ICTs and Informal Learning in Developing Countries

Christopher Foster


This paper presents an approach to understanding information and communication technology-for-development (ICT4D) interventions based around informal learning, where the ongoing process of using ICTs – rather than informational products – is seen as the principal development driver.

A conceptual model of informal learning in ICT4D is constructed. This model moves beyond the treatment of informal learning as a single unproblematic concept, to illustrate that there is a landscape of contrasting modes of informal learning and subsequent development outcomes that can occur within the processes of ICT4D projects.

We use this model to provide guidelines that will help practitioners to understand ICT process within their projects and how they might 'design' projects around informal learning; through linking actions and ICT use to desired development outcomes.

This study is supported by a review of the literature; in particular using case studies from India and Brazil to illustrate how informal learning can become the principal focus of an intervention, and potentially provide more appropriate ways to understand empowerment, social change and participatory production within ICT4D.

View/download options

You will need a PDF reader such as Adobe Acrobat (downloadable from Adobe) to view PDF file(s). PDF files open in a new window.

Educator's guide

Synopsis questions

  1. Describe the types of informal learning taking place in the ICT4D examples given, and compare and contrast the different project actions and outcomes that occur in these projects.  [Parts A, B & E]
  2. How would you critique the notion that development equates to empowerment? How does Sen's framework extend beyond empowerment?  [Part B]
  3. What is pedagogy? How is it used to analyse informal learning?  [Part B]
  4. In the two case studies, what are the forms and practices which encourage or discourage informal learning?  [Part C]
  5. For each informal learning approach, what are the two key elements of practitioner advice you would highlight?  [Part D]
  6. What do we mean by ICT4D2.0? How well do informal learning approaches fit with this notion?  [Part E]

Development questions

  1. Taking an ICT4D project that you know or have details of, analyse it using some of the notions of informal learning outlined in this paper.  How would you change this project drawing upon informal learning ideas?
  2. Drawing on the paper, describe how you would go about researching how informal learning is occurring in an ICT4D project.
  3. Discuss why a project evaluation drawing on informal learning may not be accepted in the present development environment.
  4. Do you think that informal learning can be 'planned' or 'shaped' as suggested in this paper, or is it something that just happens based upon the culture, politics and other contextual factors of a project and its stakeholders?