Widespread access to the internet and mobile phones, even in the world’s poorest countries, are making the sharing of information easier than ever before and offer varied opportunities for improving development systems.

One way in which information sharing can make development more effective is by enabling cross-fertilisation of ideas between regions, programmes donors and recipients.

“Too often development means reinventing the wheel,” said Jean-Louis Sarbib, Chief Executive Officer of Development Gateway. “Hopefully the web will help to break the silos that we have seen too often – whether it’s in the Commission, the World Bank, or a smaller organisation such as our own. People have a tendency to get really focused on what they do and they ignore that what they do can be leveraged, can be improved, by what others are doing.”

To watch a video interview with Mr Sarbib, click on the icon below:

 

 

Like capacity4dev.eu, Development Gateway was set up to share information and best practices for development.

With half the world’s internet users now located in developing countries, according to Development Gateway, the potential for online collaboration is only just beginning. But donors have to be careful that some of the world’s poorest aren’t left behind.

“As we develop these tools it’s also very important that we also help the continent of Africa in particular, which is still lagging behind in connectivity, with massive investments in new technologies,” said Mr Sarbib.

But internet isn’t the only technology that is fuelling this drive for information sharing. Mobile phones are more affordable and therefore more widespread than the internet, especially in the least developed parts of the globe.

Mobile phone take-up on the world’ poorest continent Africa increased by 550% in the five years up to 2008, according to the United Nations. More than a third of the continent’s population own a handset.

What makes this take-up particularly exciting for development practitioners is that mobile phones are being used to share a host of information that can have a positive impact on development.

Here are a few innovative communications projects that we’ve heard about:

Esoko

In Ghana, farmers can receive information on crop prices via their mobile phone, a service set up by a company called Esoko. The information enables farmers to make informed decisions about when to buy or sell goods.

Frontline SMS

Frontline SMS is an open-source, or free, software that turns a lap-top and a mobile phone into a communications hub. Just plug the phone into the laptop and messages can be received and sent to groups of people through their mobile phones. The system is being used to run rural health care projects in Malawi and agriculture projects in El Salvador and Cambodia.

Ushahidi

Ushahidi, which means ‘testimony’ in Swahili, was set up in response to the violence that followed elections in Kenya in 2008. It is an online crisis mapping platform that was originally used by anyone with access to the internet or a mobile phone to report incidences of violence or peace-building so they could be located on a central database.

But Ushahidi has also been used in crisis situations, like post-quake Haiti. After last year’s devastating tremor, which left nearly a quarter of a million people dead, mobile phone users were able to text-in crisis flash points – perhaps the location of someone buried under the rubble – so that they could be pin-pointed on an Ushahidi Crisis Map of Haiti.

Have you heard of an innovative information sharing tool? If so, the Editorial Team would love to hear about it and perhaps feature it on our site. To contact us, follow this link.

We asked development practitioners and policy makers at the EU Development Days 2010 whether they thought information sharing was important for effective development. To hear some of their responses, start the video by clicking on the icon below:

 

 

 
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DISCLAIMER: This information is provided in the interests of knowledge sharing and capacity development and should not be interpreted as the official view of the European Commission, or any other organisation.

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I have worked in the development aid project area since more than 14 years now. Frankly said what concerns information exchange in the development aid area I am a little bit frustrated. Sharing knowledge - especially in the 'digital age' - should be easy today. Unfortunately it is not always the case. When starting a new project I sometimes saw the following situation:

You go to the donor institution office and ask for reports from former projects that have worked in the same area as you will or in an area close by. Reports are either not available, spread all over the institution and every task manager has 'his own' collection or even worse they are not collected at all, neither in print nor in digital format in a centralised way.

So you are not only cut off from valuable sources of information that has been elaborated spending the money of the EU taxpayers, even worst, you start from scratch, collecting a lot of information that has been collected before - thus wasting valuable time - that you don't have in especially in the inception phase of a project - and money. Today this information could be easily collected in one central data storage and could be made available as a minimum to the staff of project teams working in the fields.

More general reports - so without data that can be regarded as confidential such as addresses of contact persons - could be made available on a separate page of EuropeAid thus giving information about the activities of development aid projects in the field.

Also links to WEB sites from former and ongoing development aid projects could be stored in a central storage thus allowing new teams to interconnect to other projects in the same region or that are working on a similiar topic.

But outgoing from my practical experience in the last years I fear this had been my dream since a lot of years and will be a dream in the future, unfortunately. So there is only one question left for me. Why do we write all these reports and even submit them in a digital format?

I have worked in the development aid project area since more than 14 years now. Frankly said what concerns information exchange in the development aid area I am a little bit frustrated. Sharing knowledge - especially in the 'digital age' - should be easy today. Unfortunately it is not always the case. When starting a new project I sometimes saw the following situation:

You go to the donor institution office and ask for reports from former projects that have worked in the same area as you will or in an area close by. Reports are either not available, spread all over the institution and every task manager has 'his own' collection or even worse they are not collected at all, neither in print nor in digital format in a centralised way.

So you are not only cut off from valuable sources of information that has been elaborated spending the money of the EU taxpayers, even worst, you start from scratch, collecting a lot of information that has been collected before - thus wasting valuable time - that you don't have in especially in the inception phase of a project - and money. Today this information could be easily collected in one central data storage and could be made available as a minimum to the staff of project teams working in the fields.

More general reports - so without data that can be regarded as confidential such as addresses of contact persons - could be made available on a separate page of EuropeAid thus giving information about the activities of development aid projects in the field.

Also links to WEB sites from former and ongoing development aid projects could be stored in a central storage thus allowing new teams to interconnect to other projects in the same region or that are working on a similiar topic.

But outgoing from my practical experience in the last years I fear this had been my dream since a lot of years and will be a dream in the future, unfortunately. So there is only one question left for me. Why do we write all these reports and even submit them in a digital format?

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