Tag Archive: ICTs


Curbing corruption through ICTs (e-governence)


As we have been repeatedly sharing new concepts about use of ICTs for empowering humans, their use in e-governance is an emerging field. The concept of “Jhang model” for curbing corruption is an elegant and simplistic solution for the local governing bodies to establish feedback mechanisms for checks and balances on corruption in daily operations of bureaucracy and government officials.
Started off in district of Jhang in Punjab, Pakistan, the idea is now gaining ground in other districts of punjab. The whole concept is expained in the video (some portions are in urdu and i’ll try to put it in words here).

Video presentation commentary:

I’ll show you a small video and it will give you the visual sense of the project.

‘It is a simple project, if any citizen pays a visit to any government office for routine work, his/her cell number be recorded and after a given amount of time any responsible government official shall contact him/her about the visit and the experience of the citizen. The officer can directly ask him/her if any corruption was witnessed? If any pattern is discovered representative officials should take action.

Call…

Allahdita, i’m DCO Gujranwala speaking (our call got hungup), i was talking about the program started on behest of Chief minister Punjab to check if there is any problems being faced by citizens during the registration process… You were here a few days back for your registry so i wanted to check back if you faced any such problem, did anyone overcharge you (yes), did you get your work done within one day? (yes) My bother how much did they charge you? (it cost me 3000 Rs in total). Does it include the documentation work too? (yes) Did clerk charge you anything extra? (No sir).

Second Call…

Is this Muhammad Sideeq? (Yes sir). Commissioner Bahawalpur will speak to you. (alright).

Sideeq sahab, Assalam-o-Alaikum, (Wa-Alaikum- Salam sir, is everything ok?) Thanks a lot. I’m commissioner Bahawalpur speaking, Mushtaq. You got your registration on 14th for for 5 Marla land in RahimyarKhan. Did you face any problems or anyone bother you? (Sir i did not face any problem, issue or tension. Thanks a lot for your follow up).

IVR Message – The following call is being made from Government of Punjab, you shall be receiving messages or calls from Government inquiring about the conduct you were provided during registration process. Did you face any difficulties or problems?


 


The IBM KidSmart Early Learning Program integrates new interactive teaching and learning activities using the latest technology into the pre-kindergarten curricula. The program is now being implemented in 60 countries internationally, serving more than 2 million children from remote geographic areas to underprivileged areas of town and cities.

IBM’s KidSmart program includes the Young Explorer™, a computer housed in brightly colored, kid-friendly Little Tikes™ furniture and equipped with award-winning educational software to help children learn and explore concepts in math, science and language. Through KidSmart, IBM donates one Young Explorer unit to select schools and also installs educational software for free on a school’s existing computers. The program includes follow-up services: If the schools experience software-related problems, IBM will fix the problems and reinstall the programs if necessary.

The program’s main target is children who do not have access to computers. IBM thus coordinates with the National Education Ministry to select schools to be included in KidSmart. IBM also runs teacher training workshops as part of KidSmart to introduce teachers to the technology, and also to teach them how to integrate KidSmart as a classroom activity.

Since its launch in 1998, IBM has invested more than $106 million in the KidSmart Early Learning Program, including the donation of more than 45,000 KidSmart Early Learning Centers. The program is now in 60 countries, and has trained more than 100,000 teachers and served more than 10 million students.

There’s also a web site available to support teachers and parents. The KidSmart Early Learning website was created in collaboration with the Center for Children and Technology, Bank Street College of Education and United Way. Available in 9 languages, the website includes a guide for parents to encourage early learning at home and a section for preschool teachers that details how they can best use technology to support learning in their classrooms.

