ICTD2010 (X). Geoff Walsham: Development Informatics in a Changing World

Notes from the Information and Communication Technolgies and Development — ICTD2010, held at the Royal Holloway University of London, Egham, UK, on December 13-16, 2010. More notes on this event: ictd2010.

Keynote Speech: Geoff Walsham
Development Informatics in a Changing World

Main journals in Information Systems and Development:

The focus on the ‘development’ part in ICTD: Need to distinguish research on ICT in developing countries and research on ICT for development. The ‘for development’ part is whehter ICT help, contribute or are explicitly aimed at achieving development.

Need to theorise the meaning of ‘development’: what is development? It is not only about basic needs, although they matter. And it is nor about about technology as a silver bullet: we tend to celebrate what’s new.

It is good to keep ICT4D multidisciplinary, in part because it forces us to define what we are doing, and define it in terms that are understandable for people of all disciplines. And this includes defining what we understand by development.

Multidisciplinarity is also about drawing theory from multiple disciplines, carry out joint research studies. One of the problems, though, is that publishing still is discipline-focused.

Above all, we need strategic development focus, policy-oriented research. Strategy should be the starting point, and then embed in it whatever technology is needed to make it possible. A strategic approach is broader, more comprehensive, and thus more likely to make a sustainable, bigger impact, a real change. Strategy, of course, must include the communities it is aimed to.

Strategic research is about building infrastructures (e.g. HISP on health), promoting social justice (e.g. SMS and mobile activsim), supporting economic activity for the poor (e.g. M-PESA), providing access to global markets and resources (e.g. Jordan’s approach to ICT-led development), new IT-enabled models (e.g. virtual economies), etc.

An aspect that deserves special attention is the gender issue. Though there is strong evidence that mobiles ’empower’ women in a number of ways (e.g. enabling economic activity), old male-dominated hierarchies persist and the use of mobiles for economic activity does not necessarily enhance women’s status in the community.


Q: designing for people with abilities is actually designing for everyone, not only disabled people but people with low literacy or cultural levels, etc. A: Agreed.

Ismael Peña-López: isn’t ICT-led development yet another iteration of what happened with oil in Arabic countries, or coffee in Latin America, where few get rich and multiplier effects upon the rest of the economi are very little? A: agreed. But, just because of that, and because many countries are notwithstanding promoting such policies, this is a topic that needs being researched in the field of ICT4D.

More info

Information and Communication Technologies and Development (2010)

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

Peña-López, I. (2010) “ICTD2010 (X). Geoff Walsham: Development Informatics in a Changing World” In ICTlogy, #87, December 2010. Barcelona: ICTlogy.
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