Richard Heeks’ work ICTs and the MDGs: On the Wrong Track? presents us with a refreshingly accessible critique of the Millennium Development Goals at large and assesses the complicated relationship between ICTs and development. While Heeks (2005) effectively “strips away all the hype about rural telecenters and e-government for the masses and telemedicine for remote regions and e-commerce for microenterprises,” revealing that many of these projects do not work properly, there is much to be learned from the exceptions (no matter how few) (Heeks pg. 3).
Kerala’s Kudumbashree initiative is one such exception. The project was conceived as a joint program of the Government of Kerala and Nabard and is implemented through community Development Societies (CDSs) of Poor Women. The organization has exhibited success in inducting women from families living below the poverty line into the ICT sector through hardware and services enterprises (Heeks pg. 4). While I have not previously grappled with ICT production versus ICT consumption, I found Heeks to be successful in his succinct and accessible description. Efforts such as Kudumbashree can be successful from the production end, because the development activity encompasses future investments. Kudumbashree is a case where real and direct benefits are created in poor communities, (rather than an unfortunate example of a failed project colorfully illustrated in Heeks’ imagined dialogue between a boss more willing to pour a bunch of computers into a poor village unequipped with the tools to use them sustainably). Alternatively, Kudumbashree strives to create benefits such as jobs, incomes, skills, empowerment, gender equalities. This shows promise for sustainability in a way Heeks asserts ICT consumption projects oftentimes do not.
“To eradicate absolute poverty in ten years through concerted community action under the leadership of local governments, by facilitating organization of the poor for combining self-help with demand-led convergence of available services and resources to tackle the multiple dimensions and manifestations of poverty, holistically” http://www.kudumbashree.org/?q=vision
Distinguishing characteristics of Kudumbashree include:
-Universality of reach
-Scope of community interface in local governance
As we can see from looking at the multifaceted goals of the Kudumbashree initiative, the project is not primarily driven by the desire to provide ‘hand out ICTs.’ They are organized in this mission and efforts and continue to be successful today.