Source: IBM website

‘IT for Disabled’ in Thai schools


girl without arms and legs uses computerBorn without arms and legs, Toyeeba Soumair, a girl from Narathiwat province, never thought that she would get a chance to explore the world of computers until she met HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn at Baan Plug Pla School 11 years ago. That moment changed her life.”Since the young girl has no arms at all, we had to design a computer which has a special switch device, which allows her to easily perform mouse functions using her shoulder with just one click,” Pairach Thajchayapong, the vice chairman of the Princess’s IT project, said. IT for the Disabled Program under the Princess’ IT Project in Thailand is an exemplary project to provide assistance to students with disabilities through the use of technology.
In 1998, Srisangwan School became part of this project. Computers were placed in the regular classrooms, 10 in each for grades 1 to 6. The National Electronic and Computer Technology Centre (NECTEC) has provided training for teachers at Srisangwan School on how to assess the capabilities of disabled children in order to identify the most appropriate assistance for them, and on how to effectively utilize IT tools for working with disabled children. The school also receives support from physical therapists, speech therapists, special educationists, and computer instructors to create individual curricula to suit each child’s special needs and physical abilities. The computer skills of the students at Srisangwan School have been shown to be of the same standard as those of non-disabled students, and the teachers are capable of using computer-assisted instruction programs to support their own teaching.
Kawila Anukul School is a school for children with learning difficulties in Chiang Mai province. In addition to a computer workshop facility, the Program has also constructed an IT-assisted classroom at Kawila Anukull. In this classroom, computers are used as a teaching aid together with other technologies that make it possible for students with writing, speech, or learning difficulties to learn and develop necessary skills.

Source: Adapted from UNESCO Bangkok online resources

e-Sri Lanka and ICT for All


e-Sri Lanka is the project of  government of Sri Lanka to provide access to “diverse and unrestrained” information and communication sources in a bid to strengthen democracy, peace process, quality of life and social and economic development. “Nanasala Project” refers to several models of tele-centres established all across Sri Lanka for provision of ICT based services. Information Communication Technology Agency (ICTA) has set up different types of Nansalas (Knowledge centers) with regards to the services being provided.

[Image:Colombo Fort Railway Station Nansala]

Rural Knowledge Nansalas (Vishwa Denuma Gamata or global knowledge to village) include multi-service ICT centers providing internet, telephone, fax, computer training classes and other services for socio-economic development and community empowerment

E-library Nansala (community model) is the smaller version of the rural knowledge where few free and few paid services are provided. CBTs, books and lots of periodicals for students of all ages. The e-library concept has also been successfully evolved into mobile e-library which has solar panels on roof powering four laptops and travelling from schools to schools and village to village disseminating information to children, youth and local farmers.

Distance and e-Learning centers (DELs) provide networking facilities like Videocon, Mulitmedia and computer labs etc for connectivity to local and global development learning networks. DELs are specifically aimed at increasing skill level of the people at the suburban areas. [Image: E-learning Centre (above-right)]

Tsunami Camp Nansalas were the special types of kiosks setup in Tsunami affected areas providing information on health, education and similar content in local languages free of cost. “Tsunami Voices” database maintained records of Tsunami victims, their belongings, losses, diseases etc which was helpful in rehabilitation process. ICTA provided ICT training and vocational training to youth and got them involved in volunteer activities for making these nansalas permanent.

These Nansalas have made Sri Lanka stand tall in IT world, by empowering the disabled through ICTs for earning their livelihood and supporting the other disabled through effective use of ICTs. They have provided equal opportunities for the visually impaired people too. [Image (above-left) Pushpa Rekha: The Nansala Operator]

These Nansalas have also empowered the women by providing them with education, employment and strong position in local communities. Several of the Nansala operators are women.


Counseling for a member of local handicapped community (right)

School and Community Connectivity Initiatives in Asia Pacific Region


Connectivity and quality access to ICTs is essential for survival in this era of digital revolution. Mahabir Pun foresaw this in 1997, when due to his immense efforts his mountain village of Nangi in Nepal first embraced computers. By now, his initiative has evolved into Nepal Wireless Networking Project which has connected around 22 villages in rural Nepal through wireless technologies, creating new opportunities of education, agriculture, Tele-medicine and E-commerce for the villagers. In many parts of the developing world, it is still difficult to provide connectivity either through fixed infrastructure or wireless technologies.An innovative solution  United Villages pioneered  by Amir Alexander Hasson provides people in such rural areas of India, Cambodia asynchronous drive-by Wi-Fi through buses which deliver web content to the computers which have otherwise no direct connection to internet.

