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!
I cannot resist the fun of trying to express ICT4D ideas in different ways, and always enjoy playing with tag clouds when I am writing. An excuse to revisit the chapter on partnerships in my recent edited book on Information and Communication Technologies for Development, led me to generate this cloud. I just thought I would share it as a summary statement of my thoughts on the subject of ICT4D policy and partnership! Thanks to TagCrowd for the crunching!
For those who cannot afford the (low) price of my edited ICT4D book (published by CUP in 2009), the first chapter as well as the contents page and index can be accessed from Amazon.com!
A summary of the contents is as follows:
- Development agendas and the place of ICTs
- Information and communication in development practices
- The technologies: identifying appropriate solutions for development needs
- ICT4D implementation: policies and partnerships
- ICTs, enterprise and development (Michael Best and Charles Kenny)
- ICTs in education: catalyst for development (Michelle Selinger)
- e-Health: information and communication technologies for health (Yunkap Kwankam, Ariel Pablos-Mendez and Misha Kay)
- e-Government and e-governance (James Guida and Martin Crow)
- Information and communication technologies for rural development (Bob Day and Peter Greenwood)
The book itself can readily be ordered directly from Cambridge University Press.
One of the most interesting aspects of ICT4D is the pace of change of technologies, and the innovativeness of many of those involved in finding ways in which technologies might be used to support poor and marginalised people. Trying to capture this in a book is always going to be tricky! Much of my new book, simply entitled ICT4D (published by Cambridge University Press in February 2009), was written in 2007, and therefore does not include some of the most recent developments that have taken place in the field. This post is therefore intended to provide updates on things that readers might find useful in addition to what is already there:
- The use of mobile telephony has expanded even more swiftly than I had anticipated, and many new applications have been developed. See particularly
- Mobile (or branchless) banking, as with Safaricom and Vodafone’s M-PESA scheme in Kenya
- The use of SMS messaging, especially by civil society groups, as developed by kiwanja.net with its FrontlineSMS service
- New uses of social networking environments.
- I had not initially realised the full potential of blogging environments – seeing the earliest blogs primarily as self-exhibitionism – but now realise that they are a very significant way of democratising the use of the web
- The arrival of cross platform short-messaging services such as twitter (follow me)
- Small solar-powered and hand-cranked devices (see links on my previous blogs) – these really do provide alternative power sources, and offer insights into what may be possible in the future
- Partnerships – while I still definitely believe in the importance of effective partnerships in implementing ICT4D initiatives, I might with hindsight have emphasised even more the challenges involved in delivering them. Recent reports around the corruption associated with introducing computers into some countries give rise to concern.
- Sen’s notion of development as freedoms – not sure why I did not include much about this in the original discussions about definitions of development. I do explore this further in my recent draft paper “On the richness of Africa” and together with Dorothea Kleine in a paper on “What’s new in ICT4D”. It also raises issues about rights and responsibilities – and my increasing concern with the damage that the individualism entailed in some global agendas relating to human rights is causing. Arguments around this are hugely complex, and I would not want to be seen as over-simpliying here – but I am interested in exploring these issues in much further depth, particularly in the context of the the importance of ‘development responsibilities’ as well as ‘development rights’.
This post will regularly be updated with some of the things I find most interesting