Category Archives: Research

Would you like to read interviews with people working in ICT4D, digital development, tech4good (etc etc…)

Recently my friend Izzy (Isabelle Amazon-Brown) and I were discussing the fact that we both at a point of deciding what we want to do next in our ICT4D careers… And there is not a whole lot out there to help fuel the decision.

Something we both thought would be helpful would be to hear from other people in the broad ‘using technology for social good’ sectors about what they do, how they got there, where they see their careers heading and, most interestingly, what they think the sector needs to give it a bit of a shake-up.

But if we’re going to chat to a range of people about this, why not publish it so everyone can get the benefit.

  • What do people think about the idea – would you find these kinds of interview interesting and useful?
  • Any particular angles you’d want to read about?
  • Are there specific people you’d like to hear from or would suggest we speak to?
  • Would you like to be interviewed?

Ideas on a postcard (well… in the comments threads below would be even better!) 🙂


The literature gap between academia and big business..?

So I am doing a piece of work for a US-based international NGO at the moment.  It includes exploring what the upcoming trends might be for the ICT4D sector.

I am obviously quite cautious about making predictions (recent history being a case-study in the value of these!), and was initially also quite cautious about even finding much useful literature or material to draw ideas from.

Well, in some areas I was proven wrong.

It turns out there is a ton of “big IT” material out there – the likes of pwc, Accenture, deloitte etc. are continually speculating about the tech trends, and some of them are even looking at what that means for Africa, for development etc.

I also found a little academic work exploring the impact of deeper social trends on underlying ICT4D paradigms and reserach interests.  Extremely interesting but only tangentially relevant to this work.

What I have really struggled with – which ironically feels like the easiest part to predict – is practical short-term predictions about the sector – we all know digital has increased and continues to, but by how much?  We all talk about funders and INGOs ‘going digital’ but what does this mean in terms of funding, upcoming calls, programs etc?  There is a lot of discussion about new funders, more funding going direct to the South, governments funding tech directly etc. – but where are the summaries, the numbers, the analyses.

I hope I am just find it hard to find – as at least that would just mean my individual failure.

But maybe I can’t find it because, as a sector we are not producing it.  That would be a collective failure that is more concerning.

So my appeal – do you know of any recent material (literature, websites, blogs.  hell even tweets!) on sector trends, funding trends, anything likely to impact on organisation’s approaches to ICT4D over the next few years?

If so, please contact me urgently!

(I am hoping to publish the results of my own research – pending approval of the NGO, so watch this space and hopefully I will save others from having to hit the same roadblock in the future!)

The image is because I couldn’t find a cartoon that suitably captured my failing to find the research.. but this made me chuckle and is kinda loosely vaguely relevant ahem


Oxfam research poses a challenge to NGOs in Digital Development – what should their role be..?

Today Oxfam launches the research that they commissioned my colleague George Flatters and I to do last spring.

(Download Digital Development: What is the role for international NGOs?)

What research..?

Oxfam wanted information to help them decide what is the most useful role they can play with regards to technology in the HECA region (Horn, East and Central Africa); what is happening now; what success/failure factors seem to be important; what opportunities are out there…

George and I were excited to get involved and after reading a ton of related literature, we talked to Oxfam staff from across the region about the really interesting ‘ICT in programme’ work they are doing, interviewed around 50 interesting ‘tech 4 dev’ types across the region (NGOs, tech start-ups, government, donors, civil society and academics), pushed out an online survey to reach around 300 more, and facilitated a very fun participatory learning workshop at Oxfam’s offices in Nairobi.

What did we learn..?

Lots!  Read the report to delve into all the findings, I’ve only highlighted a few things here.

Some findings were interesting but unsurprising – everyone thinks adaptable and user-focused methods are best, and that scaling is hard… (Ok, so that’s hardly news)

Some findings shed more light on known areas – why do flexible user centred approaches remain relaticely rare across the sector, when everyone agrees they’re good?  Is part of the challenge with achieving scale down to the lack of a shared understanding of what it actually is?

And some were surpirising (to us at least) – increasing survey fatigue – the ease and low-cost of mobile surveys means everyone is doing them, and hearing about some fascinating projects like using tiny internet connectivity devices to directly monitor water supplies in rural areas.

