Delineating the meaning and value of Development Informatics
This chapter describes the field of Development Informatics as it has emerged in the past two decades, and highlights some of the strengths of its research and practices. It draws on the current literature and the expertise of the other authors of this book to help to define a set of basic terms. Any new intellectual domain is tied to some degree to the vagaries of its institutional alliances, to the perceived international status of its public forums, and to the criticism that on its own it lacks unique methodological rigour. These points are discussed candidly. Multidisciplinarity is the backbone of Development Informatics. The main virtues of Development Informatics are that it offers a platform for an evaluative critique to counterbalance the effects of relentless globalisation, that it comprises strong multidisciplinary teams, that it maintains an intellectual space to build on international momentum that has developed among theorists and practitioners, and that it opens up future imaginative possibilities for collaborative projects which involve communities in developing areas of participatory research and ongoing project evaluation in order to encourage self-sustaining entities.
Paradigm shift required for ICT4D
In this chapter I argue for a shift of paradigm in the field of ICT4D. Since the inception of aid for development in the late 1940s with the introduction of the Marshall Plan, development has been dominated by emphasis on economic development, while development of other human characteristics have been neglected. The standard argument in ICT4D literature is that economic “upliftment” will result in social “upliftment”. It is assumed that economics is the primary cause for social change. I challenge this assumption, and propose that it is instead individual “upliftment” that influences social change that might (or might not) lead to economic change.
Even the so-called Post-Washington Consensus only went as far as shifting to socio-economics, by addressing poverty, but is still based on a particular ideological brand of economics. There is a need to move away from the economic approach to development, and from measuring success with economic metrics such as GDP. ICT4D projects have been deployed within this economic paradigm. An alternative approach would be to deploy ITC4D projects against a social and cognitive paradigm in which social networking and psychological enrichment would take priority over economic development. Within such a paradigm, the principle of least effort would be used for measuring success. The proposed new paradigm is a techno-utilitarian approach. In this regard Development Informatics could pave the way for designing new kinds of ICT systems that are socially relevant to remote communities (whether geographically or socially remote) by making life easier for individuals. It is envisaged that economic development would follow individual and social development. The focus on developing an individual by exposing such an individual to scientific knowledge, will enable that individual to make better choices, which will lead to changing that individual and his or her environment. As the individual changes, the surrounding society changes (which is not the same as progressivism). Social change may lead to a change in the components of society, one of which is economics.
The main focus of this chapter is on the dominant economic approach that seems to lead all contemporary ICT4D efforts, with reference to some components of an alternative paradigm that views ICT as a tool to make life easier, and focuses on the enlightenment of an individual within the social context such an individual lives, by facilitating the possible development of cognitive abilities.
‘Digital inclusion’: are we all talking about the same thing?
Cristina Kiomi Mori
Governments, societies and communities all over the world are involved in initiatives for bridging the digital gap, aiming economic and social development. In Latin American and Caribbean countries, these efforts are generally called “digital inclusion” policies and projects. “Digital inclusion” is an expression that combines defining terms such as “digital divide” and “social inclusion”, together with the assumptions, ideologies and value systems carried by them. However, the comprehension of this expression varies among different agents involved. Identifying defining terms and analyzing their correspondent views is essential for improving scientific approach to any theme. The purpose of this article is to bring and debate definitions on “digital inclusion” and related topics from specialized and academic bibliography, as well as from the field , in order to contribute on qualifying academic and policy making debates.
