ICT4D · Research

What is the real ecosystem for ICT4D?

I was recently back in Kenya doing some self-directed research exploring potential ways to support and develop the local technology ecosystem (and more specifically the tech4good/ICT4D elements of it).  I’ve also recently been discussing a potential role with an international organisation. (More on both of these to come).

Something that I’ve been reflecting on is the very different perspectives on what constitutes the relevant ecosystem of actors in these two sets of conversations.

This is all inferred, but there is a definite sense that to the Nairobi-based folk, the ecosystem appears to them to be primarily their peers (local technology startups, local NGOs, the local offices of international NGOs) and local support networks (hubs, incubators etc.) with some tendrils reaching outward to funders and VC investors.

The international crowd on the other hand discuss the ecosystem with a lens that seems to encompass more depth at the ‘top’ end (bi-laterals, the UN, different funders etc.), with an unstated but apparent perception that the international implementers (e.g. the major NGOs) are the ‘doers’, with a jump then to the consumers of the products.

Clearly this is all entirely unsubstantiated but it does reflect earlier conversations I’ve had, and people’s perspectives are typically coloured by their experiences, so it is only logical that someone who spends 90% of their time in London or DC might see things differently than someone who spends their time in Naorobi or Mombasa…

What this reflection prompted me to do is to try and capture my own thoughts around this ecosystem (see below – for now I held off putting any linking lines/arrows in as I am unsure what these would represent – money flow, relationships, pwoer…).

I am not sure yet whether this is something that has a wider purpose or could evolve into something useful, but I am curious to put it out there and see what people think…

  • Have I made the same error of perspective and missed out a whole set of actors too?
  • Would a more fully thought out version of this be a useful tool to guide conversations with people to broaden their perspectives or to help as a bridge between individuals seeing the sector very differently?
  • And of course, does a more robust version of this alreayd exist somewhere?


Any thoughts welcome!

One thought on “What is the real ecosystem for ICT4D?

  1. Hi Matt,
    Interesting stuff. Indeed, our ideas are always enriched (and limited) by the position we occupy in a system, by our “perspective”.
    Your diagram made me think of another included in a PhD thesis I recently came accross, on co-creation ecosystems:

    Mačiulienė, M. (2018) Modelling Co-Creative Ecosystem in the Context of Technological Development, Vilnius: Mykolo Romerio universitetas, 2018, https://repository.mruni.eu/handle/007/15189

    The diagram is included in the page 110 (and the whole PhD supposedly generated and validated this diagram via existing evidence and through empirical means). Maybe this model can inform your reflections, and make them less “unsubstantiated”? 🙂


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