Vol 44 (2010)

ICTs and Development: Theories and Evidence

This special section was guest edited by P. Vigneswara Ilavarasan of the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi and Mark R. Levy of Michigan State University, USA. The articles are drawn from papers presented and roundtable discussions held at a workshop, ICTs and Development: An International Workshop for Theory, Practice, & Policy, March 11-12, 2010, Delhi, India. The workshop was, supported by a grant from the International Development Research Centre, Ottawa, Canada.

The articles here seek to partially address two significant lacunae in the ICTD literature. The first is the generally recognized shortcoming that, although ICT4D draws on models and theories from disciplines ranging from information systems to sociology, ICT4D, as a multidisciplinary scientific endeavor, has very little theory to call its own. Indeed, given the justifiably applied heritage of ICT4D work, theory building is not by and large a priority for many ICT4D scholars. The second gap in the literature is in part the result of the recent, extraordinary rates of mobile phone diffusion and the subsequent need to track the adoption of mobiles and the uses to which that new technology was being put. Now, however, we believe that it is increasingly feasible and important to move beyond adoption and uses and to build a literature that explicitly and primarily probes the impact and consequences of widely diffused ICTs on development goals.

The section opens with a broad theoretical paper with philosophical underpinnings and concludes with a rigorous empirical study. Though the arguments and implications raised by these four papers are applicable to any ICTD work, the specific research sites are India, Pakistan, South Africa, Kenya and China.

The first article is a normative theoretical paper by Tim Unwin. The initial focus of Unwin’s paper is on the
ethical dimensions arising from the implementation of e-governance, especially national databases, identity cards, and surveillance technologies. Unwin confronts those ethical issues by providing a tour d ‘horizon of classical and recent political philosophy and then applying those traditions to normative issues in e-governance, specifically trust, privacy, and legal frameworks. The paper then broadens its inquiry to consider larger questions of the linkages between the notion of Universal Human Rights and the introduction of ICTs in developing nations.

In the second theoretical paper, Jack Qiu explicates the interplay of macro sociopolitical conditions in urban China and the recent history of the mobile phone. Drawing on several large secondary data sets, Qiu extends and refines key theoretical concepts such as “information have-less” and “working-class information society” in order to more fully understand social class in the information society at large. The article explores the sometimes unforeseeable ways that China’s new working-class of internally migrant workers has seized on mobiles to meet their informational needs and to manage their lives in a dramatically changing social and economic environment.

The third theoretical paper by Jonathan Donner interrogates existing theoretical streams in the ICTD literature, which he calls the “dual heritage” of mobiles and development. Donner’s paper probes the assumptions of user choice or embedded directionality that underpin the M4D paradigm. By a careful re-reading of foundational texts in communication and development and grounded in two empirical studies, Donner concludes that, going forward, the mobiles-for-development effort must draw on both the tradition of technologies of freedom” and that of the “spirit of the feature set” to create and frame testable, additive theoretical models for M4D research and for the more general task of understanding underlying social processes of communication.

Finally, Chew, Ilavarasan, and Levy offer up an empirical paper that considers the impact of ICTs on microenterprises owned by women in Mumbai, India. Drawing on a rigorous, probability sample of female microentrepreneurs in Mumbai, India, the paper identifies key factors associated with microenterprise growth. Main findings include evidence that business growth is a function of ICT access; that growth is related to motivation to use ICTs for business purposes; and that the more positive a woman microentrepreneur feels about her status and power because of her business, the more she will be motivated to use ICTs in support of that business.

P. Vigneswara Ilavarasan, Department of Humanities & Social Sciences Indian Institute of Technology Delhi, Hauz Khas, New Delhi 110 016 INDIA. E-mail: vignesh@hss.iitd.ac.in

Mark R. Levy, Department of Telecommunication, Information Studies, and Media, Michigan State University, East Lansing MI 48824 USA. E-mail: mlevy@msu.edu

Table of Contents


In this Volume, the downloads# is the total number of downloads since publication.

Research Papers

ICTs, Citizens, and the State: Moral Philosophy and Development Practices PDF
Tim Unwin # of downloads: 2941

Mobile Phones, the Bottom of the Pyramid and Working-Class Information Society in China PDF
Jack Linchuan Qiu # of downloads: 3751

Framing M4D: The Utility of Continuity and the Dual Heritage of "Mobiles and Development" PDF
Jonathan Donner # of downloads: 4688

The Economic Impact of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) on Microenterprises in the Context of Development PDF
Han Ei Chew, P Vigneswara Ilavarasan, Mark R Levy # of downloads: 7589



The Electronic Journal of Information Systems in Developing Countries.
ISSN: 1681-4835 www.ejisdc.org