Masking Hegemony: The Downside to the Millennium Development Goals

Until I read Richard Heeks’ article, “ICTs and the MDGs: On the Wrong Track?” I had not considered how the Millennium Development Goals might actually be a site for which power and inequality are reproduced. As we know, the MDGs were created post neo-liberalism as a way to reconceptualize the human aspect of development. What I found interesting about Heeks’ argument is that while the MDGs are not intrinsically bad, they surely have latent effects that maintain normative power dynamics between developed and developing countries. Going further, he exposes that when ICT is incorporated into the development goals, further inequality can be met, especially if economic growth and ICT production and skills are not cultivated. Heeks’ argument about power dynamics and the MDGs raised a few questions. First and foremost, what are the underlying motives of the Millennium Development Goals that could produce and perpetuate hegemony? How does the concept of moral and humanitarian development work play a role in masking dynamics of power between nations? How do axis of identity, specifically relating to citizenship, nationality, gender, and class play a role in maintaining or deviating from the normative hegemony of the MDGs? Finally, how can ICT of any form reproduce or challenge power dynamics established by the MDGs?

After reading Heeks’ article I decided to see what others were saying about ICT in relation to development. In December, The Guardian published an article that relayed what experts were forecasting as ICT development trends for this upcoming year of 2014. They all discuss increases in some form of technology or another, with a particular emphasis on mobile technology, and as well, they all expected ICT to transform society and promote more equity. For instance, Maria Eitel, the president and CEO of the Nike Foundation predicts that providing women with mobile phones will create The Girl Effect. Point, how do predictions such as these from ICT experts perpetuate the idealistic nature of combining ICT with the MDGs? Can such ideas and predictions of ICT use actually create further problems with the one-size-fits-all atmosphere of the MDGs? Similarly, how can ICT and MDGs be reconstituted in order to meet the needs of people while also disrupting and alleviating oppression, inequality, and hegemony?

Ultimately, both articles show biased and opposing arguments that can be made regarding ICT and development. That being said, in the process of reading these perspectives I was reminded of the important influence that power and identity have on development work worldwide, even in efforts of good intentions.

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3 responses to “Masking Hegemony: The Downside to the Millennium Development Goals

  • jboleky

    You bring up some valid points in your interest into MDG’s and they can actually be a negative in some aspects. But you have to remember that politicians are intrinsically lazy and whenever you have a concept like the MDG’s that are easy to talk about but intrinsically extremely complex in reality they will be abused. Politicians love bywords and other easy to understand heuristics and frankly i am not surprised at all that the MDG’s have suffered this problem. The big goal sounds nice on paper and to those people at a swiss convention but in reality is a complex problem that requires innovative solutions and a good deal of effort and money. Just something to keep in mind

  • skagan2016

    I agree that you bring up some really good points, and originally I also hadn’t thought of the MDGs as having negative effects, I more saw them as a goal for the world to work towards. When talking about the MDGs and talking about the different effects that they can have on power dynamics I think it’s important to yes, critically analyze the effect that they are having, but it is also important to take a step back and look at what the goals themselves are and the reasons that they were created. I think ICTs can even increase the power dynamic that some see reflected in the MGDs. This is because the ICT capabilities of a country often reflect economic capabilities and if a country is particularly developed in the ICT sector, they can prove as a ‘leg up’ for a country.

  • kbruce2016

    I really enjoyed reading your blog post because I felt the same way as I read Heeks’ article. I was aware of the challenges in achieving the MDGs, but I had never considered problems with the MDGs themselves. The “one-size-fits-all” mind set is obviously dangerous. However, the MDGs do speak to the most significant development challenges around the globe and I think it is more important to ensure that solutions do not follow a “one-size-fits-all” model. I don’t really agree that the MDGs themselves are that problematic, but trying to address them on an international level is. A group of leaders sitting at a conference trying to come up with solutions from afar is what really ignores the challenges specific to each developing country.

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