When we discuss ICT4D, we often carry into our discussions a set of assumptions regarding its development and implementation. Foremost among these assumptions, in my mind, is the idea that ICT4D is something to be exported from developed countries to developing ones. Considered far less frequently is the concept of citizens in developing countries using ICT4D to help their fellow citizens. As developing economies continue to grow and middle classes throughout the developing world expand, I think it is important that the direction of ICT4D be reconsidered. While the flow of ICT4D will continue to move from Western countries to less developed ones, I expect that the use of ICT4D within developing countries and regions will grow in the future as the developing world becomes more prosperous.
A powerful example of this new trend is the Apps4Africa Climate Challenge. Though sponsored by the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of African Affairs, it was designed to reward ICT4D initiatives created by and for Africans. Offering a prize of $15,000, the challenge aimed to inspire home-grown solutions to problems that might not be as easily identified by foreign NGOs as they are by Africans themselves.
The prizes were awarded by region, with the East African winners announced in January. The East African winner developed an app to monitor grain storage, supply, and consumption across entire nations. In some nations, grain storage is inadequate, resulting in tragic scenarios in which grain rots while nations struggle to feed their populations or food prices spike. This new app, if it works, could be hugely beneficial for countries that struggle to maintain their food supply. I’m hopeful that Western nations, while still undertaking ICT4D initiatives of their own, will continue to facilitate the development of homegrown ICT4D projects around the developing world.