Final conference ICT4D in the Field – collaborative course by VU and UNIMAS


Samarahan, 2 July 2018

“It is a great pleasure to present to you the work of our VU and UNIMAS student group, who worked the past month of June very hard to build ICT solutions to serve local communities in Sarawak, Malaysia, in a practically oriented course that we have given the name ICT4D in the Field.

The students have gone through  the full life cycle of software development, using an approach that we call collaborative,  adaptive and iterative ICT4D, or in short ICT4D 3.0

This approach is not trivial. It is based on two principles: Firstly we want to do things that really matter to people, especially those who are currently unconnected, that is, build sociotechnical solutions that serve locally defined  needs. Secondly, we want to adapt the envisaged systems to the given context, which is usually complex, and not familiar to the average ICT developer.

Therefore, the ICT developer must talk  to the real user, and do that various times in the development process. Secondly,  the ict developer must try to understand the local context. He or she must go out and visit the user in his/her own environment. This may be a school or a mangrove swamp, or a banana plantation.

Then they must collect requirements, but this is also not trivial. Requirements define the skeleton of any information system, however, requirements  must be set by the user, even if the user is unaware of ICT. Requirements may change several times, during the development process, but that is part of the iterative development and therefore the challenge.

This approach requires a reflective practitioner, one who has a problem-solving mentality, and the heart at the right place, because we are not talking only technicalities, we are talking to real people. This is also part of the identity of VU Amsterdam: personal, responsible, open.

In this we have found a great partner in UNIMAS. We have been introduced to Kampung Pinggan Jaya, where we have participated in daily life  where we have seen people at work and discussed with them real  life problems. We hope that our projects will be continued through ongoing collaboration between students and staff of our two universities.

We strongly believe that true collaboration is the most important way to tackle complex, real world problems, and bridge communication gaps and become real friends. Therefore we cherish collaborative ICT4D. We hope to continue this collaboration for many years.

I am very pleased to present our three student groups and their ICT4D projects: EduComx, Appong, and BannaTree.”