The Outcomes of ICT Diffusion and Human Development in Malawi

The Outcomes of ICT Diffusion and Human Development in Malawi

Frank Makoza (Department of Information Systems, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa) and Wallace Chigona (Department of Information Systems, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa)
DOI: 10.4018/jicthd.2012100105

Abstract

Presented is a historical analysis of the link between Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and human development outcomes in a developing country. Human Development Index was used as a theoretical lens to assess the consequences of peoples’ choices to lead a healthier, longer and more creative life. The study used Malawi as the case study. Secondary data sourced from international development agencies’ databases, and policy documents from government departments, were used in this study. The results are explained in further detail deeper into the article.
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Introduction

Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) continue to dominate the development discourse, especially in developing countries. ICTs are now widely applied in many areas of society, with the belief that they can facilitate human development and increase peoples’ freedoms and choices (Sen, 1999). ICTs can enhance many aspects of human development such as health, income, employment, participation and empowerment (Hamel, 2010). To this end, governments in developing countries are formulating national ICT policies with the hope of attaining universal access; this, they hope, will contribute towards increasing chances for citizens to participate in development activities and to lead fulfilling lives. However, in developing countries, the relationship between ICT policies and human development is often elusive (Qureshi, 2005). The outcomes of national ICT policies and strategies are not well documented and are often based on anecdotal evidence, as opposed to research-based evidence (Adam & Gillward, 2007).

According to literature, the challenges that developing countries face in implementing national ICT policies include institutional capacity, lack of resources, lack of political will, lack of evaluation and lack of monitoring (Alinaghian, Rahman, & Ibrahim, 2010; Ulrich & Chacko, 2005). The challenges affect the way national ICT policies are applied in supporting national development agendas; this results in difficulties in establishing the actual outcomes of the policies. The purpose of this study was twofold: (1) to examine the role of ICT in the attainment of human development and (2) to provide evidence-based outcomes of the role of National ICT Policy in human development. This is achieved by answering the following questions:

  • What is the role of National ICT Policy in achievement of human development?

  • How does ICT support attainment of human development?

The role of National ICT Policy was analysed by drawing on historical data on the policy documents and indicators on ICT from international development organisations. The study used the case of Malawi, which is in the process of implementing National ICT Policy to support socio-economic development agendas.

International development organisations such as the World Bank, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) and the World Trade Organisation, on the outcomes of application of ICT in development, were examined through the use of a number of indicators (Mohamadian, Elahi, & Ghasemzadeh, 2006). One example of such indicators is the Human Development Index (HDI). Use of indicators present perspective of development from the supply side, which can provide the starting point of analysis of contribution of ICT towards human development and then form the basis for future planning (Dada, 2006). Development in this context is conceptualised as “multidimensional and multidisciplinary process of enlarging peoples’ choices and freedoms” (Hamel, 2010).

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