Know Your Audience: Success in ICT4D

I think one of the most important lessons in ICT4D is to look more at the people than the technology. Someone can invent the most brilliant piece of technology that could save the world, but if it is not implemented in a place that has the technological capability to fully apply the invention, or where there is not a need for that technology then the project will not see success. Knowing the culture, people, and current technological status of a community can drastically affect the success of an ICT4D project. Some examples of this are OLPC and different cell phone projects where people haven’t been able to charge their phone.

The second example is one of the best to show how the technological infrastructure needs to be in place before an ICT4D project can truly make a difference. All of the people in the mobile phone study stated that they used their phone a lot and that it made a large difference, but their biggest problem was that they didn’t have a reliable way to charge their phone. Without the capability to charge their phone in their house or a place to charge the battery the phone, and ultimately the ICT4D project, is unsuccessful. One Laptop Per Child is another example. Some of the ideals behind this project were spot on: creating a more durable laptop that is easy to use. However, with such a large blanketed approach it was nearly impossible to address the country/area specific concerns that arose, and forced them all to fall on the government of those nations who may not have known the different aspects that needed to be addressed or may not have been capable of solving them. Of course that was not the only problem with OLPC, but the ‘one size fits all’ approach that is part of the framework with the program did contribute to specific failures in different countries.

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