Unfolding ICT4D: Part-III (Concluding Notes)

Theories can be described in three ways: as an initial guide to design and data collection, as a part of an iterative process of data collection and analysis, and as a final product of the research. There are several theories that can be used as an analytical lens, such as structuration theory, punctuated equation theory, communities of practice, livelihood approach- sustainable framework of analysis, information chain, diffusion of innovation, new intuitionalists theory, TAM/TAM2, knowledge management, capability approach, complexity Science, and actor-network theory (ANT) to name a few. Each theory explores or explains some general or particular phenomenon. The subsequent section illustrates some examples of deployment of theories in ICT4D research. 

In the reference work of (Walsham and Sahay, 1999), they applied ANT for the analytical purpose of GIS implementation in district level administration of India. The objective of this study was to identify the degree of penetration of IT use in an Indian district, in addition, the reason of success or failure of the GIS projects. In their study, they found that there is a lack of aligned interest among different actors, such as actors who develop GIS technology in western countries, and one who uses that technology in India. They reported that GIS developers inscribe their interest in the technology according to their point of view, because of that the cross-cultural and socio-technical conflict arises during the implementation time. As a result, the lack of aligned interest among actors leads to the inefficient implementation of GIS technology for district level administration in India.
In their study, they selected the actors from three groups such as US based actors, central government officials in India, and the Indian Scientific institutions involved in GIS development. First they identified their interests and addressed the processes of enrolment that took place to enable their participation in the network of aligned interests. They evaluated the networks under four different categories such as network for project initiation, network during project development, extending the network to district-level administrations and role of researcher in the actor-network. In the initiation phase the network of aligned interest was quite good, however, in the second state of development, conflicting interest of district level officials and scientists made it difficult to translate the aligned interest of actors. Scientists were more aligned to the data generated through remote sensing, whereas, district officials’ interest was more aligned to the population or livestock. They found that at the time of extending the network to district-level administrators enrolling district level officers was difficult. The reason of not enrolling by district level officials in the network was socio-cultural rather than technical. 
In the reference work of (Heeks and Stanforth, 2007), they used the actor-network theory to investigate an explicit understanding of the political interactions of stakeholders involved with an initiative to implement eGovernment. The objective of this research was to identify the factors of eGovernment projects failure and success. This case study was about an e-Government project called the Integrated Financial Management Information System (IFMIS) in Sri Lanka. In their work they trace the trajectory of e-Government projects through the lens of actor-network theory based around (Law and Callon’s) conception of local and global networks. They analyzed how the failure to mobilize a local network, the failure of the initial strategy to establish itself as an obligatory passage point between the networks, and the failure of local networks led the global network to disintegrate. Finally, they suggested that the success of eGovernment project depends on the homogeneity and mobilization of both local and global networks, and of the acceptance of the e-Government design as an obligatory passage point holding the networks together. Furthermore, they showed how power in networks can be used to understand the process of network mobilization, focused on the idea of power to rather than power over.
Similarly, Rahul De (2009) examined in a case study in Karnatka, India, how Structuration theory can be deployed to understand the influence of caste system on design of the eGovernment system. Duncombe (2006) used livelihood framework in an empirical case study in Botswana to provide information-centered understanding of ICTs and systematic analysis of poverty.

Sein and Harindranath (2004) advocates that conceptualization of ICT artifacts is important to understand the role of ICT in developments. A deeper understanding and explanations are required to clarify how and why social changes occur due to particular ICT artifacts. They conceptualized the ICT based upon its use, views, and impact. For example, 'USE' based conceptualization categorized the ICT artifact as a commodity (manufacturing computers), as a supporting tool for general development activities (collect, organize, and process information in development projects), as a driver of the economy (infrastructure building, education, healthcare, etc.), and ICT directed at specific development sector or project (GIS, telemedicine).  

