September 2006

The limits of ICT4D

Someone has to pay the 'net bill:

Internet traffic in Zimbabwe has come close to a standstill after an international satellite firm slashed its bandwidth because the cash-starved government failed to pay the bill.

Government-owned TelOne, which owns the country's main satellite Internet link, said satellite firm Intelsat had cut its international bandwidth because it failed to pay the $700,000 fee.

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Nica Tech Writeup: The importance of local

Sometimes, knowing the local context is not only important, but a stark requirement. Scratch that - always. In Managua, Nicaragua, this is point is driven home by the simple task of getting to where you're going. A victim of earthquakes and politics, Managua is generally without reliable street signs, or addresses, but unlike, say, Bangkok, where mapping is a futile attempt in capturing the ephemeral, Managua simply doesn't have the structure to support creating a normal map.


Directions in Managua

So the population has adapted. Addresses in Managua are complex formulas of local history, community, and direction. Cab drivers have a defined territory, and cross-town trips will result in your driver finding a "local" to help with the last few blocks. The cardinal directions are "Al Lago" - towards the lake, or North of the city - Up (East), Down (West) and to the mountains - Southish. Then you specify the neighborhood, and then you go to landmarks. Of course, back to the earthquake problem - those landmarks may not be there anymore.

This particular recipe for an address is in the M. Lezcano neighborhood, and then from where the People's Bank used to be, 2 blocks towards the lake, and a 1/2 block east. They get even crazier - hairy handed women and broken down cars are called out in this NPR interview.

I digress, however.

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Morality of Development

Development, like politics, is a metaphorical room where you're amazed at just how many elephants can fit simultaneously, and yet be ignored. These elehpants are conjured through some central, unanswered questions. A former Bank employee friend of mine has a fine one, for example - ask any Bank defender how the incentive structure for determining loan recipient validity and reliability works when the loan agent is encouraged to issue loans, and the recipient doesn't have the option to default without serious global consequences.

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