A few of my personal favourite quotes give a flavour of what’s in the report:

“It’s a very basic idea—old stuff, known technology, not trying to be fancy—that’s what works in Africa”, Erik Hersman, BRCK

“NGOs tend to do RFPs to build something, rather than scanning for existing services and just using one… this wastes millions of dollars.”, Fabrice Romeo, Echo Mobile

“Building something yourself should be a last resort… Resist the urge to invent “a better wheel” every time you plan a project — explore what else exists first, and challenge yourself to make it work.”, Alexander Nash, Atkins Water and Environment

“Initiatives should be owned by the community and co-created with end-users… a challenge within typical development cycles of planning and funding.”, Linda Raftree, M&E Consultant

“We’ve heard the same ‘lessons learned’ for 15 years: basic issues around understanding your audience and their technology patterns and needs. These aren’t ‘lessons’, these are common sense approaches — and the fact they are still being re-stated shows that we have not succeeded in bridging the gap between the people who are learning and the people who are designing ICT4D projects.”, Carol Morgan, HIVOS

“People are reaching saturation points with mobile surveys in some countries—we risk exhausting the population and it won’t work for anyone in future.”, Claudia Lopes, Africa’s Voices

There is lots more good stuff in the report.

What I really wanted to focus on though, is the unexpected ‘calls to action’ that emerged from our analysis of the results.

What is the call to action for the international NGO sector?

We heard a range of views and comments about the role of the NGO sector in general.  But in regards to their role in the ICT4D space, one thing came through loud and clear:

Those working with tech in Africa want NGOs to support them, not compete with them.

Many NGOs (including Oxfam I should add) have already embraced local partnership working and policies like “buy/adapt, don’t build internally”, which is a great start.  But as a sector we can do much more…  The three core NGO roles we identified as being welcomed by the majority of those in the ICT4D ‘sector’ are:


Almost 90% of those surveyed thought international NGOs can play a valuable role in convening partners from different sectors and helping develop the capacity of local actors – co-creating shared best practice guidance for technology development and product selection, supporting upskilling of local people and partners and, ultimately, facilitating the emergence of a bottom-up ICT4D agenda owned and led by African partners.


Another role with widespread support was as collaborators – working with each other to develop shared product requirements and reduce the waste and overlap in producing overly similar tools, working more collaboratively with local partners (as equals not just as service providers) and, most interestingly, collaborating on M&E so that it becomes something outside of projects, even outside of individual organisations, but directly owned by the communities who are collaborating with the NGOs.


NGOs are uniquely placed to exert pressure on donors, multi-lateral institutions and governments.  If they can adapt to become more collaborative and become a voice genuinely representative of their local partners – they could be a powerful voice in changing the way these bigger players work – to be more flexible, less top-down, more supportive of developing local capacity, more driven by those actually working with tech in development than those working in policy in London, DC, Brussels etc.

How should NGOs respond?

leftbehindFirst off let’s all recognise – this is happening whether we like it or not.  The sector is going digital, and we all need to adapt to this new reality:

I’d love it if the senior teams of all the international NGOs were to engage with this challenge – however much ICT and ICT4D skills might be improved among staff and partners, without the leaders having a good understanding of the opportunities and risks technology pose, change will be slow.

If a few NGOs can take a lead, champion the idea that the technology actors on-the-ground know best, help them develop their capacity, work with them as equals, advocate with and for them…  Who knows what we might achieve?

So my personal call to action is –

  • Read and (if you like it) share the report
  • Try to work with local partners in a more collaborative and supportive way
  • Join up with other like-minded people working at our weird junction of technology and development/social-change – start to develop a positive ICT4D community in your region
  • Working together, seek to influence those around you to do the same – within your organisation, your partners and especially your donors!

If we all work together for common goals, as part of one community, who knows what we can achieve…

The full report, Digital Development: What is the role for international NGOs? can be downloaded from Oxfam’s Policy & Practice website from Feb 23

Looking for hands-on experience with grass-roots participatory technology… Can you help?

So my colleagues at Aptivate have kindly approved my proposal to take a sabbatical.  So from October 2015 I will taking a break for the UK to explore a core interest of mine – the intersection of ICTs/mobile technology and participatory methodologies.

