Notes on ICTD2009 conference

The 3-day conference on Information and Communication Technologies and Development (ICTD2009) at Carnegie Mellon University, Doha, Qatar was an intensive package full of, well, information and communication.

As I've written before, ICTD is a new and vast field in the making and it seems like the only thing its scholars, practitioners and observers agree on is that it is a field that focuses on the relationship between technology and the communities of developing countries.

In Doha, scholars of economics, sociology, anthropology as well as engineers, NGO representatives and civil servants all defined their work as ICTD. Not surprisingly, the definition, purpose, visions and rules of ICTD became a common topic in Doha. "What is ICTD?" was a hard question to answer, particularly when someone else asked you "What is development?"

The lovely organized chaos within the field just makes the whole constellation more interesting. The fact is that whatever the definition of ICTD is, it doesn't stop people from doing important research, grass root work and policy planning. The dangerous thing for many, it seems, is businesses using ICTD as a label to improve their sales. For many, that's just fine too. If people benefit, there's no beef.

But what does "benefit" mean? That's actually a question that was asked many times. How to evaluate ICTD's impact? What is good ICTD? The basic challenge of ICTD seems to be to come up with a good ICTD innovation. And, further, to measure the success of an innovation. Finally, if there is a successful innovation, how to make it work somewhere else.

For a Finnish-language conference report (8 p.) of ICTD2009, click here.

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