Important new report on the impact of ICT4D partnerships on development


Together with Marije Geldof, David Grimshaw and Dorothea Kleine from the ICT4D Collective, I have just completed a DFID funded systematic review on the development impact of ICT4D partnerships. This is part of the extensive programme of systematic reviews initiated recently by DFID, that draws very largely on the model of such reviews used in the medical sciences.  DFID thus emphasises that ‘Systematic reviews have been used in health, education and social policy to meet this need. Systematic reviews are a well-established and rigorous method to map the evidence base in an unbiased way as possible, assess the quality of the evidence and synthesize it. Systematic reviews can then be mediated in specific ways to make it easier for policy makers and practitioners to rapidly understand the body of evidence and use this as a strong foundation on which to base policy and practice decisions’.  Undertaking the review was both challenging and interesting, and we not only reached substantive conclusions about the role of ICT4D partnerships, but we also made considerable comments about the difficulties in undertaking rigorously defined systematic reviews on topics such as this.

Based on our review of 53 key publications in the field, we had five main substantive conclusions:

  • Success of ICT4D partnerships is increased when detailed attention is paid to the local context and the involvement of the local community in partnership implementation
  • It is important for such partnerships to have clear and agreed intended development outcomes, even where constituent partners may themselves have different reasons for being involved in the partnership
  • Sustainability and scalability of the intended development intervention need to be built into partnership design at the very beginning
  • Successful partnerships are built on trust, honesty, openness, mutual understanding and respect
  • A supportive wider ICT environment needs to be in place, both in terms of policy and infrastructure, if such partnerships are to flourish and deliver effective development outcomes

In terms of our recommendations relating to the actual systematic review methodology, we suggest that

  • When dealing with multidisciplinary issues such as this, it is crucial to retain some flexibility in search strategies, and procedures such as those often adopted in reviews of health interventions may sacrifice real understanding in the name of overly zealous adherence to claimed rigour
  • External reviewers play a crucial role in guaranteeing the quality of such reviews, and they need to be rewarded for their contributions
  • Many of the publications that we reviewed lacked a rigorous account of their research methodology, and we recommend that all funders of development related research should insist that researchers carefully document their methods in all of their publications, so that readers can judge the reliability of the findings
  • Many publications on ICT4D partnerships do not specify either what they mean by partnerships or the real development outcomes that they were pursuing.  It is therefore very difficult to identify the precise impact of partnerships on development.  It may well be that interventions that claim to have benefited from partnerships could have been delivered more effectively through other contractual arrangements

Copy of report (.pdf)

Policy brief (.pdf)

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Development, ICT4D

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s