I have been interested in this area for some time since starting work on on Masters dissertation, but really want to get more hands-on experience working on the ground, in the Global South,  with a group that are doing this stuff well.  It may be a bit selfish and of course I need to be useful to the organisation I spend time with, but . . . the main reason for taking time out is to learn from people who really know their stuff when it comes to participatory methods (things like REFLECT or PLA/PRA/RRA etc..)!

Can you help?  Do you know anyone you could recommend?

In short, what I am hoping to do is…

  • Work pro-bono for a few months (at a guess 3-6 but am flexible – if I happen to be in the area of an interesting project, then even offering my services for a week or so of research, evaluation or workshops could be interesting)
  • For an organisation working directly with end-users in their local communities
  • Ideally within a project making use of ICTs and participatory methods (serious participation – something like REFLECT or Participatory Rural Appraisal, not just a consultation or a feedback loop)
  • But . . .  as this may be a tall order,  a good ICT/Mobile project and a good participatory project as two separate experiences might work
  • Where?  Pretty much anywhere…  Latin America and Myanmar are particularly appealing, but really the nature of the work is more important so Kenya, Ghana, the Phillipines, India, Mexico . . . you get the idea…
  • When?  I will be travelling to Australia during September / October 2015 and could start straight after that, or early in 2016 if it makes more sense to come home for Christmas and start over.  The only real deadline is that I need to be finished by September 2016 at the latest.
  • Doing what?  Well this is tricky – obviously I need to be helpful to the project/organisation so my ICT4D practice and research skills – project management, program development, research and evaluation, fundraising, strategic consultancy etc. are all potentially useful.  BUT I also need to learn about what makes for good, effective, fair participatory work, so I want  to be directly involved in this delivery.  I’m sure we can work something out! 🙂  Oh and it’s always possible that wider collaboration opportunities with Aptivate might emerge too, who knows!
    • So after a couple of emails I was reminded that the term participation/participatory covers a lot of ground so maybe I should clarify…  What I really want to get some experience of is a group, project, or program working at the top-end of Arnstein’s ladder – full and meaningful participation of the local community at every stage – from defining the goals, through delivery to evaluation – something that is genuinely empowering…  Using technology… A tall order?  I know, hence this  blog! 🙂

So this is a plea  for advice…

Do you know of the perfect project?  Do you know others working in this space?  Have you read about, heard about something that seems relevant?

Please download my CV from my profile page and email me (matt /a/ if you have any ideas – I am open to any and all suggestions! 🙂



Is it time for ICTD conferences to have a bit of a shake-up..?

websiteheader2It was with some reservations that I booked my travel to Singapore to attend ICTD2015. It’s a long way to go for a conference, and I had heard very mixed things from friends and colleagues who have been before – “it’s too academic” and “there aren’t enough practitioners” is the most common complaint.

Well, I like to keep one toe dipped in academia so I thought whether those concerns are valid or not, I am sure it will be interesting and useful.

Half a day in and, while enjoying it, I notice I am having a few misgivings.

Reading through the list of papers, notes, open sessions and demos there is no shortage of practitioners, organisations from the South and technical folk alongside the list of University names, Doctors and other noted academics (although @ICTD2015 / @ICTD2017 – an attendee list would be invaluable – please try and arrange before the final day!).

Where things fall down is not in the attendees or the subject matter, but the format…

Days 1 and 4 are the so-called “open sessions” which I had been informed are interactive spaces where the whole room will engage and discuss or work on things together. Great!

Well, so far… Day 1 so far is a series of sit and face-the-front lectures with a few minutes of Q&A at the end. Apparently this is not always the case, but for this year at least – given the choice of lecture theatres as spaces, this was either planned or at least inevitable.

Frustratingly, the subject matter is great! The format is not. Why does this matter..?

Why do people attend conferences like these? Invariably it is either to learn or to network and collaborate.

The last few decades have taught us many things about learning – and it is now pretty well agreed that lectures are not a good learning format. There are practical arguments why they might be necessary, especially with groups of 100s of people, but they should be the format of last resort not the go-to-format which is reached for first. And for the smaller sessions, with 10-20 people – there is literally no reason for this format when a round-table, group work, or any of hundreds of well-established and easy to facilitate interactive approaches would make for a better learning experience.

