Understanding ICT in ICT4D: An Affordance Perspective

Understanding the role of ICT for development is at the core of ICT4D research. However, prevailing research in this field most often focuses on access or readiness of a technology, or on the outcomes of the technology use. Less attention has been paid to understand the mechanism of the technology use that leads to the outcomes. The question of why ICT in a development context sometimes work and sometimes does not work still remains a subject of enquiry. To enhance our understanding in this regard, we propose to use the concept of affordances to unfold the “black boxed” nature of ICT. We revisited a case from Kenya to illustrate the application of affordances in a ICT4D context. The findings show that the benefits of ICT can be harnessed only if the users in the underprivileged communities can perceive and actualize the affordances of the ICT. However, what is ICT affordances, and how people perceive and actualize the affordances in the context of developing countries are the issues that we delve in this paper.

Exploring Effective Ecosystems in Disaster Management: Case studies of Japan and Nepal

Existing literature argues that taking a holistic approach to disaster management is important for organizations in achieving resilience. However, theoretical underpinnings are lacking to achieve a holistic understanding. This paper applies the notion of an ecosystem as a holistic lens to understand complex disaster management. We report two case studies from Japan and Nepal to illustrate how an ecosystem works during a disaster. The Japan case is a government initiative, whereas the Nepal case is a non-governmental initiative. The theoretical framework of information ecology is used in analyzing the cases. Based on the findings, we formulate three propositions that show important elements of ecosystems to approach resilience. The study suggests that coevolution is a key to respond to constantly changing situations during a disaster. To accomplish ecosystem coevolution, creating a collaboration system with governments and local communities and embedding local knowledge into the system are essential. Furthermore, digital tools can play a critical role in the coevolution process.

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A Framework for Understanding the Link Between ICT and Development: How Affordances Influence Capabilities

Understanding the role of ICT in development is at the core of the ICT4D field. However, while most agree that ICT do contribute to development, the question of how is still not fully explored. In this research-in-progress, we propose a framework that combines two theoretical lenses, the choice framework (that is based on the capability approach) and affordances, to increase our understanding of ICTs role in the development process. The capability approach considers development as freedoms for people to live the lives they have a reason to value. The affordance theory describes action possibilities allowed by material properties, thereby allowing the examination of how individuals explore material properties of information systems with the objective of enhancing their capabilities. We argue that, by combining the choice framework with affordances we can better explain the role of ICT in the development process, and explain how individuals’ agency and social structures influence their ability to perceive affordances in their interaction with the ICT.

What theories do we need to know to conduct ICT4D research?

Research in ICT4D is a constant search to answer the question of how ICT fosters development in underdeveloped communities. While many theories have guided research, we are yet to develop a cumulative body of knowledge to answer this question. In this paper, we argue that the elusive link between ICT and development needs to be grounded in three groups of theories: theories to understand development; theories to understand ICT; and theories to understand how ICT make development happen. We present exemplars of theories from each group, and illustrate how we have used them in our research. Through reflecting on which questions to be answered by including the three groups of theories, we propose research agendas.


Information Ecology as a holistic lens to understand ICTD initiatives: A case study of OLPC deployment in Nepal

Abstract: Techno-centric initiatives to bridge the digital divide, such as One Laptop per Child (OLPC), has been criticized for not taking a holistic approach. This has led to limited success in areas such as providing quality education in developing countries. In this paper, we offer a premise for a holistic understanding by borrowing from the field of information ecology. To illustrate our premise, we applied the theoretical lens of information ecology to analyze a case study of Open Learning Exchange (OLE) which has been described as one of the few successes in implementing OLPC. Based on our analysis, we posit that information ecology is a suitable and appropriate lens to interpret and understand how IT interventions can be successfully deployed in developing countries.

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