ICT4D 2.0: Is Newer Better?

In the report, “The ICT4D 2.0 Manifesto: Where Next for ICTs and International Development?” Richard Heeks projects the future of ICT4D based upon analysis of the history of IT for development. Heeks argues that there are three phases to ICT4D, which he labels ICT4D 0.0, ICT4D 1.0 and ICT4D 2.0. Classifying ICT4D into phases is helpful because it shows us where we have been and where we are trying to go. ICT4D 0.0 began in the 1980s when technology was used for economic development in the private sector. However, the availability of the Internet and the creation of the MDGs led to the second phase in the mid-1990s to the mid-2000s – ICT4D 1.0, which used information technology in order to help underdeveloped countries. However, this approach resulted in failure, as it used an “invention-down approach” introducing new technologies to development contexts. It did not consider sustainability, scalability or evaluation. ICT4D 1.0 initiatives focused on tangible evidence for achievement; therefore, buildings with internet-connected PCs would pop up in rural areas. However, people did not have the skills or the knowledge to use these; therefore, over time these projects were virtually useless. While Heeks portrays ICT4D1.0 as a complete failure, I think that it was far from failure because it taught us how to improve ICT4D in several ways.

According to Heeks, we are transitioning into a third phase of development, using the knowledge gained from ICT4D 1.0 to improve upon development. ICT4D 2.0 is shifting balance focusing on what technology is actually being used and improving business model application rather than on introducing new technologies. ICT has been seen as a way of providing information to the poor, instead of as a tool to provide new incomes and opportunities. ICT4D 2.0 projects will not have a techno-centric approach (similar to that of ICT4D1.0) but instead have a broader view considering all three intellectual domains –computer science, information systems and development studies.  Additionally, ICT4D2.0 tries to encompass all sectors creating a more interactive approach nationally and internationally, unlike ICT4D 1.0 which targeted NGOs and Donors.

While Heeks provides a promising outlook for ICT4D 2.0 I am not fully convinced that ICT4D 2.0 will be significantly better than version 1.0. On paper, ICT4D2.0 has a demand-driven focus, but how will we apply paper to reality? Heeks mentions “collaborative” para-poor innovation and grassroots per-poor innovation, but this is all theory. It is a lot more difficult to apply theory to practice; therefore, I think ICT4D2.0 will fail in reality.  How will the poor become producers of digital content? How will we distribute new hardware to rural areas? How will new jobs and opportunities be created through ICT? All these questions are yet to be answered by ICT4D2.0.

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One response to “ICT4D 2.0: Is Newer Better?

  • abernst2

    I agree with your idea that applying paper to practice is extremely difficult, and that ICT4D2.0 definitely has some flaws. My main concern is that ICT4D2.0 claims to move away from the techno-centric approach of ICT4D1.0. I do not see how this is at all possible, especially with the acceleration rates of technological spread. ICT4D was used to provide information to the poor instead of providing new income and opportunities. However, to me, this shift is not as easy as Heeks is making it seem. In a world where the poor and jumping from little to no technology to high functioning technology, there are complications in changing that way in which they are receiving this information at this point. I believe that we are too far in the completely change our outlook and approach to ICT4D, especially when dealing with the poor. Like you, I believe that ICT4D2.0 does not seem plausible at this point in time.

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