Discovering development from information technologies: does open access to technology improve the lives of people?

ABSTRACT: One of the most compelling problems facing society is how to understand the effects of Information Technology and that illusive “Communication” technology in the more contemporary term Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) on the lives of people – especially those living in marginalized circumstances. The ability to communicate through the use of information technologies has enabled access to skill, expertise and knowledge by people who are able to use these resources to improve their lives. This ability is also manifest in technologies, such as cell phones and internet chat rooms that allow innovative uses of the technology to bring about measureable improvements in the lives of people. Discovering these improvements in the lives of people who use these technologies to come out of poverty or deprivations, is the subject of the study of how Information Technology may enable Development. The effects of ICTs on Development can be studied to assess how economic growth, namely income generation and job creation may take place; how social development outcomes, such as the effects of technology on healthcare, government and education may be improved; and how human development outcomes of empowerment, participation in civic life and the achievement of individual freedoms may be enabled through access and use of information technology. These are just some of the many ways in which ICTs have been shown to bring about improvements in the lives of people. Researchers in the Information Technology for Development field have shown that there is a link between the adoption of ICTs by people in a region and an increase in incomes of people in that region (Baliamoune-Lutz, 2003; Bollou and Ngwenyama, 2008; Cecchini and Scott, 2003; Kottemann and Boyer-Wright, 2009; Kosempel, 2007).

Keywords: Information and Communication Technologies, Telecenters, Internet chat rooms, payment systems, e-government

Information technology for development in expanding capabilities

ABSTRACT: The concept of development continues to evolve as information and communication technologies (ICTs) are applied in innovative ways to support the needs of people living with very limited resources. While it appears that the implementation of ICT infrastructures in underserved communities and in less developed countries (LDCs) may not always lead to the benefits expected in terms of efficiency and cost effectiveness, there appear to be benefits in using ICTs to support the human capabilities. In their call for a more “strategic developmental focus” Thompson and Walsham (2010) suggest that the conception, development, implementation, and use of ICT functions as an explicit vehicle for furthering developmental aims. By this they mean that ICTs in themselves cannot be seen as an end to development efforts, but more as enabling sets of social behaviors. At the same time development agencies appear to view ICTs as an end to their efforts to alleviate poverty, provide healthcare and better government services. Brown and Grant (2010) state that although the extent to which the benefits of ICTs can be realized remains to be seen, it is this perceived capacity to provide broad, far-reaching and even revolutionary, socio-economic change that has brought ICT to the center of the development discourse. They identify a duality between research in ICT for development and ICT in developing countries in which contributions to development from researching ICTs in developing contexts are not often forthcoming. They argue that both these streams of research are being carried out in parallel with little or no overlap with each other (Brown & Grant, 2010).

Keywords: Information and Communication Technologies, Healthcare, strategic developmental focus, information services, e-government initiatives, operational and financial sustainability, mobile libraries