Participatory Monitoring and Evaluation of ICTs for Development
In this chapter I call for participatory monitoring and evaluation (M&E) of the benefits of information and communication technology for development (ICT4D). I illustrate my arguments with examples of ICT initiatives designed to improve livelihoods in rural and remote communities. I disaggregate the ICT4D acronym by reflection on the role of information, on the different meanings of technology, and on the power of communication for development. I acknowledge fundamental challenges to ICT4D M&E: multiple stakeholders are involved, and they each perceive benefits in unique ways. No single indicator or index is appropriate for all of those involved. Second, the benefits of ICT4D are best explained in terms of their contribution to improved livelihoods, rather than by a direct attribution. This means that the theory of change is non-linear; it is systemic. Third, system thinking embraces the notion of emerging properties. This means that we can only predict some of the benefits and drawbacks of ICTs, but others will emerge as they combined with other factors beyond our control. These three basic attributes constitute the rationale for an M&E approach that is negotiated from the start, where all parties explore their theories of change and arrive? at a shared one. One where participation is needed from the start, as each actor agrees on the possible dimensions that merit to be tracked. Emerging approaches like Outcome Mapping and Most Significant Change are gaining prominence in the M&E field. The ICT for Development sector is beginning to take notice. I explain the achievements and opportunities to harness these complementary, qualitative approaches. I highlight some of the practical considerations needed to combine the approaches with conventional results based management ones. The chapter closes with a reflection on the steps necessary for an alternative M&E paradigm to gain acceptance in the ICT4D field.
Liberalization, Radicalization and Conflict Transformation: A Theory of Culturally Sustainable Development Informatics
Since the conclusion of World War II, efforts to develop the so-called Third World have taken a variety of paths. In light of a number of intriguing but competing approaches – modernization, post-structuralism, and dependency, to name just a few theories – the field of development is in a state of confusion. Consequently, it has been difficult for development informatics specialists to understand how best to harness the power of Information Communications Technology (ICT), as there is no clear goal in sight which ICT is supposed to be supporting. The following chapter provides a brief historical overview of the field of development, with a special interest in the role technology has been understood to play in this context. A discussion of relevant scholarship points to the dual notions that the next wave of development informatics work will prize attention to cultural particularities, and as such, will necessitate a degree of participative technology design. By extension, a dynamic relationship between power and knowledge is affirmed, in line with scholars such as Foucault (2000) and Schech (2002). Various strands of thought are ultimately synthesized into what is termed the mirror meta-principle, which stresses that culturally sustainable development informatics requires ICT to be participatively designed so as to support developing societies’ economic and socio-cultural well-being and congruently “mirror” the economic and socio-cultural exigencies and traditions of developing societies. In this paradigm, the economic and socio-cultural patterns embedded into ICT need not be in line, or need to be moved into line, with the traditional Western ideology of modernization. With Heeks (1999), it is asserted that development informatics specialists’ approach to the participatory process must be grounded in a steady attention to reality.
Cultural perceptions on the acceptance of ICTs
Jasmine M. Harvey
The emergence of new information and communication technologies has generated much debate both in and out of academia in relation to theories ranging from economic advancement to imperialism. In the context of the Majority world (low-income countries), a dominant discourse associated with ICTs persist. This is the discourse of development, where it is predicted that nations which have joined the global market will use ICTs to harness global knowledge that shall enable them to be competitive and therefore attain development. This has led to change in policy from international to local as ICTs are embraced as next big development tool. Recently however, there have been reports of more failures of ICTs initiatives than success as professionals in the industry complain about unsustainability of the systems. A problematic issue is that so far analysis of this discourse has tended to be economically or technically deterministic with little attention paid to the social and cultural perspectives. In order to understand how the role of norms, practices and politics of people in particular communities play in this discourse in the Majority world, over 1000 semi-qualitative questionnaires were analysed from five geographical locations in The Gambia. A key conclusion that has emerged from the research is that, there are different attitudes towards the ICTs in the different locations, which vary from cultural acceptance to rejection of ICTs, and this diversity is underpinned by the secularism of the people’s information ecology in which gender plays a critical part. This result challenges the ICTD agenda, and can directly be applied to reports of unsustainable ICT initiatives in especially Africa.
