ICT4D - Unpeeling our Information Assumptions

by Emily Inlow, MLIS/IRDCP Candidate

Wikipedia defines ICT4D as dealing “with the application of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) in development programs in underdeveloped countries.”

In LIS 559, ‘Ethics, Imagination, and Leadership: A Cross Cultural Approach’ we are going back into our ethnic past to find leadership models. What this exercise does is one, unpeel the layers of your assumptions about what makes a leader, two, help you find an aspect of your history that can act as a touchstone, and three, in a diverse classroom, it helps you learn lessons from other cultures. It’s an interesting pedagogical method, and I feel it is particularly relevant to the field of ICT4D.

I think of this while remembering a comment made during a conversation at the recent Village Computing conference held here on the UW campus in December. The conversation was about what technologies were appropriate for the tele-centers that were being described by various professionals in the development, academic, and private sectors. A project director in ICT4D was describing a project he was involved in that built “information kiosks” in rural areas of India. One of the panelists asked what the value of these information kiosks were in these areas. She, a North American co-owner of a cell phone company, stated what she used information and communication technologies for, which was mainly for shopping and entertainment purposes. The response from the project director was that the kiosks were being used to access e-government information, such as birth records and land titles. He said that prior to the kiosks, this information was not readily available in these rural areas.

This interaction at its core illustrates that all of us see the world through our own various realities. So I thought a useful exercise for those who are working across economic and cultural boundaries would be to unpeel the layers of our own information assumptions. By that I mean, how is our everyday life supported by the use of information and communication technologies, even if we are not using them directly? What services, resources, and rights do we take for granted that without ICT would perhaps not exist? We might be surprised at what we find.

If you would like to talk about this issue more, feel free to chat via the iWorld listserv,

Interested in learning more about ICT4D? Check out these links.

Information and Communication Technologies for Development
World Summit on the Information Society, ICT for Development Platform
Course on ICT4D
Village Computing


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Page last updated: February 1, 2006