ICT and Development
Availability: Optional for OII MSc and DPhil students.
Schedule: Hilary Term (Weeks 1-8). Tuesdays 09:00-11:00.
Location: Meeting Room, Oxford Internet Institute, 1 St Giles, Oxford OX1 3JS.
Reading list: ICT and Development
This course will introduce students to the debates and practices surrounding the uses of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) in both the Global South and Global North. It will draw on resources from Anthropology, Development Studies, Economics, Geography, and History in order to examine the theoretical and conceptual frameworks that underpin development (as a practice, as a subject of research, and as a discourse). The course will also draw heavily on case-studies in order to ground theory in practice and will introduce students to a range of projects that have employed ICTs as a solution to problems in Africa, Asia and the Americas.
ICTs have the power to fundamentally transform the economic, social and political relationships in poorer parts of our planet. However, potentials often do not translate into realities, and it is important to be aware of not only the promises, but also the perils of the transformative nature of communication technologies. As such, this course will provide an opportunity to reflect on local appropriateness, social inclusion and the range of arguments for and against any ICT for development project in a variety of contexts.
This course will expose students to some of the most innovative ICTD solutions to economic, social and political challenges in the Global South. Students will be familiarised with a variety of theoretical movements in development studies. Through detailed case studies in weeks 5-7, students will also be exposed to a wide range of methods that are employed to study ICTD projects. Ultimately, students will also be encouraged to critically examine the notion of development, how it can be achieved, and whose needs it meets best.
By the end of the course students will:
Have a familiarity with key debates in ICTD
Have a sophisticated understanding of the potential for the internet and other ICTs to alter the practice of economic development in the Global South
Be able to formulate well-grounded research questions on ICTD topics
Be able to link development theory and ICTD practice
There will be eight weekly two hour classes which will cover theory and case-studies. The classes will consist of lectures and discussion. Each student will be required to give one ten minute presentation on a specific aspect of the session topic. Details of these presentations will be agreed in Week 2.
Uneven Development and the Origins of ICTD
What is development? In this topic we will closely reflect on the variety of ways in which development can be understood and trace the history of ICTD. While traditionally a variety of economic measurements have been used, notions of 'developed' and 'underdeveloped' places can also incorporate a range of environmental, social, and political elements. We will also engage with the objectives of ICTD. Development can be seen as a desire to bring about positive economic, social and political change in less privileged parts of the world or, alternatively, an external implementation of new forms of power relationships. Finally, we will reflect on the two forms of unevenness that drive ICT projects: (1) unevenness in 'development'; and (2) digital divides.
It is important to become familiar with the variety of development theories that frame ICTD projects and plans. This topic will therefore offer a close look at some of the major movements in development. Dependency, modernisation, structuralism, socialism, neo-Marxism and neoliberalism will all be discussed within the context of international development.
Critiques of ICTD
In recent years powerful critiques have been raised against mainstream development theory and practice. It is thus important to be aware of these alternate approaches. This topic will review the most important feminist, postcolonialist, and poststructuralist critiques. Students will be encouraged to reflect on issues of power, social inclusion and local appropriateness as they relate to a range of ICTD projects.
Development in the Network Society
Information technologies shape economic space and are often promoted as an essential development strategy in both rich and poor countries. This topic will allow us to take a close look at the potentials for economic change in the globalised economy by focusing on digital divides, value chain disintermediation and e-commerce within the context of ICTD. The session will examine some of the dynamics of digitally driven production as well as the opportunities and tensions that arise from non-proximate interactions in order to allow us to carefully consider the various ways in which the Internet can influence the global positionalities of economic actors. Examples from both the Global North and South will be used in this session.
There are strong links between measures of development and socially inclusive education, health and gender policies. Many of the UN's Millennium Development Goals revolve around these core issues. Technical solutions are frequently proposed to pressing education, health and gender issues, and the goal of this session will be to focus on a variety of related ICTD projects and the ways in which they can be studied. Examples will include the One Laptop Per Child Project, an Internet-based health clinic in Cambodia and e-learning tools in China. A guest speaker from one of these projects will be invited to provide further detail and answer questions. Particular attention will also be paid to methodological tools that can be employed by researchers in this field.
Appropriate Technology in the Global South
Approximately sixty percent of people globally have access to a mobile phone, compared to only twenty-five percent that have access to the Internet. It is therefore understandable that many implementations of ICTD have moved towards the mobile devices as a platform. This session will look at some of the most effective and innovative uses of mobile devices as development tools within a broader discussion of appropriate and contextual technologies.
ICTs and Rural Economic Development
It is often argued that distance, a lack of access to markets and an absence of economic transparency are fundamental barriers to development. This session will examine some of the ways in which ICTs can alter informal social and local information systems. Particular focus will be placed on the idea of the village telecentre (or rural kiosk), which has become a huge priority for a spectrum of development organisations and NGOs in the Global South. Dr Adel el Zaim, Head of IDRC ICT programs in Middle East and North Africa, will be a guest speaker to talk about rural ICTD projects in the Middle East.
Open Development and Peer Production
How can the potentials of peer-production be harnessed within the contexts of development? This session will explore the ways in which openness (ie access, participation and collaboration) alter the possibilities for development. Two aspects of open development will be looked at: (1) ICT-enabled open access as an organisational and structural model; (2) open participation in development as it effects the mobilisation of resources (both human and non-human) on a global and non-proximate scale for development.
Students will be assessed through a final essay that is no longer than 5000 words which must be submitted to the Examinations School by 12 noon of Monday of Week 1 of Trinity Term. The essay will cover one of the course topics, and students will choose a topic in consultation with the course tutor in advance. The essay should be clearly related to the topics of the course. Each student will also be required to give one ten minute presentation on a specific aspect of the session topic or to review the argument of one of the books under the additional readings for each session topic. Details of these presentations will be agreed in Week 2. Students will also be required to write one short (advised length: 1500-3000 words) essay on any of the eight topics covered. This essay will provide a means for students to obtain feedback on the progress they have achieved.
Last updated on: 7 October 2013