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Global Development Institute

ICT4D 2016: New Priorities for ICT4D Policy, Practice and WSIS in a Post-2015 World

Richard Heeks


In 2016, the Millennium Development Goals will be replaced by the post-2015 development agenda (PTDA).  The foundational content is in place for this new agenda, which will be the single most-important force shaping the future of international development and, hence, the single most-important force shaping the future of information-and-communication-technology-for-development (ICT4D).  In planning prospective ICT4D priorities, we should therefore pay close attention to the PTDA.

This paper undertakes a comparative analysis of the post-2015 development agenda versus the current content and future direction of ICT4D policy and practice, as exemplified by WSIS+10 documentation.  These latter documents bring together nearly 1,000 pages of text that review the current state of ICT4D ten years after the foundational World Summits on the Information Society; and that seek to set out a vision of WSIS and of ICT4D beyond 2015.

From this analysis, the paper identifies a set of post-2015 priorities in international development which have to date been under-emphasised within ICT4D.  In all, 16 ICT4D gaps are identified for a world from 2016.  These gaps, plus other key topics, are used to create a map of post-2015 ICT4D priorities; a map which will be of significant value to policy-makers, strategists and practitioners planning their future ICT4D activities.

Alongside these specific topics, the paper diagnoses a set of cross-cutting issues.  It recognises the need for practice to break out of the “ICT4D bubble” and engage more with the development mainstream through a reorientation of ICT4D’s scope, language and worldview.  And it discusses ICT4D’s future structure, process and vision.  It identifies the need to retain specialist centres of ICT4D expertise alongside mainstreaming, and the value of multi-stakeholder participation.  It highlights the current absence of a compelling narrative and vision for the future of ICT4D: ICT’s transformative potential – and the possibilities of “Development 2.0” – might form one such vision.  The implications of all these issues are outlined for ICT4D generally and for WSIS specifically beyond 2015.

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Educators’ guide

Synopsis questions

  1. Why use analysis of the post-2015 development agenda to shape ICT4D policy and practice priorities?  [Section A]
  2. How was the comparison undertaken between ICT4D policy/practice and the post-2015 development agenda?  [Section B]
  3. What development topics are already fairly well-covered in current ICT4D?  [Section C]
  4. What development topics are under-represented in current ICT4D?  [Section C]
  5. What recommendations are given about future ICT4D structure, process and vision?  [Section C]
  6. How does the map of ICT4D priorities differ from the table of ICT4D gaps?  [Section D]

Development questions

  1. Is it too early to use the post-2015 agenda as a basis for setting future ICT4D priorities?
  2. Is it justifiable to use WSIS+10 documentation as a proxy for all of ICT4D?
  3. Aside from the post-2015 process, what other forces and sources will be important in setting the future ICT4D policy and practice agenda?
  4. If you approached this topic from the direction of ICT, rather than development, what would the picture of priorities look like?
  5. What could be done to make Development 2.0 the dominant ICT4D narrative?
  6. Are there important ICT4D policy and practice topics which are not identified by this analysis?
  7. Imagine you are part of a small group of ICT4D strategists.  How could you use the contents of this paper to help set future priorities?