Quantitative Analysis of Amartya Sen's Theory: An ICT4D Perspective

Quantitative Analysis of Amartya Sen's Theory: An ICT4D Perspective

Deen Islam (University of Dhaka, Dhaka, Bangladesh), Mahfuz Ashraf (Department of Management Information Systems, University of Dhaka, Dhaka, Bangladesh), Azizur Rahman (Charles Sturt University, Australia) and Rashadul Hasan (Brainstorm Bangladesh, Bangladesh)
DOI: 10.4018/IJICTHD.2015070102
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Abstract

In this article, the authors attempted to evaluate the contribution of Information Communication Technology (ICT) for development (ICT4D) project in a context of developing country: Bangladesh. Though ICT4D is a general term referring to the application of ICT within the fields of development of a country, there are many cases where the potential benefits of ICT linked with the individual, group/community and organizational level. Considering two case studies, the authors have attempted to understand how ICT can be linked with the lives of community in rural areas of Bangladesh. They have adopted Amartya Sen's five freedoms as conceptual framework for this study. Through a quantitative perspective the authors argue that ICT projects can lead to development in general and five freedoms at particular.
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1. Introduction

It has been discussed that ICT is the essential concerning matter for the development of all sectors of a country especially towards development projects. ICTs is used to increase economic development - by generating new job opportunities, by improving market access and efficiency and by improving the access of poor people to financial services such as access to microcredit loans, micro-insurance, better access to market information, agricultural improvement, job creation in servicing mobile phones etc. It has also been believed that developing countries have unprecedented opportunities to enhance educational systems, improve policy formulation and execution, and expand the range of opportunities for income generation and social change among poor rural and urban communities through the use of ICT. Despite our and others previous attempts (Ashraf, Hanisch & Swatman 2007; Heeks 2002, Ashraf et al 2011a; Ashraf et al. 2011b; 2007, Heeks 1998; Mansell & Wehn 1998; Huerta & Sandoval-Almazan 2007), one questions remains still further understanding: how far the intervention has reached its desired audience, and to identify effects or changes.

Many previous frameworks consider indicators for measuring ICT impact towards development which are designed in one context and then applied in another. While it appears attractive to derive indicators from one context and apply them to another, there remains the problem of drawing theories or frameworks from other disciplines without taking into full account the local contexts and issues (Walsham 2005, Sahay & Avgerou 2002). Considering the importance of understanding local context, we adopt Amartya Sen’s five freedoms as tools to understand the ‘changes’ that took place in a certain local context through the implementation of ICT. Historically development was solely measured with the growth of gross domestic product, or with the increase in per capita income, which did not warrant the participation of each individual comprising the economy or the society. Treating the development as growth in national income or per capita income refers the human being as means rather than ultimate ends of development (Kant, 1785). Sen has not only shown the weaknesses of this approach but also defined the development as capability expansion ensures individual’s freedom to choose between different ways of living (Sen, 2001, 1989).

In this paper, we have attempted to see whether ICT4D project can bring any change in participants’ set of doings and beings in rural areas of a developing country; Bangladesh. The set of doings and beings is measured by Sen’s (2001) five freedoms. Thus,the objective of this study is to operationalise the five freedoms to evaluate the contribution of ICT based initiatives to the development of a society. To address the objective, this study seeks answer from a key broad question: To what extent does Sen’s five freedoms can assess the impact of ICT4D projects in rural context of a developing nation?

2. Operationalisation Of Five Freedoms To This Research

The research is centred on the five freedom types identified by Sen (2001). The study included structured survey questionnaire with users and officials of two ICT4D projects in rural Bangladesh: 1) Grameenphone Community Information Centre (GPCIC), which is a shared ICT access facility where villagers can access a wide range of ICT services e.g. Internet, voice communication, videoconferencing, and locally relevant and customised information services on topics such as health and agriculture. 2) Gonokendra (Multi-purpose community access centre, which is an initiative by Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee (BRAC). The objectives of Gonokendra’s ICT program are to increase familiarity with computers in rural communities, promote computer training in rural areas, create access to digital content of health, education etc for rural youth, adolescents, and adults.

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