Provision of funds and required equipment is crucial for connectivity whether through sole government assistance or in partnership with private sector. Computer Technologies for Schools (CFTS) Project in Australia, Setting up of IT village and computer labs in Bangladesh are instances of government/ local assistance. Under E-gram Vishwagram Project, Gujarat Government (India) partnered with Bharty Airtel to connect panchayats and Common Service Centers (CSCs) across 13716 villages in the state. Now technology market leaders like Google, Microsoft, Intel and Cisco have also agreed to aid the project. OLPC is collaborating with many state governments in Asia Pacific region to provide low cost, connected laptops to schools in rural or underserved areas. Through OLPC India, two government organizations and one private-sector entity placed a 250,000 XO laptop order which will be distributed 1500 schools. Altai Technologies Limited provided wireless connectivity support to OLPC charity project in Bhutan.

Technology service providers companies have been collaborating with governments, other companies and international organizations in serving the communities’ connectivity needs. Intel (r) Rural Connectivity Platform is a low cost solution which promises to provide efficient connectivity even in remote mountainous or rough hilly areas. Data Stream Technology (DST) Group ,Ericsson collaboration is going  to provide 4000 students in four schools of Brunei high speed broadband connectivity. Nokia Siemens network has joined ITU’s Connecting villages initiative and initially they aim to connect villages in island countries of pacific region through its village connection program.

ICT Interventions in Education, India


Adapted from: http://india.gov.in/spotlight/spotlight_archive.php?id=40

According to the spotlight review on the india.gov website the ‘India, a successful ICT powered nation, has always laid a lot of accent on the use of ICT, not only for good governance but also in diverse sectors of the economy such as health, agriculture and education etc.’

The use of ICTs in education has certainly been improved over the years with several initiatives worth mentioning. According to the review the ‘most vital contribution of ICTs in the field of education is easy access to learning resources’, enabling the students to have easy access to resources. The examination results (held by several Boards/ Institutions/ Commissions) are now available online and also through email, SMS and IVRS (Interactive Voice Response System). Online admissions counseling is available for admissions to professional degree courses as well information regarding scholarship opportunities and educational loans are disseminated to the meritorious students across backgrounds and financial status. Information related to admissions to foreign universities is readily available to the students.

Several Distance Education programs are being run which make it easy for students in remote areas to continue their education. The textbooks of the national curriculum (NCERT), from grade 1 to 12, have been uploaded online for convenience of students and teachers. Sample papers for many entrance exams and other competitions are also available online. Such a facility is also being provided by Indira Gandhi National Open University.

One of the most vital ICT initiatives is the development of Brihaspati, a virtual classroom; an endeavor is by The Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur. Brihaspati is a web-based e-learning program, which enables instructors to enhance on campus learning by sharing course materials, having class discussions, and making assessments on the web. It can also be used to deploy e-learning content for off campus self as well as mentored learning. This tool is open source software and can be used by any university.

INTEL ICT Programs in Pakistan


The Intel® Teach Program launched in Pakistan in March 2002, which focuses on giving ‘extensive training and resources’ to promote ‘effective technology use in the classroom’. The program offers several courses to train the teachers, though all focus on incorporating technology into teaching, yet the course titled “skills for success course” is particularly designed for the ICT teachers. According to Intel’s official stats they have successfully trained more than 220,000 teachers reaching out to over 70 districts and cities so far … targeting remote schools like ‘Dewan Farooq Memorial School’ (Badin, Sindh) as well as developed school systems like PAF or Fazaia School System (having 25 schools nationwide). Recently Intel, Pre-STEP & USAID have made an agreement for strengthening teacher training institutes.

The ICT integration into the curricula has not only paid off in terms of improving the education standards but also has led to several community based initiatives, cleanliness drives and awareness campaigns!

