ICT4D and ICT4$: It’s not black and white

I was a little put off by the class discussion and some of the blogs we read for Wednesday’s class. I don’t see ICT4D and ICT4$ as black and white, two separate entities with no overlap or gray in between. Maybe I’m thinking of the terms too broadly, but I see it as a scale:

1. ICT4D, strictly non-profit: several class members talked about ICT4D projects/organizations being strictly non-profit, with no revenue or profit. This would be one far side of the scale: a project or organization that operates solely on funding/grants, with no revenue or profit of any kind coming in.

2. ICT4$, sustainable non-profit (hybrid): this would be ICT4D organizations that classified as a 501c3 nonprofit but generate revenues through the selling of services/products. For example: Inveneo (current employer of Wayan Vota). Inveneo is a non-profit “social enterprise” “that aims to get the tools of information communications technology (ICT), such as computers, telephony, and Internet access to those who need it most — people and organizations in rural and highly underserved communities of the developing world.”

3. ICT4$, social enterprise: this would be an organization that makes a profit, but is driven by the concept of development and focuses on that (example, VC4Africa)

4. ICT4$: this would be companies that sell information and communication technology for profit, without ICT4D as a main mission (ie Google, etc)

In my opinion, types 1-3 should definitely still be considered ICT4D. I see ICT4D as information and communication technology for the benefit of development. Organizations like Inveneo and Ushahidi make a profit, but does that mean they aren’t concentrating on development? The world runs on money, it isn’t something that we can avoid. Non-profits that generate revenues can be even more successful because they can be sustainable and not run on grant money. An organization can be categorized as ICT4D (even if it generates revenue) if its mission is to create a social impact and benefit/increase development, in any country.

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2 responses to “ICT4D and ICT4$: It’s not black and white

  • mkenned1

    I appreciate the distinctions that you made on the different levels of ICT4D and agree that a hybrid form or something similar makes that most sustainable model for running development projects. What I am also interested in are situations in which Type 1, especially larger NGO’s with access to a large amount of resources, can provide those resources for ICT4$ start ups in developing regions. It would be interesting to see what relationship they could have.

  • ccrowle1

    I totally agree, and just made a post about social entrepreneurship a reflection of my sentiments which are similar to yours. I think that the “black and white” references that you’re referring to were made in class and within the ICT4D elite-club debate in order to hash out a few flaws with both of them, and implicitly to reveal that there’s more than one way of thinking about it. I agreed with what I think was Hersmans’ argument that ICT4D focuses too strongly on gaining reputation and funding through adopting a sort of buzz-word phenomenon that relies too strictly on “good-doing” rather than enough on sustainability. ICT4$ obviously is driven by the bottom line, yet contains externalities that are too dissociated from serving the poor to be the mission of “ICT4D” people. I like that you made the effort to make distinctions, and I think that there are organizations that do fall within the successes of both ICT4D and ICT4$.

    To give an example. LifeCity is a social entrepreneurship initiative in New Orleans with the goal of creating a network among businesses with the goal of creating opportunities for social equity and environmental sustainability. This seems like the work of a non-profit organization; but Liz Shephard (the brain behind LifeCity) will respond by saying she chose to be a for-profit business for a few reasons:
    1. She wants to make money doing what she loves
    2. By attempting to create sustainability initiatives with other for-profit businesses, she should be practicing what she preaches, and be a demonstration of the market that is available for such initiatives.

    To draw blanket-statement distinctions between for-profit and non-profit social initiatives is simply misguided. The mission of the organization alone can determine what’s the best way to approach that dilemma.

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