Over the last few weeks, I’ve been reading more and more about homegrown NGOS in Africa defying the traditional model of Western-exported development. As information and communication technology proliferates throughout the world and becomes cheaper, this new type of homegrown developmentincreasingly emphasizes technology. Reading this week, I learned about a Nigerian NGO which serves as an archetype for African, rather than Western, led development.
The NGO is called the Society for the Promotion of Education and Development (SPED). It promotes market-based solutions to education problems through public-private partnerships aimed at introducing ICTs to schools serving underprivileged children throughout Nigeria. In doing so, they explicitly speak of bridging the digital divide that plagues Nigeria, one of the world’s most unequal countries. With offices in Abuja and Lagos, Nigeria’s political and economic capitals, SPED mainly focuses on assisting the urban poor. But their work is not limited solely to urban areas.
One aspect of ICT4D that gets overlooked, in my opinion, is the way that technological proliferation, and thus ICT4D, can build on itself. ICT4D projects do not occur in a vacuum, and as ICTs are introduced to ever greater portions of the world, it is important to recognize the ability of those it is introduced to to, in turn, introduce it to others. As ICTs become commonplace throughout the developing world and barriers to access begin to fall, it will become the responsibility of those who have received technological assistance to pass their newfound skills and technology to others. SPED is a great example of this dynamic, one that I believe will have profound implications on ICT4D, and development generally, in the years to come.
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