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The Social Implications of ICT4D

November 12, 2012
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At present, Sweden experiences an hype in ICT, ICT4D, M4D and it is heavily promoted and supported in the Swedish development agenda and practice. The Minister for International Development Cooperation and the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA) have put in efforts (both on the economic and on the policy level) to increase investments in ICT4D projects. And this is very good, ICTs certainly is a great resource, enhancer and capacity in development assistance. However, one area remains strangely neglected in the discussions, the social implications of the new technologies. Research and projects on ICT4D often have a predominant focus on the technical aspects of the new technologies, neglecting implications of the technologies in the local community.

I have, since 2007, argued that research on and implementation of ICT4D projects need to be combined with research and evaluation of the social implications of the new technologies in the local community. Further, being an anthropologist, I’ve suggested that anthropological research methods are a good way to gain a deeper understanding of the integration of ICT in development related activities. ICT4D projects affect the individual and transform the local community and society. It might be a tool for awareness raising, empowerment, and capacity development and has the potential to reach into and influence on a personal level and in daily life. It affects factors as for example social networks, kinship relations, social groupings, cultural formations, and institutions.  An anthropological research method, and its firm basis in fieldwork and ethnography, provides skilled tools to grasp and understand the ways that the new technologies influence the person, society, culture, and economy in a local context. According to my point of view, an enhanced understanding of those processes provides a tool that might increase the effects and transforming potentials of ICT4D projects.

Kerstin B Andersson

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