Development · ICT4D · Participation · Power · Research

Software as Power..?

I went to the launch of the UNCTAD Report on the Information Economy last week, which focuses on software development capabilities in developing countries.
(Full report here).

Was an interesting discussion, with some good points raised by Richard Heeks and Tim Unwin amongst others; although the venue (the Commonwealth Foundation) and setting was just a tad more formal than I had anticipated (mental note – next time wear a suit!):

One issue occured to me though, both from skimming the report and listening to the discussions… The idea of software as ‘capability’ is interesting and ties the economic-aspects back to wider development-issues.  But taking this a step further, Software Development also has a power and dependency aspect – the more a country can define, control and produce its own software, the less it relies on external (usually Western) governments and companies to control how it uses ICT to meet its own development needs.

Even within this power-focused approach however, this is all focused on the country level, and suffers from the same issue of lack of detail as discussions around GDP. India is a prime example where, although at a country-level it is extremely independent and has vast software development resources, these are mostly focused in a few ghettos, are highly export-driven, and devolve little if any power to “the people” themselves.

An alternative, more participatory approach, could recognise that it is important for every region, every community, under-represented groups and so on, all to be able to influence their own ICT4D-related development through exerting control over how ICT and software influences their lives…

Food for thougt… And the seed of an idea that, combined with some of the things that the report highlights . . .

. . . could be the start of something transformational perhaps..?

Further ideas, critique and comments welcomed! 🙂

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