A psychological model to understand e-adoption in the context of the digital divide
Andrew Thatcher Mbongi Ndabeni
The digital divide is often conceptualised as inequalities of access in terms of patterns of demographic variables such as race, language, education and social class disparities or attributed to geographical location (e.g. urban vs. rural). While access is obviously a precursor to technology use, research consistently shows that the digital divide is not explained only by access to technology. This is apparent in the evidence of digital divides within communities of equitable wealth or within the same geographical location. The field of psychology recognises that there are psychological as well as socio-economic factors at play in the adoption of technology. In this chapter, we look at building a model of e-adoption for understanding the digital divide by building on the neo-Vygotskian approach to activity theory (Engstrom, 1987), that looks at the interplay between task, tool, and technology within a particular context (the contextual variables being those that are traditionally implicated in the digital divide). Within this approach we build a model based on the Technology Acceptance Model (TAM) from Davis (1989), the Theory of Planned Behaviour (TPB) from Ajzen (1991), Hofstede’s (1980) culture framework, and the Social Cognitive Theory (SCT) from Bandura (1986; 1997). While some aspects of these individual theories have been applied to understanding the digital divide, this chapter builds a more complete model that incorporates aspects from all these theories to provide a more comprehensive psychological model of e-adoption than currently exists in the literature.
What does it mean, to bridge the divide? Learning from spontaneous practices towards ICTs
Suely Fragoso, Denise Cogo, Liliane Dutra Brignol
This chapter addresses the discussion about the success or failure of initiatives aiming to provide access to Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) as a means of promoting social inclusion. We believe that there is often a disparity between the supposed and the true needs and desires of the minority groups at the receiving end of digital divide initiatives. Observation of practices towards ICTs spontaneously developed by a minority group indicate that important achievements are being overlooked by evaluations of digital divide projects and policies. The observed practices were organized in six categories and a change of paradigm is proposed for further actions.
New Tools and New Development Opportunities Confront Old Paradigms: Exploring an Alternative Theory to Combat the Global Digital Divide
Peter A. Kwaku Kyem
There is a considerable debate about how the technological gap between rich and poor countries of the world can be bridged or eliminated. Technological optimists argue that Information and Communication Technology (ICT) can bring accelerated development to poor countries. Others question the viability of relying on ICT for development in low income countries. The ensuing debate has masked the digital divide problem and prevented a true discussion of how ICT can be deployed for the benefit of low income countries. On the otherhand, confronted with the persistent failures of one-size-fits-all economic development models, low income countries can no longer treat modernization as the pivot towards which all ICT-related development efforts must gravitate. There is a need to drop the singular vision of development which is premised on the experiences of Western developed nations and rather restore local actors and their cultures into the actual roles they play in development processes that occur within localities. Accordingly, this chapter reviews the perspectives that currently shape the ICT for development discourse and offers the multiplicity theory to bridge the gap in development theory and promote a development strategy which incorporates activities of both local and global actors in the development of localities.
Social capital and third places through the internet: lessons from a disadvantaged Swedish community
Duncan Timms, Sara Ferlander
Although Sweden is generally considered to be at the forefront of the ICT revolution and to have high levels of social capital – interpersonal trust and participation – there remain areas and categories which are relatively disadvantaged. In this chapter we examine a number of efforts which have attempted to make use of ICT to enhance social capital in a Stockholm suburb which has been stigmatised in the press and which contains relatively high proportions of immigrants, single parents and the unemployed, all groups which are relatively excluded. An initial effort, based on the installation of a local community network, largely failed. A second effort, based on a locally-run Internet café was more successful, with the café operating as a Third Place, both on-line and off-line, bridging many of the divisions characterising the community. Following the end of project funding and despite its apparent success, the café was unable to continue. The factors accompanying the success and failure of the Swedish undertakings provide lessons for other efforts to use ICTs in attempts to enhance social inclusion and community.
