Looking Into the Future of IT4D (Information Technology for Development)

In the Fall, I'm heading to grad school for a Masters in International Affairs. I've been accepted to the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy in Boston and I was there on Monday for an open house for accepted students. I gave myself a very specific investigative task: find out what is available academically and professionally in the space where post-conflict development and IT intersect.

The answer is that very little is established, but the potential is huge. I saw from my experience with working in post-conflict development in northern Uganda that in the next decade IT is going to play a defining (if not re-defining) role in how the development community thinks about reconciliation, rebuilding and transitional justice. The proliferation of access to technology will allow people to connect better and easier and transcend the normal boundaries of economic development and communication.

I have a feeling that investigating this from an academic perspective can lead to opportunities in business, governance, and of course international development. I also got the sense that out of all top programs in International Affairs (including SAIS, Columbia and Princeton), Fletcher is the place that most encourages entrepreneurship, crossing traditional fields and creativity. I had two great conversations while I was there. The first was with Drew Bennett, a current student, who is looking at this same phenomenon, but from more of a governance and regulatory perspective. I also talked with Professor Eileen Babbitt who teaches conflict negotiation. Both agreed that the Boston area is the best place to engage in this new field. Fletcher students can cross-register with Harvard's Kennedy School (which is primarily a domestic program but has a few stellar IR classes), as well as connect with Harvard Law School's Berkman Center for Internet and Society.

My investigation was well times with some interesting pieces on increasing Internet access in rural Africa. Andy's Global View tells us about using WiMax as a catalyst for growth in northern Uganda, and Startups in Kenya tells the story of trying to make internet accessible in rural Kenya by using EDGE technology.

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