between the developed and developing countries and therebycontribute to equal distribution of wealth. Two dimensions are identified to achieve this goal:increasing access to ICT and rationalization of work procedures to increase transparency andaccountability (Krishna & Madon, 2003). ICT is considered to be vital for the improvement ofgovernance and production resources (Sciadas, 2003). The importance of ICT for poverty alleviation has been recognized at the highestinternational levels when the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) dedicatedtheir Annual Human Development Report to the role of information and communicationtechnologies (UNDP, 2001). At present, most of the large development organizations haveprograms with a substantial ICT component and a growing number of smaller developmentinitiatives have started targeted projects in the field of ICT. In spite of all the efforts, the digital divide has not been bridged and well-documentedsuccess stories of the application of ICT for poverty alleviation are hard to find (Krishna &Madon, 2003, Curtain, 2004, Osama, 2006, Walsham et al., 2007). Evaluation of ICT projectsoften reveals underutilization of the resources because the newly introduced ICT has not beenwell integrated within the local context (Kozma, 2005), in the worst case as a result ofdump-and-run approaches (Volsoo, 2006, Reijswoud et al., 2005), and lack of local ownershipin the receiving communities (Vaughan, 2006). Also technical (hardware and software)problems resulting from the hostile conditions in which the ICT was introduced put a strain onthe actual impact (Gichoya, 2005). High rates of hardware breakdown combined with the lowlocally available technical problem-solving skills have lead to underutilized and evenabandoned projects. Finally, high maintenance (recurring) costs for hardware, software andinternet connectivity put a financial burden on the projects rendering them financiallynon-sustainable. In spite of the enormous challenges in the context of the development of especially theLeast Developed Countries (LDCs), the academic literature to date on ICT for Development isrelatively sparse (Walsham et al., 2007). Most of the literature is produced in the public domainby development agencies. Furthermore, little attention is paid to general frameworks toimprove the success of ICT implementations in LDCs. There are many reasons that ICT projects in LDCs fail (Heeks, 2003) and they havebeen reported from the start (Moussa & Schware, 1992, World Bank, 1993). Failure may becaused by selection of inappropriate hardware, software and/or design and implementationapproaches. This article starts from the premise that many ICT projects in LDCs fail toproperly take into account the local context in LDCs. Building on this premise we will developa theory for the design and implementation of ICT projects in LDCs that takes into accountlocal conditions. We develop this approach along the lines of existing theories in AT in otherfields of science and general theories in information systems design. It is apparent that ICT projects cannot be adequately understood and addressed astechnical/rational initiatives (Avgerou, 2003) and therefore, like other technical solutions, thedesign and implementation of ICT solutions must be carried out in relation to the culture(Westrup et al., 2003), the environment, the organization, the available resources, theeconomic and political circumstances, and the desired impact (Avgerou, 2003). As Avegroustates (2003: 57-58) there is need for a situated approach where IT innovation is understood in‘their’ complex context. We propagate an integration of the discipline AppropriateTechnology that aims at devising suitable technological solutions. Our theory identifiesprinciples to do so at three levels: hardware, software and ICT change management. The theoryis described in section 2 and 3. By means of real life mini cases in the ICT for Developmentcontext in Africa, the guiding principles for Appropriate ICT are illustrated in section 4. Insection 5 we will conclude with an agenda for further research. The Electronic Journal on Information Systems in Developing Countries http://www.ejisdc.org
  3. 3. EJISDC (2009) 38, 9, 1-18 32. APPROPRIATE TECHNOLOGYIn order to understand better how we can improve the effectiveness of design andimplementation of ICT projects in the LDCs we will explore the field of appropriatetechnology (AT). Since the concepts of AT has not yet gained much ground in the area of ICT,we will start our exploration with a short discussion of AT. As a general definition we adopt the idea that AT is technology that is suitable for theenvironmental, cultural and economic conditions in which the technology is intended to beused. The opposite of AT is the one-size-fits-all concept that builds on the premise that welldesigned technology can be used under all circumstances – the universal model. The bestexample of this line of thinking is the Swiss Army Knife. The Swiss Army Knife is designedwith the idea that it will help you out in whatever environmental, cultural and economiccondition you are in. Avgerou and Walsham (2000) characterize these two attitudes asparalyzing anti-technology and techno-enthusiasm. Darrow and Saxenian (1986) provide 10 criteria in the Source Book for AppropriateTechnology that we take as starting point. These criteria have been formulated to act as a basicset of guidelines for a broad spectrum of several technologies in developing countries. ICT isnot considered explicitly by the authors. The following criteria are proposed in Darrow andSaxenian (1986):1. It should be possible to implement/realize technological solutions with limited financial resources.2. The use of available resources must be emphasized to reduce the costs and to guarantee the supply of resources e.g., for maintenance3. Technologies may be relatively labor-intensive, but