Interview with Carli Parisi: How will ICT4D and Behavior Change Impact Our World?

As a recent International Studies graduate of Chico State University, OMPT intern Carli is passionate about how technology can impact the future of marginalized communities around the world. As this week is UNESCO’s Mobile Learning Week, we thought it would be a great time to learn more about where she got her start, her excitement for technology in developing nations, and what she thinks might change the world.


How did you get interested in helping the developing world?

I have always been curiously drawn to different peoples, cultures and experiences. I have always had a deep itch to explore the world at large and understand the human-ness that connects us all despite language, culture or geographic location. This curiosity lead me to explore further questions, like why is owning a cell phone a basic standard in my world, but in other places there are people who could never even fathom holding such technology in their hand? Why is access to basic education a fundamental right and mandatory regulation for all girls in my country, but in other countries a girl could never dream she would be in a classroom? What leads one country, state, population to flourish and develop while others appear to be regressing? These questions drove my curiosity, which turned into empathy, which turned into passion for change. It is what lead me to study International Relations and inspired my interest to learning a foreign language. It is what motivates me now to work for change, and it’s what makes me want to be part of the work of OMPT, advancing a model for behavior change that I believe has the power to positively change and empower people.

Carli meeting a friendly pig in Costa Rica!

Carli meeting a friendly pig in Costa Rica!

What do you like most about ICT4D?

In short, ICT4D is utilizing technology as a means to positively impact the lives of poor, marginalized people. What I love most about ICT4D is that it takes a completely different approach to the classic models of developmental aid that we now know don’t work. In the past, development aid was provided primarily as grants and loans to governments and usually came with a long list of conditions and stipulations on how the money could be spent. More often than not, developmental “aid” came with strings attached in the form of interest. The result left developing countries even further behind in the global market and even deeper in debt. But ICT4D takes a different approach. It emphasizes the importance of knowledge transfer over money transfer. ICT4D allows people and cultures in the most remote places on earth to be connected to the rest of the world through a video, an email, an article, even a tweet. It offers marginalized people the education that they need to pursue their own development. It creates a generation of thinkers, leaders, scientists, teachers, and politicians that have the power to educate themselves and break out of the generational cycle of poverty. ICT4D is built primarily on the idea that education and knowledge is the most effective tool we have to bring about positive change for the world’s poorest billion people.

Working with Digital Green in India on sustainable farming techniques.

Working with Digital Green in India on sustainable farming techniques.

What developing country would you most like to visit?

The developing country that I would most like to visit is one that is furthest from my own culture. I have always wanted to experience the religion, landscape and culture of Indonesia and the Philippines. Island states are in an environmental crisis with climate change, hurricanes, tsunamis and rising sea levels. They are constantly threatened with challenges that landlocked, developed countries don’t have to face, and they often don’t have the necessary resources to adapt to the rapidly changing environment. I have always been very interested in Eastern religions and practices, and the architecture, history and culture of Southeastern Asian island states and would love to get to know those beautiful, knowledgeable people.

Working with Digital Green in India on sustainable farming techniques.

Working with Digital Green in India on sustainable farming techniques.

What behavior change do you think could change the world?

Every type of behavior change--from basic health and hygiene, literacy and handwashing to family planning--has such potential to change the lives of millions; but one area I have particular interest in is sustainable agriculture. In recent decades, there has been a movement toward mass-produced, genetically-modified agriculture. The product of mass producing is just that: massive yields of basic crops such as corn, soybeans and meat. This type of intensive, single-crop farming has been heavily emphasized in developing countries as a way to improve their food security and also boost GDP. However, the environmental and social cost of intensive farming is monumental. It strips fertile, native lands of the biodiversity that locals and animals depend on for survival. Pesticides and chemicals poison natural water sources that locals depend on for drinking and cooking. While overall yield and production increases, this type of farming harms the livelihood of local communities and small-scale farmers in developing countries. However, sustainable agricultural has the opposite effect. It replenishes the land with vital nutrients, protects indigenous seeds, encourages biodiversity, and of course feeds people! It allows communities to feed themselves without having to depend on imported, processed foods from other places. By incorporating sustainable agriculture on both small and large scale farming, communities and the environment flourish.