Wednesday, 14 November 2012

DfID announces fund for mobile and web tech in developing nations

Image1The development secretary has announced a new $50m (£31m) fund called Making All Voices Count, to support the development of web and mobile technologies in developing countries that can empower their citizens. Justine Greening was speaking at the Open Up! conference about the Department for International Development's (DfID) work with technology as a way to improve the lives of ordinary people in developing nations. She said: "Making All Voices Count will bring about change, and enable governments to open up and be more transparent and more accountable to their citizens. [It] will provide support, prizes and know-how for people and organisations with the most innovative ideas for how to help citizens and governments use mobile and internet tools." All software produced by the scheme will be necessarily open source for others to use as well, she added. Making All Voices Count is being run by the DfID in collaboration with USAID, the Omidyar Network and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency. Greening emphasised that, in particular, she was worried that women were missing out on the new powers that mobile technologies have given to men in developing countries -- the plan would hopefully "give more opportunities for women and girls to get their voices heard". Greening's speech focused on what she sees as the main challenge for the current generation of entrepreneurs and thinkers -- using new technological developments to improve the world. She said: "Earlier generations did this, investing in the research and technologies that underpinned the Green
Revolution of the 1970s, and the medical research in the 1990s that developed vaccines and treatments that are now saving lives all over the world. The challenge to our generation is to use the technologies of the 21st century to transform people's lives." The main challenges she identifies in this are those of creating more open and fairer societies -- with the Arab Spring seen as an example of technology enabling a desire for freedom -- along with tackling gender inequality, and ensuring that the aid which is provided to developing countries is spent wisely and smartly. In this vein, the development secretary also mentioned DfID's new Open Aid Information Platform, a web platform being produced by the department that shows the breakdown of the UK's international aid spending down to the local level. Users can zoom into different countries around the world and see exactly which projects are being funded by the British taxpayer. While a beta version for public use is planned to launch in Spring 2013, Greening encouraged Open Up! attendees to look at it in its current state and suggest improvements. She said: "I think it's really exciting. It has the potential to transform the way that we and our partners provide information about our work -- the funding that we make available, and the results that we achieve. This will provide a clear line of transparency from UK taxpayers to those we seek to help, enabling them to track our aid programmes from start to finish, almost like a parcel tracking service." In a Q&A afterwards with Wired's editor David Rowan, she admitted that, while she isn't much of a technology expert herself ("I only launched my Google account yesterday, and I haven't been a big fan of Twitter because I'm not narcissistic") she does recognise that success comes from "having the skills within the department to get things done". She said: "Most of our development is working in partnership with countries. Many development organisations use the internet, governments can try to get involved on the internet. It's a hugely powerful medium for people taking control of their own lives, helping them do that better. The thing we've done as a government is embrace this agenda. I think this is about delivering better projects on the ground, and I think that's something everyone can buy into."

No comments:

Post a Comment