must have a higher output than the traditional technologies.4. The technology must be understandable for people without specific or academic training5. Small rural communities should be able to produce and maintain the technology6. The technology must result into economic and/or social progress.7. The technology must be fully understandable for the local population, the end-users resulting into possibilities for them to become involved in the possible innovation and extension of the use of the technology8. The technological solutions must be flexible and easily to be adapted to changing circumstances.9. The technology must contribute to the increase of productivity10. The technology should not have a negative impact on the environment. The guiding idea for these criteria is that technologies have a good chance to beeffective if they are appropriate to the needs, expectations and limitations of the surroundingsin which they will be applied. In other words, the selected solution should be in harmony withlocal standards and values and build on existing skills and techniques. A new technology willnot be embedded in a sustainable manner into an organization or community if the dependenceon the developers of the solution is high and the available resources (financial as well ashuman) for maintenance are expensive and scarcely available. Development needs that are met through community education and development tendto be sustainable. New technology needs to address the local community as the mainstakeholder. Only then we observe self-sustainability and expanding reservoirs of skills in thecommunities (Tharakan, 2006). Although the criteria proposed by Darrow and Saxenian (1986) will result in anappropriate design of the technology, they fail to highlight the implementation process. Evenappropriate technology can be rejected by the potential end-users if the implementation process The Electronic Journal on Information Systems in Developing Countries http://www.ejisdc.org
  4. 4. EJISDC (2009) 38, 9, 1-18 4does not address the needs, expectations and limitations of the community and/or when theinvoked changes are not guided in an appropriate manner. We will develop this aspect in moredetail in the next section where we concentrate on Appropriate ICT. Understanding AT is an important element in the education of engineers. In order tooperate in a development context they are required to have a good understanding of generaldevelopment issues, philosophy and ethics, and AT in development (Tharakan, 2006). In theeducation of computer and information systems engineers, this knowledge has received littleattention.3. APPROPRIATE ICT AND THE DIGITAL DIVIDEThe use of ICT in developing countries is increasing and the expectations of its role inaccelerating the socio-economic development in these countries are high (Walsham et al.,2007, McNamara, 2003). Until recently the use of ICT in Africa and other developingcountries was reserved to large international organizations and foreign NGOs(non-governmental organizations). Foreign ICT experts were contracted for the installationand maintenance (Bruggink, 2003) and for conducting training beyond the basic level of Officeapplications (Heeks, 1998). Local implementers had to fly to Europe or North America toreceive training. Over the last couple of years this is changing rapidly (Levey & Young, 2002).The digital gap made it to the international agenda (and is often strongly linked to amongstothers the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDG)) and with foreign support the firstprograms and projects have been set up.1 Although some progress has been booked, the penetration of computers is still very lowin comparison with Western countries (Jensen, 2002). Even at this moment the majority ofpeople in LDCs had never touched a computer and most small and medium sized businessesoperate without them. A major challenge concerns the need to bridge the so-called ‘digitaldivide’ between those people with the ability to access and use information technologieseffectively, and those without. The challenge remains to tackle such difficulties and to resolvethem (Walsham et al., 2007) In order to bridge the digital gap information technology must be available in the life ofthe ordinary man. Like in Europe, North America and increasingly in Asia, the ultimate goal isthat everyone should have access to computers and information everywhere and always(Universal Access). Not only in the large cities, not only the rich class, but informationtechnology must also be available for the population in the rural areas and for people with alower level of education. This creates formidable challenges to the developers andimplementers of ICT solutions. The application of ICT as a tool in bridging the digital divide is not as straight forwardas many international development organizations claim. More technology does not necessaryresult in development when collaboration between industry, government and developmentorganizations is not involved (Avgerou, 2003). Moreover, the implementation of ICT withoutlocal support and no contributing to a local demand/need will not lead to sustainabledevelopment. The technology will be rejected after an initial period of euphoria, as there is noadded value in it. Small technical failures will easily result in complete break down when thereis not technical support. For a multitude of reasons these aspects of the implementation of ICTin developing countries are often overlooked by supporting donor agencies. A theory ofappropriate ICT aims to address these issues and support sustainable design andimplementation of ICTs in general and particularly in LDCs.1For more details on the role of ICT in realizing the MDG, see: http://wbln0018.worldbank.org/ict/projects.nsf /WebPages/AA097228395769ED85256DF0007A4065?OpenDocument/*/ The Electronic Journal on Information Systems in Developing Countries http://www.ejisdc.org
