I was re-reading the introductory chapter of my Reclaiming ICT4D (OUP, 2017) recently just to check that I still agreed with it! Doing so made me think of posting its conclusion here, because this highlights five aspects that make it rather different in approach from many other books on ICTs and development. So, here it is (original manuscript with emphasis added; and including Figure omitted from published book). Hope this makes people want to read more!
“This chapter has summarized the theoretical and practical groundings for the account that follows, and has sought to make clear why this book focuses on five main aspects of the interface between ICTs and development. First, it seeks explicitly to draw on both theoretical and practical understandings of the use of technology in development. It deliberately seeks to build on insights from both theory and practice, and crosses boundaries between different stakeholder communities. This is also expressed in its style and use of language, which consciously seeks to offer different ways of reflecting on these issues.
Second, the book is built on a belief that just describing the changes that are taking place, and how technology has been used in and for development is not enough. We must understand the interests behind such occurrences if we are to change what is currently happening. We must also adopt a normative stance, and be much more willing to say what should be rather than just what is. It is no coincidence that technology is being used to drive economic growth forward as the expense of those who do not have access to it, or the knowledge or interest in how to use it. This book thus has an avowedly practical intent to help poor and marginalized people gain benefits from the use of these technologies, and it does not shy away from making tough policy recommendations as to ways in which this can be achieved.
Third, it emphasizes that there are many different ways in which technology and development interact. I have previously very much championed the notion of ICT for development (ICT4D), but now fear that this has been subverted to a situation where many stakeholders are using the idea of ‘development’ as a means to promulgate and propagate their own specific technologies, or what might be called ‘Development for ICT’ (D4ICT). Hence, I wish to reclaim ICT4D from the clutches of D4ICT. This requires us above all to focus primarily on the intended development outcomes rather than the technology.
To do this, it is very important that this book concentrates on both the positive and the negative, intended and unintended, consequences of the use of ICTs in development. There has been far too much euphoric praise for the role of technology in development, and although the recent UNDP (2015) and World Bank (2016) reports go some way in pointing to the failures, they do not go anything like far enough in highlighting the darker side of technologies and particularly the Internet (although for a darker view of ICT in general see Lanier, 2011). To be sure, ICTs have indeed transformed the lives of many poor people, often for the better, but they have not yet really structurally improved the lot of the poorest and most marginalized.
Finally, as I hope the above has shown, this book argues that development should not be focused on economic growth, nor about the modernising power of technology. Rather, development is fundamentally a moral agenda. ICT4D is about making difficult choices about what is right or wrong. It is about having the courage to be normative, rather than just positive, and it holds on to the belief that we can still use technology truly to make the world a better place.”