Development 2.0: New ICT-Enabled Development Models and Impacts

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.


10 thoughts on “Development 2.0: New ICT-Enabled Development Models and Impacts

  1. Thank you Richard for your interesting article and related questions. I was prompted to go to your original paper “Development 2.0: Transformative ICT-Enabled Development Models and Impacts”

    The final paragraph there states “In the meantime, we can celebrate the fact that the foundations and assumptions of international development are changing. The tools for a digital economy are now – and will increasingly be -in the hands of the world’s poor. Our view of them can start to migrate: from seeing them as victims to seeing them first as consumers, then producers then innovators of a digital age. And, as we do so, changing our views on the processes and structures of socioeconomic development: from Development 1.0 to Development 2.0”
    Cause for celebration indeed – especially Development 2.0 and related shifting assumptions and perceptions.

    I would like to add one more role, which I think is very important. It is the role of “the poor” as consultants. I believe that development 2.0 should see the end of top-down projects and the emergence of genuine two-way flows of information. These would be neither top-down nor bottom-up flows of information. There would be a real shift of perception. The information would be seen as flowing across – from side to side – with both sides having equal respect for the other.

    With the coming of Development 2.0, development interventions and research should be done “with” people – not “at” them.

    To put it in plain language and over simplified terms – if “the poor” have got phones now, then why don’t the researchers simply phone them up and ask them to provide information about how they are using their phones? And if the researchers don’t know any of “the poor” then Development 2.0 should be about making those introductions and enabling the information to flow.

    Obviously it’s not that simple – there are cultural barriers to cross, and so on – but the communication can and should be much more direct and two-way than in the past. This isn’t just theory. In the practical world where I operate information is flowing in and out of rural areas much better than ever before.

    Of course there will be those who say that treating “the poor” as consultants or collaborators can’t possibly be done. Academia can’t possibly pay “the poor” to give it the information it wants. There is no budget for accessing outside information like that. Money is tight and it is only available to access information in the traditional forms – safely wrapped between book covers, or in journals, or coming fresh from the lips of other academics gathered together at International Conferences.

    But this is the age of information, the age of the death of distance. ICTs are transformative and disruptive. Out of all the research communities it is the ICT4D research community that should be trailblazing the use of ICT in its approach to doing its research. All kinds of new opportunities are opening up with Development 2.0. Let us embrace them.

    In the interests of full disclosure – I’m co-director of Dadamac Limited – Knowledge Brokers (with John Dada). We introduce people to each other (mostly UK-Nigeria)and help them to do useful stuff together.

    1. I’d actually made a start on a rather similar case study (and I’m sure there must be more), but have been unable to get further details – ClickDiagnostics has been training and hiring members of poor communities to gather health and related data from Bangladeshi villages which they record on netbooks and then upload.

  2. Very insightful comments Pamela. I am a student of ICT4D and truly Development 2.0 will open greater opportunities for researchers and users alike. I am a great fan of your work Richard and I look forward to contributing to this quest.


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