ICT4D (Information & Communications Technology for Development) is being used to transform communications across The United Methodist Church, and within communities in the developing world who’ve been most cut off from technological advances. United Methodist Communications provides technology, training and best practices to help your program become successful and sustainable.
Walk Down Memory Lane
Can you remember a time when you had to pay by the minute to talk with someone long distance? Ever had to tell a family member to get off the phone, so you could use AOL? Remember bag phones, floppy discs, and the early days of websites – when you knew you needed one but weren’t sure why?
The U.S. has used technology for all kinds of development in business and personal life. Technology has forever changed the way we live:
- Have an emergency? Dial 911 – not just from a landline at home – but wherever you are by cell!
- Get weather alerts on your phone, or amber alerts if a child goes missing.
- Receive important (and really unimportant) news about friends and groups via email, Facebook, Twitter, or text.
- See the world’s latest innovations unfold, and speak to the innovators themselves on Twitter!
- Gain immediate access to information that a few years ago would have been available only through researching a card file in the local library. (Kind of makes me queasy to think of those.)
- Google your symptoms and find quick relief to common ailments…and get warnings of when to seek medical attention.
Same Time, Different Space
Information and Communications Technology for Development (ICT4D) has been easily accessible within the U.S. and continues to be more so. Yet just this week my colleague Betty in DRC reminded me that often surgery is still performed by candlelight. Information is still often trafficked by “sneakernet” – handwritten notes walked to and from sender to receiver. When I was in Zimbabwe in 2005, I asked the principal of a primary school when they had last received textbooks. “1986,” he said.
Different Space, New Solutions
It’s estimated that over 75% of the world has access to a mobile phone. Through Frontline SMS, one can manage mobile numbers and send group text messages without need of the Internet. Through ruggedized and ultra-low power equipment, people in the developing world are able to work through high heat and unreliable power conditions. More options in solar solutions are available, and Internet access is increasingly accessible.
Technology alone is never the solution. Technology by itself is confusing, breaks down, wears out, and provides little humanitarian relief. But, when technology is used for good – by people who want to improve their own communities – in health, education, agriculture, income generation, sharing God’s love, etc. – human and community development occurs. Lives can be made better. Lives can be saved. And we live in a time where developments in technology are being made to provide some of the most marginalized people on the planet with communication tools that can help them achieve their goals.
If you’d like United Methodist Communications to help you find appropriate communication solutions for the developing world, contact ict4d@UMCOM.ORG. Giving to The Foundation for United Methodist Communications will support pilot programs in many parts of the world.