Three days before Christmas, the page proofs of Reclaiming ICT4D have arrived. At one level, this is an amazing Christmas present, but at another I am not sure I am looking forward to the arduous task of going through them and checking for any errors over the holiday season!
On reading the beginning of the Preface again, I hope that the book does indeed fulfill the task I set myself. It does, though, seem a fitting commentary on the tasks that still need to be done in the field of ICT4D, especially this Christmas time:
“This book is about the reasons why poor and marginalized people have not yet benefited sufficiently from the widespread and pervasive expansion of information and communication technologies (ICTs) into most aspects of human life over the last quarter century. It is about the inequalities that the use of these technologies have enhanced, and the risks to us all that these are creating. However, it remains a book of hope; hope that by better understanding the interests underlying these increasing inequalities, wise people of good will may be able to work collectively together to help the poorest and most marginalized use ICTs to enhance and improve their lives.
Much has changed in the use of ICTs for ‘development’ (ICT4D) since my last edited book on the subject was published in 2009 (Unwin, 2009). In that book I laid out the case for why the focus of ICT4D should be on reducing inequalities as well as increasing economic growth, and this remains a core theme of this new book. However, I was much more optimistic a decade ago that ICTs would indeed be used effectively to enhance the lives of poor people. My previous book thus included chapters by leading authorities in their fields about the many ways through which ICTs were indeed being used to improve the quality and quantity of education, to transform health delivery, to enhance rural and agricultural incomes, and to enable better government. Most of those examples remain valid, and there is indeed much good work being done by civil society, governments and the private sector through which the poor can indeed benefit. This has been widely reported in the many books and papers that have been published over the last decade on the subject. However, as the present book argues, in this time the rich have got very much richer through the use of ICTs, and the poor have become relatively poorer. I am impatient and frustrated by this increasing inequality, and so rather than emphasising all of the oft-cited examples of the benefits of ICTs, I concentrate here on the interests underlying why ICTs are being used in this way. Yet, I still retain a belief that these technologies can indeed help empower poor people and this must never be forgotten through the darker sections of the book“.
It is so good to read this at last again in the final stages of production!