Lessons Learned: ICT4D

I’m extremely interested in technology. I really like working with it. As of a few months ago, however, I was convinced trying to use technology to solve the world’s problems was not only ineffective and foolish, it was a dangerous idea. The massive amounts of time and effort spent on ICT initiatives could (and, I feel, should) go somewhere else, somewhere where it would actually do some real, tangible good. There’s an opportunity cost to every project, and I invariably saw the costs as being far too great. The way I saw it, the development community was handing starving men, women, and children cellphones and laptops.

I’m still not entirely convinced that technology can solve many of the problems we like to think, but I’ve come to see that technology can be an effective tool when it is used carefully and with due regard for the true cost. It’s a catalyst, it allows for people to improve their lives. It is absolutely vital to tailor solutions to individual problems, and to recognize when an ICT-based solution simply isn’t appropriate. However, I’ve come to realize that there are some instances in which ICT4D works brilliantly, and that it should not be discounted. Perhaps the most important thing I’ve gained from the course is that shift in perspective.

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