ICTs and Development: workshop at IIT Delhi (Day 1)

It is good to be back in Delhi – and to have an opportunity to reflect on the use of ICTs in development practice with colleagues from across the world.  Thanks to Vigneswara Ilavarasan and Mark Levy for bringing us all together at IIT Delhi.

Following introductions from Prof Amrit Srinivasan (Head of the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, IIT Delhi), Prof. Balakrishnan (Deputy Director, IIT Delhi) and Phet Sayo (Senior Program Officer, IIT Delhi), we got underway with the real business.  Below are some of my reflections on some of the presentations:

Rohan Samarajiva (Chair and CEI Lirneasia, Sri Lanka) Invited Lead Talk 1

  • Highlighted the key importance of bringing mobile prices down which led to expanded usage
  • Competition played an important part in this – he argues that this will actually lead to greater use by the poor
  • Implications for broadband and internet connectivity – will this follow the same path as with mobiles?
  • Policy implications: role of regulation (must deregulate); need to bring prices down; need for ‘fat pipes’ (international broadband connectivity); problems associated with rent seeking; need to go gentle on quality of service regulation (he commented that “I am a lapdog of the capitalists, but I prefer to work for the bottom of the pyramid”); in the end, customers pay taxes that governments impose on companies, so we need to phase out universal-service levies (companies show they do not need to be persuaded to work in rural areas).
  • Competition will find its level – he is a strong believer that the market will provide the right solutions.  My experience does not confirm this – I do not accept that the market will indeed serve the interests of the poorest and most marginalised.
Vigneswara Ilavarasan (IIT Delhi) and Mark Levy (Michigan State University) ICTs and micro-enterprises
  • Used a probability sampling strategy of small/micro enterprises in Mumbai
  • Fundamental conclusion was that there is a mis-match between the rhetoric and reality of ICT-use for business purposes
  • Mobile phones are used for contacting employees and some business contacts, but they are used much more for social purposes with family and friends
  • Fewer enterprises have computers than mobile ‘phones, but those who have computers do use them more extensively for business purposes (using them for stock inventories, employee records, and tracking business processes)
Khalid Rabayah (Arab American University, Palestine) ICT use among Palestinian enterprises
  • Survey of just under 3000 Palestinian enterprises
  • Most business owners do not see much use for computers or Internet for their enterprises
  • Those who do use the Internet primarily use it for e-mail and searching for information; main reason for using Internet is to save time
  • They primarily use the communicating aspect of ICTs, and therefore especially use mobile telephony
  • Internet is not used much for business – mainly for cultural reasons; 50% prefer doing business face-to-face
Godfred Kwasi Frempong (Science and Technology Policy Research institute, Ghana) Mobile ‘phones and micro/small enterprises in Ghana

  • Reported the high usage of mobile ‘phones by businesses in Ghana.  Most used voice and only 21% used SMS as a business tool. Key issue why SMS is not used more is because people have to be literate to read a SMS message
  • Missed calls (flashing) are very important – some 65% of enterprises use them as an important business tool
  • Only 1% of the sample  used mobile ‘phone banking (although 13% knew about this)

Shikoh Gitau (University of Cape Town) Job-seekers in Khayelitsha

  • Highlighted the growing importance of mobile Internet
  • Reported on training scheme for a small group of young women in Khayelitsha – main use was to explore ways of accessing the Internet for gaining jobs
  • Other reasons why people were using mobile Internet included gospel music, news and information, Facebook and MXit
  • Knowledge among other people that they knew how to use the Internet raised their social capital

S. Nandini (Working Women’s Forum, India) ICT and women in the informal sector

  • Survey of usage by group of women in the Working Women’s Forum
  • Emphasised that women had an unfilled real need for communication, and mobile ‘phones can indeed now provide this.  Women in the informal sector has facilitated them in juggling multiple roles (social, business, etc.)

Mokbul Morshed Ahmad (Asian Institute of Technology) Mobiles in Kampong Thom, Cambodia

  • Mobile ‘phones are mainly used for social purposes, but farmers can save some costs in terms of time spent travelling; that having been said, they need to find the means to pay for them
  • Traders generally use ‘phones more than the farmers

Surabhi Mittal (Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations) Mobile ‘phones as a catalyst for agricultural growth in India

  • Mobile ‘phones can help linkage between agricultural extension services and farmers, and this can improve farm profitability
  • Farmers subscribe to customised services – mainly seeking information on weather, market prices, inputs, government services…
  • Knowledge of better input prices and information do indeed enable higher productivity and thus enhanced farm profitability going up between 5 and 25%


Filed under ICT4D

3 responses to “ICTs and Development: workshop at IIT Delhi (Day 1)

  1. Rohan Samarajiva

    Thanks for the blog entry, Tim.

    I do need to be more careful about spelling out what I say! There were quotation marks around the “I am a lapdog” comment.

    I said it that way because people jump from go-gentle to lap-dog, automatically, without thinking through the value of variable QoS for the poor. If the stds are raised too high, there will be no affordable service. And I did mention what we are doing with advertising: http://lirneasia.net/2009/11/how-broad-is-you-broadband/

    I guess I actually should have indicated the quotation marks with my hands, not just my face!

    • unwin

      Hi Rohan

      Thanks for the clarification – I was indeed careful to put it in quotation marks – not easy to convey the smile in text!


  2. Weiyu

    Nice summary! I feel like that I can save my time on note-taking and listen to the talks more attentively now.

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