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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Responding to Crisis: A Sociotechnical tale of Kathmandu Living Labs (KLL)

Abstract: Kathmandu Living Labs (KLL) emerged as a focal actor in the Nepal earthquake event because of its active use of digital technologies. The technologies were used to map and cluster the earthquake effected zones and communities that supported disaster management (DM) activities, such as responding to the crisis. Without these technologies it was quite difficult to get the real time location of the victims, and to do the measurement of the hazards.  KLL is hailed for its action across the world and gain academic attraction as well. However, it gives rise to the question: was it just interplay of various digital tools or something beyond that. Our preliminary understandings based on existing literature indicate that crisis response is not just interplay of digital tools but mobilization of human and technical actors that translates collective intention into action. However, how does this mobilization take place, and how does interaction of social and technical actors translate their intention into action, particularly in responding to the crisis is a matter of further enquiry. To enhance understanding in this regard, we present an interpretive case study of Kathmandu Living Lab (KLL). The study employs Actor-Network Theory (ANT) to explore the answers of the questions that are raised earlier.

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