speakers added that these technologies contribute to the democratization of information, by allowing ordinary citizens to discover solutions to their own problems.
Speaker and planning committee member Jody Ranck of the Public Health Institute spoke about key developments in ICT and about their effects on the future of public health. These key developments include more pervasive computing power, the appearance of cultures of sharing and cooperation, open health, biocitizenship and technological citizenship, and the rise of the infosphere1 and the information organism.2 Noting that global mobile network coverage has reached 90 percent, Dr. Ranck commented that social media has engendered a culture of sharing, of collective selves, and of real-time informatics. Dr. Ranck also emphasized the paradigm shift that has occurred in rethinking health with respect to the impact of technology: Internet and communications technologies have the power to make the invisible visible and to increase public engagement with data. Several speakers cautioned that as this paradigm changes, there will be a strong need to evaluate these new, faster, and more streamlined approaches in rigorous and appropriate ways that adapt to the rapidly changing technologies. Dr. Ranck also discussed new approaches to utilizing data, include the mining of “big data,” or datasets too large to store in a traditional manner. Big data has the ability to provide more nuanced information regarding communications trends and cultural and social norms.
NEW LITERACIES OR COMPETENCIES
Harnessing the power of ICTs could require adaptation of traditional communications tools. Several new literacies or competencies are required for adapting and incorporating information and communications technologies into violence prevention work.
Mr. Hersman spoke about one of the first competencies required for Ushahidi: the understanding from organizations that they should share their data. Large nongovernmental organizations were not sharing information or verifying if an event occurred. This barrier led to the building of a platform that could bypass these inefficiencies. Along the Ushahidi development path, many lessons were learned that are important to lay the groundwork for others developing their own ICT programs. The required skills include the ability to discerningly examine data sources and data, to question assumptions, to embrace innovation, and to take risks boldly
1 The infosphere is the informational environment in which entities, processes, and interactions related to information exist.
2 An information organism is an entity interconnected with other information organisms that operates through the use and sharing of information.