Three Lessons about Tech and Development

Brenda Musasizi, Coordinator of the Uganda Community Libraries Association, recently participated in Spark 2013 — the 4th Global Forum on Telecentres, which brought together more than 1,000 people from the internet and communications technology for development (ICT4D) sector and focused on how people, innovation, and sustainability are essential to drive development through technology. She presented on a panel about the challenges and opportunities of building women’s digital literacy in her community in Uganda. In this blog post, Brenda shares the key ideas she learned at the event.

Technology is Magic

Technology has evolved over the years, but the example of the invention of the telephone shows how improvements to technology led to devices serving not just one, but multiple purposes. It shows what we can accomplish through technological innovation and re-invention if we put our minds to addressing our problems or issues using what we already have at hand. Innovation is an important part of technology, but it starts with ideas and the ability to believe in greater possibilities — and the decision to act on the idea.

Libraries and Telecenters are Vital to Civil Society Development

In one way or another, libraries and telecenters serve the same purpose – and in fact, some libraries have much more to offer than traditional telecenters. If libraries and telecenters could strengthen their partnerships, our communities would benefit even more from the availability of information and could use this information to improve their lives.

We can use technology to empower youth with skills for job seeking and creation. Also, there is a huge gap between ICT job vacancies and ICT skills. We need to train youth to be able to do not just manual labor, but also offer digital training so we can include youth in the ICT workforce. In this way, telecenters and libraries with ICT access can improve their communities’ workforce and economic growth by equipping them with new skills and encouraging the creation of online and social enterprises.

Innovation, Connection, and Sustainability are Essential

It’s essential to innovate, connect with others, and sustain growth and improvement. Everyone needs to have access to ICTs and the internet, to be connected, to go an extra mile and use the information they access to improve their lives. But how can we ensure that services are sustained and keep growing and reinventing themselves while still solving community problems? We can solve the problem of unemployed, idle youth by inviting them to the library to teach them ICT skills through games and other programs, including web design. For example, Mozilla’s Maker Party is a great way for people to learn, share, and innovate together online, and something that could be incorporated into an offline community of young people at the library.