  5. 5. EJISDC (2009) 38, 9, 1-18 53.1. Appropriate ICTIn line with the approach of Darrow and Saxenian (1986) we aim at the development of aframework for Appropriate ICT that will guide designers, implementers and maintainers ofICT to design and implement effective and sustainable solutions that address the needs,expectations and limitations of the targeted communities and allows the ordinary man inLDCs to get connected to the information and knowledge society. This is an enormouschallenge and requires careful consideration to limit partial and complete failure and increasethe overall effectiveness of ICT for Development (Avgerou & Walsham, 2000). Appropriate ICT should be perceived from two perspectives: the product and processperspective. The product perspective is concerned with the design of the ICT systems that willbe used to offer information and communication services. This covers all aspects fromcomputers (and other connected electronic equipment), servers, network and connections. Forexample in our approach, a computer setup that is to operate in a community in the Africandesert is not considered to be appropriate when it is not well protected against heat, sand anddust. The product perspective is very much in line with the guidelines that were developed byDarrow and Saxenian. The process perspective is just as vital but has not received adequate attention up to thispoint. A mere techno-centric approach, even when rooted in the principle of AT, will notdeliver effective community-embedded ICT that will be appreciated and used by the potentialend-users. The emerging, interdisciplinary fields of Social Informatics (Kling, 1999) andCommunity Informatics (Gurstein, 2000, 2003) provide good references for our processperspective. Social Informatics concentrates research in three areas:1. Theories and models: The development of models and theories that explain the social and organizational uses and impacts of ICT.2. Methodologies: The development of methodologies that address the social impacts of the design, implementation, maintenance and use of ICT.3. Philosophical and ethical issues: The study of philosophical and ethical issues that arise in the use of ICT in social and organizational contexts. Community Informatics (CI) constitutes a subset of Social Informatics with a focus oncommunities (McIver, 2003). Where Social Informatics has a stronger research focus, CI ismore suitable for the development and implementation of ICT in developing countries (see:Vaughan, 2006). The community itself is involved in the adaptation of ICT to their purposesincluding advocacy, local information on community resources and services available,community mapping for community planning and development (demographics, geography)(Gurstein, 2000). The process perspective of Appropriate ICT needs to encompass a community orientedand participatory focus to address the needs, expectations and limitations in which thetechnology is to be used. So, if computers are introduced in the African context, people shouldbe empowered on the devastating effect of humidity, power fluctuations, dust and sand andlearn how to open and clean the computers from the dust door maintain the computers underthese circumstances. In order to better serve development needs, IT-related projects and systems in thedeveloping world must improve their capacity to address the specific contextual characteristicsof the organization, sector, country or region within which their work is located (Avgerou &Walsham, 2000). We consider five variables relevant to address in the context: The Electronic Journal on Information Systems in Developing Countries http://www.ejisdc.org
  6. 6. EJISDC (2009) 38, 9, 1-18 61. Culture: Societies, or groups in a society vary in their sets of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices. Culture deserves careful attention when ICTs are introduced in the development context (Westrup et al., 2003). We consider culture a central variable.2. Environment: Physical conditions (heat, cold, dust, humidity etc) need to establish an important ICT solution design.3. Organization: The structure of the organization (in the broadest sense of the word) determines the implementation strategy of systems both in the developed as developing world.4. Economy: The current and future economic situation of a country, sector or organization should serve as a determinant in the ICT investment decisions.5. Political climate: Some governments are more restrictive in their ICT guidelines than others. Openness is not always appreciated and some governments have ‘partnerships’ with hardware and software suppliers.In conclusion we define Appropriate ICT as follows: The integrated and participatory approach that results in tools and processes for establishing Information and Communication Technology (ICT) that is suitable for the cultural, environmental, organizational, economic and political conditions in which it is intended to be used.4. AN APPROPRIATE ICT FRAMEWORKIn this section we will go beyond the definition of Appropriate ICT and propose a frameworkthat enables a more effective and appropriate design and implementation of ICT in LDCs. Theframework is founded in the traditional Systems Development Life Cycle (SDLC) that is usedin Information Systems development, but extends it with tools and approaches that will guidethe ICT solution to appropriateness. The SDLC comes in many types and flavors (Brandon,2006) but we will adopt a basic five-phase model2:1. Definition: Determine the goals, scope and requirements of the ICT solution2. Design: Resolution of technical issues, selection of architecture and standards3. Construction: Implementation of the design, testing and documentation of the system.4. Installation: Roll-out of the services offered by the systems to the end-users, training.5. Operation/maintenance: problem solving, user support, and incremental improvement through monitoring an evaluation focusing on the use of the services by the end-users. In the Appropriate ICT Framework, the SDLC is merged with the principle ofAppropriate ICT and methods are proposed. Figure 1 shows the foundation of the A-ICTFramework: the SDLC on the outer ring and the five criteria that should be considered todesign and implement appropriate ICT solutions on the inner ring. Culture is displayed in acentral role.2We deliberately deal very briefly with the SDLC since there are many textbooks that deal with this aspect in detail. For more information the reader is referred to Hoffer et al., 2006; Dennis et al., 2001; Laudon and Laudon, 2005. The Electronic Journal on Information Systems in Developing Countries http://www.ejisdc.org
