Other Devices

"No technology should be taught unless the students are experimenting with it on their own land." — Two Ears of Corn

Aside from laptops and mobile phones, there are a number of other ICT4D-related devices that fieldworkers use.

Digital Photography

Field staff can make use of digital photography by capturing professional work for record-keeping, maintaining social media and blog presence for an international audience, for artistic expression, and for general souvenirs of their experiences.

A common question from new field staff is whether they should invest in a specialized DSLR camera or stick with their smartphone. The answerreally depends on what your experience is, what you have a preference for, what you are willing to carry around (double that for accessories and storage cards), what is going to be most culturally appropriate for your environment, and what you'd be ok with being lost/destroyed/stolen.

Video Cameras, GoPros, 360-degree Cameras

There are a lot of interesting innovations happening in the digital video space, and some are just now being captured by field staff in their communities. Depending on your project assignment, this could be a very ripe area to explore.

For 360-degree cameras, I suggest checking out the newly-released wirecutter reviews to get a sense of the pros and cons of current models.

Projectors

Portable or 'pico' projectors are a great way to make your presentation abilities more mobile and flexible – able to reach out and broadcast media and educational materials to audiences that are not typically reached by conventional television or video resources.

Two organizations that are well-known for using pico projectors in the field include Digital Green and One Mobile Laptop Per Trainer.

There are many different types of projectors, and at a variety of costs. One good place to start would be to look at the Wirecutter page on Pico Projectors and begin to think about the types of environment that you expect to work in, such as portability, battery, storage, brightness, resolution, input, accessories, and of course, cost.

Advanced Devices

Local servers allow for portable digital file distribution typically based on inexpensive hardware (routers or low-cost computer modules). They enable the delivery of educational, healthcare, and other vital information to individuals in off-the-grid settings where access to the Internet is expensive or challenging.

RACHEL

The RACHEL Package (Remote Area Community Hotspot for Education & Learning) is a collection of offline-available educational content stored on a local wifi router.

They have different versions of the software for Raspberry Pi hardware packages, the RACHEL Plus — which is similar to the RACHEL PI, but allows for many more simultaneous users, plenty of offline storage, extended battery life, and extended WiFi range.

Router Boxes

Router boxes combine a local wifi router and a hard drive to act as a local file server.

  • LibraryBox – Open source, portable digital file distribution tool based on inexpensive hardware that enables delivery of educational, healthcare, and other vital information to individuals off the grid.
  • Pirate Box – A DIY anonymous offline file-sharing and communications system built with free software and inexpensive off-the-shelf hardware.
  • LudoBox – An offline device to share games released under free licenses. Built from PirateBox and LibraryBox.
Raspberry Pi

The Rasbperry Pi is a low-cost single-board "computer" originally aimed at the hobbyist market but has expanded to a variety of sectors that include education, tinkerers, and Internet-of-Things applications.

The board consists of the bare essentials -- a central processor, ports for power, an external monitor, USB-connected keyboard and mouse, an SD card slot for local storage, and an audio port.

There are a number of Raspberry Pi devices, and other organizations offering similar products, as well as great education bundles like the Kano.

BRCK

The BRCK device was built from folks in the field at Ushahidi. It's an ingenious device that sort of combines a modem, router, battery, and small hard drive all in one. I've played with one while overseas, but haven't had extensive experience actually using one in the field.

I think my only hesitation on one of these would be that as a fieldworker, I will probably have scoured the constitutent pieces already (modem, backup batteries, portable router, etc.) -- which means this might be perfect for deployment by/for non ICT experts.

Mesh Potato

The Mesh Potato is a device from VillageTelco for providing low-cost telephony and Internet in areas where alternative access either doesn’t exist or is too expensive.

It works by using Open Hardware to create a wireless Access Point (AP) combined with an Analog Telephone Adapter (ATA). It has been designed for rugged environments so that it can be housed indoors or outdoors and can be easily secured.

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