Every semester, I’m kindly invited by Prof. Alan Gaitenby to virtually interact with his class of opst-graduate law students at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. I’ve interacted with his class for 3 semesters and though some classes are inevitably more engaged in the issue of ICT4Peace and ODR than others, the students always bring up some interesting questions.
This time around, they asked me:
Are you finding that people that can’t read well are comfortable with technology like cellphones? Does it make sense to have voicemails and text messages? Are there usually enough people that can read at a nodal ODR access point to get the message out? Do you think there is any potential for creating audio and image only interfaces, if that would ever even be useful?
I was wondering in a country with limited technology, have you had trouble convincing both parties in believing that mobile based ODR is trustworthy and if so how has ODR via mobile phones helped or hurt the peace talks?
How do you encourage those who are “spoilers” in a situation to participate in a peace process? Also if the spoilers do come to the virtual table what strategies can be used to ensure that they help the process rather than hinder the process?
On ICT in Natural Disasters
Also, in order for “ground-up” ICT to develop to the point where it can help the common person in a post-disaster environment, does a massive campaign need to be undertaken by the government to distribute such technologies? And where could the funding for such a project come from? Increased taxation? Does it seem the people of Sri Lanka could be persuaded that ICT is important enough to their lives (for not only disaster mitigation but conflict transformation as well) to warrant such a proposed tax increase? Or could the aid for such projects come from outside sources?
On One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) / $100 Laptop & Mobile Phones
While I agree that the laptop and all the ICT is good for a post-disaster environment in getting people connected with aid and their families, there is still a problem with the progressive technology. With cell-phones and computers being upgraded and made faster everyday, how would ICT handle these changing technologies? I think as we’re moving towards a more mobile lifestyle that cell-phones and other mobile devices as Sanjana said about Web 2.0 we will stray away from computers and rely more on these devices. How do we get cell-phones and mobile devices more reliable because we saw in Katrina that cell-phones stopped working due to the towers being down. Will ICT have to hand out new cellphones to everyone once the technology has changed and use a satellite for example? Also, what do you do in countries where there aren’t cell-phone towers and no service?
On Scaling up projects
I was wondering what the hardest part of getting the technology you want out to more people? Money is the problem that I would think would make an impact but other than that what obstacles have you experienced with trying to make this happen? What steps do you have to take to try and get the technology out there?
What I’ve noticed is that students are increasingly coming up with questions that show a better understanding in the use of technology for ODR and ICT4Peace – a marked difference from even last year, when many in Alan’s class (comprised of mostly North American / US students) were unaware of what SMS meant, much less how it could be used in ODR.
I hope this trend continues.