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How Development Workers Can Bring Technology To Tribal Communities

Masai mara tribe members on a sunny dayInternational development workers and overseas volunteers sent by organizations such as Skillshare International (UK) and Love Volunteers (NZ)  play a crucial role in increasing the penetration of technology within isolated indigenous communities. Rightfully so, the focus of humanitarian and aid workers in recent years has primarily been upon life-saving technologies in the healthcare and medical space.

Low-cost interventions can save literally thousands of lives in impoverished countries, but this approach is most effective when experienced development workers and volunteers are able to work closely within tribal communities to demonstrate best methodological practices.

This training, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), can be as simple as showing the recipients of insecticide-treated mosquito nets how to properly hang the nets. Other medical interventions require more rigorous training in order to achieve proper implementation.

And in Africa, for instance, the shortage of trained medical professionals and lack of proper medical infrastructure poses serious challenges to any hope of eradicating deaths from treatable illnesses such as diarrhea. Deeper structural investment is sorely needed across the continent and the Kenyan government’s half a billion dollar fund for healthcare development is one source of hope in an otherwise bleak situation.

Stiff Competition: The Exit Of Trained Workers Overseas

Better salary prospects drive many of the developing world’s best trained medical and technology professionals to perceived greener pastures abroad. Expensive government-subsidized programs in nations including Zambia draw back foreign educated Zambian doctors through programs that cover the costs of medical school in return for service upon graduation.

For African doctors with the freedom to choose, the allure of higher salaries and better working conditions can be too good an offer to decline. Top destinations include the Anglosphere nations of Australia, the UK, and the US countries facing doctor shortages of their own that are entirely happy to benefit from the expertise of the top African doctors.

These patterns of emigration have significant ramifications for the home nations of the departing professionals. The exiting doctors leave vulnerable tribal communities woefully underserved. According to World Bank data, tribal populations of India suffer from substantially higher child mortality than the country as a whole. Similar patterns play out across the rest of Asia and Africa, with tribal communities largely ignored by the medical systems of their respective countries. While professionally trained personnel are lacking, technology also lags behind in secluded tribal communities.

In a 2017 paper, researchers cite expenses and lack of training as key reasons for poor adoption rates of computerized health recording systems in sub-Saharan Africa (home to hundreds of diverse tribes). Technology of this nature is a crucial element of a modern healthcare system as it facilitates rapid access to patient information.

Introducing And Spreading Knowledge To Communities

Numerous pilot studies have demonstrated the immense benefits that can be reaped by isolated communities that are given access to modern computer equipment and training. The benefits extend above and beyond healthcare and into aspects of cultural preservation, public service provision, and education.

  • Native American tribes in the United States lag behind other Americans in terms of access to computers. This is despite strong evidence that computer access and training improves educational outcomes.
  • Economic performance and exports can be driven higher in African communities with strong and reliable internet and cell phone service.
  • The Mukurtu CMS is tailored to indigenous tribes seeking to share and archive vital cultural artifacts and important data.

The Crucial Role Of Trained Development Workers And Volunteers

International development workers and skilled volunteers have an enormous role to play in transferring technological and healthcare expertise to isolated tribal communities. This process, as much so as funding from international aid budgets, is a driving force behind poverty alleviation and new opportunities for economic growth. Improved health outcomes and growing incomes are mutually supportive goals, as each tends to drive forward the other in unison. Organizations that specialize in placing volunteers in African and Asian communities are particularly interested in individuals with a background in healthcare and IT.

  • The International Citizen Service (ICS) gives young British people the opportunity to embark on volunteering projects in rural communities of Lesotho, Botswana or South Africa. Although professional expertise is not a requirement of ICS, the youthful demographic it represents is a vital medium in bringing everyday computer and technology skills into villages and classrooms across Africa that often lack basic training in these important areas.
  • Skilled American and British workers are employed by organizations including the Red Cross, a charity with diverse operations that, among other things, strives to place skilled IT, healthcare and programming experts into African tribal communities to speed the process of learning and the uptake of computer-related skills where it matters most.
  • The International Medical Corps (IMC) take skilled healthcare professionals and voluntary workers and deploys them in challenging environments across the world with the goal of helping to alleviate famine, disease, and violence. Like other groups, IMC brings a sensitive, locally-minded approach to introducing modern healthcare technologies and expertise to underserved tribes and communities.

