GlobDev Paris – ICT and Global Development Research

Notes from the workshop on Global Development, December 13 2008 in Paris.

Panel discussion – ICT and Global Development Research
Session Chair:
Chrysanthi Avgerou, London School of Economics
Geoff Walsham, Cambridge University
Sajda Qureshi, University of Omaha, USA
Muhammadou Kah
, American University of Nigeria, Yola,
Adamawa State, Nigeria

There has been research in ICT4D for almost 20 years already – we should consider that too, that’s what this panel is about

Geoff Walsham:
Articles: Walsham G., Thompson M. ICT research in Africa: need for a strategic…
Need for sensitivity to local cultural context – local adaption and cultivation
Focus on implementation in particular sectors or aimed at specific groups (health, women, digital divide) – Victor Mbarika
Insightful theoretical perspectives:
Actor-network theory
Institutional theory
Globalization theories

Pressing set of research questions:
How do ICTs contribute to development and what are the policy implications?

Developing / developed countries = bad wording because it is patronizing
What is meant by the word development?

ICTs as enabler for governance, civil society / entrepreneuralism, economic activity / access to global market, resources / public infrastructure

Sajda Qureshi:
Two stories:
Stories which are highly cited: economists
Papers in ITD are referenced in the economics’ literature and by policy makers
There is a need for research by faculty mambers in all kinds of areas – sociology, pulic sector, …
We have to get those papers out there

Appropriate technology?
there is a need for papers that looks at oucomes in terms of accountability

Also: is the technology used in the way we think it is?

Second story:
Omaha, Nebraska with 1 million people
City is very beautiful, large disparities -> divide
Write about things in a way that makes sense

Muhammadou Kah:
Practice has transformed the way to look at research -> “angry reviewer”, very critical to look at papers

It’s a difference to live in Africa than in the Western World
Methodology – question the approaches, western perspective
Data or measurements -> most data from OECD, World Bank, … – not the best data? -> we should make an effort to create own data

Competence – capacity and capability; differences of assumptions to the situation on the ground
free research vs. desktop research
research funding & time

How can our community engage to address issues?
How can collaborative platforms & research partnerships be established to avoid isolated work?
Use your PhD students as extensions by sending them to development communities

Loads of interesting research problems that are completely untouched
Look at usual problems and research them in the context of LDCs
There is a need to go to LDCs and to build theories around what is happening
Currently there are a lot of diasporants who have begun to go back -> it’s important to foster collaborations
European Commission is interested in questions & researach problems connected to ICT4D – meaningful collaborations with sub-saharean Africa
How can we come up with meetings frequently – research trainings / seminars -> establish collaborations

How can you speak of development – culture was destroyed in many regions, drugs, …
Illegal employment brings in more money than legal one
Effects of imperialism: WTO
massive industry -> why is there no discussion about his at all?
– It’s happening everywhere, you can’t address the problems in a too specific context
– Not being in these environments it is difficult to see the negative externalities of WTO, World Bank, …
It is necessary to be in the context
Why is it not covered here?
– Some political scientist go there and then they are able to write about it
Why are we not talking about this today?
– Of course there are different views and theories
Still an issue: it seems that development is always something for others, it’s something abstract
Terms underdevelopment, maldevelopment; it’s not just about the amount

Academic ivory tower” – when you have that kind of situation -> there’s something wrong in the whole thing

What is develpoment for us? are we already developed enough to develop others?
One reason why we are all in this room are our values but there is no discussion about these values
But everyone would say they care about social justice
It’s about the application part as well
Dialog about values and politics is important
Social inclusion in IT -> if you are in the western world you can be as far away as somewhere in Africa
One thing is to talk more explicitely about the values that underpin our work
– If we talk about ICT4D we have to get into politics and all the other areas
– What are we doing for our own development?
– It’s important, we just don’t spend so much time on it
– Critical theory is important
– But very quickly you might end up doing polemics

Whole notion of development – when you’re involved in ICT4D and you realise what you are doing is not impacting because of the structures, also because of international organizations, or crime, local administration
And then it is said that nothing will happen until you involve people
Who is engaging in this discourse?

We need a way in which to create people who can speak from their position with an understanding what needs to be done
We need to create legitimate stuctures in LDCs which will pursue development as a national project
When LDCs have a national project, things work, but often you don’t have these structures or bad-willing structures
Governments will not do anything against losing power

There’s a risk that the values we base our consensus on are not the correct ones
– If you open the discusiion, you argue for the merits of one perception vs. the other, which is legitimate
– We have to maintain a spirit of discourse, that’s the only way to get a political correct discussion
ECIS in Pretoria, South Africa -> IT for Empowerment
One of the biggest struggles with the word “development”
Ideal opportunity – but limited to 350 participants

A lot of challenges are on the development side, though we still have issues on the ICT side
We look on ICTs as something that causes something
We should look at ICTs as a capability

ICT as an enabler – how can ICT be an enabler?
– “Enabler” was chosen deliberately – there is a potential that may be an enabler
– It’s no goal to address only IT
– It could be an enabler with other initiatives
– Mobile phones are not helping the poor -> at least not generally

Would drug money enabling houses/schools to be built – be ICT4D?
– Good question, there’s no easy answer
– There’s no research on that

There’s different applications for mobiles – criminal as well as good things
Structures at various levels have to be in place for ICT4D to be beneficial
If these structures are not there, ICTs are no good

Senior researchers have to provide frameworks – but we won’t solve all the worlds issues with ICT4D
We need to have the focusing issues

Small problem with concept of ICT – it’s not just PC and mobile phones, also spoken language
Some of the issues are just not so new

If it is argued that ICTs support criminal activities, it can also be argued that schools do that, as literate criminals are more effective than illiterate ones

“terrorist views” on ICTs
problem of ICTs is on the application level
the more you realise the problem, the more you feel powerless

Final statements:

Muhammadou Kah:
We’re still stuck in looking at development as economic development
Development is much more complex
We have to look at the amount of work other disciplines have done and begin to revisit our approaches

Development for whom? defined by who?
Development means different things for different people
The goal is not to find the answers – we don’t even agree what ICTs are
There’s a lot of work to do – we have to do it collaboratively, we have to engage constructively
We are not the police of what is good and what is bad
We have to find methodologies & theoretical frameworks

Sajda Qureshi:
We have the power – keep doing research and publishing

Geoff Walsham:
Just because we can’t do everything, we can’t do nothing
If we try social reform then it is a slow process
Anyway slow progress is better than no progress, which is an argument for doing something
We should try to produce synergetic effect

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GlobDev Paris – ICT and Global Development Research
was published on 26.12.2008 by Florian Sturm. It files under global
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