What the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation Learned From 10 Years of ICT4D

Published on: Mar 18 2013 by Wayan Vota

After more than ten years of support in the realm of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) for Development, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) has looked back: What do we really know about ICTs, and how can those insights be made useful for the daily practice of development cooperation and particularly in governance programs to enhance voice and accountability?

swiss-ict4dDeepening Participation and Improving Aid Effectiveness through Media and ICTs is a critical review of project reports, studies, and evaluations was conducted to distil lessons learned and find out what really works and why.

The results of this review are close to a paradigm shift:

  • Starting as a magic solution from its beginnings, ICTs are now considered as just another normal media channel useful for enhancing the effectiveness of development cooperation programs.
  • It is not the technology that counts; it is the economic and social processes behind the techno logy that drives the change.
  • Thus, ICTs are instrumental, not a goal in itself, and they should serve to improve the practice of development cooperation.
  • The once harsh contrast between ICTs and old media is already close to be overcome, and both are seen as just different instruments for different purposes applicable to different target groups.
  • To reach the poor and marginalized and get their participation ensured (‘voice’), radio is still the most appropriate media channel, at best combined with mobile telephony, to which all segments of society are increasingly gaining access.
  • Internet and PCs are more appropriate for the urban elite, for NGOs and other intermediaries to the poor and marginalised.
  • Thus a target group specific approach to ICTs and media is the most promising for improving development cooperation projects.

This operational manual, conceptualized as a SDC working paper, summarizes these and many other lessons learned from existing studies, evaluations, and literature on ICTs for Development and identifies current deficiencies in the field. It draws on practical conclusions for the work of SDC operational units and its partners, and makes suggestions on how ICTs and media should be used, both in classical development programs (health, rural development and climate change) and for enhancing governance and accountability.

The authors intend for operational units to refer to this manual particularly during the designing of country strategies and planning of cooperation projects, as media and ICTs are often overlooked as practical tools for improving the effectiveness and efficiency of projects, despite their promising potential. The manual provides ideas, opportunities, and options on what can be useful for whom and why.

Furthermore, based on its project experiences, SDC suggests considering that ICTs and media become a strategically integrated part of standard planning processes at project and policy level for operational units and partners.

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Wayan Vota is a Senior Mobile Advisor at FHI 360 and is a regular contributor to ICTworks. He co-founded ICTworks, ICT4Djobs, ICT4Drinks, Technology Salon, Educational Technology Debate, OLPC News, Kurante, and a few other things.
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