  7. 7. EJISDC (2009) 38, 9, 1-18 7Figure 1: The Foundation of the Appropriate ICT Framework As mentioned above, Appropriate ICT encompasses two perspectives: the product andprocess. In the framework this is expressed in three aspects: Hardware, Software and ChangeManagement. Hardware and software result in a product, an ICT artifact. Change managementestablishes the process for the design, development and implementation of the ICT artifact. Inorder to guide the development of an appropriate ICT solution the framework provides a rangeof guiding questions. Table 1 lists the key questions that need to be answered to address theissues relevant in the Appropriate ICT Framework. The questions in the table integrate the 10rules for AT and the focus areas of Appropriate ICT: culture, environment, organization,economy and politics. The questions are structured along the phases of the SystemDevelopment Life Cycle. Several tools and methodologies are in use by professionals in the ICT forDevelopment arena. A systematic inventory of approaches still needs to be made. In Figure 2the A-ICT model is supplemented with some of the tools that are currently in use or arerecommended. More tools can be included to assess or support cultural, environmental,organizational, economical and political dimensions of the ICT project. The Electronic Journal on Information Systems in Developing Countries http://www.ejisdc.org
  8. 8. EJISDC (2009) 38, 9, 1-18Table 1: Key guiding questions for Appropriate ICT DevelopmentPhase Hardware Software Change MgntDefinition Specific requirements to What are the needs? What ICT knowledge levels? hardware in terms of What are the expectations? What the financial constraints? climatological and What is the cultural context? environmental conditions? What added value is created? What are the possibilities in How is the economic equilibrium affected? terms of enabling factors What new ways of working are introduced? (Internet connectivity, What will the impact be of the system in terms of electricity)? organizational change? What is the involvement in the idea generation of key decision makers (political leaders, religious leaders)?Design What is offered on the local What interoperability needs? What are the information needs of the various target market? What localization is needed? groups? What are physical constraints? What flexibility is expected? How will these needs evolve? What the financial constraints? How do the expectations change?Constructi What local skills are available? What local skills are available? Are local skills and knowledge being developed?on Is the equipment protected Are features in line with skills? Are stakeholders actively involved? against physical conditions? Are free and open source What new ways of working are introduced? alternatives considered? What will the impact be in terms of organizational Are the systems well change? documented?Installation Is all the equipment well Has the system been tested Are all stakeholders involved in training program? protected? with all stakeholders? Is the added value made clear?Operation / Is local capacity sufficient? Are software maintenance Is a support organization in place?maintenan Are spare parts easily available? skills available? Is the support organization able to support allce stakeholders (e.g. Gender issues) The Electronic Journal on Information Systems in Developing Countries http://www.ejisdc.org
  9. 9. EJISDC (2009) 38, 9, 1-18Figure 2: Some tools and methodologies supporting the design and implementation ofAppropriate ICT Solutions5. ILLUSTRATING THE APPROPRIATE ICT FRAMEWORKIn this section we illustrate the use of the Appropriate ICT Framework with some examples.The examples in section 5.1 and 5.3 are based on projects that were designed and implementedwith the help of the International Institute for Communication and Development (IICD) 3. Theauthor was involved on several occasions as external advisor (between 2003 and 2005) and asevaluator for the projects in the period September – December 2006. Section 5.2 describes aproject in which the author participated as technical adviser. The project was designed in theperiod 2002-3. The implementation of the project started in 2003 and continued through 2006. All information was collected in an ‘action research’ mode (Baskerville 1999, Argyriset al., 1990). The information for these case studies was collected through (face-to-face andonline) interviews with program/project managers and users, attendance of project meetings(especially in the case of the project described in section 5.2) and through document analysis(progress reports, meeting minutes and other organizational documentation at side of theprojects as well as the donor). During the monitoring of the projects several discussionmeetings were initiated to assess the appropriateness of the proposed solution and ways toimprove it. The meetings were structure along the criteria for AT coined by Darrow andSaxenian (1986). These discussions served as a steppingstone to start the learning process ofthe project partners (second loop). In the subsequent sections we provide a general description of the situation and explainhow an Appropriate ICT perspective provides changes to the ICT solution. Therefore thepurpose of the examples and short case studies is explorative and aiming at achieving a betterunderstanding of the framework and its implications for the design and implementation of ICTin developing countries.3 The author would like to thank Arjan de Jager and Deem Vermeulen of the IICD for sharing their experiences. The Electronic Journal on Information Systems in Developing Countries http://www.ejisdc.org
