Is the term “ICT4D” patronising and offensive..?


I just stumbled across what is clearly quite an old, and volatile, thread about the term ICT4D.

Now without wishing to dredge up the whole discussion (you can see it summarised at the end), I thought it was very interesting…  Is it true that ICT4D is a Western, paternalistic term for what would otherwise just be a “project or company involving technology”…  Well, yes probably…  Does it matter..?  Perhaps…  Can we change it… Probably not…

My only concern is that I wonder if the wrong culprit is being blamed… Surely it isn’t the term ICT4D that’s a problem, but the “D” more widely.  The same arguments can be made against most development/aid work…  A “Health Development Program” and a “Local Education Development Project” in a poor country are called what in the US/Europe… A Hospital… A School! 🙂

But without SOME alternate term like ICT4D, how do practitoners and researchers identify relevant projects, find relevant staff/partners etc. – after all just using ICT is unhelpful (its so broad it could mean a Network Engineer in a multinational, or a Data-Analyst in a Bank).  Equally just using Development isn’t helpful – as it could refer to teachers, well-diggers, monitoring specialists, doctors and so on.

So clearly the space identified by ICT4D is essential to stake out, but can another term be found?  If it can, it needs to be a shared terminology accepted and used by practitioners, consultants, local communities, NGOs, researchers, academia, funders and governments…

Good luck!!! 🙂

One thought on “Is the term “ICT4D” patronising and offensive..?

  1. Deborah Strickland (@deborahs)

    I’m sure there is a lot of great ICT4D work in non-developing countries although it’s hard to find examples of it. I do agree with how the term can sound patronizing though. I see it more as learning how organizations have integrated different technologies (devices, and services) to offer better programs, or to reach more people. It’d be great if you could share examples outside of Africa and India. It’d help with research I’m doing for work.

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