Richard Heeks Strikes Again – Non-ICT4D National Policy Can Determine Success of ICT4D Initiatives

For this blogpost, I decided to look up some blogs that consider the topics we’ve discussed in class this week. I found ICT4DBlog, which features an article about why some ICT4D initiatives work and why others don’t. I read the article and thought it would make a great discussion topic, considering our discussion in class today about how national policy is often a driving force of the success of ICT4D initiatives, even if it is not certain that all elements of this policy will be implemented.

After having finished reading the article, I glanced up to see who the author was, and lo and behold, it was Richard Heeks!  I hadn’t heard of the man until a week ago (we read his article “ICTs and the MDGs: On the Wrong Track?”), but since then, I’ve learned about how he feels about the MDGs and how he feels development should occur. I agree with him on several points, but I’ll leave that aside for now and sum up the points he made in this article, “The Obama Presidency and ICT4D”.

Disclaimer: This article is from November 2008, but I believe it makes some important points.

It seems that at the outset of his presidency, President Obama did not specifically make ICT4D a policy priority, but he has put forth “policy stances” that promote 3 areas that do affect ICT4D:

  1. Technology: increase ICT infrastructure; promote “e-transparency” through increased ICT usage in the government
  2. Trade: reduce trade barriers; increase the prevalence of the “Made in America” phenomenon
  3. Foreign Policy/Development: increase aid from $25 billion to $50 billion by 2012 (not achieved according to Politifact); increase investment in AIDS/Tuberculosis/Malaria Global Fund and Global Education Fund; promote African entrepreneurship and access to “green technology”

Heeks is quick to point out that “support” of ICT and development do not necessarily translate to a combination of these two areas. And any relationship between the two is dependent upon the three areas mentioned above, as politics can carry forward or crush initiatives without even noticing.

Interestingly enough, Heeks believes that politics itself may have been changed by ICT. It’s possible that Obama’s campaign may have projected a “‘do-as-I-do'”  impact upon developing countries by unconsciously promoting “‘e-democracy,'” which came about as a result of his campaign engaging people in the political process through the internet.

As we learned in class today, policy stances do not equal guaranteed action. Policies are guidelines to help a country determine its priorities and to try to achieve the necessary changes within a reasonable amount of time. As we stand at the already-realized future of this 2008 article, it’s still unclear whether ICT4D  has itself become a national policy priority, but it is safe to say that ICT has been greatly utilized in most development projects.

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