  10. 10. EJISDC (2009) 38, 9, 1-18 105.1. Determine Appropriate ICT RequirementsDetermining requirements for ICT solutions has been a challenging issue in ICT fordevelopment projects. The most important reason being that the majority of the users andpolicy makers in LDCs have very limited exposure to the actual use of computer to supporttheir work processes. Their understanding of the capabilities of ICT is based on the media andhear-say in other projects. Expectations are high and often unrealistic. Project managers fromdevelopment agencies, donors or ICT consultants end up prescribing the solution based ontheir experiences in other projects. As a result, a larger number of the resulting ICT solutionsare not based on the needs of the target group and the context. Lack of proper knowledge sharing between projects results in almost identical projectsinitiated and executed in the same geographical area and/or the same thematic field. In manycases similar ‘mistakes’ are made resulting in an unnecessary number of failures. All overdeveloping world organisations are supporting the set-up of telecenters or informationcentersto improve the access to information and communication in poor neighbourhoods. At the sametime, many of these initiatives fail to deliver services that are appreciated by the clients andalmost suffer from operational problems because of limited technical maintenance skills.Within an Appropriate ICT Framework, these problems need to be identified, addressed andavoided.5.1.1 Determine Appropriate ICT Requirements in the Definition Phase: ICT for Health in TanzaniaIn recognition of the fact that ICT can offer important advantages to the Health sector indeveloping countries and the fact that large number of projects has been initiated over the pastyears, the start of a new ICT for Health program in Tanzania was faced with a challenge. Thechances of unwanted duplication of initiatives were high and the need gaps for the sectorunclear. At the same time it was noticed that the local ICT skills were minimal, especially inthe sub-urban and rural areas. In order to address this challenge it was decided to start theprogram with a health sector-wide initiation phase. To determine the needs and expectations of the sector and to avoid duplication ofprojects, a participatory idea generation process 4 was initiated. This participatory ideageneration process goes beyond that traditionally used consultation processes and is moresuitable to generate the requirements in the context of an Appropriate ICT Framework. It usesthe method of scenario development to allow participants to identify priority areas for thedevelopment of their sector or organization. This avoids a technology focus. In a later stageduring the workshop the question is asked how ICT can be used for these priority areas. Tobring all participants to the same starting level, a reference report (situational analysis) isproduced on the current status of the sector prior to the workshop. As such the Round TableProcess is an example of a useful method during the initiation phase allowing participants toanswer the questions of this phase way. The workshop is just one part of the overall process andgets a follow-up allowing the actors to develop and implement their own ICT projects. During the workshop in Tanzania the stakeholders were not only requested to expresstheir needs and expectations of the program, they were also facilitated in the generation ofpreliminary project and policy proposals that were shared with the all the stakeholdersinvolved. Through a process of feedback and support the stakeholders were able to generateideas that were new, in line with the needs of the sector and feasible in the context of theavailable skills.4The process was facilitated by the International Institute for Communication and Development (IICD). The organization uses the term Round Table to label a participatory idea generation process. For more details on ideas behind this process, see: IICD, 2004. The Electronic Journal on Information Systems in Developing Countries http://www.ejisdc.org
  11. 11. EJISDC (2009) 38, 9, 1-18 11 Through this approach, the sector has been able to generate a coherent ICT program forthe Health sector of Tanzania. The program now includes the following interrelated projectareas:! ICT Policy for the Health sector, supported by all the stakeholders in the sector;! Capacity development through a continuous medical education program;! Development of ICT capacity in both the health sector as well as the private sector to fill the capacity;! Development of ICT tools, based on Free and Open Source Software5 and Open Standards, to support the hospital management;! Information portal and low-costs Internet connectivity services and support for hospitals. The participatory idea generation approach that was selected has been able to naturallystructure a Definition phase that takes into account the needs and expectations of thestakeholders. Political, cultural and organizational issues were addressed in the processthrough elaborate peer and reality checking of the preliminary project proposals that weregenerated. Economical issues were less covered in the initiation phase, but financial feasibilitystudies were conducted before the design phase of the projects. Environmental