The National Science Olympiad affiliated with Intel® is held in collaboration with ministry of education as well as science and technology, for students from grade 9 – 12 aimed at promoting research based learning among students, particularly in Science and Mathematics. The winners of the Olympiad are then selected for the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair which “is the world’s largest pre-college science fair competition, where students have a chance to explore, discover, and innovate.”

ICTs in Pakistan


Development? — ICTs speak!

Throughout the previous five to six years of my life I have indeed seen a massive spread of Information communication technology in Pakistan. Since I have been a part of this digital revolution in almost all ways it’s my generation which has the say in this regard; for the youth of Pakistan is the only portion of society benefitting from ICTs.

The “technology boom” as they say has been much exploited by the government of Mr. Musharaf (and his team) for making a case in favor of his services for the development of the country. It is undeniable that this technology flood occurred in the period of year 2001 onwards. From PCs being few and far between and cell phones being a rare sight, here we stand in 2009 with computers being a necessity of our lives, broadband being made available to even remote areas of urban infrastructure, largest WIMAX network being installed in country and the cellular subscribers around 90 million. A big question is: has this technology revolution been carved out by visionary leadership, prudent policies and foresighted development plans or it had to happen no matter what?

I won’t speak up on my own behalf: let’s hear from ICT development indexes!

“The latest edition of Measuring the Information Society features the new ITU ICT Development Index. The Index captures the level of advancement of ICTs in more than 150 countries worldwide and compares progress made between 2002 and 2007. It also measures the global digital divide and examines how it has developed in recent years. The report also features a new ICT Price Basket, which combines fixed, mobile and broadband tariffs for 2008 into one measure and compares it across countries. The analytical report is complemented by a series of statistical tables providing country-level data for all indicators included in the Index.” read more


Alright so lets face it! where do we stand?

Pakistan:

  2002 2007 Change
Rank 146 127 19
IDI 0.89 1.46 0.57

These figures seem impressive if compared to the immediate neighbors of Pakistan in the ranking. India depreciated from 117 to 118 and IDI change being 0.4.  On the contrary Saudi Arabia leaped by 18 positions in the table. Now comparing globally: the overall average value of IDI in 2002 was 2.48 which increased to 3.40 in 2007 with the net increase being 0.92. Seeing the larger picture, it appears that we did develop our ICTs quite much but still not quite enough. Certainly in my opinion this index change doesn’t show that Pakistan had a frog-leap with regards to ICT development.

“The country that gained most worldwide in ranking is Pakistan, moving up 19 places (see Chart 4.3). With a rank of 127 it is still low and has a long way to go towards becoming an inclusive information society. But progress has been significant in the past five years, mainly because in 2002 there was almost no ICT access and usage in the country, whereas in 2007, 8 per cent of households had computers and Internet user penetration reached 10.7 per cent. Pakistan has made less progress on the skills sub-index, which scores relatively low.” link     

The broadband internet penetration is still less than 1%! Striking isn’t it? PTCL has provided broadband on the landline to almost all PTCL subscribers and still we have this much low percentage. Major contributors are the lack of purchasing power of people and the very low computer literacy in my opinion. In villages hardly one or two PCs are there and the PTCL exchange doesn’t see it feasible to provide the DSL access to the whole exchange of villages. We need a lot more to do to bring people to use ICTs and to develop content targeting villagers. They simply do not see it useful to use ICTs.

Again with regards to the prices of ICT basket, which calculates an average based on the charges of fixed line calls and cellular calls plus SMS and the fixed broadband rate, Pakistan ranks 98, way below India at 74. The pricing chart suggests that in Pakistan and India the ICTs are much cheaper than the countries having same IDI ranking as theirs. This however, does not necessarily depict that we are at any advantage. ICTs may be cheaper but they are not being used in Pakistan for development of country: we really are not utilizing the potential of ICTs. With respect to fixed line charges India and Pakistan are close by at positions 103 and 106 respectively. We often brag about the reduced telephone call rates in our country but the rankings suggest that Pakistan is still not quite cheap. Bangladesh is cheaper in the lowest group. In mobile cellular sub basket Pakistan is at 76 while India is still ahead at 64. As a consequence we are in top ten economies in the lower group to have the cheapest rates, while India lies in lower-middle group: ahead of us! In fixed broadband we stand at 102 and India at 73! We need to really improve here. India again comes in top 10 economies in lower-middle group and Pakistan is nowhere.