Evidence from major world bodies is emphatically supportive of the benefits of technology adoption and training in improving the quality of life in communities of the developing world. However, it takes brave and dedicated staff and volunteers to turn these benefits from mere hypothesis into reality. The next person to step up and make a huge contribution to technology and health in the developing world might just be you.

Using Technology to Spur Growth and Exports in Africa

Africa is well known to be an underdeveloped country. With some of the highest infant mortality rates and some of the poorest countries, Africa has a long way to reach a place with the United States, Europe, and Asia. This, of course, is not representative of the entire country. Many cities have grown and are just as developed as other parts of the world such as Cape Town, South Africa or Accra, Ghana. These cities have seen exceptional growth due to technological advancement. In fact, technology has been a great factor in growth in exports in Africa.

Cell Phones

One way in which technology has created growth is through cell phones. Costs of communication have decreased and are boosting incomes. A study done by GSMA found that every 10% increase in phone penetration in poor countries, that areas productivity improves by almost 4%. The Economist explains it simply as farmers use cellphones to check market prices before selling. Market traders can accept payments in mobile money. These types of uses have helped growth in Africa.

A study from MIT found that having access to mobile money services lifted 2% of Kenyans out of poverty in 6 years. A large number of Africans, about 75%, were without phone and internet access. Without communication, it would be hard to provide or obtain information for third-party websites. This creates what is called the Lemons Problem. This is when one person who buys lemons is at a disadvantage when they do not have the same information as the other party. This creates asymmetric information which causes many problems for economies.

The Introduction of the Internet

On the same vein as phones, the implementation of the internet has had profound effects in Africa. Since 2016, internet rates are becoming cheaper for consumers to use. This type of communication can help solve issues of the Lemon Problem by allowing Africa to third-party websites to help transactions. Firms such as Google are installing cables in cities such as Accra to lower the cost of data. Other ideas are to beam satellite internet down to stations then distribute them across household as cheap wifi. These can drastically reduce costs and allow for more internet usage in Africa. With this, cities that did not have access will have the opportunity to connect to a more global market. This kind of technological progress can increase exports in the country.

Africa’s Access to the Global Market

The ability to access the global market can increase exports in Africa significantly. Consider a small company in Kenya. This company sells minerals such as gold and platinum. Before the internet, they were only able to sell locally. With the internet, they can go through the International Trade Administration and send minerals. Once the ITA approves them, the buyer in, let’s say Dubai, can purchase these minerals. These have just increased the business for the company. This type of revenue can spur growth in Kenya as it trickles down to suppliers, job rates, and government expenditure in the form of taxes.

Internet and other online technologies have given the opportunity for exports in financial investments. This allows for markets to develop such as stock exchanges and corporate bond markets that create room for large investments in local companies. This also grants foreign investments into African companies or vice versa.  This is a direct impact on the community as it allows for companies to grow into different sectors. The ability to create a dynamic financial market can have a profound impact on growth in Africa.

Conclusion

With these types of technological advancements, Africa can see growth and increased exports. This, in turn, can create even more growth and the ability to build complex economies and financial systems. Like mentioned in the beginning, not all of Africa is behind. Because a large majority of the country is impoverished and technologically deficient, there is a wide range to grow. Technology in the form of cellphones and internet has already had a large effect. The World Bank states that one of the greatest forms of growth for Africa will be to adopt new technology. As the country orients itself with the new technology, so will its economy.

The Pros and Cons of Technology for Indigenous Tribes

We now live in the “age of information” with technologies such as the internet or smartphone. This usually is looked at positively by first world countries. Even though this may be true, not all groups have been introduced to the technological innovation that we have seen. This has risen the debate whether the groups of people, mostly indigenous tribes, should be introduced to technology we see today. If so, how will this affect them? As with many issues, the answer is not so black and white. Because of this, to fully analyze the topic, we must look at the pros and cons of technology for indigenous tribes.

First, we should define what an indigenous tribe is. These are groups of people who identify as the original inhabitants. Some indigenous people have been introduced to technology and have grown up with the lifestyle we have. Others have maintained their traditions and other aspects of life in early culture. In this articles, we will focus on those who haven’t been introduced.

