Development Cooperation 2.0 (II): Round Table: Opportunities and Challenges of ICT integration in Development Cooperation

Round table: Manuel Acevedo (moderator), Shafika Isaacs, Vikas Nath, Eiko Kawamura, Paula Uimonen
Opportunities and Challenges of ICT integration in Development Cooperation

Q: who’s to design ICT4D cooperation strategies?

Paula Uimonen: It makes lesser and lesser sense the North-to-South approach of knowledge and aid transfer. More and more the South is sovereign to define its own needs, and should be able to ask for help, resources and so to the North, but not to have to indiscriminately accept what comes from it.

Q: can I help you if you (country) don’t have a framework, an explicit policy to foster ICTs?

Shafika Isaacs states that in most Africa such policies do exist [focus in education], and the frameworks, even in an emergent state, they are already built and capable of processing/absorb any project or help that might come in the field of ICTs. Even more, the network to enable a knowledge exchange practice is already there, and this is the priority of Africa.

Q: can we set up ICT4D projects/agencies/development cooperation in the South?

Vikas Nath: Sure. There’s been lot of work already been done in the private sector arena, and now’s the turn for the civil society to lead the process, enabled/fostered by such cooperation. And this empowered society (private firms, nonprofits, etc.) are actually and already leading some interesting development projects, trends, paths, etc.

Q: what kind of action should design an international agency to work in Latin America to foster the Information Society?

Eiko Kawamura: first of all, have a clear map of what the local reality is like, specially describing the real needs of the beneficiaries, what do people need in communication related issues.

A huge problem in top-down initiatives is that they have embedded by default their own (success) indicators, most of them quantitative, while raising living standards, welfare, is most times a matter of qualitative perceptions… and indeed a long term issue, sometimes quite separated in time from the project itself. You might be measuring the irrelevant and forgetting the relevant.

Another problem is short-run, pilot projects that do not have time enough to (positively) effectively impact the community, while they generate financial dependences that do not take into account sustainability issues in the long run.

Random comments from the audience
  • ICTs crucial for development (by a man from Angola’s government)
  • The importance of capacity building and digital literacy when/besides “installing computers”
  • Importance of top level commitment and policies to framework ICT4D projects
  • Shift the focus from computers to education

Shafika Isaacs: right, there’s high penetration of mobile phones in Africa, way greater that computers/Internet, but removing out of the spotlight computers/Internet just because they have lesser penetration would be like throwing the baby out with the bath water. We have to work in how such different technologies can be integrated, and this means mobile phones + computers + Internet, but also radio, that has a huge penetration in Africa and is really popular.

Eiko Kawamura: Indeed, the problem with mobile phones is that they’re (still) expensive and (still) just used for text messaging, so she agrees with Shafika Isaacs about integrating different technologies so they fit different purposes.

Vikas Nath: we’re suffering a lock in syndrome in ICT4D. The lack of infrastructures and literacy does not let us think about effective uses/applications of ICTs for Development. A vicious circle. We have to break it and surely policies and government strategies is a good means to.

Manuel Acevedo: it’s important to use ICTs to do old things in a better way. But, what about trying to do new things?

Development Cooperation 2.0 (2008)

If you need to cite this article in a formal way (i.e. for bibliographical purposes) I dare suggest:

Peña-López, I. (2008) “Development Cooperation 2.0 (II): Round Table: Opportunities and Challenges of ICT integration in Development Cooperation” In ICTlogy, #52, January 2008. Barcelona: ICTlogy.
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About Me

    I am Ismael Peña-López.

    I am professor at the School of Law and Political Science of the Open University of Catalonia, and researcher at the Internet Interdisciplinary Institute and the eLearn Center of that university. I am also the director of the Open Innovation project at Fundació Jaume Bofill.