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Follow the Four C’s of ICT Deployment for Success

By Wayan Vota on August 21, 2009

With the explosion of the field of ICT4D in the recent years including countless conferences, working groups, and projects being implemented both formally and informally, it’s important to always keep in mind the “Four C’s:” connectivity, cost, capacity, and culture.

First described in Information Technology for Health in Developing Countries, following these four principles will produce a lasting impact that will achieve the ultimate goal of improving and saving lives.

Many of the projects being deployed depend highly on a reliable Internet connection to store data, download software, or connect to others. However, even if the Internet is present, which in itself is rare, the connection is often unreliable. Users are much less likely to continue using the Internet of an ICT4D project that is web-dependent if it takes considerable time to load a page or download a file, and thus the project will be less sustainable in the long-term.

Cost is also a hindrance for ICT4D projects as the price of hardware remains high in most areas and is therefore unaffordable for those who the intervention is targeting. Even with the use of lower-cost, open source software, the total cost of ownership remains high because of shipping, training, and maintenance costs.

Even if the area has connectivity and the hardware can be obtained cost-effectively, the local expertise to maintain and repair higher-tech devices is generally not present. Furthermore, members of the older generations often do not have the capacity to use the hardware that is introduced to them, which significantly decreases the effectiveness of any project that is implemented.

The final “C,” and the most subtle, is culture. It is critical to take into account the people for whom the project is being developed and their demonstrated needs that will be met by a given intervention. A project is much less likely to be sustained in the long-term if it addresses an issue identified by an outside organization than if it is able to be used in a way that the targeted group deems important.

Despite the endless optimism that surrounds the potential of ICT4D, this framework is meant to focus attention on possible impediments to future project deployment.

Filed Under: Management
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Written by
Wayan Vota co-founded ICTworks and is the Digital Health Director at IntraHealth International. He also co-founded Technology Salon, MERL Tech, ICTforAg, ICT4Djobs, ICT4Drinks, JadedAid, Kurante, OLPC News and a few other things. Opinions expressed here are his own and do not reflect the position of IntraHealth International or other ICTWorks sponsors.
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4 Comments to “Follow the Four C’s of ICT Deployment for Success”

  1. The “Four C’s” is definitely a useful framework for approaching ICT4D initiatives. I can tell you that from my perspective as the Learning Technology Advisor for Jhpiego, working in resource-limited areas around the world: we tend to design for no, or very limited Internet connectivity; we reduce cost by building solutions that leverage existing hardware & integrate FOSS; where capacity doesn’t exist or isn’t sufficient, we develop it; and our use of technology is based on an understanding of local usage, needs, desires & attitudes discovered through an assessment process that is essentially applied anthropology. We are still
    in the relatively early stages of these initiatives but hopefully we’ll have some success stories to share shortly. It seems we’re off to a good start, though…

  2. The first four “C’s are technical, and they can be evaluated and mitigated (e.g. offline or online). My experience has been that the last “C” is more subjective and therefore more difficult to assess during the project planning effort. The lack of a cultural perspective of a ICT4D deployment can doom a project from the beginning.

  3. Mr. Bon Tempo’s comment of:

    “our use of technology is based on an understanding of local usage, needs, desires & attitudes discovered through an assessment process that is essentially applied anthropology.”

    is an amazing statement that bears close scrutiny and application all ICT4D endeavors

  4. Eduardo Bejar says:

    Nice post, though I think you’re missing a big E: Education.