Following news from afar about the massive earthquake in Nepal has been a bewildering and desperate experience for Nepali diaspora and to a lesser but significant extent for people like myself with a close affection for the country. What can we possibly do to respond to such a huge tragedy? Pray for Nepal, help Nepal is the cry. Some of us long to jump on the next plane to help, others raise funds and awareness but whatever we do it will not be enough even to address our own needs to somehow feel better, let alone the incalculable short and longer term needs of the real victims of this natural disaster.
The news when the earthquake struck was itself devastating, but the days that have followed have been characterised by waves of media driven information aftershocks and news videos reporting the widespread destruction and traumatic personal experiences of those caught up in this catastrophe. Each new set of numbers adds another distressing layer to the feelings of helplessness and despair, as the figures jump significantly on a daily basis with hundreds more fatalities and more and more casualties – when will this stop? When will both the physical and psychological aftershocks plateau and begin to settle to something that feels normal?
As far as Nepal goes, for those who live there, it will probably never feel normal again, and the scars and aftershocks will be there for years after the buildings have re-emerged on new and stronger foundations. A lot of us outside Nepal have been so challenged to figure out what we can do to help, and it’s been amazing to see the huge outpouring of financial support and giving of much needed items to provide shelter – Nepal is a country that seems like its people to inspire great love and affection from all around the world .
This response is so very important, particularly as the monsoon rains will in a month or so add to the turmoil and increase the likelihood of more landslides and the difficulty of rebuilding homes and infrastructure. This support we now offer is like the 100m sprint to channel our energy into helping with the disaster and address as many problems as humanly possible in a short space of time. The marathon for which fewer are often equipped, is the sustained support that will be needed for development, long term rebuilding of infrastructure, and addressing the personal needs of those wounded and disabled physically and through the widespread post-traumatic stress and mental impact of this event.
Nepal needs your help right now, but will also need it when the cameras turn away and the news media lose interest and turn their attention to a crisis elsewhere. So for those who are willing and able, wherever you are located use this moment to learn more about Nepal and its people and the organisations working there to bring both short term relief and long term development. Please find some way to identify and support even one small development dream that if it can be realised in Nepal will improve the long term situation for at least a few of the people who are suffering so much in this beautiful yet very poor country.
There is so much that will need to be done – lets start sharing thoughts and ideas as soon as we are able on how all the families and friends (old and new) of Nepal who live in the international community can play a positive role in the years ahead.
As I started to work on updating this site news began to come through yesterday of the tragic earthquake in Nepal which has affected so many in Kathmandu, across the whole country and in neighbouring countries. Kathmandu was my home for 8 years, and I have many friends there, who treat me as part of their family.
Naturally as the full scale of the devastation became evident I felt truly shocked and concerned to get news of my friends. As I sat at home in UK in many ways I felt powerless to do anything, but nevertheless through the power of new communications technologies I found myself engaged, and surprisingly in touch with the situation on the ground in Kathmandu.
Within a few minutes of having posted a concerned message on Facebook, I got messages back from Nepali friends in Kathmandu who told me they were alright, but on the streets and scared as they endured so many aftershocks. It was such a relief to hear from them, and interestingly it was the sons and daughters of the Nepali’s I knew best who were doing the communicating, and I was reflecting how teenagers and young people in most places these days are so at home with mobile technology, and how great it was that there were means of communication for those most affected by the crisis. Despite the broken roads, landslides and buildings reduced to rubble, the mobile phone network somehow in many places was still up and running and helping people trying to respond to the situation.
A further example of this came when I realised that the son of a close friend in UK was volunteering at a Nepali school in Lamjung, right at the epicentre of the quake. When I called the family to check all was okay they had not heard the news, and were naturally in a state of distress when I told them. They had the name of the village but no contact number for their son. With the help of the internet, I found out the school name and contact information but when they called the phone was completely dead which further increased their anxiety. Amazingly I got through to friends in Kathmandu by international phone and explained the situation. They were able to receive an email from me with details and within an hour replied with the good news that they had spoken by mobile with a lady at the school and the young volunteer was okay, and people at the school were safe. A few hours later his parents received a text message from him which confirmed his wellbeing.
The coming days and months will no doubt be very tough ones for all those living and working in Nepal, but as we consider the role of digital technology and its uses for development, I thought it was worth sharing these reflections on what happened yesterday. I cannot get the images of devastation out of my mind, but I am more convinced than ever that ICTs can play a big and positive role (locally and internationally) in both the response to disaster and in longer term development efforts needed globally to address poverty and suffering.
One of the special things I hope to do on this site, is from time to time share music, stories, photos and other multimedia that fits the theme of being positive and inspiring in some way. There is a lot of negativity around and many problems we all experience as individuals and within our different contexts, but dreams are about rising up and finding a way through.
My first video is from First Aid Kit, and is a recent song called Stay Gold. I love this song because it’s about keeping that special element in your life.
Over the months I hope to build a showcase of websites illustrating imaginative and creative projects. I will feature organisations and people doing interesting things, so please contact me and draw my attention to your work or the work of those you admire and together lets learn and get excited by some of the wonderful work that is happening !
This is the first in a series of short talking head videos which I hope will capture the spirit of this website, as I ask people to tell me about their development dream – something they would love to see happen in the world or through their work. The views shared are very much personal ones (and don’t necessarily represent those of the organisations they work for). This one features John Brownlee who currently works at IDS.
For nearly five years up until September 2014 I had the pleasure of working at the Institute of Development Studies (IDS), near Brighton UK. In my final few months I got to work with three great colleagues – John Brownlee, Nason Bimbe and Rachel Playforth, and with the help and input of a wide range of people in UK and Africa we did a study looking at the future of knowledge sharing in a digital age focussing on the Africa and developing countries. We used foresight methodologies and were guided by Alun Rhydderch of the School of International Futures. The approach let us imagine different futures and try to figure out what needed to be done to reach 2030 in an inclusive and equitable world where we could enjoy life. The results are a policy brief and evidence report available here:
Open Education Challenge and Emerge Education are two acceleration programmes providing grants and investment in incubating start-up companies that are innovating with new products for education. The RIDE conference showcased six exciting new initiatives, which have potential to support distance and blended approaches to learning. The six initiatives were pitched on an audience who were drawn in and suitably impressed by the exciting new ideas and products being demonstrated.
The key concepts and applications represented were:
Helping you remember what you learn – an application that links research in cognitive and neurosciences with big data, and provides personally optimised revision paths – Domoscio.com
One of the great pleasures I have is tutoring a postgraduate distance learning module on ‘Managing Knowledge and Communication for Development’ for the Centre for Development and Environmental Policy (CeDEP) at SOAS. This year there are nearly ninety new students from all around the world (at least 25 different countries represented), and so much opportunity to share and learn together. I am currently preparing a major update of the course, which is also giving a fantastic opportunity to read, meet people and learn more about some great digital development projects. I hope to share more about this through my blog in the coming months!