At the TEDxIIT conference earlier this year I spoke about the challenges facing ICT4D and some promising methods for moving forward.
The main points of this talk are as follows:
The realm of ICT4D has a disturbing track record of consistently searching for the “next big thing” technologically. Related to this, there is also a tendency focus too much on the Technology over the Development in the T4D or technology for development scenario. Unfortunately, this can be a recipe for disappointment, and more often than not, for making things worse. When we focus primarily on the technology, we tend to miss that development is a long, complicated, messy process that takes a lot of hard work, and that technology is not always the answer. Even when technology does provide a way forward, we still need to recognize that there are no shortcuts to development.
As human beings, we tend to take things for granted once we get used to them, which may cause us to miss the entire ecosystem surrounding technology use that we take for granted in the developed world, because we can. For example, if we take electricity for granted, we might forget that we need power in order to use new technology that is introduced for the first time into a given locale.
In order not to take things for granted, it is essential to work with people who don’t take the entire technology ecosystem for granted, because they can’t—those from the developing world who live under conditions of constraint. We must establish long-lasting partnerships that enable feedback loops between the stakeholders, to promote mutual learning, to match actual needs with innovations, and to build capacities, in order to drive sustainability. When we do this, there is a real potential for technology to advance the development process.
Multiple firsthand experiences from the field are used to illustrate these points.