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Terms, theories and conceptual approaches  

Trends and challenges on the use of Information and Communication Technology to address development goals:
IC = Telecommunications + Computers: Convergence of audiovisual, phones and networks; tools that enable information access, storage, transmission, and distribution, including software, middleware, audiovisual systems
The "Digital Divide": Economic and social inequality according to demographic categories in the access to, use of, or knowledge of ICT
ICT Development Index (IDI): Global indicators for measuring the digital divide:
  1. Access: fixed/mobile telephony, internet bandwidth, households with computer/internet
  2. Usage and Intensity: number of internet users, fixed and mobile broadband
  3. Skills and Capability:adult literacy, secondary and tertiary enrollment

To be discussed: How the digital divide reflects other previous social divides or inequalities, such as informational, educational and economic ones?

To be considered:Digital inclusion matters, but it does not guarantee socio-economic inclusion, access to education, nor even freedom of expression.

Heavy use of internet and ICT can also help oppressive regimes stifle dissent: concerns on surveillance, civic movements monitoring, counter-revolution intelligence, loss of privacy and data expropriation 

"iPod liberalism": the assumption that tech innovation always promotes freedom, democracy. (Evgeny Morozov, "The Net Delusion: The Dark Side of Internet Freedom" (2011). TED Talk: How can Internet helps oppressive regimes


Some conceptual approaches:

  • Development Informatics: application of IT systems in socio-economic development
  • ICTD: use of ICTs in developing countries (access, usage, intensity, skills, capability)
  • ICT4D: use of ICTs for delivery of specific development goals (education, health etc.) and contribute to poverty reduction
  • Civic Media: cultural uses of practices, protocols, and technologies as a medium that fosters civic engagement
  • Radical Media: action-oriented and marginal communication practices that seek the amplification of social movements and protests
  • Community Media: created and controlled by the community, fostering civic engagement through the involvement of its members in content production and communication
  • Citizen Journalism: news gathering and reporting by public citizens who play an active role in collecting, analyzing, editing, and disseminating journalistic information.

The ICT4D perspective:

Hypothesis: more and better communication furthers the development of a society

General method: applying ICT directly among communities or through NGOs pursuing specific development goals 

Expected outcomes: poverty reduction, improvement of basic services, enhanced
Landscape: Organizations with specific ICT4D purpose, commercial companies with ICT4D activities (marketing or corporate social responsibility), social entrepreneurism with focus on ICT4D (so called "2nd ½ sector"), academic programs, university outreach projects, and research initiatives etc.
Examples on ICT4D initiatives: Computer Aid International (1998), NetHope Consortium (2001), UN ICT Task Force (2001-2005), World Summit on the Information Society (2005), Global Alliance for ICT and Development (2006), The One Laptop per Child Project (OLPC)

ICT4D Criticism:

  • ICT are tools. Not a solution per se.
  • "Pilotitis": inability to break out of pilot stage.
  • Most projects lack sustainability, always requiring more funds and support.
  • "Cultural imperialism" through ICT 
  • Most of the content and software aren't locally built 
  • (and usually bought from big corporations) 
Digital Development Principles 
  • Design with the User
  • Understanding the Existing Ecosystem
  • Design for Scale
  • Build for Sustainability
  • Be Data-Driven
  • Use Open-Standards, Open Data, Open Source, and Open Innovation
  • Reuse and Improve
  • Address Privacy and Security
  • Be Collaborative
Takeaways from practice and research
  • Built not "for" the community, but "with and by" them (co-creation)
  • Prefer simple, useful, maintainable, sustainable, low cost technology 
  • Consider idioms, identity, dialogue, diversity
  • Connect to other projects, human mediation
  • ICT can be useful tools, but not a solution per se
  • Project "pilotitis": inability to break out of pilot stage
  • Focus on sustainability, not more funds and support
  • Need to go beyond "cultural imperialism" (again!) 
  • Are the content and the software locally built?
  • Or just being bought or adapted from big corporations? 
Video: Why Most ICT4D Projects Fail?
Quotes and questions for debate:
"It is more beneficial to use ICTs to enhance existing practices than to promote new activities for the primary purpose of using ICTs. In this light, the creation of telecenters that are disconnected from existing community organizations and initiatives is unlikely to contribute to development"
(Ricardo Gómez and Juliana Martí̀nez: "Internet... for what?", apud Gumucio-Dragon)
"Technology—no matter how well designed—is only a magnifier of human intent and capacity. It is not a substitute. If you have a foundation of competent, well-intentioned people, then the appropriate technology can amplify their capacity and lead to amazing achievements. But, in circumstances with negative human intent, as in the case of corrupt government bureaucrats, or minimal capacity, as in the case of people who have been denied a basic education, no amount of technology will turn things around."
(Kentaro Toyama, "Can technology end poverty?") 
"The ICT component, as any communication component, should develop along with the development process, not in isolation from it. The interaction between community participation, the technical inputs for development and the communication and knowledge tools will define the success or failure of a particular development communication effort."  
(​Alfonso Gumucio-Dragon, Take Five: A handful of essentials for ICTs in development)


  1. How ICT and digital media can empower members of a community to enable and improve actions driven to socio-economic development?
  2. How it can be effectively applied to enhance educational programs, health services, environmental conservation, social security, transportation, and economic growth

New approaches on participatory communication

Media and interpersonal communication applied as tools to empower communities to share views and knowledge, and to discover solutions to their development issues.
Participatory civics = Communication  +  Digital Media  +  Civic Engagement : "The use of digital media to engage in political discussion or share civic media" (Cohen, Kahne, 2012, apud Zuckerman, 2014)
"I use the term to refer to forms of civic engagement that use digital media as a core component and embrace a post- 'informed citizen' model of civic participation. Practitioners of participatory civics have grown up on participatory media: they are used to being able to share their perspectives and views with the world, and to seeing their influence in terms of how many people read and share their words."
(​Ethan Zuckerman, "New Media, New Civics?")    
Towards a Civic Tech Taxonomy
  • Hacktivism
  • Digital engagement
  • Peer production
  • e-Democracy, e-Participation
  • e-Governance Open government
  • Solutions journalism 
Social Activism in the Internet
  • Close connections between participatory culture and social activism in the internet
  • Catalyst for protests and social change
  • "Slacktivism", "clicktivism", "cyberactivism"

To be considered: Axes of participatory civics

(Figure by E. Zuckerman, retrieved from "Beyond “The Crisis in Civics” – Notes from my 2013 DML talk")

To be discussed: Can thin engagement take advantage in numbers? Can thick efforts take advantage of the creativity?  Can symbolic (or voice) approaches actually build engagement? How can impactful (or instrumental) approaches induce change? How to push thin/symbolic engagements towards thick/impactful civic participation for development?

"What makes a community open is when there’s a lot more outside the login than inside. To be active, most of a community’s content must be member (user) generated, not owner-generated, and must have some degree of conversation which includes comments, discussions and reviews"
(Maddie Grant, "The holy grail of M4D")
"Computers, guns, factories, and democracy are powerful tools, but the forces that determine how they're used ultimately are human. (...) Disseminating technology is easy; nurturing human capacity and human institutions that put it to good use is the crux."
(Kentaro Toyama, "Can technology end poverty?") 
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