Pros

  • Technology provides opportunities that did not exist before. This can give tribes the tools to create complex communities. If you want to maintain cultural integrity, you can divide the tribe based off of special skills. Things such as hunting or agriculture can be developed in a more advanced way. Technology also allows the tribe to create a more complex system of laws and procedures. On a more international scale, technology can provide the tools for an indigenous tribe to compete on a global level. This gives an opportunity for economic development and the possibility to trade in a global market. For example, PEOPLinks provide 100,000 indigenous people internet training and allows for villages to trade globally. This has drastically increased the opportunities for over 100 indigenous tribes.
  • Provides an increased quality of life. In advanced societies, we may take simple things such as air conditioning or refrigeration for granted. Simple technologies can increase the quality of life for indigenous tribes by introducing them to things that make their daily lives easier. This, in turn, can increase comfortability and increase the level of production in that society.
  • Technology can increase the average lifespan. As medicine has been studied more, advanced technology can diagnose and prevent diseases leading to longer, healthier lives. More importantly, infant mortality rates can be lower as modern medicine can help them before and after childbirth process. Younger children can be treated for outdated diseases leading more children to live into adulthood. The medication can be specific to the region of the indigenous tribe.
  • Technology opens the indigenous tribe to other cultures. As technology has created more ways for communication, it has allowed for information to be easily accessed. Because of this, more people are able to research or learn about different cultures. This can help others make informed decisions on religious or political views. Even further, this allows for cross-cultural integration with food, animals, and even ideas.

Cons

  • Introducing technology can change or alter traditions. Indigenous tribes have a long history of tradition and culture that define them and make their tribe unique. These can be religious in nature or rooted in their society. Introducing technology can disrupt these traditions in many different ways. One way is it distracts them from what is important. As technology has created faster-moving lifestyles with more production, many people in advanced societies get distracted and lose focus. Another way this can happen is over a long period of time, the indigenous tribe might conform to an ideal culture. Much like people strive to be more American or European, indigenous tribes could lose touch over time as cultures become more integrated.
  • Although a positive is that technology can increase the lifespan through modern medicine, on the other side it could introduce new diseases. This is seen throughout history. For example, Spain, when finding the Mayan empire, introduced a number of diseases wiping out a large part of the population. Since the indigenous tribes have different immune systems, introducing them to more developed viruses could have negative effects.

Summary

Of course, these pros and cons just scratch the surface of the topic.There are many viewpoints on the subject that differ depending on how indigenous tribes are defined. They also change whether the discussion is centered around isolated indigenous tribes or those who have already been introduced to technology. For more information on the topic, the United Nations releases articles on their viewpoints.

WordPress and Drupal: A Side-by-Side Comparison

Building a website with a content manager system (CMS) can be difficult within itself. There are many different options that are different in price, quality, and content. Choosing one that fits your website development needs and ideals can be difficult. We should look at the two top quality brands, WordPress and Drupal, and compare them. Knowing more about each can help you make an informed decision. Let’s look at the overall qualities of each.

WordPress

WordPress is the world’s most popular CMS website. It has over 140 million downloads and has over 45,000 free plugins for you to customize your website. Because of this, WordPress is an easy interface for non-coders to customize their website. It allows for the page by page editing and has over 4,000 free themes to choose from. Why is WordPress so popular? It is free. No contracts or hidden fees.

This is great as it cuts the initial investment costs for startup companies. With so many themes and free plugins, WordPress is also one of the most customizable CMS platforms. Lastly, because of the popularity of the site, there is a ton of online support. Between googling an issue, WordPress support, or the support forum, you can find exactly what you need to solve your problem. This allows you to customize your website easily without all the knowledge of coding.

Of course, WordPress is not perfect. WordPress does limit the amount of creativity. Even though they have numerous amounts of plugins and themes, doing any significant visual design is difficult. Additionally, building the website from the ground up can be challenging without coding knowledge. This means that if you do want to make significant visual edits, you’ll probably need to hire someone. This can set you back depending on the size of the project. Although this is a negative, for a beginner, this is a positive. By limiting the ability to mess with the coding, there are fewer chances for beginner to accidentally mess up their entire website.