An Analysis of the Research and Impact of ICT in Education in Developing Country Contexts
Nitika Tolani-Brown, Meredith McCormac, Roy Zimmermann
The American Institutes for Research (AIR), in collaboration with infoDev and the World Bank, is conducting a comprehensive analysis of reliable research undertaken to date on the deployment of low-cost and other ICTs to support education goals around the world with an emphasis on the developing world. The purpose of the study is to increase understanding of the impact of ICT on educational outcomes in children and adults and, ultimately, to generate an innovative research agenda to address salient issues. We are examining rigorous research that has been conducted to determine issues such as impact, efficacy, return on investment, and total cost of ownership. Through an open call via the web site www.ICTimpact.org, AIR will review and analyze reports that are submitted, conduct inverviews with stakeholders, and post an initial working document for community comment, critique, and conversation. Comments and the latest iteration will later be pulled down and refined for academic review and distribution. AIR is an international leader in research of the behavioral sciences. With research and development projects in more than 30 countries around the world, AIR has spent the last 60 years working at the intersection of research and practice.
Networking for development: cornerstone for efficiency and impact of ICT for development projects
The chapter is about the importance and the added value of networking activities in international development cooperation programmes and actions, and their central role in building successful and sustainable development cooperation experiences. The chapter starts from the paradoxical consideration that, while society is going through a deep change process (both in developed and in developing countries) and is somehow moving towards a network model (the so-called network society), despite of some innovative visions and practices of development that seem to follow this change, international development cooperation still seems to adopt models and practices which were conceived for an industrial society. We are convinced that one of the causes of this slow adaptation of the development thinking and practices to the new international setting stands in the low importance assigned to the networking dimension of development, and the difficulty of “networking for development studies” to find their place both in academic and in non-academic research and to be listened by policy makers. Even if all major development donors (from the United Nations to the European Commission to the World Bank) seem to agree that the networking dimension is key in development actions and do devote some – limited – funding to this specific kind of activities, they seem to do so not starting from sound research evidence on the benefit of networking, but rather from the common place that networking is a good thing as such. The chapter will analyse the phenomenon of networking for development from different angles: first, a review of the most recent networking studies will be resented and applied to developemtn settings, followed by a reasoning on the relevance of the issue in a number of donors strategy, by a definition of the important aspects of networking in development settings, and by a collection of short cases where networking had an impact in terms of sustainability, replicability, efficiency. Some key concepts such as “hyperhead” and “networking added value” are presented and analysed.
Information Communication Technology and Its Impact on Rural Community Economic Development
This chapter reports on the results of a study of 25 rural communities across the U.S. who have deployed broadband technology for at least five years prior to the study. Using key informant interviews and secondary sources to examine the process used and its impacts, it was determined that the technology decision itself had little impact on the nature of development in the community. Leaders treated the technology as just another piece of the necessary infrastructure to be competitive in attracting large employers. Few communities had been able to translate the capability of the technology into a broader strategy. the research also tests the effects of other factors determining that one of the most impactful was the social capital in the community, expressed as “entrepreneural social infrastructure” in previous research. It would then be expected that future developments in those communities with sufficient amounts of social capital would be able to transform strategies for development in ways that make the deployment of broadband more efficacious.
International ICT Spillover
Saeed Moshiri, Somaieh Nikpoor
Recent developments in information and communication technology (ICT) have affected all economic activities across the world. Although there is ample evidence for the direct impact of ICT on productivity, the spillover effect of ICT has so far not been sufficiently investigated, especially in the international context. This chapter discusses ICT and its spillover effects on labour productivity using an empirical growth model and panel data for 69 countries over the period 1992-2006. The results show that ICT and its spillover have positive impacts on productivity worldwide, but the effects are much stronger in developed countries than those in the less developed countries.
Understanding the Policy Implications of ICT for Development
Information and communication technologies are thought by some to offer a firm solution to world poverty. It is argued that ICT will allow poor countries to ‘leap-frog’ the current resource gap and become engaged within the ‘new economy’. Such an optimistic position requires appropriate government policies to facilitate this shift. Interventions required would include improving access levels and quality of telecommunication and electricity infrastructure, improved quality of education and numbers of those accessing education, and providing both direct and indirect support to encourage local firms to become engaged with the global economy. Ironically, these policies are consistent with current orthodox development policies currently pursued within the ‘old’ economy. This chapter therefore considers what exactly is new about ICT in terms of its potential impact on the poor.