issues wereinsufficiently covered in this phase for this program and were addressed in the Constructionphase. Within the Appropriate ICT Framework the local needs are central in the design andmore innovative solutions are anticipated.5.2. Designing Appropriate ICTDesigning hardware, software and network configurations that fit within the developmentcontext has been a major challenge over the past years. Unfortunately in most cases thesolutions are founded in the European or American contexts and are not necessarily suitable forthe development context. For example, hardware that is not protected against the dust, sand andheat in African countries, software that needs an internet connection to be activated or is notsupporting local languages. Also theories and tools for system development like e.g.information modelling with Unified Modelling Language (UML) have proven to be difficult touse in an African context. Where a carefully conducted project Definition phase results in an outline of the needs,expectations and possibilities for the ICT solution, the design phase needs creativity todetermine the specifications of the new ICT tool. The specifications have to suit thecharacteristics of the context and not the other way around. We do not have to implement thecomplexity of Microsoft Word when the characteristics of a simple word processor likeAbiWord suffice. Similarly, WiFi equipment that is suitable for the European context wherelarge numbers of people operate in a small area are not a suitable choice for Timbuktu where avery limited number of people are using the connection in a large geographical area (WirelessInternet Institute, 2003).5.2.1. Designing a Campus Wide ICT Infrastructure in Rural Uganda6Uganda Martyrs University is located 80 km from Kampala, the capital of Uganda. Theuniversity operates on a relatively small budget, but has been able to develop itself as theleading private university in the country. In spite of the financial limitations, the university5 See Dravis, 2003; Reijswoud & Topi, 2004; Reijswoud & Jager, 2008; on the advantages of the use of Free and Open Source Software in the developing world.6 For an in-depth discussion of this case study see: Reijswoud and Mulo, 2007. The Electronic Journal on Information Systems in Developing Countries http://www.ejisdc.org
  12. 12. EJISDC (2009) 38, 9, 1-18 12administration decides on a policy that states that access to information technology and Internetis essential for their students and staff. Against this background the ICT Department isrequested to design an ICT infrastructure that is low-cost (both in terms of initial and recurrentcosts), easy to maintain but allows staff and students to access academic information andequips students with good ICT skills. With the requirements in mind the department of the university developed, incollaboration with external expertise, a plan for an ICT infrastructure based on:! Free and Open Source Software and Open Standards for server and desktops to keep costs for software low and avoid future license costs;! Re-use and upgrade of existing infrastructure through the implementation of a Linux terminal server project (Martindale, 2002);! Elaborate capacity development to train knowledgeable ICT support staff and well-informed students and lecturing staff;! Bandwidth management to provide maximum access to research information while limiting non-academic information (pornography, music and film downloads, sports, chat etc). Staff development for the ICT department as well sensitization of users (students andstaff) proved key in the development of these plans. Participatory learning and awarenesscreation slowly guided ICT staff and users towards the conceptualization of the new ICTinfrastructure plan. The ICT infrastructure was successfully implemented over the period 2003 – 2005 andserves as a point of reference for other universities in the East African region that operate undersimilar conditions. The infrastructure has proven to be low-cost, and through the capacitydevelopment program administrator skills were developed to maintain the new system. Themanaged Internet connection provides the required information for staff and students whilekeeping maximized performance against minimized operational costs. The project is a good example of the Design and Construction phases of AppropriateICT since it has taken into account the specific local conditions of the university and thecontext in which the ICT was to be implemented. The economic requirements were addressedas well as the organizational aspects. The academic culture that was considered important wascovered in the design of the network.5.3. Implementing Appropriate ICTIntroducing ICT in a rural setting has its challenges from a product perspective (e.g. robustnessof hard- and software) but also from a process perspective. E.g. introducing a computerizedinformation system up-country requires organization and sector-wide consultation and/orparticipation. While citizens of urban centers are more or less used to the idea of modern ICTsand increasingly understand the advantages, the rural based projects require a step-by-stepapproach to engage stakeholders and beneficiaries to counteract resistance.5.3.1. Constructing and Implementing a Health Management Information System inUgandaThe Uganda Catholic Medical Bureau (UCMB) is the health office of the Roman CatholicChurch (RCC) in Uganda and is amongst others supporting 27 rural hospitals. From 2004UCMB established a system aiming at improving the use of the national Health ManagementInformation System (HMIS). Improved health facility management is a necessity in a situationin which the funds for the health sector in most LDCs are decreasing while at the same timehealth care delivery funding is changing to a cost-based system. Therefore more effective and The Electronic Journal on Information Systems in Developing Countries http://www.ejisdc.org
