Selected publications (.pdf)

"Education Change, Leadership and the Knowledge Society" 
Global e-Schools Initiative (GeSCI)  

Survey of ICT in education in the Caribbean
Volume 1: Regional trends & analysis
Volume 2: Country reports

Using technology to train teachers:
Appropriate uses of ICT for
teacher professional developmen
infoDev (Mary Burns, co-author)

Project evaluation:
Uganda rural school-based telecenters

World Bank Institute
(Sara Nadel, co-author)

The Educational Object Economy:
Alternatives in authoring &
aggregation of educational software 

Interactive Learning Environments
(Purchase or subscription req'd) 

Development of multimedia resources 
UNESCO (Cesar Nunes, co-author)

Real Access/Real Impact
Teresa Peters &
(hosted for reference; RIP TMP) 


Learning, technology & development


Entries in ICT4D (4)


PPPs and getting things done in ICT4D and E


I made an error. Not the first I’ve made ever, and not the most egregious, but among the more opportunistic: A few years ago I developed, in collaboration with the smart, experienced and dialed-in Anthony Bloome of USAID, a a white paper or other kind of publication supporting the design of ICT4E projects *( Ten principles that were intended to help USAID country officers and others engender (that would be design and manage the implementation of) technology projects in schools and education systems. 

Hog wash. Or something. 


I left out the most important principle. I wouldn’t junk any of the others, at least not usually, but just now I don't find them readable and I'm not going to share them here. The entire premise of that paper is that with appropriate support and in collaboration with private-sector and government partners, USAID education officers can achieve effective designs of technology projects. 


learning aid for four cardinal directions, Kabul
We are talking about decisions that require expertise in several fields. One of these is the most dynamic, innovation-oriented fields in human history, and one that has had profound changes on social, economic and individual conditions—the personal computer began its evolution about 40 years ago (1977, date of the launch of Apple II and TRS 80), gaining momentum through the launch of the Maciintosh in 1984, Windows 3 in 1986, and so on. The World Wide Web got its start more recently, about 1992. Since then, we’ve seen the emergence of mobile devices, lower-cost solar, mobile broadband, mobile money, social enterprises. (, a social enterprise in Silicon Valley, makes big-data analytics available to development organizations and others.) 


At the same time, as I’ve mentioned elsewhere, development has “matured” as a field: bottom-up and participatory solutions (and rhetoric), focus on girls and women, micro-loans and micro-enterprise, education in emergencies, outcomes-based programs and assessments—elements that seem natural, obvious, have required a long time (˜60 years) to be normalized because we’re dealing with a field in which the starting assumption is that having the money and having the power meant having the intelligence to make a difference. Not true. Perhaps we have gotten wiser; perhaps we are casting about for new methods; perhaps economic growth has had impact that outstrips that of development.


In any case, how can we expect a list of principles to enable someone to navigate in this dynamic environment? How can we expect a development person to understand the importance of the shit-canning of SCORM and its replacement by Tin Can? We can’t. We shouldn’t. 


The most important element in the design of successful ICT4D and ICT4E projects is the team. That team needs the right combination of expertise and the opportunity to bring that expertise to bear on a significant problem in a significant way. 


(Why do I think this? I’m just finishing my report to USAID on digital library design to support the provision of mother-tongue books to young readers. Cool. I’ve learned a lot. I’ve had to learn a lot. If I were in another position—staff guy, private-sector guy, government guy—that learning would have been impossible. I and USAID and, more importantly, kids asked to learn to read, would be out of luck. More on this by Monday…)




RIP Teresa M Peters

Teresa Peters died yesterday, 16 December, 2013, at the age of about 46, after a five-year battle against breast cancer. Teresa was the founder and from about 2000 - 2006 the ExDir of, a mighty NGO based in Capetown, South Africa, that for several years led the fight to change policy and practice to achieve digital inclusion. 

I owe Teresa many things, but chief among them is... 

Teresa and were instrumental in shoving, manhandling, womanhandling the field of development informatics (OK, ICT4D) along on the quest for impact. For outcomes. For being accountable for something other than, as Teresa termed it, "performance metrics"--how machines were bought and installed. 

bridges published "Real Access/Real Impact" in 2002, outlining 12 criteria to determine whether or not people have "real access" to technology, access that makes use possible, and that can lead to "real impact," or improvements in social and economic well being. As described by the Association for Progressive Communications, "The concept of Real Access/Real Impact emerged from this report, and it provides a good overview of the main underlying issues."

