From ICT4D to Digital Development?
As a term, “ICT4D” is a strong and generally positive force. It acts as a magnet to aggregate knowledge and practice. It provides a clear and unambiguous tag for searches and material and events. The “4D” component provides a purpose for activity. Without it, we would lose more than we gain.
There was the well-meaning but ultimately-disadvantageous attempt to supplant it with “ICTD”, and there has been its fractionation as the field has grown into “M4D”, “HCI4D”, “ICT4E”, etc. Now there’s the faint whiff of a new(ish) kid on the block: “digital development”.
At the turn of the century, “digital development” showed signs of becoming the chosen term for application of ICTs to development, before ICT4D nipped in from 2001 to squeeze it out. It had a moment in the sun during the 2000s when it was used to help explain the digital divide. And now it has received some recent resuscitation. In 2014, UNCSTD commissioned a report on Digital Development, and USAID set up a Digital Development team as part of its Global Development Lab. In 2015, the widely-cited “Principles for Digital Development” were launched. In 2016, it got a cluster of mentions in the World Development Report, “Digital Dividends”.
As a term, “digital development” has plenty going against it: it’s generically ambiguous (searches bring up material on development of fingers and toes); it’s specifically ambiguous (searches bring up material on development of digital devices, or child development of digital technology capabilities); it doesn’t offer a snappy tag or signal; it has no inherent purpose. Personally, I think it better we badge this “ICT4D 3.0” given the many benefits of the ICT4D label. (Actually, “ICT4D 2.0” would be better still but I already jumped the gun on that one back in 2009.)
Nonetheless, “digital development” is a term with a bit of momentum behind it, and also a sense from recent entrants to the field – admittedly only gleaned from conversations at the WDR2016 London launch – that it is somehow new, and different from ICT4D. So, at the Centre for Development Informatics, we decided to run with that and see where it got us: holding a brown-bag lunch at which everyone was asked to assume there is some kind of phase change from ICT4D to Digital Development and, given that, to give examples or indicators of that change.
Our summary of the phase change differences is shown in the table below. A blog is not the place to provide a detailed explanation of the content, but I’ll note some main features:
- Our bumper slogan was that digital technologies are a tool for development under ICT4D, but wiil be the platform and medium for development under Digital Development.
- Digital Development both informs and is informed by a wider sense of phase change from “international development” to “global development” (discussed at a different brown-bag event of which more, perhaps, anon). One particular aspect of this – still a matter of much debate – is that development becomes a universal process, not one restricted to developing countries; a changing geography also seen within the shift in content from MDGs to SDGs.
- It seeks to incorporate earlier ideas like “Development 2.0” (seen as exemplifying some of the new development models of a Digital Development era) and “ICT4D 2.0” (seen as the innovation worldview that underpins Digital Development).
- It draws significantly from existing ideas on the network society and internet studies, and seeks to incorporate them into the global development domain. That intersection of digital and development is where most work still needs to be done. Castells & Himanen recently had a stab at this but it remains a work in progress. Alongside research into, and examples of, all the elements in the right-hand column, thinking about the digital/development intersection therefore forms the main agenda to take forward.
|Development||Development goals||MDGs||SDGs (Inclusion, Sustainability, Transformation)|
|Nature of development||International Development (global South)||Global Development (universal)|
|Technology||Infrastructure||Partial (individually-connected ICTs; global North dominant presence)||Ubiquitous (cloud-based “digital nervous system” of converged ICTs; global South dominant presence)|
|Key technologies||PC, internet, mobile phone||Smartphone, broadband, sensor, 3D printer|
|Focus||Conspicuous artefacts, devices||Data, information (artefacts become unobtrusive, tacit in life)|
|Development Application||Development role||Tool for development||Platform and medium for development|
|Development models||“Development 1.0”: digitising and improving existing development processes
|“Development 2.0”: redesigning development processes and systems (users as digital producers, the power of the crowd, digital participation, network structures, data-intensive development, and open development)|
|“Intensive development” and discrete digital economy||“Extensive development” and pervasive digital economy|
|Innovation model||“ICT4D 1.0”: inclusive pro-poor (laboratory), semi-closed, linear||“ICT4D 2.0”: inclusive para-poor/per-poor (participative, grassroots), semi-open, agile & iterative|
|Development Systems||Development geography||Places and nodes||Spaces, hybrid places, relations, and flows (breakdown of time/space barriers)|
|Development structures||Linearity: hierarchies and chains||Complexity: multi-scalar, interconnected (but still hierarchical) networks and ecosystems|
|Networks: local, national; simple and loose-connected; physical||Networks: transnational, global; complex and inter-connected; physical and virtual|
|Generic impacts: stability, development||Generic impacts: volatility, ripple of shocks, uncertainty, precariousness, potential regression|
|Development processes||Human (decisions & actions)||Smart (algorithmic decision-making; automated action)|
|Development logics||Closed-dominant||Form (models/structures) and practices (processes) change but still closed-dominant|
|Development Agency||Capabilities||Digital immigrant||Digital native|
|Technology usage||Partial, intermittent||Digital immersion|
|From physical collective to individual use (introspection)||From individual to virtual collective use (performance)|
|Development Impacts||Economic development||Enhanced capitalism||Frictionless capitalism|
|Political development||Accelerated liberalism||Accelerated pluralism|
|Impacts worldview||Positive||Positive and negative|
|Development Policy||Policy structures||Feudal: partly-mainstreamed (cells within sectoral silos)||Federal: fully-mainstreamed (foundation to all sectoral policy/strategy) & sidestreamed (cross-cutting coherence)|
|Development issues||Inclusion: digital divide (absolute exclusion)||Inclusion: network position (relative exclusion and adverse inclusion)|
|Sustainability: of ICT4D projects||Sustainability: of development; resilience|
|Transformation: only digitisation and improvement as potential impacts||Transformation: redesign and transformation as potential impacts|
|Value chain focus||Readiness to Uptake as constraints to positive impacts||Impact: positive and negative|
|Development Informatics Research||Research issues||Incremental impacts: digitisation and improvement of traditional development||Disruptive impacts: redesign and transformation, including digital economy and digital politics|
|Readiness and adoption||Political economy and digital harm|
|Technology and context||Agency, institutions, and structural relations|
|Conceptual models||Traditional disciplinary conceptions||Network models, complex adaptive systems|
|Digital divide models||Political economy models|
|Technology acceptance model||Institutional logics|
My thanks to all CDI colleagues (MSc ICT4D students, PhD researchers, and staff) who contributed at and after the brown-bag lunch, and without whom there would be no table.Follow @CDIManchester