Analysing ICT Applications for Poverty Reduction via Micro-enterprise Using the Livelihoods Framework

Richard Duncombe


This paper seeks to provide a contribution to theorising ICT and development by applying a 'livelihoods approach' as a suitable framework of analysis, taking rural micro-enterprise as an important potential area of ICT application in a developing country context.  The livelihoods framework has been chosen because it employs, at its centre, a broad and systematic analysis of poverty.

Rural micro-enterprise has been selected as a topic for analysis because it represents a viable route out of poverty by providing increased and more diversified income streams for poor households.  The paper highlights how information systems concepts can be integrated into the livelihoods framework in order to aid analysis.  A country case study is presented to demonstrate how the framework can be applied, and some key questions are raised concerning the application of the framework as research tool.

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Educator's guide

Synopsis questions

  1. Why is rural micro-enterprise important in developing countries?  [part B]
  2. Outline what is meant by the "livelihoods framework".  [part C]
  3. What roles are there for information and communication within the livelihoods framework?  [part D]
  4. Use a livelihoods framework approach to summarise the potential for information and for ICTs in poverty reduction through micro-enterprise in Botswana.  [part E]
  5. To what extent does the livelihoods framework represent a useful tool for understanding ICT and poverty?  [part F]

Development questions

  1. The application of the livelihoods framework suggests a limited role for ICT as a tool for poverty reduction through micro-enterprise.  Suggest the reasons why this is the case.
  2. Why is it important to consider information resources ahead of ICT resources when analysing poverty reduction through micro-enterprise?
  3. It is suggested that we differentiate our approach to understanding ICT and poverty reduction according to the different 'income generating portfolios, vulnerabilities and capabilities' of those in poverty.  Why is a differentiated approach important?
  4. To what extent should ICTs be prioritised as tools for poverty reduction within micro-enterprise development programmes?  
  5. What other ICTs-for-development research questions could the livelihoods framework be applied to?
  6. What other frameworks could be utilised to evaluate the impact of ICTs for poverty reduction?