ICTD2010 (I). Round table: the future of ICT4D research

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.

Round table: the future of ICT4D research

Tim Unwin, chairing the session, encourages the speakers to elaborate on the future (10 years ahead) of ICT4D research, what topics, fields, etc. should be on the table.

Erik Hersman, Ushahidi.

What is the point between tools and uses? Is Firefox or the Mozilla Foundation ICT4D too?

There is too much focus on the PC and not as much on mobile phones, which so far seem the ones that have made a deeper change in poorer communities.

Anriette Esterhuysen, Association for Progressive Communications

ICT4D research is too much often disentangled from what practitioners are doing. And when it approaches the field, it is quite often “market analysis” for telecom companies rather than real research.

There is a strong need for deeper analysis and, especially, focus on policy, on strategy. more analytical thinking. And an analysis that is based on hard data that practitioners cannot usually extract and analyse.

Indeed, to reach policy makers, research should also be about blogging, about communicating, about reaching out.

Stop looking at the solution (e.g. mobiles for development) and look instead at the problems (e.g. lack of drinkable water).

Anita Gurumurthy, IT for Change

Many research is not related with the “community factor” of reality. Thus, it fails at linking the importance of the community with empowerment, solidarity, progress, development.

How we make sense of the models, the numbers, and translate them into real application at the political, democratic, macroeconomic level.

On the other hand, how do we train or engage practitioners in the academic dialogue, in the ethos of research.

Ken Banks, Kiwanja / FrontlineSMS

How do we measure and look up at data? What should we be looking for to measure impact?

We should make some research that lists the tools to do research and the tools to measure the impact of that research. There also is a need for an organized directory of Who works on ICT4D, where, how. And, a list of projects and their impacts.

Indrajit Banerjee, Information Society Division, UNESCO

We spend too many time isolating the “ICT factor” of projects that work. We should shift the focus to what is the context where these ICTs worked, because that might be the actual success factor.

On the other hand, academics should cluster together and create bigger research groups that somehow stepping out of the structures of Academia. Academics cannot be just reporting on the work that practitioners are doing; they’re behind the curve, amateur journalists, if that is all they do.


Q: What happens with ICT governance? Anita Gurumurthy: Definitely the UN should be having a word on that.

Q: What should the role be of local communities in ICT4D? Ken Banks: local communities should be the ones leading the implementation of projects and solutions. Erik Hersman: Indeed, there are many innovations that rise amongst local communities.

Q: We need all components: practitioners, academics, different disciplines and approaches…

Q: There should be bridges between academics and practitioners. The former should be more aware of what happens down on the terrain; the latter should be more knowledgeable about methodology, impact assessment, etc.

Q: There is a big issue in ICT4D concerning non-accessibility for disabled people, including illiterate people that never went to school. The accessibility factor should be urgently addressed in ICT4D research agenda.

Information and Communication Technologies and Development (2010)