Paradigm Shift Required for ICT4D

Paradigm Shift Required for ICT4D

Jacques Steyn (Monash University, South Africa)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61520-799-2.ch002
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In this chapter I argue for a shift of paradigm in the field of ICT4D. Since the inception of aid for development in the late 1940s with the introduction of the Marshall Plan, development has been dominated by emphasis on economic development, while development of other human characteristics have been neglected. The standard argument in contemporary ICT4D literature, based on the so-called Washington Concensus, is that economic “upliftment will result in social “upliftment”. It is assumed that economics is the primary cause for social change. I challenge this assumption, and propose that it is instead individual “upliftment” that influences social change that might (or might not) lead to economic change. The more recent Post-Washington Consensus introduced a shift toward socio-economics, by addressing poverty, but is still based on a particular ideological brand of economics. There is a need to move away from such an economically biased approach to development, and from measuring success with economic metrics such as GDP. ICT4D projects are typically deployed within this economic paradigm. The alternative approach suggested here is to deploy ITC4D projects against a social and cognitive paradigm in which social networking and psychological enrichment would take priority over economic development. Within such a paradigm, the principle of least effort would be used for measuring success. This proposed new paradigm is a techno-utilitarian approach. In this regard Development Informatics could pave the way for designing new kinds of ICT systems that are socially relevant to remote communities (whether geographically or socially remote) by making life easier for individuals. It is envisaged that economic development would follow individual and social development. The focus on developing an individual by exposing such an individual to scientific knowledge, will enable that individual to make better choices, which will lead to changing that individual and his or her environment. As the individual changes, the surrounding society changes (which is not the same as progressivism). Social change may lead to a change in the components of society, one of which is economics. ICT is regarded to be a tool to make life easier, and focuses on the enlightenment of an individual within the social context in which such an individual lives, by facilitating the possible development of cognitive and psychological abilities.

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