ICT4D Lessons

I believe that information and communication technologies in and of themselves represent the process of development. Much like developing countries, technology continues to advance and grow with each new day. But through this class, I have learned that ICTs are not solely enablers of the knowledge economy. They are also major engines for growth and job creation, as well as agents of social change. The existence of such varied range of ICTs– each one multifaceted in nature– is very promising, since ICT-enabled development comes in many shapes in sizes.

Like it has been in other IDEV courses, the importance of becoming familiar with the target community’s specific needs was a topic that was heavily stressed in this class- and rightfully so. With any kind of development initiative, it is extremely important to have a thorough understanding of the issue your endeavor is attempting to solve, and the context in which this issue is placed. However, the past few months in this class have demonstrated to me that ICT-based initiatives in particular must make this a priority. Technology is expensive, and aid funding is already scarce, so any projects centered on ICTs as a means for development need to pay serious attention to ensuring that the chosen solution is not only appropriate, but sustainable.  The notion of “back-office” versus “front-office” strategies was also something this class brought to my attention. The field of development has historically been driven mostly by humanitarian beliefs and moral imperatives, which have given rise to countless initiatives that focus solely on acute needs rather than making lasting, structural change in a community. This is where I have learned that ICTs have the greatest potential. Introducing the proper ICTs, in the appropriate context, and with careful follow-through can not only accelerate development in all sectors, but also provide a framework and foundation for these other types of development to succeed.

As a future development professional (I hope!), this shift in focus away from aid that superficially appears more rewarding to “less-popular” aid that can actually have a lasting impact, is a vital piece of professional guidance that this class has provided me with. As far as theories and frameworks, this class has not necessarily taught me anything new. However, it has demonstrated to me the importance of them more than any other class I have taken. For example, human-centered design (HCD) is, in my opinion, ideal for ICT-enabled projects. Many unsuccessful ICT4D initiatives have failed due to ignoring this HCD framework. As I previously mentioned, the technology chosen needs to fit the end-user, benefit them, and leverage the skills and resources they already possess.

Finally, the only area of interest I wish we could have discussed in greater detail is the environment. I believe now, more than ever, is the time to begin discussing what we are going to do to rescue our planet. Even though they are commonly thought of in opposition, I think technology and the environment are two entities that could, if applied correctly, mutually benefit one another. It would have been interesting, and extremely relevant, to learn more about ICT-enabled environmental solutions.

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