Semester Conclusions: Salient Themes of ICT4D

Before this ICT4D course I was unaware of how important technology can be for development. This class has exposed a few salient themes in relation to technology and development. First and foremost, access to ICT is truly an asset or a barrier to the livelihoods of people, especially those in developing countries. This stratification of access, also known as the digital divide, is therefore a key structure that needs to improve if meaningful development is going to occur. I have grown particularly interested in the digital divide because, often, the dimensions to technological access are interconnected with other systemic problems. Specifically, physical infrastructure, language, age, income, gender, and identity can all be barriers or access points to ICT as well as other facets of development, like jobs, healthcare, and resources. Curiously, bridging the digital divide will not only improve ICT in developing countries, but can also improve other sectors within a country.

The other salient theme that pervades ICT4D is the initial technological needs of a community. While it is great to design and implement new, cutting-edge technologies, it is important for development agents to meet basic needs first. More so, a community should have a niche request for the technology being incorporated. Sounds like a basic needs assessment? Indeed, it is! Needs assessments, along with stakeholder collaboration, and monitoring and evaluation, are critical to all development projects, even those non-ICT related, because ideally the purpose of the project is to improve the quality of life and livelihoods of real people. ICT4D projects must use discretion, creativity, and humility in order to utilize the most-fitting technologies for individual communities. Along the same lines, there is no one-size-fits-all ICT for development purposes, and therefore innovation should be a priority.  Ultimately, ICT can be a highly effective mode in development, however only when such projects take into consideration the lived experiences, needs, and desires of the affected peoples.

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