Discovering the "Magic Box": local appropriation of information and communication technologies (ICTs)

Discovering the "Magic Box": local appropriation of information and communication technologies (ICTs)

How ICTs can be used to achieve development objectives

This paper has the following objectives:

  • to provide information in support of the area of research and discourse on ICT appropriation, namely that of "local appropriation"
  • to draw attention to the need for a greater focus on grassroots, community-driven projects and initiatives involving ICTs
  • to highlight the pressing need for monitoring, evaluation and participatory impact assessments of ongoing ICT projects and initiatives, especially with regards to their effect on the economic and social livelihoods of communities
  • to present a selection of "good practice" cases with the aim of promoting sustainable community development through the local appropriation and application of ICTs
  • to draw on a review of the cases in order to identify some guiding principles for promoting socially and culturally appropriate community-based ICT initiatives

The main findings of the study are

  • there are a limited number of cases of community-driven ICT initiatives or projects
  • there is scarce visibility and coverage of grassroots/ community-driven ICT initiatives
  • most of the documentation available on community ICT projects and initiatives is relatively new because the projects themselves are new. Few if any evaluations have been undertaken so far
  • participatory needs assessments are rarely performed prior to ICT applications, for example in the installation or formation of telecentres
  • the emphasis is more often on providing access than on innovative ways of applying ICTs to the specific information needs of communities and local groups
  • the priorities of many ICT projects tend to be influenced more by the interests of external organisations rather than community-based organisations
  • the thematic sectors applied in the ICT projects often reflect an economic, market-related focus
  • target groups/ beneficiaries are hard to identify
  • there is a lack of local participation in the creation of content and selection of ICTs tools
  • there is a profusion of information centres where computers, or other ICTs, are available but where a lack of awareness, ICT skills, and literacy hinder the process of local appropriation

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