This was an amazing and surprising year for ICT4D, as evidenced by how off the 2011 predictions look now that the year has passed. Rather than analyzing each prediction and what went awry with crystal balls, here is the list of the top topics on ICTworks in 2011. The top 10 list is indicative of the overall trends in the technology industry through the lens of the ICTworks readership, which is mainly ICT4D practitioners in the US, Africa, and Europe (in that order).
While you review this past year, be brave and send in your predictions for 2012 – we’ll be publishing those in the new year.
1. AED’s Demise
The year started with the biggest story of 2010: USAID’s nuclear option – the suspension of Academy for Educational Development. AED was one of the top USAID contractors, with over $400 million in contracts and a key ICT4D benefactor. By March, AED was out of cash and up for sale and by June, AED was no longer, merged into FHI360 and its corporate shell sued into oblivion. The impact of this move is still being felt with AED staff scattering to new organizations and ICT4D ideas and contacts spreading across the entire international development community.
2. Kenya ICT Board
For a government agency, the Kenya ICT Board is very innovative organization. They started off 2011 with Wezesha: subsidized laptops for over 15,000 Kenyan university students to seed the next generation of ICT experts. Then they rolled out Ksh 320 million in Pasha Center loans. Look for more Kenya ICT board activity in 2012 with over 1 billion Ksh in ICT innovation in the 2011-12 budget.
3. Broadband Internet Costs in Tanzania
We’ve all see the stunning impact of the many fibre optic cables in Kenya – mobile phone companies using fibre backbones now offer the cheapest mobile services in Africa. But just to the south, Tanzania is in a whole different world. Even with SEACOM, TEAMS, and EASSy, Tanzanian Internet access prices have not decreased and domestic broadband Internet infrastructure policy may be to blame, as we pointed out in 2010.
4. USAID Funding
Money always interests everyone, and with over 1.5 billion for Africa, USAID carries outsized presence in ICT4D. Offering everything from $10 million in opportunities for Global Development Alliances, $15 million Grand Challenge for Saving Lives at Birth, and $5 million Grand Challenge for All Children Reading, the latter not without their own challenges. If you want to join in USAID’s efforts, be sure to learn how to find USAID contracts and grants funding opportunities and study USAID’s long history in ICT4D.
5. Konza Technology City
In what is the most surprising entry for me, the Konza Tech City idea actually has a solid following. I still think its a boondoggle as Silicon Valley and iHub Nairobi show – ICT success comes from a concentration of the right people, not fancy real estate investments. But there is something to be said for big dreams to motivate youth, and I hope they’re right.
6. Facebook’s Rise
Facebook arrived in Africa in 2011, doubling its African users, becoming the #1 or #2 website in every country, and even getting Africans to go Google for Facebook. Thankfully, Facebook took notice and hired a Growth Manager for Africa, to focus on where there are still Facebook-less Africans.
7. Kenyan Mobile Services
With the 99% of all Internet access via mobile phones,$100 Huawei Android Smartphone breaking all sales records, and mobile money better than cash, the Kenya mobile phone market is the most dynamic in Africa and possibly the world. Don’t just look in Nairobi for proof, check rural Kenya’s mobile explosion, and when you do, note that Michael Joseph was told that the entire mobile phone market in Kenya would be about 400,000 customers when he started at Safaricom.
8. Failure is an Option
We’ve always had an Oscar Night Syndrome in ICT4D – the resistance to show any problems or failure in our work. We recognized that back in 2009 with a Twitter Chat on Failure, which spawned Fail Faires. We hosted the 2011 Fail Faire DC, which created a renaissance of failure in ICT4D, partially also inspired by the World Bank’s transparency in its own ICT4D failures. May this trend continue within the better of 10 levels of failure.
9. $35 Aakash Tablet
Overall, 2011 was the year of the tablets, with many people asking themselves what is the potential impact of tablet computers on education systems in Africa? So far the results are impressive and in October, a small Indian company shook up the scene with Aakash, a “$35″ Android tablet. While I don’t see it as an educational device, and others question student ICT in India’s educational system, the Aakash does have promise for universal access and presages a 2012 tablet vs. laptop hardware battle.
10. ICT Conferences
Enough of all these links and online chatter. Real connections and impact happen in the real world, and that borne out by the last big trend on ICTworks in 2011: the need to meet in person. Our 2011 comprehensive ICT4D conference calendar and the educational technology conference lists for Jan-June and June-Dec were all popular guides on where to meet and greet. You can already get a head start on 2012 edutech conferences with ICTD2012 being a signature event for next year.