Drupal

Drupal is a smaller website than WordPress but still has a significant following. With 15 million downloads, Drupal offers only 34,000 free plugins. Even though this is 10,000 plugins less, it still beats the nearest competitors such as Joomla. Drupal only has half the themes at 2,000 free downloadable themes. This offers less for beginners, but Drupal makes the ability to edit files directly.

Instead of being at the mercy of your plugin, Drupal allows users to edit content, visuals, and plugins alike. With this, Drupal is the most customizable CMS platform out there. It is also the most powerful at face value. With faster response times, it uses resources more efficiently and works well with hosting websites. Just like WordPress, Drupal is free. There are no contracts or hidden fees. Once you download the software, you can add this to your hosting server.

Drupal also has its downfalls. One of the biggest complication of Drupal is that it requires advanced technical knowledge. Many people require at least some basic HTML or CSS editing knowledge. If you do not have this, hiring someone can be more difficult. You will have to hire someone with more technical expertise which could cost you more. Although Drupal requires higher tech-savvy individuals, it allows for people to customize their visuals or plugins to exactly what they need. This is good if you want to create more complex stores.

Comparison

So what does this mean for you and your website? Either CMS platform can help you create a good website. Depending on your specific websites needs will determine the exact choice. Looking at them side-by-side, here is an overview to help you better determine what you need.

  • WordPress is a good choice for beginners because of its easy interface. This is usually the best from smaller e-commerce websites and blogs. This is one of the better options if you want to create the website from a template.
  • Drupal requires the basic understanding of HTML and CSS. Because of it is more difficult, you can create the website to your exact specifications. This is better more complex and larger websites. Easy for those who are tech-savvy.

How to Tweak WordPress For a Community Site

Wordpress logoThere are many advantages to having a community website. Whether it is increased traffic by revisiting users, passive creations of SEO content, or even access to better analytics, community sites can help increase the demand for your website. The easiest way this can be done is using the platform WordPress. WordPress is very friendly for those who do not have technical knowledge. It allows for effortless uploads and page editing that translates into an easy user-friendly interface. With this in mind, here are 3 ways to make your website a community site.

Forums

This is the most popular way to create a community website. Essentially, forums allow for your customers or website viewers to create discussions on your site and have conversations through a message board. Forums can serve three purposes. One is that it increases your website traffic by creating users that want to come back and respond, post, or discuss topics. This can create a community of people and their passions, depending on your website. Secondly, it produces content with little work.

Users will produce their own content which can then be optimized for search engines. This, in turn, increases traffic and provides a more dynamic website. Thirdly, forums provide passive feedback. Learning the thoughts of your consumers through reading forums can give insight into their habits. For example, if there is a website that has educational opportunities, then a forum on that allows people to express their ideas, concerns, or offer their own support can help your website.

bbPress is one of the best forum plugins for WordPress websites. It can be integrated with any WordPress theme without major coding or modifications required. It is easy to setup and moderate. It has over 300,000 active installs and is rated 4 stars out of 320 reviews.

Social Networks

Social networks take a sociable community to the next step past forums. They allow for your users to interact among themselves in a more private manner. They can create groups to form communities or interact with friends. Social networks also allow a user to create their own profile. This can help your website for a couple different reasons. More than just increasing traffic, user profiles allows for an in-depth look at your customers. You can learn about who they are in order to better target third-party ads or target them with promotional offers. Insight on your consumers is one of the most valuable assets you can have. Having a social network can enhance your analytics and your community.

BuddyPress is one of the best social networks plugins that allows for easy integration with WordPress. It creates activity streams, user profiles, and allows for the ability for social connections. This is a more advanced tool, but can really make your website look professional. Currently, it has over 200,000 active installs and 4.5 stars out of 361 reviews.

Blog Posts

Implementing blog posts can create a much more intimate social community. It allows for your users to submit topics to your site and read others works. The blogs can be as long or as short as you would like them to be. Creating a community of bloggers allows for content to create on your website for free. Without hiring professional writers, you can have other write opinion pieces. After optimizing them with search engines, this can increase traffic, which leads to more blog posts, and so on and so forth. This also gives you the ability to read through everything to make sure that it is appropriate or aligned with your content.

