e-Science for Digital Development: “ICT4ICT4D”

ICT should not only be used for development (ICT4D), but also for understanding digital development: ‘ICT4ICT4D’

Development Informatics


While the ICT for development (ICT4D) community is well aware about the far-reaching changes introduced by the digital age, it is remarkably slowly getting used to the idea that digital tools also revolutionize its very own core business: research. Information and communication technology (ICT) is currently transforming the way knowledge is created and insights are obtained. This applies to inductive empirical inquiry (especially ‘big data’), as well as deductive theoretical scholarship (especially ‘computer simulation modeling’).  This paper explores best practices of the application of such e-science in the field of development and contributes an informed perspective to intensify an outstanding discussion within the ICT4D community. ICT should not only be used for development (ICT4D), but also for the constant updating of our understanding of digital development, in order to fine-tune policies and project designs: ‘ICT4ICT4D’.  On the one hand, the paper shows that the consideration of this double role of ICT has the potential to significantly increase the impact of ICT4D. The digital ‘big data’ footprint provides unprecedented insights into dynamics in the development context that have traditionally been lacking empirical evidence; and the modular nature of computer simulations allows us to study scenarios for specific contexts, which lessens the dependence on one-size-fits-all models. This increases potential impact for ICT4D because both of them provide complementary tools to assure that the application of ICT for development purposes is rooted in their context-dependent local reality.  On the other hand, developing countries and the ICT4D community face important challenges when applying these tools, which—as all technological innovations—should never be adopted uncritically.

Hilbert, M. (2015). e-Science for Digital Development: “ICT4ICT4D”. Development Informatics, Working Paper Series, The University of Manchester.

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