Sunday, December 26, 2004

ICT for Development: Empowerment or exploitation?

- Has for background a rights-based approach to development
- Looks at the value of ICTs from a rights and empowerment perspective
- based on the Reflect ICTs project, with pilots in Burundi, India and Uganda

Quote from the report:
"ICTs can be used to strengthen local traditions and cultures of communication, but only by design: people need to appropriate the technology and give it functions which suit their needs and motivations. This requires sensitivity to the communication practices and prejudices of the people in question, both in the way the technologies are designed and marketed, and the way that they are chosen and introduced within a project."

This is missing from many projects. Donors are in a hurry to show results and they don't want to spend time doing truly participatory needs assessments. There is an assumption that ICTs on their own are "empowering" so that if you build telecenters, people will just come. I don't think it works that way. It's not that simple.

I liked the fact that the document is written for non-techies (probably by non-techies as well), but the appendix providing details about the various ICTs is so simplistic that I don't know who is going to learn much out of that. I was specifically looking for some mention of power issues (meaning "energy" issues) but power in this document refers only to power relations in the context of "empowerment" vs. "exploitation".