The Contribution(s) of Modernization Theory to ICT4D Research

The Contribution(s) of Modernization Theory to ICT4D Research

Sylvain K. Cibangu (Loughborough University, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0556-3.ch001
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Abstract

Since evolving into an established science in the 1990s, the field of information and communication technologies for development (ICT4D) has seen unprecedented and fast-growing rates of publication, curriculum venues, and development projects around the globe. To this effect, ICT4D literature is informed by a variety of theories (e.g., capability approach, livelihoods, participatory development, etc.). In the process of asserting its body of knowledge, however, ICT4D has tended to dismiss the theory of modernization. For example, under labels such as technology fix, technology transplant, a computer per child, etc., the theory of modernization has been equated with the failures of and threats against development. Consequently, the theory of modernization has lost its value among development practitioners and theorists. This chapter assesses the theory of modernization. There is no such thing as a developed nation without modernization. The chapter derives some points of departure for ICT4D research.
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Introduction1

Technology has been the product and conduit of human wellbeing throughout recorded history. In recent decades, ICT4D has seen its body of literature grow at an indescribable speed.2 From a vast array of disciplines, various theories have been imported and implemented in an attempt to best accommodate the goals, scopes, and benefits of development in our poverty-plagued world. Chief among imported theories are the capability approach, livelihoods, participatory development, and modernization theory (Clark, 2006, 2007; Fuchs, 2013; Heeks, 2006, 2007; 2010a, 2010b, 2014c, 2014d; Heeks and Molla, 2009; Harriss, 2014; Jacobsen, 2015; Kleine, 2009, 2013; Mosse, 2013; Potter, Binns, Smith, & Elliott, 2008; Potter, Conway, Evans, & Lloyd-Evans, 2012; Sandum, 2010; Unwin, 2009a, 2009b, 2009c, 2009d; Williams, 2014). In the meantime, modernization theory has come to represent the failures of and threats against development practice (He, 2012a, 2012b; Marsh, 2014; Peet & Hartwirck, 2015). In the same vein, it is not uncommon that development is viewed as philanthropic and/or rural work comprised of small-scale endeavors, with concepts such as micro-finance, small-scale enterprise, micro-credit, micro-loan, etc. For better or worse, the dominance of statistical (sweeping) generalization has left a significant impact on much of the research into ICT4D and its corollary ICT [Information and Communication Technology] (see May, Dutton, & Munyakazi, 2014, p. 50). This chapter is not claiming to dismiss micro-level data, especially with regard to micro-analysis, rather it is calling into question the ways in which modernization theory has been shunned altogether. For example, there is no such thing as a developed society or nation without modernization. The chapter seeks to map the history of development to best capture the moves or patterns in which modernization theory is seen to be rooted.

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