A Framework to Assess Participation and Empowerment Impacts of ICT4D Projects
Matt Haikin and Richard Duncombe
Community participation in ICT-for-development (ICT4D) is sometimes portrayed as a ‘magic bullet’, which will inevitably lead to better project outcomes and the empowerment of marginalised participants from the local community. This paper takes a critical approach to participation, drawing on dual roots of participation in Development Studies and Information Systems, to consider whether apparently successful ICT4D projects, that follow best-practice for participation, are also succeeding in longer-term participant and community empowerment. The paper identifies issues and success factors relevant to participatory ICT4D and its potentially empowering role for local communities; explores the relevance of these factors to the reality of ICT4D projects in developing countries; and investigates the potential for producing an analytical framework that incorporates a project design approach that could help practitioners in the field incorporate empowerment objectives.
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- What are the key benefits to taking a participatory approach to development projects? [Section B1]
- What are the advantages and disadvantages of participatory approaches in ICT4D projects? [Section B2]
- Consider the case studies. In what ways could each be described as achieving participation and in what ways have they fallen short? [Section C3]
- What new factors are identified as leading to greater sustainability of ICT4D projects? [Section C4]
- In what ways does the paper suggest that effective participation in ICT4D projects can lead to greater empowerment? [Section D]
- Imagine you are a practitioner. How would you use this framework when designing and implementing your own ICT4D project on the ground, and what obstacles do you think you would face?
- Discuss the relationship between participation and technological empowerment.
- Critique the revised analytical framework: what is missing, what assumptions does it make?
- Drawing on your own experience, can you develop the framework further – finding elements that are missing or that don’t match with your understanding of what constitutes success?
- In what ways is either individual or community empowerment linked to longer-term sustainability goals for ICT4D projects?