Members can sign in here.

About the Author

Wouter Dijkstra
ICT4Development researcher (Amsterdam, Netherlands)

Personal: Wouter Dijkstra is a Social Scientist, interested in the use of new and old media to strengthen public debate and mechanisms of accountability in Africa. With degrees in both Anthropology and New Media and an extensive background in Africa he is based firmly in contemporary theory but even more in practical reality. In 2009 he went to Uganda together with the ICT4Uganda research group, guided by Dr Geert Lovink. He finished research on the power of talk-radio and the emergence of mobile telephony in Uganda. Based on this research he coined the term ICT4Accountability. This is still an ongoing research. At this moment he is working for TRAC to set up platforms for public debate in east-Africa, through the use of mobile telephony and FM radio. This organization is currently in a startup phase.

Post

ICT4D 2.0: Less internet, more radio.

Published 02nd May 2010 - 6 comments - 7023 views -

When discussing the use, effects and possibilities of ICTs in Africa, one needs to follow the ICT4Development (ICT4D) discourse. Professor Richard Heeks coined the term in the late 90s. In a recent paper named ‘the ICT4D 2.0 Manifesto’ Professor Heeks reevaluates ICT4D and discusses the lessons learnt from 10 years of ICT4D activity. According to Professor Heeks, ICT4D is moving into a next phase where new technologies, new approaches to innovation and implementation and new intellectual perspectives will change the way ICTs are used to improve the livelihoods of the world’s poor. As one of the founding academics developing the field of ICT4D, Heeks is a heavyweight academic and has a clear and influential view on the development of the academic discourse covering ICT4D.

Professor Heeks believes that within the new approach of ICT4D 2.0, some rebalancing will take place in the way the needs of the poor will be addressed through the use of ICTs. Instead of a rigorous hands-on approach in providing ICT hardware for the poor, more recognition will be given to the importance of collaboration with local partners and issues of governance in shaping the outcomes of ICT4D. Whereas the rural tele-centre was seen as the quick and ‘off-the-shelf’ solution in the ICT4D 1.0 era, ICT4D 2.0 will use the lessons learnt from this period and adhere to the watchwords of sustainability, scalability and evaluation to avoid the trap of replicating Western ICT models for a quick fix in the development of poor countries.

The obsession of technology-as-invention and the little focus on technology-in-use which was characteristic of the initial approach to ICT4D has lead to an ‘invention-down’ approach of ICT4D instead of the more effective ‘use-up’ solutions. In practice this implies that ICT4D 2.0 will put less emphasis on the use of internet and PCs in developing countries and more emphasis on the current use of mobile, radio and television. There will be more emphasis on evaluating the way popular technologies are used and how to scale them up for maximum impact. Clearly, mobile phones, which serve two thirds of the African population, will get a preference over the PC which only links up 0.5% of the Africans. As another characteristic of ICT4D 2.0, Professor Heeks predicts a reinterpretation and re-appreciation of the use of radio and television in the context of ICT4D. With some 80% of the population in Africa having access to a radio and 50% to television, convergence of this old media into forms which make use of new media seems inevitable.

Radio-Internet statistics in Africa

This does not suggest that New Media in Africa should be given less priority, it does suggest that in order to reach the African population radio networks should not be overlooked in the process of introducing new technologies. Information and Communication Technologies evolve over time and use older technologies as stepping stones to introduce new media. In new media literature this is referred to as remediation. Following from the shift towards a more user based development of ICT in Africa, a new way of innovation of the technologies according to the specific needs of the people will be the norm in ICT4D 2.0. Instead of innovations made on behalf of poor people, Heeks sees that collaborative innovation, where communities work alongside developers, holds the key in ICT4D 2.0. Innovation by and within communities is starting to become a possibility as we see the first ‘techies’ graduating from African universities and new business models being developed by local African entrepreneurs.

The shift to a more bottom-up perspective in the field of ICT for development is related to research methods proposed by social scientist William Easterly who, in his book ‘The White Man’s Burden’, calls for searchers instead of planners. Planners are the top down strategists who study systems and will try to implement schemes of development onto a dysfunctional society. Searchers are the ones who apply a bottom up perspective, searching for demand and homegrown solutions. Radio and mobile telephony are clearly more engrained in African society and should therefor be at the center of attention when thinking about development through ICT in Africa.

You can download the ICT4D 2.0 manifesto here.

Read more on www.ict4accountability.wordpress.com

 

Whereas the rural tele-centre was seen as the quick and ‘off-the-shelf’ solution in the ICT4D 1.0 era, ICT4D 2.0 will use the lessons learnt from this period and adhere to the watchwords of sustainability, scalability and evaluation

Category: Technology | Tags: media, africa, africa, radio,


Comments

  • Larisa Rankovic on 03rd May 2010:

    Sounds thoughtful and logical to me.


  • Hieke van der Vaart on 03rd May 2010:

    True. For fast and cheap communication it makes more sense to use the radio or a mobile phone instead of a laptop. See this article:

    http://edition.cnn.com/2010/TECH/04/12/africa.apps/

    But…even though this might be a technically ignorant question: how about smartphones? Do you think they could be the next big thing in remote areas?


  • Wouter Dijkstra on 11th May 2010:

    Hi Hieke, thanks for your comment! First of all, smartphones require ICT infrastructure that is not yet available in most african countries. Broadband connections are slowly penetrating the continent through the various fibreoptic seacables. This process will take lots of time. Secondly, people in rural areas have to be educated in the use of these technologies, they have to see advantages in the smartphone that will open the market for these phones. Thirdly, software and applications will have to be designed for this market. Off course, eventually this will all happen, it will only take a long time. The best way to stimulate this development is to start with with what there is and build up from there. It is a common mistake to implement new western gadgets in a society where there is no use, market or infrastructure for the technology.
    This is why I think the one laptop per child project will not work. What do you think about this?


  • Maria Kuecken on 13th May 2010:

    “The obsession of technology-as-invention and the little focus on technology-in-use which was characteristic of the initial approach to ICT4D has lead to an ‘invention-down’ approach of ICT4D instead of the more effective ‘use-up’ solutions.”

    Very well put, Wouter.  The distinction between the inventors and the innovators seems to be overlooked quite often.  Looking forward to reading more from you!


  • Hieke van der Vaart on 14th May 2010:

    Hi Wouter, thanks for your reply, and yes, start with all there is sounds logical. But taking into account that cellphones became successful in developing countries in quite a short time span, I think within ten years iphones etc. should be widely used there too. About the one-laptop project: i think its success really depends on monitoring. Otherwise, the kids (like anywhere in the world) use the computers for other things than development (see link)
    wink

    http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSL1966647020070720


Post your comment

  • Remember my personal information

    Notify me of follow-up comments?

    --- Let's see if you are human ---

    A human creature that practices the art of "blogging" is called a... Add a questionmark to your answer. (8 character(s) required)