Technology innovation vs real interventions

First to say that its good to be blogging here, and lets hope this blog comes together as an interesting group of diverse opinions on ICT, development and anything related.

As Richard mentioned in the inaugural post, ICT4D is no longer a new, novelty area, it has a history of success and failures which influence what will happen in the future. On one hand, there continues to be the constant push of new technologies and approaches into the development space, with the almost daily appearance of a new development solution or philanthropic efforts relying on innovative ICT’s. However, on the other hand many of the largest ICT4D actions are still building on models that were refined many years ago. Look at the Indian and Brazilian flagship mass telecentre programs, or the range of similar e-government schemes still being rolled out as examples.

Does this indicate a dual problem? Firstly a resistance to building adaptive ICT4D solutions that fit in with existing technologies or schemes. Whilst its simple to criticise setups like the telecentre, given that these are often already present, innovation might look to move towards a more intergrationist approaches. Equally it is rare to see ICT4D solutions which exploit older technologies like TV or (until recently) solutions using voice through telephones.

I’ve also heard the other side of the story. NGO’s or organisations do not know how to bring new technology into their working projects. A model solution has been built, and new technology or uses are seen as a risk that might jeopodise accepted solutions or be more costly.

So this post is really an ongoing thought, to flag this duality as a ongoing problem. How can we break away from the purely innovation focus of many new ICT4D ideas, and how do we build more adaptive and open understanding within adopted solutions in the South?


3 thoughts on “Technology innovation vs real interventions

  1. hi chris
    thanks for posting this.

    i have done some research on how Indonesian NGOs use ICT –in your word– “into their working projects”. this might be an example from a southern perspective the way NGOs ‘innovate’ – or adopt technological innovation – in strategic/political ways in order to amplify their “voice”. i have some short stories in my blog ( – extracted from my doctoral research (with ian miles and lawrence green)


  2. I guess one answer to the question about moving away from top-down invention more to the bottom-up adaptive models, would be greater empowerment of grass-roots actors and organisations.

    This is somewhat reminiscent of William Easterly’s ideas about moving away from top-down aid solutions, towards an approach that scans grass-roots development looking for good ideas to support.

    (And, of course, it has much broader development echoes in the blueprint vs. process debate.)

  3. Trying the new and adapting the tried and tested can happily co-exist, though I understand the latter may not be as appealing/interesting as the groundbreaking potential of the former. Therein lies the problem.

    Grass-roots innovations are the most interesting — in the ICT realm, ensuring ICTs can be adapted to serve needs beyond their original design, or tinkered with ( is the first step.

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