Where are the Amazon and eBay for international development? ICT has delivered new models for business and commerce; is it also delivering new models for international development?
A new short paper, “Development 2.0: Transformative ICT-Enabled Development Models and Impacts” outlines some initial ideas (summarised below), building on an earlier Viewpoints column in Communications of the ACM.
Ideas about Development 2.0 must be initial because ICTs have only very recently diffused to the bottom of the pyramid (with many gaps and inequalities remaining). A first pass suggests three potentially-transformative, ICT-enabled development models:
- Direct Development delivers resources and services without the intervention of traditional development actors; where those resources and services can be digitised. Examples would include Kiva, MYC4 and similar micro-lending platforms.
- Networked Development occurs neither solely through the state and similar agencies nor through the market, but through a mesh of actors and institutions that are connected and can act together through ICTs. Examples include txteagle’s crowdsourcing, and the ‘crowdvoicing’ of e-participatory budgeting. (See also an example of emergent ICT-enabled networks impacting development.)
- Grassroots Development occurs from within poor communities, as a result of ICT-enabled empowerment. Examples include beeping/flashing, and use of airtime as currency. (See further discussion in an earlier entry on grassroots ICT4D innovation.)
These models could only be judged transformative if they are having real and significant new development impacts. Evidence is only just emerging, but five types of impact are starting to be seen:
- Connecting the excluded: providing information and other livelihood assets including social capital that were previously unavailable.
- Disintermediation: cutting out the gatekeepers who prevent access to resources and services, or who charge rents for such access.
- Digital production: enabling those in low-income communities to become producers of digital content, and to develop ICT-based productive livelihoods.
- Digital innovation: enabling those in low-income communities to appropriate technology to such an extent that they start to do new things with it.
- Collective power: enabling communities to bring the power of the group to bear in the service of economic or socio-political agendas.
These ideas on models and impacts, however, leave many questions:
– How should we frame and conceptualise ideas about Development 2.0?
– How can we properly distinguish between an incremental and a transformative effect of ICTs on development processes and structures?
– Where can we get independent, long-term impact data relating to the new ICT-enabled models, as opposed to the current ‘evidence’, much of which is anecdotal and/or written by those with vested interests.
These and other Development 2.0 issues form part of the ongoing research agenda for Manchester’s Centre for Development Informatics.