The Lost Sheep of ICT4D Research by Gerard C. Raiti

This article, appeared in 2007, analyzes certain shortcomings of ICT4D Research. The author senses a kind of lack of direction with in ICT4D literature and emphasizes that new models should exist beyond qualitative and quantitative analysis so as to better develop an understanding of the impact, benefits, limitations, risks, and goals of implementing ICTs in developing nations. He identifies that media studies and communication theories can play a vital role in creating ICT literature. The major concerns raised in this article includes:

1. We need multidisciplinary authors to create a multidisciplinary ICT literature.

2. It is important to realize that ICT is not a panacea; it alone can’t lead to social elevation.

3. Who is responsible for the structure of ICT4D literature?

4. Application of Habermas’s public sphere to mobile telephony in sub Saharan Africa to demonstrate how ICT4D could expand upon the theoretical tradition with in media studies.

The author refers to the work by Peter Golding and Graham Murdock (1978) to emphasize the need of new research methods. Both the scholars, along with Annabelle Sreberny (2005) and Colin Sparks (2005), are also critical of the redundancies which occur in the ICT4D literature owing to the use of similar methods yielding similar results. I’m trying to gain access to their work titled Theories of Communication and Theories of Society which currently looks a paid access. However the article seems to be based on Political Economy of Communication and Culture which I shall follow next. The later could lead to more active audience studies and ethnographic research.

One of the limitation of the ICT4D literature is its inability in measuring and quantifying the influence of ICT4D as few data existed before the conducted research but at the same time it has well documented its many successes from aiding rural farmers to increasing literacy and facilitating communal communication.

Pointers:

1.In 2007, the then ICT4D research was investigating areas including telecentres, technological infrastructure, telephone incumbents, VoIP, mobile telephone, digital education and the digital divide. Incumbent is probably meant here for ‘services or products’ which lean on ‘telephony’ for their realization.

2. In 2003 Warschauer in his book ‘Technology and Social Inclusion’ recognized ICT4D as a multidisciplinary field of study.

3. In 2004, Leslie Haddon wrote a book titled ‘Information and Communication Technologies in everyday life’ with an aim to introduce research on ICTs and everyday life.

4. Coming to theory, the author mentions a use of Habermas’s public sphere and diffusion theory. He discusses public sphere along with aspects of democratization and literacy. Probably this is something which I can follow further.

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