There is increasing recognition that local ownership is critical to the success and sustainability of poverty reduction initiatives. Yet there has been a systemic failure to build needed capacity and to deliver the rights, access, and finances that local actors need to craft their own development solutions. The Local Capacity Strategy put forth by the UNDP outlines a vision for addressing this. The components of the strategy include local learning and knowledge sharing; community voices in policy processes; and rights, access, and finance mechanisms. While elements of this strategy have been realized in various development projects across the globe, the challenge remains to realize the strategy on a scale that would have global impact on poverty.
The use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) holds great promise to enable this in a cost effective manner. Technologies for knowledge management, decision support, and peer-to-peer learning can be powerful enablers if appropriately adapted and integrated into poverty reduction initiatives. Rapid technology infrastructure improvements (3G networks, low cost computing devices, cloud computing services, small scale solar power) largely driven by the private sector are now bringing computing power and connectivity within the reach of poor rural communities. The use of ICT to connect local actors to share their knowledge, experiences, and innovations can create a collaborative mobile learning community with the common goal of reducing poverty. However, while technical infrastructure is rapidly developing, software solutions that are tailored to the needs of local actors lag behind.
The Capacity Lab addresses this issue by developing ICT systems that are designed for the specific needs of the users. We believe that the development of user-centered ICT solutions must be backed up by basic research to be able to understand and take care of the specific capabilities and needs of the users. Only solid understanding of cognitive principles that integrate all knowledge sources in an appropriate manner enables to build intelligent assistance systems and to enable sustainable solutions in the ownership of the local actors.