ICTs and Sustainable Development

ICTs continue to play a role in the development sector in their goal of providing equal access to technological services. In Falling Through the Net, we understand how the core goal of US telecommunications policy involves universal service and equal access for everyone. Our class discusses the National Information Infrastructure (NII) along with the Global Information Infrastructure (GII). As described by its website, The Global Information Infrastructure Commission is an “independent, non-governmental initiative involving leaders from developing as well as industrialized countries.” The website also describes four important factors in ICTs for development:

  1. Developing as well as industrialized countries have a high stake in information infrastructure development;
  2. The burdens and opportunities of developing information infrastructure are shifting away from governments to the private sector;
  3. Private sector insights and foresights are essential to shaping policies that are effective in implementing information infrastructure that is economical and safe; and
  4. The policy challenges, as well as the markets for information infrastructure, are truly global in scope.

Much of what we learned from this week serves as very useful in providing a conceptual framework to the ICT aspect of my final project. In assessing the landscape for ICT4D research, I found Gerard C. Raiti’s article, “The Lost Sheep of ICT4D Research,” as useful in providing a realistic outlook into the future of ICT4D research and an analysis of its shortcoming. His research is also included in my review of relevant literature as he explains how “information communication technologies for development (ICT4D) is a new field of study that contains few grand theories compared to other areas of social science” (1). Raiti recommends the creation of a global summit on ICT4D and more grand theories. He describes how the flaws involving ICT4D research and literature involve an “overly optimistic, highly Western, multidisciplinary, and atheoretical” (1). In addition, ICT4D has so far failed to extensively draw on a breadth of research in other fields such as media and communications studies. Many of the authors in the field do not have actual knowledge of ICT literature, but are more experts on development. For this reason, the ICT4D literature struggles in terms of finding its direction. Raiti argues the importance of developing multidisciplinary partners to reform the approach to ICT4D research. This can be done by combining the plethora of ICT literature available. He identifies how:

– there is no “magic bullet” or “hypodermic needle” of ICT4D impact

– ICT4D will not provide food, clean water, affordable health care, civil rights or peace

– Media power and significance should still not be downplayed

– Technologies that facilitate communications increase people’s ability to learn and interact

– Communication allows information to spread across time and space at faster and faster rates