The Sustainable Livelihoods Framework: Technology as an Equalizer

In the last class, we discussed some of the approaches to development, not necessarily directly relating to ICT4D. One in particular, the Capabilities Approach advocated by Amartya Sen, reminded me of something I had learned about in a previous International Development course called Urban Spaces and Development. In the course, we discussed the Sustainable Livelihoods Framework (SLF), which, according to this DFID publication, is “a tool to improve our understanding of livelihoods, particularly the livelihoods of the poor.” This tool’s purpose is to encourage a holistic approach when undertaking development initiatives and underscores that the main focus is on people.

For that reason, the SLF fits very well into the Capabilities Approach, which focuses on human development more directly and much more so than the Neoliberalism/Modernization approaches, which emphasizes economic development as the precursor to other types of development. The SLF considers the inter-relatedness of the many different factors affecting people’s abilities to “create a livelihood for themselves and their households” and has distilled these factors  into five key  “assets”: human capital, natural capital, financial capital, physical capital, and social capital (IFAD).

One point that the DFID guide on SLF makes is that an important component of building human capital is “extending access to … knowledge generated [by the community, such as research]” by increasing and improving methods of communication, especially to include the poor, who have a particularly difficult time in becoming part of the knowledge society. Technologies to address this issue should be considered as to whether they are internally produced or externally introduced, relating to the suggestion that governments should create “polic[ies] to invest in… technology generation,” which reinforces what our class discussed last week about national policy having a significant influence on the success of ICT4D.

Technology is relevant to all of the assets, but the fact that it is hilighted in relation to human capital is significant because it proposes a direct link between individual exposure to technology and “development” of a community. It really promotes the creation of a knowledge society that permeates throughout a community, a process that depends heavily upon distribution of technology.

I really like the SLF because it does not promote a one-size-fits-all approach to development; it considers the different degrees of influence different assets have on individuals’ lives to build a development strategy that will most effectively impact a community. Technology seems to play an equalizing role because it will help in the inclusion of the “poor” (sorry, Richard Heeks) in the development of their communities .

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