A couple weeks ago, Nick Kristof published a New York Times article titled DIY Foreign-Aid Revolution and Dave Algoso wrote an excellent critique just a few days later in Foreign Policy. Because this is the internet and two weeks makes it venerable news, I thought about letting it slide by, but it’s been bugging me increasingly since then. This is partly because I have worked both at a small 3 person NGO with a great idea and not much else, as well as a large USAID contractor with hundreds of staff members and millions of dollars in projects, and I still cannot decide which is “better.” But it’s also because I think ICT for development has a unique spot between these worlds, and I think it’s going to change the conversation in years to come.
In international development, as with so many other fields, information is everything. OK, that’s kind of a broad statement, and a bit of a “no duh” to boot. But our ultimate goal is capacity building writ large, and so a failure of information exchange is in some ways a failure of the development industry as a whole. The reality is far too many projects reinvent the wheel with each iteration: Programs don’t scale. people don’t build on one another’s successes. It is to respond to this issue that Tony Barclay, ex-CEO of DAI, started the Development Practitioners Forum, after retiring from DAI as CEO for many years. But this post is less about our organization (the curious can read more at our website), and more about a different way of looking at audiences and the mechanics of knowledge sharing.