Doing Development Work in a Developed Country

A few years ago we opened our association for broader ideas than just ICT4D. We did not loose our focus as our active engagement in Ghana and Mozambique shows but we wanted to create a platform where people with ideas outside of the ICT4D context can also benefit from our networks and organizational structures.

Due to this shift we recently carried out the Nimble Building Days, where we got engaged with the Austrian Red Cross to support their efforts with the current refugee challenge in Austria. Lead by two of our members, Georg and Chloé, a three day workshop was carried out at the Kurierhaus, a refugee shelter in Vienna. It was a huge success  (read more here) and resulted in a deeper cooperation and two further workshops in other refugee shelters.

Some thoughts went through my mind while getting in close contact with refugees. Since we – ICT4D development enthusiasts – most of the time talk about developing countries in a broader sense and how we can support them, we then in the end cooperate with local or marginalized citizens within the country and rarely the country itself or their representatives. It’s about the people, or more the citizens of a developing country and how we can empower them. Our goal in the end is then to support them by building up their own successful communities and infrastructures.


Implementing an ICT4D initiative in a rich country like Austria, which is seen as a developed country might seem a bit posh or superficial. But again, it’s not about the country itself, but rather the marginalized people in the country – like refugees, people who seek for shelter in Austria. These new inferior members of our society are mainly excluded from our communities and they (or more the general topic of how we should deal with foreigners in our communities) create political and social tensions. Austria and the European Union is struggling with the topic of immigration and it seems like we are not as developed as we think we are; whatever developed actually means. We use the term Information and Communication Technologies for Development since it was accepted by the international forums and is the most used and accepted term in scientific publications and project implementations [1]. But the term Development is still criticized as Shose Kessi, a social psychologist at the University of Cape Town puts it profoundly [2]:

I dislike the term ’developing world’ because it assumes a hierarchy between countries. It paints a picture of Western societies as ideal but there are many social problems in these societies as well. It also perpetuates stereotypes about people who come from the so-called developing world as backward, lazy, ignorant and irresponsible.

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And this is also the case for Austria. It would be ignorant to put Austria with it’s high quality of life on the same step as Ghana or Mozambique but there are still marginalized people in this country where ICT can be used to empower them. Besides many more, we installed WiFi-Hotspots in two refugee shelters so they can access the Internet on their phones and to also connected donated PCs for studding within the Nimble Building Days. This was possible due to a cooperation with Ingenieure ohne Grenzen Austria, a partner organization of ours and we are grateful for their support. This simple ICT4D implementation here in Austria will hopefully empower these new members of our society to find their place, no matter how long they are going to stay.

We are stunned of this new development within our association, we would like to thank all of our partner for their trust in us and can’t wait to continue our cooperation with the Austrian Red Cross,
Ingenieure ohne Grenzen Austria and the refugees themself.

[1] Tim Unwin. ICT4D: Information and Communication Technology for Development. Auflage: 1. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, Feb. 2009.
[2] http://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2015/01/04/372684438/if-you-shouldnt-call-it-the-third-world-what-should-you-call-it

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Doing Development Work in a Developed Country
was published on 11.09.2016 by Paul Spiesberger. It files under Europe
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