Information, communication and technology for development resources

The world that we live in is still very much unequal. It can be a challenge to fight for the rights of those that are mistreated or ignored. Social justice is about shedding light on imbalances and doing something to change them. Information, Communication, and Technology for Development (ICT4D) is a tactic that uses information and technology to advance progress in the fields of human rights, socio-economic justice and development.

If you are an individual or an organization that is trying to make an impact, check out our Information, Communication and Technology for Development Resources.

There you will find links to NGO’s such as Tacital Tech that is looking to advance advocacy through information technology and management.

If you are looking to create your own NGO you will find resources like Open World. They provide micro scholarships for grassroots initiatives interested in freedom and sustainability.

Or, if you are just looking to get started social justice, you can link to guides like, The Barefoot Guide. This downloadable guide will help an organization start working on projects of social change.

There are many applications of information, communication and technology for development. One of the best uses of ICT4D has been for educating the general public. Whether your goal is formal or informal education, using information, communication, and technology for development applications can help expand knowledge about your organization.
Photo: Rural Roads Sector 1 Project via:  Asian Development Bank[Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]

Tech companies protect against government surveillance

The best protection against widespread government surveillance now comes from major tech companies, including those accused of collecting mass amounts of data to sell to other companies seeking targeted advertising.

The FBI has accused Apple of aiding criminals by offering default encryption in the new iPhones it sells. Government reproach is also directed towards Google, which is offering the same encryption for its new Android phones. However, the majority of Americans are grateful for the tech companies’ new developments; a recent Pew survey found that 65 percent of people believe that there aren’t enough limits on government surveillance.

Smartphone encryption is not the only guard against surveillance, either. Google and Yahoo announced that they’re both working on end-to-end encryption in email, and Facebook was established on a Tor hidden services site so that people with access to network traffic can’t access user data.

Encryption tools are generally difficult to operate, and thus only tech-savvy users have been able to achieve full privacy. As a result, anyone using encryption tools was unique and therefore suspicious to government officials. With new integrated encryption, privacy will be more universal, and those previously using encryption systems will be better camouflaged.

Articles: The Center for Internet and Society, September 9, 2015

Photo: DC Ralley Against Mass Surveillance via Susan Melkisethian [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]

Google’s algorithm can manipulate elections

According to a study done by Robert Epstein and Ronald E. Robertson, changes made to Google’s search algorithm have the ability to manipulate voting preferences of undecided voters by 20 percent or more. Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), the study experimented with the Search Engine Manipulation Effect (SEME) in two countries with over 4,500 participants.

The investigators conducted an experiment where participants were randomly assigned to one of three groups in which search rankings favored Candidate A, B, or neither. Before researching for 15 minutes on a search-engine called Kadoodle, participants were provided a short description of both candidates and asked whom they would be voting for. The 30 search results were the same for everybody, but ordered differently depending on the group. The number of people favoring a candidate increased between 37 and 60 percent due to the biased search algorithm.

Google adjusts its search algorithm 600 times a year. In refutation of SEME, Google comments: “Providing relevant answers has been the cornerstone of Google’s approach to search from the very beginning. It would undermine the people’s trust in our results and company if we were to change course.”


Articles: Politico Magazine, August 19, 2015; via MILRN

Photo: Campaigning with a Smile via Jack [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]

Data encryption thwarts criminal investigations

According to Manhattan’s District Attorney, smartphone data encryption hinders criminal investigations in state courts. Cyrus R. Vance, Jr. testified to the Senate Judiciary Committee on July 8, 2015 in an effort to advocate legislation allowing law enforcement officials to access private phone data with judicial authorization.

Vance, Jr. cites that 71% of phone evidence in his office comes from Apple or Android devices. As a result, Apple and Google’s move to fully integrate data encryption in their next devices will significantly affect prosecution processes in state courts.

State courts adjudicate over 90% of all criminal cases annually, which means over 100,000 cases for Vance’s office alone.

“To investigate these 100,000 cases without smartphone data is to fight crime with one hand tied behind our backs,” he asserts.

Vance does not support bulk data collection or surveillance without authorization. Civil liberty and privacy advocates are still wary, however, and endorse data encryption overall. This sentiment is in relative accordance with statements from Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates and FBI Director James Comey. They say that the Obama administration has no current plans to mandate companies to provide federal agents encryption keys for their products, but they also recognize that companies should not make their devices “warrant-free zones” that impede law enforcement’s authorized access to criminal evidence.

Article via Legaltech NewsAugust 10, 2015

Photo: IPhone via Jorge Quinteros [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]

Reading the Law May Require Payment

Mississippi the latest state to claim copyright over official compilation of its laws (TechDirt, 14 Oct 2013) – We’ve written about Carl Malamud and his ongoing crusade to make sure that the law is actually publicly accessible and not locked up by copyright. Just recently, we noted that he’d run into some troubles with Georgia, and it appears now he’s facing a similar challenge from Mississippi. The basic story was actually posted as an update to Malamud’s ongoing Kickstarter project, which we’ve already told you about. The issue? Malamud had purchased, formatted and posted Mississippi’s Code of Law, Annotated . As with Georgia, the real issue seems to be in the question of whether or not the annotations themselves are covered by copyright, as they’re often produced and sold by a private company (usually LexisNexis), but in coordination with the government. That’s the case here, as the letter Malamud received from Mississippi’s intellectual property counsel , Larry Schemmel, suggests. Schemmel goes to great lengths to point out that the unannotated code is “freely available,” but that the “creative work” behind the annotations is covered by copyright, and thus should be taken off of Malamud’s site. However, as Malamud notes in his response letter (complete with a bunch of “exhibits”), the State of Mississippi makes it fairly clear that the annotated code is part of the law , and thus he argues it, too, should be freely accessible.

Provided by MIRLN.

Image courtesy of

Apps from Adversity: Egypt’s Revolution Spawned Startups

Recall that Time Magazine’s person of the year for 2011 was the protester.  From the Arab Spring to Occupy Wall Street,  decentralized demonstrations rocked the foundations of entrenched societies across the globe.  These protesters were able to harness technology  in order to coordinate, disseminate information, and stay fluid in the face of opposition.  In Egypt, where the revolution toppled a 30 year long regime, protesters developed a number of brilliant methods for communication using their mobile devices to overcome the shutting down of phone and internet service across the country.

Two years later, those innovators who developed apps out of necessity are now at the forefront of an explosion of tech startups developing tools for decidedly less combative needs.  One app started as a way to use bluetooth to coordinate movements among protesters, and is now being retooled as a way to overcome high network traffic on an average day.   Other startups are developing new ways of collaborative learning, digital convenience, and are using technology to ensure that a post revolution Egypt can stay solid going into the future.


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