ICT4D and the Creative Industries

In Richard Heeks’ ICT4D Manifesto, he discusses how ICTs are widely viewed as tools to provide information and services to the world’s poor, but not as tools the poor can use to create new incomes and jobs for themselves.  I find the latter view to be very interesting when looking through the lens of ICT4D moving into the “2.0” era, as developing nations become more familiar with and more comfortable using technologies creatively to produce jobs and innovation for themselves.  It is understood within the development community that in order for a project to be sustainable and have long-term effects, it must provide the citizens of that community with a sense of agency, and the skills to sustain the project from the inside out, as opposed to the outside in.  Simply planting an internet café with two PC’s in a rural village in India will not provide for change, as seen in the failures of ICT4D 1.0 projects.

Taking a productive view towards information technologies, with the poor using the technologies themselves to create specific solutions for the problems in their communities will serve to both empower the people and result in ICT functioning at an optimally efficient level.  As a Digital Media Production major, the concept of “creative economy”, which spans from traditional arts and crafts to technology-imbued fields like film and radio is very interesting and accessible in terms of economic development for those who are creatively inclined in impoverished countries.  Developing countries provide a low-cost base for new creative industries to spring up with the help of technological access, growing jobs from an already rich base of creative resources. Access to websites such as “Etsy” and “eBay”, could provide a forum for craftsmen in developing nations to sell artwork and other products to interested parties abroad, while other programs such as “Soundcloud” provide a forum for musicians to upload and market their skills- access to the markets of developed nations could result in higher sales and greater productivity for those in developing nations through the internet.  Outsourcing of digital technology related jobs such as gaming to developing nations is another way in which the “creative economy” provides access for citizens of developing nations to take creative productivity that pre-exists ICT4D and market it to the global economy.  I feel that encouraging the growth of “creative economies”, which draw on the specific cultural artistic heritage and creativity of the people of developing nations, would be a symbiotically productive use of ICT4D in the 2.0 era, promoting innovation and self-agency within developing communities.

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