Likewise, based on 'VIEWS' ICT artifacts are conceptualized as nominal view (ICT not specified explicitly), tool view (means to achieve something), computational view (technology, algorithm, model, codes), proxy view (ICT as economic capital, ICT as a knowledge enabler), ensemble view (socially embedded system). Authors further argued that ICT impacts also can be conceptualized into three different levels such as first-order or primary effect, second-order or secondary effect, and third-order or tertiary effect.  The primary effect is the substitution of old technology by the new (internet, mobile phones, etc.). The secondary effect is the increase in phenomena enabled by new technology (increase in communication), and the tertiary effect  is the generation of new technology related business and societal change. Authors finally inferred that to achieve tertiary level developmental impact, ICT artifacts in development policies should move up from simple tool and computational views to ensemble and proxy views.

ICT4D research can use qualitative, quantitative, or mixed research methods. Quantitative methods are helpful to identify causal relationships, and qualitative methods can be used to build theories explaining complicated phenomena. For detail readings on research methods visit: http://www.qual.auckland.ac.nz/

Callon, M. (1986). Some elements of a sociology of translation: domestication of the scallops and fisherman of st. brieuc bya. In J. Law (Ed.), Poer, action and belief: a new sociology of knowledge? (pp. 196-233). Routledge, London.
DeSanctis, G., & Poole, M. S. (1994). Capturing the Complexity in Advanced Technology Use: Adaptive Structuration Theory. Organization Science, 5(2), 121-147.
De’, R. (2009). Caste Structures and E-Governance in a Developing Country. In M. Wimmer, H. Scholl, M. Janssen & R. Traunmüller (Eds.), Electronic Government (Vol. 5693, pp. 40-53): Springer Berlin / Heidelberg.
Duncombe, R. (2006). Using the livelihoods framework to analyze ICT applications for poverty reduction through microenterprise. Information Technologies and International Development, 3(3), 81-100.
Heeks, R., & Stanforth, C. (2007). Understanding e-Government project trajectories from an actor-network perspective. European Journal of Information Systems, 16, 165-177.
Latour, B. (2005). Reassembling the social, an introduction to actor-network theory: Oxford University Press.
Ngwenyama, O., Andoh-Baidoo, F., Bollou, F., & Morawzynski, O. (2006). Is there a relationship between ICT , health , education and development An empirical analysis of five West African countries from 1997-2003. Electronic Journal of Information Systems in Developing Countries ( Ejisdc ), 23(5), 1-11. 

Orlikowski, W. J. (1993). CASE Tools as Organizational Change: Investigating Incremental and Radical Changes in Systems Development. MIS Quarterly, 17(3), 309-340.
Orlikowski, W. J., & Iacono, S. C. (2001). Resaerch Commentry:Desparetly seeking the 'IT' in IT research - A call to theorizing the IT artifact. information Systems Research, 12(2), 121-134.
Sein, M. K., & Harindranath, G. (2004). Conceptualizing the ICT artifact : Toward understanding the role of ICT in national development. Information Society, 20(1), 15-24.
Walsham, G. (1995b). Interpretive case studies in IS research: nature and method. European Journal of Information Systems, 4, 74–81.
Walsham, G. (2006). Doing interpretive research. European Journal of Information Systems, 15(3), 320-330.
Walsham, G., & Sahay, S. (2006). Research on Information Systems in Developing Countries: Current Landscape and Future Prospects. Information Technology for Development, 12(1), 7-24.


  1. Hi Prof,

    I really enjoyed this article so much. I am a PhD Student (Information Technology) at the Open UNiversity of Malaysia/Accra Institute of Technology here in Ghana. The topic of my research proposal is 'Understanding Contextual Shaping in the adoption of Information and Communication Technology in the Health Sector: The case of Telemedicine in Ghana'. I will as usual use ANT. You piece has actually taugth a lot. I need some guidance too.


  2. Hi Eben,

    It's nice to know that you found this article useful. Feel free to discuss your topic.

    Best wishes.


  3. Hi Devinder
    Quite an informing article in this nacent field of ICT4D. This field is lacking so much in theories that is supposed to guide young researchers like me. Thought belated, allow much to register my appreciation about this piece of work and I believe you are planning to do more. I'm a Ph.D student at the University of Nairobi Kenya and my area of reseach is ICT for sustaianable development.

    Thanks alot hope to see more from you.

    Kamau Mwangi