Seems like a no-brainer, doesn't it? Real access? And impact? Teresa and bridges weren't the only parties pushing to hold projects accountable for impact. But check the history of, say, outcomes-based evaluation or results-based management among the UN organizations. You'll be shocked at the earliest dates you can find. 

"We operated for that long without insisting on impact?" you might ask. Yes, I'm afraid we did. 

But Teresa and her supporters (she was pretty-well connected, not brilliantly connected, but ethically so) were on it. You can read an abbreviated version of the report here, courtesty of the APC. 


2012 FRIDA awards for internet innovations in Latin America & Caribbean

The 2012 FRIDA awards for innovations in Internet access, freedom, support for development and innovation have been announced. (I'm a special fan of University of the West Indies' M-fisheries project; fishing is a tough and dangerous job). 

 And the winners are: 

M-Fisheries – Trinidad y Tobago (The University of The West Indies)

Campaña de Neutralidad en la Red – Chile (ONG META/

Matemática para todos – México (Math2me)

Red De Estaciones Meteorológicas Participativas – Argentina (Universidad De La Punta/ Gobierno de la provincia de San Luis)

Policía Nacional de Colombia, primera fuerza en Latinoamérica en convertirse en ciudadanos digitales

Check 'em out!


Principle 1—Use ICT to achieve education and development goals

"Technology is a cross-cutting resource that should be seen as a sustainable, accessible, and valuable means of supporting efforts to improve teaching, learning, school operations, and the education sector as a whole. Projects using technology can entail risks that arise from costs, complexity, and resistance to change at many levels. To make such risks worth the reward, technology should be used to address areas where system capacity is poor, schools are underperforming, or there are gaps in student learning."

As mentioned, the bogey-man lurking behind this principle, and some of the others, is the IT curriculum—and more specifically the acquisition of computers and the funding of resources and the Internet to help kids learn how to use computers. It's incredibly inefficient and wasteful. In some countries, kids start taking basic IT classes in junior secondary school (or middle school) and continue through the end of senior secondary (or high) school. In a lot of instances, the kids don't build many usable skills, although they can identify a CPU, provide the definitino of a motherboard, and tell you how many bits are in a byte. And this requires six years of classes? Plus an exam? 

To be fair, integrating the use of computer tools (e.g., laptops, desktops, tablets, smart phones, netbooks, etc) into other subjects is extremely difficult when the kids don't have basic mousing and keyboarding and file-management skills. But these can be learned in a two-week camp. 

But "development goals" deserves a special call out. In poor countries, it's not unreasonable to consider ways in which education might contribute to social and economic development. Hence, "development goals" are something that can and should be considered in relation to the significant costs and risks of an ICT-supported project. Are the kids going to learn something that, eventually, ultimately, with many confounding factors that make evaluation challenging, will increase GDP? Or that will increase participation in government and civil society? Hmmmm? 

(If not, perhaps the project should be reconsidered.) 

What are some of the sub-principles undergirding Principle 1?:

Use ICT to support comprehensive change.
While education-technology projects often focus on single areas of activity, such as introducing digital learning resources, the cross-cutting quality of technology can enable comprehensive approaches that extend to many core components of the education system... information management and school leadership, teacher development, learning-resource distribution, and direct instruction. 

The point, with this sub-core principle (so to speak) is that you are creating infrastructure, and that infrastructure can support change (and hopefully improvement) across the full spectrum of educational services. Primary-grade math-learning supported by multimedia? TVET for adult villagers? The same system, once it's in place, effectively maintained, and overseen by in-the-know leadership, can provide both. 

Here's the idea, graphically:

Address areas of high need.
Given range of areas where technology can support improvement, projects can target specific factors or problems that have the potential to yield high impact or support further improvement...

Uh huh. Interactive Radio Instruction (IRI) is a wonderful tool, partly because it addresses a common problem in developing-country schools—teachers poor mastery of the subjects that they are assigned to teach. 

Conceive of technology as “education infrastructure.”
Projects that establish the use of technology in schools—whether the tools used are radio, video, mobile phones, or computers—contribute to the strengthening of a school system’s education infrastructure. 

OK, I wrote this sub-principle. But I still struggle to understand it. To my way of thinking, education infrastructure includes all the elements that contribute to a system's capacity. These can include, for example, a VPN linking schools (Indonesia), management skills for technology roll-outs (Syria, Pakistan), and a storehouse of digital content (Armenia, one hopes, and in the US, the excellent Hippocampus website offered by the Monterey Institute of Technology and Education [MITE]).