For the second reason – networking and collaborating – face-the-front lecture style sessions are all but useless, where small and large group interactive sessions are invaluable! Even better networking opportunities between sessions would be a good backup!

So I am already here… Why am I writing this?

Well, OK I am English, so of course it is nice to live up to the stereotype and whinge now and then… But more importantly, I would really like this to be better!! There are a fantastic group of people here, in one place, together, for four days! And this risks becoming a wasted opportunity for something exciting and valuable to take place!

So a plea to the @ICTD2015 / @ICTD2017 organisers – for future years, please try your hardest to make the conference more interactive – I think you will find the practitioner-community flocks back in droves if you get this right. And by more interactive I don’t just mean getting the open-sessions working as intended – why not open it up much more? How many people really want to spend two full days in a lecture theatre watching presentation after presentation..? Break it up a bit, have more participant involvement, more streams, more hands-on, more facilitated networking, more options!

I know Aptivate would love to work with you and help you do this – we regularly facilitate Open Space / Unconference type events (

As for this year… Well it’s probably too late to change anything, but maybe as attendees we can at least fill the gaps and do some networking and collaborating and sharing of learnings ONLINE…

Please post your suggestions at the lowest-bandwidth simplest collaborative idea I know of –

Comments from other attendees or organisers welcomed below! 🙂

Three events, three perspectives on community participation, one week…

This week I attended three different events – variations on the common theme of community engagement and participation:

Each event was dealing with the concept of engaging communities in development or government, but each had very different perspectives.  One was a group of mainly ICT4D practitioners, one UK based civil servants and activists, and the last primarily academics.  Given this there are of course significant differences but some surprising commonalities between all three.  Each event and some common themes are explored below, in particular focusing on some key tensions or contrasts that people at each event identified.

Citizen Voices UK (19th March 2013)

While some of this event was familiar ground, some interesting topics were discussed and debated.  The first contrast which was apparent to me was simply how valuable having academics and practitioners together can be, similarly for ICTers and Ders (techies and social development people), as the perspectives and insights are often different and give rise to helpful debates.

Contrast of Participation / Democracy
Some interesting thoughts on the tension between participatory and representative democracy, in particular the role and value of intermediaries.  How can/should they be involved, what is different about local/international intermediaries, advocates vs. representatives etc.  While bottom-up seems most desirable, there is some value to an external/top-down perspective to appreciate the bigger picture, benefit of scale and ability to step outside local power structures…

Contrast of Government non-response / Citizen non-response
Some observations that in some cases despite a responsive government, people simply don’t engage…  And some surprise at this, despite relatively clear reasoning that 10-20 years of being ignored are clearly not going to be reversed by one well-meaning ICT4D project!

Also interesting highlighting of what is actually new in new technology – pretty much just two things, the fact that everyone is potentially a creator (not needing to spend a fortune to buy a printing press) and the granularity of data…  Everything else may seem new, but has probably been done before in other technologies.

Most interesting take-aways for me, or thoughts the event gave rise to were:

Iteration across multiple programs
Iterative approaches are beginning to be recognised as preferable (e.g. Agile as discussed in my recent blarticle).  However when a community has multiple projects happening over a long time-period, perhaps with different NGOs, governments and partners, how do you ensure the benefits and learning of an iterative approach can be embedded in this complex scenario.  It’s clearly needed!

Depoliticising through participation?
While it is possible that participation can lead people to become more engaged and active and move on to bigger challenges, it is equally possible that by participating in the micro-level things they CAN control, they end up ‘satisfied’, depoliticised and stop trying to change the bigger things.  It’s hard to know which is more likely, but a look at Bolivia is interesting.  There were very high levels of participation for 10-20 years enshrined in the constitution, but fundamentally changing nothing as the government ignored the people.  Then in a short period of time, the group excluded from participation (MAS) became a major social force and were elected as a highly developmental government.  Would this have happened earlier without the ‘fake’ participation or did this galvanise groups to organise.  Given that MAS was mostly excluded from the participatory programs, it seems that the former is more likely and perhaps supporting social movements is a better alternative than establishing participatory projects that serve to depoliticise the population.  While generalising from this experience is clearly difficult and dangerous, it is nevertheless interesting food for thought.