All these yardsticks of ICT development clearly depict that we have a long way to go in developing our ICTs and to bring them to use in the development of our country. Being a member of technical society of Pakistan I voice my concern over the poor use of ICTs by us. We lack proper content be it in education, commerce, governance, health; we need to pay closer attention to bringing ICTs to use for solution of our real problems. A poor village person might not get immediate benefit by provision of access to a computer in his agriculture but he might certainly benefit in getting connected to world and to voice his concerns and complaints to authorities through e-governance. Similarly, getting a high bandwidth link might not be of any use to a person living in remote area, but ICTs can certainly help him/her get access to a doctor.

We need to think objectively and analyze the problems we all are facing: blaming it to dogs is not gonna help in any way. Let’s take steps to address key challenges of Pakistan and use ICTs for this purpose.

 

Living in a digital Mess


Living in this era of “technology” one happens to come across several bizarre scenarios, which simply do not make any sense. Internet is the rule of law in this era and most up to date professionals in computers happen to be engineers in Pakistan. Almost everyone knows that the job postings are mostly announced online, in fact many smart people would join the online hiring portals and the mailing lists to stay abreast of these opening, yet most of our engineers appear totally naïve when it comes to maintaining of mailing lists. In this entire college, full of engineers, we hardly have any mailing lists (yahoo groups etc) of which all the students of a class are part of.

Working with the officer in-charge placement office I have had a good deal of experience of the total chaos we have in our college. Seeing from this end of the world my fellow engineers seem to be living in a world almost a decade back! Yes its true. Let us be specific in quoting examples. I have been trying to ask the students from various disciplines to work on improving their yahoo groups. Now most of the classes have separate groups for separate sections: seems like they live in close clan societies! Groups are configured not to accept mails from the non-members, making it impossible to mail them any urgent news regarding some job opening.

Most interesting scenario is that the mailing list of 27 computers is the most flawed of all! Mails sent to their yahoo group address simply get lost in the communication network backbone or maybe routers all over have been configured not to forward mails from placement office to 27 Computers!

Its not really the group of 27 Computers in serious trouble, the Mechanical 27 hasn’t really been able to bring all the class fellows on one single group: seems like they aren’t much interested in useful mails. The only well organized groups are of 27 Mechatronics and 27 Electrical: both having almost all the class on-board. This doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone gets the mails! The email address of 27 Mechatronics group seems too tedious to get hold of. You have to see every time if you have entered all the scores (“-“) correctly. So we are left alone with 27 Electrical’s yahoo group. Phew! we have a one living example. No problems registered with 27 Electrical’s group. All information gets through “unharmed” or without being “bounced back”.

The dimensions of this digital mess extend much beyond. The traditional flow of information from the Cadet Battalion is still through the Staff (reminds me of postmen). News regarding the closing of college due to strikes or else the news of the start of semester is conveyed through the “traditional-old-fashioned- IONs”. Emails seem to be a thing of next century here! Most funny situation occurs when I ask my fellow SNS about the change of uniform to summer uniform and they tell me they don’t know it: I end up informing them that Army has taken off sweaters. Gosh! Do these college appointments do anything worthwhile or not is a separate issue but at-least the cadet battalion can do us a lot of favor by passing on info to our “representatives”:@

Welcome to the world with digital-divide. We have technology but we don’t know how to use it or even worst of all do not want to use it! Those who feel hurt with this mail and want to bring a difference are most welcome to contact the writer and we can help bridge the digital divide through the ICT and Entrepreneurship Club.

contact: uzairsukhera27@ee.ceme.edu.pk

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