The New Wave of Non-Western ICT4D Aid Donors
As growing numbers of non-Western nations become ICT4D aid donors, how will this change the ICT4D landscape?
The tidal patterns of Western aid donors and ICT4D are relatively well-known. Each individual history varies but we can chart the big sweeps from tied aid to less-tied aid; from virtually ignoring ICT to the DOTForce-type love affair to falling out of love and now back to a more considered view; and likewise the moves from “markets with everything” to the MDG paradigm and now the first signs of post-MDG thinking such as more growth-oriented aid.
But there’s another big sweep coming and new kids on the block: newly-industrialised and transitional nations are themselves setting up ICT4D aid programmes. China, India, South Korea, Taiwan – and probably many others – are becoming players.
I’ve not found very much about this, at least with an ICT4D focus, and would welcome some pointers in comments. With Korean colleagues, we’ve just completed an overview of the South Korean ICT4D aid programme, published in EJISDC. By 2007, Korea had already spent more than US$120m on ICT4D aid, which formed over 10% of its total aid budget.
In one way, we could see this aid as a “throwback” to early Western ICT4D aid – tied to orders for Korean companies, techno-centric, lacking insight into context. But in other ways, it presents an intriguing contrast to the current policies of Western donors. The latter seem to have let technology slip somewhat from their agendas. The new wave donors are much clearer that technology has been central to their own nation’s recent development achievements – likely they are therefore more optimistic about technology; give it a greater importance, and fund it more in their aid programmes.
The new wave donors are yet another sign of the slow shifts in global power. As another example, we have seen “investment competition” in Africa between China and the West, with African nations often preferring the former.
It is too early to talk of “aid competition” in ICT4D, but it will be interesting to see – whatever the criticisms we might level at the new donors’ ICT4D aid – how recipient countries and users react.