Role of champions in government
The power of the individual was also highlighted as extremely important.  The idea of identifying and nurturing people within government who have a genuine desire to change and power to implement or influence things seems plausible, achievable and a powerful tool to increase the chances of participation being successful and empowering.

Engaging Communities & Local Government (19th March 2013)

Ironically, the highest profile (hosted at the House of Commons) event, focusing on the mature democracy of the UK, which could have been expected to have the most mature and well thought out proposals for community engagement, was actually the least interesting of the three.  There were still some useful tensions to consider however:

Cooperatives / Outsourcing, Representative vs. Participatory Democracy
One model discussed was the co-operative council model, set against the ‘Barnet’ model of government outsourcing.  They sound very different but the discussion (with Steven Reed MP and Heather Wheeler MP) betrayed surprisingly similar results.

The Co-op model talks about encouraging local communities to take ownership, while the outsourced model emphasises saving money through efficiency, but there are fundamental questions over whether either are actually giving up power in any way, or just outsourcing to slightly differently constituted non-democratic institutions.  The rhetoric may be around participatory democracy but is the reality just handing power from elected to unelected ‘community leaders’, and in such a way that it can be reclaimed at any moment..?

Having said that, a local council’s commitment to supporting, establishing and working with co-operatives can only be a good thing, it should perhaps not be confused however with any genuine and fundamental change in power and local democracy, but seen for what it is – a potentially welcome and interesting way of delivering services under the inevitable slashing of local government funding.

Localizing Development – Does participation work? (20th March 2013)

The final event was the most interesting and surprisingly lively and fun.  The main speakers ( Ghazala Mansuri and Vijayendra Rao of the World Bank) were introduced by the Sussex celebrity-academic Robert Chambers, and were followed by a lively and challenging debate.

It appears that, while there is some evidence that participatory approaches are better at targeting funds, and better for key public service delivery (health and education), this is only true when they are also accompanied by additional resources.  There is little or no evidence that participation on its own accomplishes anything, and it seems especially ineffective in highly unequal societies or where there is a corrupt/ineffective state.  While the participatory process is said to have an intrinsic value, we still don’t understand how this might work, what the theory of change underlying it is, or have any real evidence of this truth.   Many of us still think participatory approaches are a clear improvement and a better way of working, but this is not nearly so clear cut as we might like!

Some of the more interesting key tensions and learnings discussed and my own thoughts on them are summarised below:

Organic vs. Induced Participation
This seems a critical and useful distinction.  Organic participation generally happens naturally (e.g. social movements and uprisings) whereas Induced participation is generally external and funded (e.g. World Bank participatory projects).  The confusion between these very different concepts is perhaps responsible for much of the mixed feelings around participation.  An interesting suggestion is the idea that the latter should learn from and mimic the former.  Or in my view perhaps a greater role for seeding, identifying, supporting and nurturing organic participation and less focus on seeking to create it from the outside.

Government & Market Failure / Citizen Failure
The concepts of market and government failure are well known, but there appears to be a common view that citizens, communities and civil society are immune to this.  In reality they can (and often do) also “fail”, they are volatile and unpredictable and should be recognised as such not assumed to be impervious to the same problems all institutions can fall victim to.

Some other key lessons that emerged that are worth highlighting were:

A need was identified to sandwich bottom-up participation with a top-down protection of the rights of the marginalised to combat corruption and elite capture.  Without this top-down state-protection, it is difficult for the local community to have any power to enforce its decisions or combat corruption and elite capture.

Long-term capacity building
Nothing new here, but yet again the idea of long-term flexible projects that seek to capacity build local people and institutions was identified as one of the critical factors behind participatory approaches being successful or not.  It remains clear that short-term pre-planned “projects” are clearly not suited for what is in effect a major transformative societal process

Participation not necessarily a route to social movements or civic capacity
Echoing the discussions in the previous event, the researchers found that in much induced participation, people did NOT increase their collective action afterwards in different areas, but actually just came together to get the project monies on offer.  This is a serious challenge to the idea that participatory projects seed new ways of communal working that might last in to the future.


As is often discovered, it appears that while participatory approaches may be a little better they yet again do not appear to live up to the transformative potential that is sometimes claimed for them.

Why could this still be the case?

