A little over a year ago, I started my MSc in ICT4D (Information and Communication Technologies for Development) at Royal Holloway, University of London. For some time, further schooling had been on my mind, but had definitely not been a priority. Changing circumstances, however, suggested that the time was right to take the chance. So, I applied and was accepted. Now I'm pleased to say that I've completed my program with distinction. Graduation is on 17 December.
I had only heard of the term "ICT4D" after I had been doing related work at a school in Johannesburg. Over the course of this past year, my knowledge of the history of the field—and development in general—has been greatly expanded. But in addition to my studies, I also took the opportunity to participate in some really neat events in London.
Early on in the school year, MozFest happened, and I decided to volunteer for one of the conference days. It was a fantastic experience, and I met a lot of really interesting, motivated people. I also joined the London ICT4D meetup group. Throughout the year, I attended a variety of the group's meetups—on topics ranging from ICT and Gender to Open Data for Development. It was another source of opportunities to meet interesting people in the field. Through this group, I found about a "mapathon" conducted by the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team. This was yet another excellent experience; you can read the write-up here.
Of course, the real objective of my degree was to actually do research on the topic of ICTs for development. The combination of my familiarity with South Africa, my supervisor's connections to a project based there, as well as my interest in community WiFi led me to return to the country to finish this final stage of my program. Despite having an amazing setting, getting the research right and doing justice to my participants made for a stressful couple of months collecting data, analyzing it, and writing it up. Thankfully, my dissertation was well received, and I'm on my way to receiving my degree.
In all, it went a bit quickly, but it was a fantastic experience. If you've been thinking about doing something similar, do it.