Remember, the content you produce through blogs is key, so filtering will be necessary. Depending on the niche of your website or product will depend on the content necessary. For example, if you are a real estate website, you might want to limit the content to real estate. Creating rules for your blog posts can go a long way in producing quality content. Having blogs that also allow for comment sections only furthers the sense of community as it adds an element of discussion underneath the content.

User Submitted Posts is a great WordPress plugin that allows for users to submit posts, upload images, or submit pages of content. It also comes with built-in widgets for user accessibility. It is easily customizable and has a shortcode that can implement on any page. Currently, it has 20,000 active install and 4.9 stars out of 389 reviews.

The Role of Technology in Indigenous Communities

Group of aboriginal peopleThe Mukurtu CMS was originally developed by project leads Kim Christen and Craig Dietrich alongside members of the Warumungu community.

As of 2017, however, Mukurtu is employed by a diverse array of communities around the world, all joined by a shared desire to chronicle and share their cultural heritage in the digital realm.

The Warumungu are indigenous Australians who primarily inhabit the Northern Territories of the country, as well as various towns in the south.

Their long history in their native lands turned to grave struggles with famine and displacement in the 20th century. Gold mining forced the community away from their homelands, which they were unable to reclaim until 1993 after a protracted legal battle.

Many other indigenous communities around the world have adopted Mukurtu over the last ten years. The Plateau People’s Web Portal is a particularly intriguing example of the archive in action. It is primarily organized around ‘Tribal Paths’ – each one dedicated to a different plateau tribe. With cultural sensitivity in mind, each path follows the protocols of the individual tribe. Materials posted on the platform are carefully curated and searchable via categories and media type (images, text, etc).

Scholars have long understood the importance or preserving and sharing global social heritage but the rights and needs of indigenous communities have been swept aside repeatedly through history by the aggressive interests of expanding empires and aggressive corporate interests.

Although inroads have been made to connect communities, the way of life of native peoples has been changed irreparably by the recent settlement of individuals in the ‘new world.’

The relative isolation of these communities leads them to exist on the periphery of mainstream society. Living conditions in American reservations are dramatically worse on average than the national average, with almost 30% below the federal poverty line. Meanwhile, life expectancies remain five years lower than the national average.

The dilemma faced by many tribal leaders is one of increased integration vs. ongoing efforts at cultural preservation. These interests are regarded by many to be incompatible with one another, but technology can help communities to document remarkable artifacts unique to their tribe.

Here are some more inspiring examples of how communities around the world are preserving and exchanging their cultural heritage online:

Utah American Indian Digital Archive

The Utah American Indian Digital Archive is a remarkably detailed resource featuring a large number of articles, books, photos, and maps from each of Utah’s tribes. The team behind the archive are involved in ongoing digitization efforts to bring more and more valuable historical and cultural treasures to a wider digital platform

Researchers from the University of Utah’s American West Center pioneered this resource on behalf of Utah’s Indians and approximately 40 years of research have gone into its creation and collection of artifacts.

The website also employs a powerful advanced search feature making it relatively easy to dig up information on particular specialized areas of interest.

Living Archive of Aboriginal Languages

The Living Archive of Aboriginal Languages is a digital archive dedicated to works of literature in languages of Indigenous Australians of the Northern Territories.

It is noteworthy for it’s intuitive map feature, allowing users to search around the coastal and vast inland expanses of the Australian Northern Territory to find aboriginal language books lovingly digitized.

Uploads are also carefully categorized by author and each indivdual tribal language. Meanwhile, users can browse for particular kinds of literature to identify, for example, narrative fiction works only.

Iroquois Indian Museum

The Iroquois Indian Museum is located around 50km west of Albany in upstate New York. The team behind the museum stage an annual festival which features demonstrations, traditional dancing and market stalls.

The Iroquois confederacy was a powerful force in the northeast region and consisted of multiple tribes including the Mohawk peoples.

The museum is noteworthy for not just focusing on historical artifacts, but for featuring the work of modern Iroquois artists from the 1960s to the present day. In addition, however, the museum is home to a number of significant archaeological exhibits of substantial historical interest.

