ICTs in Mountain Regions: Impact Assessment

Mountain regions are home to one-tenth of the world’s population.  Yet they are also among the poorest, most-remote and most-excluded areas.  Can ICTs address these issues?

Maybe.  But, to date, there has been very little research on this: partly because mountain areas are the last places on earth to get connected; partly due to the lack of conceptual frameworks attuned to the specific conditions of these areas.

Manchester’s Centre for Development Informatics has published a working paper – Remoteness, Exclusion and Telecentres in Mountain Regions – which develops two simple frameworks.  One looks at the positive and negative impacts that ICTs have on resources moving into and out of mountain communities.  The other looks at the “information chain” (see below): the set of actions and complementary inputs required for information to have a resultant development impact.

Using these frameworks to analyse the impact of a telecentre set up within a poor community in the high Andes, we found ICTs enabling new and positive resource flows for the two key user groups: teenaged school students and young farmers.  These flows help to maintain social networks.  They also support information searches that have improved agricultural practice so long as other information chain resources have been available.  But non-use and ineffective use of the telecentre are found where information chain resources are lacking.

ICTs have some impact on intangible elements of remoteness.  In this particular example, they also offer access to some previously-excluded resources.  But they have not really addressed the systemic exclusions faced by mountain communities.  And they so far appear to be a technology of inequality; favouring those residents who begin with better resource endowments.

On this basis, we recommend that mountain ICT projects need to be:

  • Info-centric“: focusing less on the technology and more on the data that technology carries.
  • Chain-centric“: attending to the additional information chain resources – over and above technology and data – that are required in order to turn digital data into development results.
  • Socio-centric“: recognising that new information chain resources are mainly provided by individuals’ social contact networks.
  • Econo-centric“: being especially mindful of ICT uses that enable new or more productive income-generating activities.

But this work is just a small start: we need much more research to be done as ICTs diffuse into mountain communities; work that takes account of the specific geographies of those communities.

4 thoughts on “ICTs in Mountain Regions: Impact Assessment

    1. “Mountains are home to approximately one-tenth of the world’s people, cover one-fifth of the world’s land surface, and occur in 75 percent of the world’s countries. More than half the world’s fresh water originates in mountains, and all of the world’s major rivers have their headwaters in highlands.”

      from p282 of: Byers, A., Gilligan, N., Golston, S. & Linville, R. (1999) ‘Mountains: a global resource’, Social Education, Sept, pp.281-296

  1. Just wanted to share the recent interesting paper that I read titled, “Demystifying the Possibilities of ICT4D in the Mountain Regions of Nepal” by Devinder Thapa and Øystein Sæbø. (Accepted for presentation in Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences (HICSS)-44, Jan 4-7, 2011, Hawaii.)
    This paper focuses on an interpretive case study in Nepal to widen the understanding of how locally-initiated ICT4D projects may help to narrow educational, healthcare, information, and communication gaps between urban and remote communities. The study utilises the Assets Pentagon Model to identify the strengths and challenges of the Nepal Wireless Networking Project (NWNP) in the mountain areas, and to identify implications for research and practice based on insights from the case.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.