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Connect, collaborate and change your world : Alan J. Rossi, Development Gateway

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What is the vision of the DG Foundation? What are your new programme initiatives?
We can help improve people’s lives, and act as a catalyst for developing countries. We promote partnership, and work to increase access to development information and resources, especially to those who would most benefit by this knowledge. We also work to increase the effectiveness of development efforts by providing appropriate knowledge and expertise, and we share and collaborate. We are a very small organisation with a big vision and we build and deploy systems for organisations and for organisations in turn to work in partnership with other organisations to build this gateway. Development Gateway Foundation is a facilitator of knowledge sharing and we enable organisations to share their knowledge and expertise with others. We have an eminent Board of Directors with 20 members, and chaired by Mr. Mamphela Ramphele.

The small Secretariat is responsible for day-to-day management of the Development Gateway Foundation. The Secretariat will devise a monitoring and evaluation system, and will report regularly (at least quarterly) to the Development Gateway Foundation Board. The Secretariat will, in addition, mobilise funds under the guidance of the Board Chairperson, design and propose detailed policies and appraisal criteria, and approve grants and investments in accordance with limits set by the Board and the Executive Committee. The objectives and programmes are as follows:

  • Improve public sector transparency (through dgMarket and the E-Government Program)
  • Enhance development effectiveness (through the AiDA directory and the Development Gateway portal)
  • Increase knowledge sharing (through the Topic Pages of the Development Gateway portal, the annual Development Gateway Forum)
  • Build local capacity to empower communities (through the network of Country Gateways, the Development Gateway portal, dgMarket, the Research and Training Network)

How do you see the Forum emerging as a leading platform for high-level policy impact on ICTs for development?

Through the Development Gateway portal, we envisage several partners, especially in developing countries, to act as information and knowledge providers and we hope to see the Forum emerging as a leading platform for high-level policy impact on ICT4D. We are very pleased that this year’s Forum was especially focused on recognising the valuable and innovative project in Bangladesh. This project uses communica-tions technology for development and has won the Petersburg Prize. This recognition is critical to celebrate good work.

Alan J. Rossi
Alan is Chief Executive Officer of the Development Gateway Foundation. He joined the Development Gateway in December 2002, bringing over 30 years of experience as a telecommunications and technology executive. Born in Peru, Alan has spent his career leading information and communications enterprises in several countries. Most recently, he was President and CEO of Elektra, a holding company for the telecommunications investments of The Galesi Group, of New York. Previously, he served as Group President for Andrew Telecom, of Orland Park, Illinois, and as Vice President and General Manager for Sprint, of Reston, Virginia. Alan graduated in Electrical Engineering from Purdue University and in Management from the University of London. He also took courses in Financial Management from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School.


Does the Development Gateway envisage all the countries to join in and how do you see the service being catered to for local language requirements?
Development Gateway deliberates and works with various partners in many countries, and they organise as independent country networks, and are

 


We hope to see the Forum emerging as a leading platform for high-level policy impact on ICT4D.

responsible to develop these networks. In some countries they have emerged as a vibrant resources, and have even outgrown the core global portal. For us, it is very exciting to see our role as catalysts, especially for developing countries, to promote partnerships and collaboration. Many country gateways are independent Internet Service Providers (ISP). Development Gateway helps to establish the country gateways.

Could the UN system use the Development Gateway project as a portal for knowledge management on the MDGs?
We are very delighted to share that we work very closely with the UN system, among others on the Development Committee, to develop a platform that would allow countries to monitor their policies and actions toward achieving the MDGs and related outcomes. In fact we have two UN representatives on the Board of the Development Gateway Foundation.

I invite the readers of i4d to take a look at the MDG capacity building page that we do with UNDP and World Bank Institute (WBI). We have also begun a series of monthly reports related to the MDGs, and have brought out specials on entrepreneurship, climate change, universal primary education, global health, gender equality, and global partnerships. Please take a look at http://topics.developmentgateway.org/mdg

Is there any plan to initiate similar initiatives like AiDA for thematic developmental information?
AiDA (Accessible information on Development Activities) is a directory of development projects and activities, and is a collaboration tool. It is essentially focused on overseas development assistance and those of large foundations. As of date, AiDA contains a total of 481,659 records. There are 431,831 records in the current sources section and 49,828 records in the AiDA historical repository.

Yes there are, but we have to overcome some critical challenges. The challenge of initiating similar projects as that of AiDA, especially in relation to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), is: “How to map the traditional sectors to MDGs?”

The first step to initiate such a tool is to focus it towards the National Development Goals. We are beginning to do that field-testing in Ethiopia.

Who owns the knowledge gathered through the development gateway, what are your views on the Open Content (public money should generate public information for public good)? There are concerns about issues of ownership and appropriation, could you comment?
Development Gateway was a new concept. In the early days, World Bank helped to develop the system, contributed the knowledge and expertise. Now, Development Gateway Foundation is an independent foundation. There should be no reason to worry about the content. None of the knowledge and content is owned by the Foundation, but is in the public domain. Thousands of experts and organisations form the part of the network of content developers. For example, in water management, the topic editor is from the Australian CSIRO, and they have steers dozens of research organisations to link up and contribute content.

Can you share a little bit more about the Petersburg Prize and how will it identify new projects that have not received much media publicity?
The Petersburg Prize was awarded for the first time this year in Bonn, Germany. Grameen Bank Village Phone project and its visionary leader, Prof. M. Yunus have been recognised for bringing livelihoods to over 60,000 village women, through innovative use of ICTs. It is important that little known and visionary projects are recognised. This year, we had over 200 entries, and an independent jury selects the winner. We are confident that the network of people committed to bring ICT for development will nominate the best projects with critical impact for this competition and Petersburg Prize.

Are there any hurdles for the Indian Gateway project to take off and go live? At what stage is it presently?
The Indian government and partnership of local NGOs are leading the project to set up the India Country Gateway. It is ready to go live, and should soon be launched. We only play the role of catalysts for initiating the process and linking the world to the country gateway networks.

How do you ensure that development of local content happens, with information and knowledge that is responsive to local needs? How does the DG Foundation envisage playing a role in filling this gap?
The country gateways are local initiatives with local leadership coordinating the production, management and uploading of the content.

Development Gateway has key understanding of global audience, and localised content is relevant to the specific country or specific regions, which the local partners understand well. With this kind of synergies, DG has created local partnerships in over 50 countries.

The business plan of the Development Gateway clearly projects that in the three years time frame, 70% of the resources will be allocated to work locally, in local languages and to address local problems. The expertise of DG is available for the country gateways for others to use. We are a small organisation of about 30 people. For us, we are successful because we collaborate.

The key challenges are: Since the early results were positive, for us the challenge is – How to keep the ‘encore’? There is multiplicity of countries and organisations. Having the right resources is very critical for ensuring ongoing success of this initiative. Another important issue that we always think about is how effectively can we continue to collaborate effectively.

These challenges are also stimulants for our team to think and work out the solutions in a participatory manner. I look forward to several new fruitful initiatives in the future.

www.developmentgateway.org

 

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