Misconceptions in development research

From studying development for almost three years now, I have learned the importance of understanding the context of information given to me. Information, including data and analysis, differs depending on the definitions of terms/indicators, the source, presenter/author, and much more.

Before beginning the book for our class, ICT4D, I decided to google the author, Tim Unwin.

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It turns out he has a blog himself. First, I looked at his “About Me”. His accomplishments were lengthy and his experience was understatedly impressive. As I started scrolling through his blog posts, I found one called “On “cyber” and the dangers of elision.” The post explained the true definition of “cyber” and all of the misunderstandings surrounding the word, especially when used in relation to development. This is a common occurrence in development work and it’s important to bring attention to the fact when it happens like Unwin did in his post.

Misunderstandings and misconceptions about information/terminology has been a main topic of discussion in our last few classes. For example, even the most basic regions may be defined differently from report to report. It becomes even more confusing once you start considering “happiness” indicators.

The moral of the story: When reading a paper about development, one can never make assumptions about parameters/indicators without looking at the way they were defined.

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3 responses to “Misconceptions in development research

  • caroline

    I agree that this should be a point of discussion for many in the ICT4D and development field in general. We have myriad sources of information, all of which present their data in varying forms. The individual needs to take it upon themselves to question the data, how it is presented, how the measuring differs, etc. before analyzing it and bringing it meaning. In class we saw how the ranking of technology use in countries greatly redistributed just by switching from raw numbers to percentages. This will be a very important thing to keep in mind for future country analysis.

  • areed2014

    I am glad that you have raised this key issue within the first blog week because, as you have pointed out, the use of data, statistics, and other information are highly circumstantial to each report. It is important that we, as agents in our social world, use a critical lens when data and information is presented to us. Going further, the complexity of defining attributes, indicators, and dimensions of different data sets can make comparing data challenging. As students of international development we need to be careful when comparing and contrasting information and their subsequent meanings in order to clearly understand a country and their complex environments.

  • anaseree

    I also completely agree with your view on the misconceptions you have pointed out. While we will all have different personal definitions of various terms and ideas, a lack of uniform definitions leads to almost useless data and analyses. Language and cultural differences can add to differences in views of terms and ideas, but those studying or surveying should make a point of providing uniform definitions in such cases when it is quite necessary. Thank you for doing the extra research and bringing up this concern.

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