Thursday, November 03, 2005

technology: e-collaboration

During this day on e-collaboration for development organisations (I mentioned in the last post), lots of interesting experiences came up. The most striking ideas/observations I gained from all discussions :

* A virtual conference with southern partners in 1999 was evaluated and time rather than language or technology was the limiting factor for participation. Looks like there is often a perception that online is fast and cheap and something you do in your own time: not taken as serious work like face-to-face meetings for instance. (same came up in the online facilitation workshop I mentioned in the last posting!). The MSN group also mentioned that MSN is frequently used for private conversations but not at work.

* Dgroups ( as an interesting example of a platform designed specifically with southern users and demands in mind. I wonder what other examples are there of designs specifically for southern users like dgroups. (maybe lots of linux groups in the south actually do??). Specific design differs from general designs (like skype or Gmail) which happen to match southern users' interests. However, the example of a training/coaching experience with limited interaction within the group made me also wonder whether the Dgroups features would make it more challenging to facilitate intense interactions (f.i. because discussions are not threaded?) in smaller or larger groups.

* The question whether sometimes southern partners are not ahead of northern partners in adopting some distance communication technologies (especially for easy-to-use, free technologies like skype) came up several times. Which raises a question for me: do northern partners find it difficult to learn from southern partners in this regard, do they feel they have to lead?

* It matters whether you perceive some of these technologies as cost-reducing and a bad substitute for face-to-face contacts, or whether you can see the different modes of communication as a source of creativity and a means to stimulate various ways of communications and create new links (and hence something which can enrich conversations and learning). Interesting in this regard was the discussion of the price of an online workshop/conference. Whether you see it as cheap or expensive depends on your perception of the value it brings and whether you equal its value with a face-to-face workshop or not.


Alexander said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Nancy White said...

Ah, it looks like the spammers have found you already, Joitske!

The issues you noted are very congruent with my experiences. The issue of time is becoming a huge deal and I keep on thinking we need to look at this closely. When I hear one thing over and over, it triggers me to think there is something bigger beneath it.

Some of the things I've started to surface show there are different sources of this time famine. For example, in my work in Portugal, a very family centric country, my colleagues from Portugal noted that there is a conflict between the expectation that online stuff is done on your own time, and in their lives, after work is family focused, not sitting in front of a computer. So this case is the double issue of :online is always something extra and there is a culture that says working at home in the evening is not ok! So there are two.

The third is around the things you mentioned: online is perceived as fast and cheap, but in terms of what? It is not cheap in terms of time.

Fourth: people are constantly asked to do more. New things don't replace old things, they are added on top of it.


* what are we going to stop doing?
* how do we set realistic expectations?

Britt Bravo said...

First, Joitske, I really like your blog! Second I agree with you and Nancy that the balance between time and "time saving" technology and between human needs/culture and technology will become a larger and larger issue as more technology is incorporated into humanitarian work.

I also hope you'll join part of the discussion on re: how NGOs and NPOS successfully use Web 2.0 technology and what their needs/obstacles are.

I'm glad you started to blog!