Rather than re-hashing well-known arguments, there are a few core ideas that emerged from the events and are echoed in my own previous work, which include:

          • Local-level participation works as an addition to representative democracy and in the context of a genuinely developmental state.  In the absence of these it is not a viable alternative.  That is not to say it has no value but it is not the answer to failed states.  This raises difficult questions for the role of both participation and development in general, in such states and in both totalitarian and highly unequal regimes.
          • A key driver from the 3rd event, hinted at in the others and in previous work is the abiding importance of power and inequality.  These seem to have an enormous impact on both the transformative potential of participatory approaches, and their success as projects.  So perhaps the core goal of all participatory work should be the challenging of entrenched power structures and the reduction of inequality – not as a side-line but instead of goals around poverty, health, education etc.
          • The importance of the state and wider environment is becoming evident as critical.  Local approaches can only thrive with the support and protection of an external force from above (e.g. a mandate for inclusion of women and minorities, enforcement of anti-corruption).
          • Participation must seek to empower individuals and build capacity of communities as a core part of its purpose, otherwise they cannot take part effectively and are unlikely to continue to organise to tackle other issues beyond the limited and time-bound project.
          • Long-term, iterative and incremental development is key to ensure the flexibility to early and constantly changing needs and environments

Perhaps as a reminder we can boil this down to a not very snappy, but helpful, one-liner.  Any project that meets these needs has a much better chance of being effective than one that doesn’t, this could be a useful guideline for deciding what to support and where to direct funding:

We [project X] seek to combat inequality of power by empowering individuals, building capacity of communities with the support of government, through a long-term flexible and iterative participatory approach…

Any offers to re-word this into a snappy slogan, please get in touch!

Reflecting on Agile approaches to Development/ICT4D

English: This poster provides a good visual of...

English: This poster provides a good visual of the standard Agile Software Development methodology. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Read full ‘blarticle’ here

Recently I have been reading up on Agile project management methodologies (Extreme Programming, Scrum and a little on Rapid Application Development, EVO and Rational Unified Process).  Despite this material being focused on traditional, commercial software development and management, it struck many, quite noisy chords regarding technology development in developing countries.  In particular, the focus on starting small, not pre-planning everything from the start, and evolving software slowly through engagement with the ‘customer’, is strikingly similar to the practices recommended in various participatory approaches to development, and in socio-technical discussions around ICT4D projects.

With this in mind, I thought it would be interesting to explore these similarities and see what Agile software-development methodologies might have to offer the ICT4D community – not just in terms of developing software but in the wider development context too.

This piece is not intended to be a robust analysis of the available evidence but more a think-piece that may provide some food for thought to investigate further at a later date.  It’s too long and structured to be a simple blog but not rigorous enough to be an academic article, but falls somewhere between the two media.  So I have called it a blarticle…  Tacky I know but if it works 😉

Also it’s a bit long for a blog so have uploaded it as a PDF, so download some of my thoughts and reflections on Agile approaches to ICT4D and please do add any comments below (or email me) as it is an area I am interested in pursuing further. 🙂

Negroponte’s latest ‘experiment’?

So Nicholas Negroponte has gone from giving XO Laptops to children, with some teacher-training… to giving Tablets to children with NO training

The experiment is really interesting, and the idea of seeing how much kids can learn unsupervised is of course interesting, BUT…

Haven’t we been here before..?  With OLPC?  With hole-in-the-wall computers..?  YES kids can learn alone…  NO it’s no substitute for a supportive learning environment with good teaching… MAYBE it will provide an alternative where good teaching isn’t available… PROBABLY the kids will just learn to play games and/or lose interest…

I’m not suggesting there is no value to the experiment, but that we have enough background knowledge now to create something far better, which targets specific gaps in our understanding, which leanrs from the MANY failures and lessons that came out of the OLPC rollouts (for more on this, see my article on the Peru OLPC Rollout, published on Hii Dunia), and could add something significant to our knowledge of learning and technology in poor environments.

Instead, unfortunately, we will probably learn – AGAIN – that just giving technology out on its own is insufficient and has some, modest, impact, but needs infrastructure, support and above all, good quality teaching, to have a significant effect.

I look forward to reading these results at the end of the multi-million-$ experiment! 🙂

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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