For more information, see the museum’s current collections for photos and detailed descriptions of the materials on display. The museum Facebook page is also well worth following.

3 Best CMS & Digital Archives For Communities

In the modern age, preservation of cultural artifacts by indigenous communities is increasingly moving online. Whether we like it or not, cultural hegemony is a real phenomenon in linguistic artistic and wider social spheres.

The new digital terrain we all operate in may speed up the spread of dominant culture, but it can also be a safe-keeping space for the cultural artifacts of small communities.

As Aboriginal communities adopt modern technology, they are seeking ways to balance the competing influences of integration and preservation.

In this article, we look at the best options for CMS & Digital archives that are socially responsible and culturally sensitive to the needs of these users.

WordPress

This will not come as a surprise, but the world’s most popular CMS is also one with great global potential. In particular:

    • The ability for users to set their administration language independent of the site’s front-end language. This gives great flexibility for people from wide-ranging parts of the world to interact with WordPress as an administrator and not just a reader. Language settings can be done on a user-by-user basis. (See: WPML.org)
    • Social features like BuddyPress facilitate sharing and community organization. Users can establish groups, make friendships and even privately message each other. This helps to make online preservation a collaborative experience – be it stories, folklore, photographs, or otherwise.
    • WordPress is very well geared toward security and best practice backup protocols. VaultPress is itself developed by Automattic (the firm of WordPress founder Matt Mullenweg). This means preservation efforts, whether they’re published online or offline, can be reliably secured and protected against any possible data loss. This is, after all, one of the core requirements of a reliable digital archive!

Get WordPress.

Mukurtu Archive

Mukurtu is an open-source CMS with the distinction of being developed alongside indigenous communities themselves. This gives the platform an unparalleled degree of specialization in the use case of small, culturally diverse communities.

Mukurtu is mobile-ready, and the development ethos is to be responsive to the needs of its core base of users. The key tenet of Mukurtu is to facilitate the management, sharing, and exchange of digital heritage to empower and connect communities.

Get Mukurtu. See Demos.

Drupal

Another great option to round out our picks is Drupal. Also open source, the Drupal community is underpinned by the collaboration of many thousands of talented developers and designers around the world.

Its userbase is impressive – from media behemoths like the BBC and NBC to none other than the digital presence of the US government.

Like WordPress, what makes Drupal well-suited to the needs of niche communities is its responsive to the needs of its userbase. As a popular and much-loved CMS, it also has a secure developmental strategy and clear future prominence, making it a less risky choice than other newer platforms. The last thing you want as a digital archive administrator or website operator is to end up running on redundant software.

These risks are all low with Drupal. You also get to enjoy a suite of features that includes:

  • Blogging and forum capabilities.
  • Advanced search (useful for digging up material from archives)
  • Very frequent security updates
  • Content creation and editing by multiple users for collaborative initiatives.

Get Drupal.

Conclusion

There are many other content management systems (CMS) we could have included in this list for their impressive features or ambitious goals.

However, a digital archive tailored to a small and potentially non-tech savvy community needs several things to be truly well suited:

  1. User-friendliness and linguistic flexibility – it’s essential that the platform can be adapted for use by people with little to no technical expertise. Multiple language settings and/or simple English instructions can also make-or-break accessibility efforts.
  2. Security – as bugs and vulnerabilities emerge, it’s important that an open-source team is ready behind a CMS to patch and protect the integrity of the software. Newer startup CMS offerings tend to be leaner and with a smaller user base comes slower responsiveness.
  3. A Clear Future – once a digital archive has been established to store heritage materials from the community, it’s necessary that the underlying CMS stays relevant over time. Aboriginal communities are unlikely to be able to switch their CMS of choice with any great ease, and so this ensures time proofing of their efforts and ensures their ability to continue sharing and managing their materials.

Other options like Joomla! did not make the list because their declining popularity has seen many members of the open source development community jump ship to those CMS’s that are prospering in 2017, like WordPress and Drupal. This makes these two popular platforms, alongside the highly tailored Mukurtu, great picks for any small community seeking to connect, share and manage their heritage in the digital realm.

Whether it’s photography, video, speech, or text, you can find a safe haven with WordPress, Drupal, or Mukurtu.