Centering ICT4D on real needs, not on ICT trends

ICT4D researchers and practitioners seem to continuously run after the latest trends in ICT to fulfill funding calls,  forgetting the real needs of the communities which are supposedly empowered by ICT4D activity. In this manner, ICT4D becomes an endless series of solutions in search of a (badly) defined problem, with results often unsatisfactory.

"ICT4D becomes an endless series of solutions in search of a (badly) defined problem, with results often unsatisfactory. " Click To Tweet

The problem is also exacerbated by the fact that many ICT4D practitioners are based at, or strongly influenced by, institutions and organizations of the global north. Can we break this pattern? If so, then the conversation should focus on advising on how to break it in practice in different contexts and scenarios.

The need for more ICT4D theorizing from the South

As editor of EJISDC, I see a lot of manuscripts. A key concern that I have is that far too many authors do little more than test a well-worn ‘Northern’ theory in their particular part of the South with no attempt to localize the research in any meaningful way. The most popular of these Northern theories is the Technology Adoption Model (TAM). These studies add very little to our knowledge of how ICT creates value for people in the South, and so I try very hard to discourage this kind of research. But still, it keeps flooding in! I hope that this blog post may reach a few eyeballs, and, as a result, perhaps a few people will not submit such papers. What I would love to see more of is indigenous theorization of ICT in local contexts. Don’t borrow theories from elsewhere. Build your own! Make sure that you incorporate some indigenous concepts into the theory so that we can learn new things. Naturally you will have to follow appropriate procedures for theorization, validation, etc. but this is valuable work that is publishable. We need to learn from the South!

Don’t borrow theories from elsewhere. Build your own! Make sure that you incorporate some indigenous concepts into the theory so that we can learn new things. Click To Tweet

Issues in the global-south, by the global-south, for the global-south

In order for ICT4D to have an impact in the global south, it has to be viewed from a domain perspective first – e.g. health, government, migration, finance, etc. In this context, the domain and all its complexities define and determine the implementation and success of ICT4D projects. A social development problem is not a technology problem, but rather a domain problem. Addressing the domain challenges in conjunction with technology as only a fraction of the solution is fundamental.

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