How can the digital technologies be more extensively and appropriately harnessed to address the major development issues - from global to local - we all face? I am sure we are all aware of the problems: 30 million-plus people with HIV; 1 billion living on less than US$1 a day; a warming earth; gender inequities everywhere; struggling schools; bad water; a continuing struggle for the right to participate in political processes; and a bunch of other things. And that is the global overview.


Within every community, yours included, there will be issues and problems that reflect this menu of concerns and others that are specific to your context. Setting the specifics aside for a moment, the following question seems applicable across the board: what further impact-value related to these and other issues can be added through social networks, knowledge portals, mobile/cell technologies, community technology centres, scraping, aggregation, shared work spaces, clouds, voice and video connection and conferencing, and a whole lot of other "ICT" processes increasingly prominent in many communities, homes, and offices?


There has been focus on this question for some time, of course. By way of example, within The CI process we have a complete information and communication technology for development (ICT4D) theme site that includes thousands of knowledge summaries of initiatives as well as strategic thinking and evaluation/research data. See:


From my own perspective, despite a lot of this action, thinking, and research, there is still so much more that can be done to harness the capacities of the digital technologies to make more significant in-roads into global and local development issues. Perhaps you agree/disagree? Please respond.


As a way to commence this debate let me make a number of assertions for your critique and response:




The increasing scale and reach of the digital technologies mean that there is no excuse for the absence or exclusion of the voices, ideas, critique, and analysis of those most affected by development issues from decision-making "tables". Broad, real-time, ongoing, and cross-population sector engagement is a key characteristic of the digital technologies.

Effective policymaking requires the involvement of a wide range of relevant voices and understanding of different contexts. The digital technologies can really help to advance this.

Result: More effective development action?




Perhaps one of the dynamics in development action that has worked against better impact is that development initiatives have primarily been organised around the working practices and organisational systems of governments and major development agencies. But the deepest, most solid, and possibly most influential organisational processes are those embedded in the daily social, cultural, and economic lives of people.

These processes are not monolithic. They involve significant levels of knowledge generation and sharing, dialogue, and debate. There are numerous organisational processes - not just one. And the digital technologies can support that organisation taking place at greater scale, impervious to distance (even small distances) and possibly with greater equity and variety than happens at present.

Result: More effective development action?




In the "good old days", knowledge was centrally stored in particular places - the libraries of universities, the headquarters of major agencies, the documentation centres of government departments, etc. You had to be in a particular place and maybe have particular permissions to access that knowledge.

Now...well, with a reasonably fast internet or mobile connection speed…geewhiz! You can access whatever you need wherever you are and you can customise that knowledge to your particular requirements. We can also argue that the level of knowledge has increased significantly, as the digital processes support knowledge-sharing on the part of people who would not previously have been "in the loop".

Result: More effective development action?




If we all had a coin in any currency we chose for every time someone has used the hackneyed phrase "let's not re-invent the wheel", we would have few funding issues! Likewise, if only we could be reimbursed every time we were asked, "Do you know anyone who has the skills and knowledge to help us with..."!

Well, now people and organisations active on all issues across many different contexts can essentially avoid re-inventing the wheel and can manage their own technical support according to their own specific analysis and needs. The digital technologies provide that opportunity.

Result: More effective development action?




A central condition for the growth and development of any field of work as it struggles to become more effective is debate and critical analysis. These two planks have been vital elements of processes as varied as increasingly effective medical interventions and the civil rights movement that has helped to change social and economic relationships between population groups.

The digital technologies provide the base for greatly expanded debate and critical analysis. From blogs through tweets to ratings and comments - and beyond - the digital technologies provide any number of ways for people to engage in debate and critical analysis.

Result: More effective development action?


As I highlighted above, these are my views and ideas for the focus we should apply for the most effective future harnessing of ICTs for improved development action. I have deliberately tried to make these reflections cross-cutting, related to all development issues. You could of course reflect more specifically on the particular, future role of ICTs for your priority issue - for example:


- improving accountability of elected representatives
- supporting people with treatment compliance
- mapping natural environment degradation
- building and facilitating networks of women's groups
- advocating sexual and reproductive health policies
- and many others


Well...enough from me. This is your space to debate and review experiences and ideas for the future of ICT4D - something you identified as relevant and important for your work when you registered with The CI process.

So, please contribute your views either by Adding a Comment below or Submitting a Post in the right margin.


Thanks for engaging - Warren


Warren Feek
Executive Director
The Communication Initiative


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