A recent topic of discussion amongst my classmates has been the failure of ICT4D projects and some of the reasons they typically fail. This video, from the ICT4D Poverty Reduction Summit in Winneba, Ghana, attributes failure to 7 major reasons.
It’s nearly impossible to disagree with the insight provided by these ICT professionals. However, a trend I’ve noticed is that many of the reasons we come up with are directed at the receiving end. For instance, we can attribute a project’s failure in Ghana to the lack of appropriate infrastructure in Ghana or the extensive costs of maintaining technology in Ghana. We don’t often analyze the failures on the giving end and, when we do, we’re mostly talking about flaws in perception or understanding. What if part of the problem is administration? What if there are technical issues on the giving end as well?
In a recent article from the IT section of one of Australia’s leading publications, Trevor Clarke discusses IT project failures and a new government standard for them. Clarke points out that over the years, IT market observers have been disappointed by the number of IT projects that have either failed completely or exceeded their budgets and/or deadlines. The new government standard is an attempt to increase efficiency and prevent failure on these projects. Of course, this refers only to domestically developed and implicated projects within Australia, but it just goes to show that when it comes to IT or ICT projects, failure does not discriminate. If ICT projects within a well-developed, first-world country often fail, we mustn’t be discouraged when the same happens in the third world.
However, that’s not to say there is no hope. With new initiatives like Australia’s new ICT governance standard, we can imitate their processes and procedures when we’re working in the developing world. Perhaps ICT4D professionals should attempt to develop a similar standard for their projects in places like Sub Saharan Africa or Latin America. Now, “if it worked there, it will work here” is not necessarily the type of philosophy development professionals should follow, but having some guidelines and sound advice won’t hurt. I think Australia’s ICT failures and imminent successes could help ICT4D professionals to learn from example.