  13. 13. EJISDC (2009) 38, 9, 1-18 13efficient ways of working are the only solution to keep the Health services at an acceptablelevel. The most prominent problems that were to be addressed by the project were: 1. The information collection using the lengthy HMIS forms were unreliable (incomplete and inaccurate) due to the labor intensive information collection procedures: The hard-copy forms had to be filled in manually demanding hospital managers to spend hours to correct for mistakes while all the data of the 27 hospitals had to be retyped at UCMB HQ etc. 2. Slow feedback by UCMB to the inaccurate information in hard-copy form provided by the hospitals (Backlogs of three to six months were not uncommon). 3. Lack of human capacity (technical as well as managerial) in order to implement and use a proper HMIS. The proposed technical solution was simple and straightforward. At first problem 1 wasaddressed: The hard-copy forms were replaced by standardized Spreadsheets (which were sentto UCMB using normal mail). The organizational impact of this step was still small: Themanual data entry was now supported by ICT applications. However, careful training andawareness creation for the hospital staff was needed to avoid the computer to be locked awayand to be used as tool emphasize hierarchical differences. After the first step the communication links between the up-country hospitals andUCMB HQ data were set-up to address problem 2 while problem 3 was addressed. Thepercentage of hospitals submitting complete and accurate HMIS forms in time moved from48% to 96% during project implementation. The UCMB HQ can now concentrate on theanalysis and feedback to hospital managers to support informed decision-making. Thefeedback mechanism enables hospital managers to finalize their planning and budgetingprocesses in a timely manner. The impact of these steps from an organizational perspective wasmuch bigger. Due to better information the health facility managers could develop clearerguidelines. At the same time, the decision of traditional hierarchical leaders was challenged.Administrators were now able to challenge the management decisions of the medical staff, insome occasions resulting in doctors sabotaging the data collection process. Only througheducation and training a schism between administration and clinical staff could be avoided. The change management process took three years and a carefully planned step-by-stepapproach where the following results were achieved: 1. From hard-copy forms which had to be filled in manually to standardized spread sheets which could be filled in using a computer: Focus on quality of data. 2. From sending these Excel forms by normal mail to sending it by email (forms as attachments): Focus on timeliness of data. 3. A system which made it possible to link and analyze the HMIS output with a cost-based financial system allowing hospital managers to implement an activity based costing model in their hospitals: Focus on the use of data at managerial level. 4. From sending Excel forms by email (as attachment) to filling in on-line forms to allow UCMB and the 27 hospitals to generate quality information on trends, statistics etc.: Focus on use of data a macro level. The project illustrates the importance of careful implementation processes in ICTproject in the development context. A strong traditional hierarchical structure (also describedin Stoops et al., 2003) has to be recognized and managed with an appropriate change process.From a product perspective is needs to be mentioned that the economic (the hospitals took overthe recurrent costs after a period of two years) requirements were addressed as well as the The Electronic Journal on Information Systems in Developing Countries http://www.ejisdc.org
  14. 14. EJISDC (2009) 38, 9, 1-18 14political aspects (involvement of religious leaders and Ministry of Health).5.4. DiscussionIn the first study we observe a situation that a participatory and consultative process guides thedefinition and design of the ICT for Health program. Through this process users and otherstakeholders were engaged in a learning and knowledge sharing experience. The outcome ofthe process was driven by the needs and knowledge of the users as well as constraints emergingfrom the context. The resulting ICT solutions were low-tech, but appropriate. Traditionalapproaches could have resulted in state-of-the-art solutions in line with available technicalparadigms in developed countries but that lack ownership of the users and fail to find support inthe local ICT community. The design of the new ICT infrastructure at Uganda Martyrs University in Ugandashows a design based on the requirements of the organization and the, mainly financial,limitations of the context. Where many ICT solutions in Africa are based on donated andpirated software, the described solution fits the situation, is legal, low-cast and has built newand sustainable capacity. By re-using written-off hardware, increased access to ICT forstudents and staff was created at very limited costs. Unfortunately, designs like these are hardlyseen in Africa and appropriate designs are hardly promoted by donor organizations. The implementation of the Health Management Information Systems in Ugandaaddresses challenges that are common in project implementation in developing countries. Nounderstanding of ICT, superstition and impenetrable hierarchical relations constitute barriers toimplementation that are not accommodated in modern IT project management approaches.Most of these approaches are founded in a rational understanding of the possible advantages ofICT and are not geared to first-time users. Long and careful implementation processes arerequired that often look inefficient from a developed world perspective.6. CONCLUSIONThere is little discussion that ICT can play an accelerating role in bridging