A comparative analysis of development theories in ICTD research from developed and developing countries

Jonker, Johannes Wilhelm (2016-12)

Thesis (MA)--Stellenbosch University, 2016.

Thesis

ENGLISH SUMMARY : The field of Information and Communication Technologies and Development (ICTD) examines the relationship between contemporary information and communication technology (ICT)s and societal development. By defi- nition, such inquiry requires not only a deep understanding of the ICTs as artefacts and systems themselves, but also direct engagement with the nature of development. An initial review of ICTD literature indicates that there is a lack of explicit engagement with the nature of development, and with existing development theories from other fields, in ICTD literature. Rather, develop- ment is often treated as a “black box” that can be incorporated into an ICTD study without much further interrogation. This is problematic in light of (i) the rich and complex historical discourse surrounding development, (ii) the persistently contested nature of development in contemporary academic and policy debates (particularly in the context of developing countries), and (iii) the potentially pervasive practical and policy ramifications of differing con- ceptions of development. Furthermore, conflicting theories of development are to be expected in the field of ICTD itself, given its diversity in terms of (i) the disciplines from which its scholars originate, (ii) sectors involved in the field, and most importantly, (iii) the geographical spread of its scholars. Fail- ing to explicitly interrogate the development theories underlying ICTD studies renders discourses in ICTD vulnerable to conceptual muddling, misinterpre- tation, incommensurability, and most importantly, diminished relevance in a world where there is undoubtedly diversity in how ‘development’ is understood. The present study seeks to address the above-mentioned problematique by examining ngagement with development in ICTD literature against the backdrop of its scholars’ geographic diversity. This is done by comparatively analysing the occurrence of development theories (drawn from broader discourses on development) in ICTD literature from Global North (developed) and Global South (developing) countries, respectively. A general pool of literature is constructed from papers published in three leading ICTD journals — Information Technology & International Development (ITID), the Electronic Journal of Information Systems in Developing Countries (EJISDC), and Information Technology for Development (ITD) — between 2008 and 2015. From this pool, samples of literature from the Global North and literature from the Global South are drawn. Directed content analysis is then employed to qualitatively study the occurrence of development theories in the papers in either sample. Finally, patterns arising within and across the two samples are identified and discussed. The results reveal that conceptions of and engagement with development in ICTD are dominated by ideas from development economics, Keynesian economics, and neoliberal economics — i.e. conventional theories of development — generally, and Sen’s capability approach (focussing on expanding people’s freedoms), new growth theory (focussing on the centrality of the knowledge economy), and the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs) specifically. Further findings include a general lack of critical perspectives on how development is defined, incoherency in authors’ conceptions of development, and the general latency of modernist ideas of development. Global South authors were also found to engage less with development than their counterparts from the Global North. The study contributes to a growing body of literature on the ‘D’ in ‘ICTD’ and supports the conclusion there is an urgent need to promote greater engagement with development theory in ICTD.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING : Die veld van die Inligtings- en Kommunikasietegnologieë en Ontwikkeling (IKTO) ondersoek die verhouding tussen hedendaagse inligtings- en kommunikasietegnologieë (IKTs) en menslike ontwikkeling. Per definisie vereis so ‘n ondersoek nie net ‘n deeglike begrip van IKTs as artefakte en stelsels self nie, maar ook diep nadenke oor die aard van ontwikkeling. ‘n Aanvanklike ondersoek na IKTO-literatuur dui daarop dat daar in IKTO ‘n gebrek bestaan aan eksplisiete ingesprektreding met die aard van die ontwikkeling en met bestaande ontwikkelingsteorieë vanuit ander velde. Inteendeel word ontwikkeling dikwels as ‘n “black box” beskou wat geredelik in ‘n IKTO-studie geïnkorporeer kan word, sonder veel verdere ondervraging. Dit is problematies in die lig van (i) die ryk en komplekse historiese diskoers rondom ontwikkeling, (ii) die voortdurende omstredenheid rondom ontwikkeling in hedendaagse akademiese en beleidsdebatte (veral in die konteks van ontwikkelende lande), en (iii) die potensieel-uiteenlopende praktiese en beleidsgevolge waartoe verskillende ontwikkelingsopvattings kan lei. Verder kan botsende ontwikkelingsteorieë te wagte wees in die IKTO-veld self, gegewe die diversiteit daarvan in terme van (i) die dissiplines waaruit die veld saamgestel is, (ii) sektore betrokke in die veld en (iii) die geografiese verspreiding van IKTO-navorsers. ‘n Versuim om uitdruklik vrae te stel oor die ontwikkelingsteorieë onderliggend aan IKTO-studies, maak diskoerse in IKTO kwesbaar vir konsepsuele verwarring, waninterpretasie, onsaammeetbaarheid en, ten diepste, verminderde relevansie in ‘n wêreld waar daar ongetwyfeld diversiteit bestaan in hoe ‘ontwikkeling’ verstaan word. Die huidige studie poog om die bogenoemde problematiek aan te spreek deur ingesprektreding met ontwikkeling in IKTO-literatuur te ondersoek teen die agtergrond van die geografiese verspreiding van IKTO-navorsers. Dit word gedoen deur ‘n vergelykende bestudering van die voorkoms van ontwikkelingsteorieë (uit breër diskoerse oor ontwikkeling) in IKTO-literatuur, onderskeidelik vanuit die Globale Noorde (ontwikkelde lande) en die Globale Suide (ontwikkelende lande). ‘n Algemene literatuurpoel word saamgestel uit studies gepubliseer in die drie voorste IKTO-joernale — Information Technology & International Development (ITID), die Electronic Journal of Information Systems in Developing Countries (EJISDC) en Information Technology for Development (ITD) — tussen 2008 en 2015. Vanuit hierdie poel word steekproewe van literatuur vanuit die Globale Noorde en literatuur vanuit die Globale Suide getrek. Gerigte inhoudsanalise word dan gebruik om die voorkoms van ontwikkelingsteorieë in beide steekproewe kwalitatief te bestudeer. Ten slotte word patrone wat vanuit die twee literatuursteekproewe verrys, identifiseer en bespreek. Die resultate dui daarop dat sienings oor en ingesprektreding met ontwikkelingsopvattings in IKTO oorheers word deur idees uit ontwikkelingsekonomie, Keynesiaanse ekonomie, en neoliberale ekonomie — d.w.s konvensionele ontwikkelingteorieë — oor die algemeen en Sen se vermoënsbenadering (gefokus op die uitbreiding van mense se vryhede), nuwe groeiteorie (gefokus op die rol van die kennisekonomie), en die Millennium Ontwikkelingsdoelwitte in die besonder. Verdere bevindinge sluit in dat daar ‘n algemene gebrek bestaan aan kritiese perspektiewe op die definisie van ontwikkeling, onsamehangendheid is in navorsers se ontwikkelingsopvattings en dat modernistiese ontwikkelingsidees wydverspreid onderliggend te bespeur is. Daar word ook bevind dat navorsers uit die Globale Suide minder met ontwikkeling in gesprek tree as hul eweknieë uit die Globale Noorde. Hierdie studie dra by tot ‘n toenemende versameling literatuur gefokus op die ‘O’ in ‘IKTO’ en ondersteun die gevolgtrekking daar ‘n dringende behoefte is daaraan om groter ingesprektreding met ontwikkelingsteorieë in IKTO te bevorder.

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