IDIA2020 is organized under the theme “The more things change …” As the adage goes, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” Could the same be said of Information and Communication Technologies for Development (ICT4D)? To what extent has ICT4D over the years changed and/or not changed the global landscape of poverty and sustainable development? Have outcomes been positive, negative or mixed? Do strategies and interventions build in lessons from the past? What is the net contribution of ICT4D to the global development agenda?
Some would argue that technology has not altered the fundamental poverties and inequalities around the world – that despite the millions of dollars invested, social and economic inequalities remain too high. Furthermore, each new technology ascribed with “new promise” for the poor and marginalized of the world ends up unleashing new types and levels of disempowerment and unfreedoms: from increased invasion of privacy to the concentration of power and privilege in the hands of the few.
On the other hand, advocates point out that technology is having a substantial positive impact on the lives of many: FinTech has improved access to finance systems; social networking platforms are connecting people better; the data revolution is improving and enhancing monitoring and evaluation of the sustainable development goals; gig economy platforms are leveling the field and improving access to the labor market.
A third perspective contends that the answers are not so clear cut, arguing that ICT4D presents a reductionist view of the world, resulting in a tendency to oversimplify the pathways to impact of technology on the wicked and messy problems of human development. What are the underlying rationales for these differing viewpoints? How has ICT4D as a field and discipline changed over the years? And what changes are necessary for the field to meet the current and future demands presented by this evolving technology and society confluence?
We invite researchers to submit papers presenting original research on the following sub-themes.
ICT4D: taking stock
Evidence on the impacts (positive and negative) of ICT4D, with particular emphasis on the similarities or differences from previous research findings. Including but not limited to:
- Empirical research that illustrates the results of ICT4D projects across various domains such as education, health, governance, and finance; or in relation to specific Sustainable Development Goals;
- Empirical research that illustrates the impacts of ICT4D projects on different target populations, such as the youth, elderly, women, migrants, low-income, etc.;
- Reflections, lessons learned, and good practices in ICT4D projects;
- Longitudinal evaluations and systematic reviews of ICT4D project impacts.
Harnessing frontier technologies for sustainable development
Critical research on frontier technologies (such as Big Data, Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, Blockchain) in the context of ICT4D, with particular consideration to how older technologies were perceived when they were also new. Including but not limited to:
- Opportunities and threats of frontier technologies for sustainable development;
- New technologies, old challenges;
- Exploring the new forms of marginalization, exclusions, poverties, unfreedoms that are created by the new frontier technologies and associated socio-technical assemblages e.g. gig economy, crowdsourcing, FinTech.
ICT4D discourse, methodologies, and theoretical reflections
Theoretical reflections or new theoretical formulations on issues of ICT for Development in historical context; Including but not limited to:
- ICT4D – past, present, future formulations;
- Application of critical, emancipatory, decolonial, and feminist theoretical approaches in ICT4D;
- The evolution of the understanding of “development”;
- ICT4D research methodologies;
- Stakeholder engagement strategies;
- Partnership models in ICT4D.
The evolving global souths
Discussions of technology and development issues as they relate to marginalized populations around the world, including “developed” and “developing” countries. Including but not limited to:
- Evolving conceptualizations of target goals and target populations of ICT4D initiatives within the framework of the Sustainable Development Goals
- Formulations and reformulations of the notion of “global south” within ICT4D discourse – e.g. geographically bounded, a transnational and socio-political collective of the marginalized, an emancipatory ideology;
- Research on technology and human development topics typically associated with “developed”/high-income countries; such as: toxic addictions and risks of the dopamine economy; perpetuation of bias, marginalization, and injustice; disruptions to the workforce and the disappearance of jobs; new forms of disinformation, propaganda and untruths;
- Impacts of ICTs on the power differentials between the haves and the have-nots and between the empowered and the disempowered around the world;
- Technology and social justice in the local and global context.