the digital dividebetween developed and developing countries. The biggest challenge at the moment is todevelop an ICT infrastructure, knowledge and skills that provide opportunities for sustainabledevelopment. As we have discussed in this paper this requires a change in perspective. The ICTfor development community has to shift away from traditional one-size-fits-all solutions tosolutions that fit the context in which the technology is to be used. The hardware, software andchange management needs to be aligned with the local cultural, environmental, organizational,economical and political conditions in order to realize effective and sustainable development. The Appropriate ICT Framework as presented in this article provides a guiding modelto develop appropriate ICT solutions for LDCs. The model is based on existing theories inAppropriate Technology, Social and Community Informatics and the System DevelopmentLife Cycle. As was illustrated in the examples, an Appropriate ICT perspective promotes athinking process guiding ICT4D experts to reconsider the solutions that are being designed,developed and implemented. The high number of failures suggests that the complexity of ICT for Developmentprojects is often underestimated. We often observe that the ICT component in developmentprojects is being handled by general project managers that have limited understanding of thepossibilities of ICT and resort to the implementation of standard solutions that have proventheir effectiveness in the developed world. In the end, the recipients in the ICT projects remainwith hardware that breaks down because it is not designed for the harsh conditions, noavailable skills to maintain the software or clients that are not using it since they do not see theadded value. The initial success and the euphoria disappear as soon as the donor retreats. Donoragencies need to recognize that ICT projects needs qualified expertise and cannot be left to The Electronic Journal on Information Systems in Developing Countries http://www.ejisdc.org
  15. 15. EJISDC (2009) 38, 9, 1-18 15general project managers. An important step will be when computer science and information systems curriculastart to adopt (elective) courses in ICT for Development and Appropriate ICT issues in linewith Tharakan (2006). Students aiming at a career in ICT for Development will be providedwith a solid understanding of the challenges and limitation of standard ICT solutions andavailable alternatives. Education needs to find its foundation in research. So far, the academic world hasshown very little interest in the development of theories and models that suit the developingworld. Too often academics seem to believe that they are developing universal theories ormodels. Experiences with the applications of these theories and models in the developingworld show that they are far from universal. Governments and policy makers in developing countries need to be educated thattheories, models and technology that are developed in the developed countries do not provide aguarantee for success. Many do believe this. Suppliers of software and hardware as well asproject managers should be questioned critically on how the products fit in the local context.The A-ICT Framework will give them guidance in assessing their needs and query thesolutions that are presented. The A-ICT framework we have presented in this paper forms the foundation for a largerproject to provide a flexible approach for the design and implementation of ICT in developingcountries. A more detailed inventory of tools and methodologies will be developed and casestudies will be reviewed more thoroughly. The A-ICT framework will have to be tested as aprescriptive methodology. At present the framework first test have started in a project focusingon the design and implementation of a nation-wide Academic Registration Information Systemin Mozambique (Pscheidt et al., 2009).REFERENCESArgyris, C., Putnam, R. and McLain Smith, D. (1990) Action Science: Concepts, Methods, and Skills for Research and Intervention. Jossey-Bass, San Francisco.Avgerou, C. and Walsham G. (Eds.) (2000) Information Technology in Context: Studies from the Perspective of Developing Countries. Ashgate.Avgerou, C. (2003) IT as an Institutional Actor in Developing Countries, in: Krishna, S. and Madon, S. The Digital Challenge: Information Technology in the Development Context. Ashgate.Baskerville, R. (1999) Investigating Information Systems with Action Research, Communications of the Association of Information Systems, 2, 9.Brandon, D. (2006) Project Management for Modern Information Systems. IRM Press/Idea Group.Bruggink, M. (2003) Open Source in Africa: A Global Reality; Take It or Leave It? IICD Research Brief – No UICT01. International Institute for Communication and Development, http://www.iicd.orgCollins, H.M. (1992) Artificial Experts: Social Knowledge and Intelligent Machines. MIT Press.Curtain, R. (2004) Information and Communications Technologies and Development: Help or Hindrance? Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID), http://www.developmentgateway.com.au/jahia/webdav/site/adg/shared/CurtainICT4D Jan04.pdfDarrow K. and Saxenian, M. (1986) The Complete Appropriate Technology Sourcebook. http://www.villageearth.org/atnetwork/atsourcebook/index.htmDennis, A., Wixom, B. and Tegarden, D. (2001) Systems Analysis and Design, Wiley. The Electronic Journal on Information Systems in Developing Countries http://www.ejisdc.org
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  18. 18. EJISDC (2009) 38, 9, 1-18 18 Foundation for Design. Addison Wesley.Wireless Internet Institute (2003) The Wireless Internet Opportunity for Developing Countries. Worldbank/InfoDev. http://www.w2iorgWorld Bank (2003) Turkey: Informatics and Economic Modernization, World Bank. The Electronic Journal on Information Systems in Developing Countries http://www.ejisdc.org