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Welfare, agency and “ICT for Development”

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2 Author(s)
Aishwarya Lakshmi Ratan ; The Technology for Emerging Markets Group, Microsoft Research India ¿Scientia¿, 196/36, 2nd main road, Sadashivnagar, Bangalore - 80, INDIA ; Savita Bailur

This paper deconstructs the term ldquodevelopmentrdquo in ldquoICT for Developmentrdquo - does it imply welfare or agency? Using a framework of individual capability expansion and social choice theory, we illustrate how these two approaches may conflict, and present a simple model to explore how sometimes the Provider's intention in providing an ICT artifact and the User's ultimate usage differ. We analyze our case studies of Our Voices and Hole in the Office against this and find that the User is likely to gain a tangible, immediate return on using agency-enhancing applications (particularly involving entertainment content), while the impact of welfare-enhancing applications is harder to achieve, given the complex contextual determinants of converting information on ldquopotentialrdquo welfare outcomes to ldquoactualrdquo welfare gains. We recommend further research on the welfare-agency tension, and on assessing paternalism in ldquoICT for developmentrdquo interventions.

Published in:

Information and Communication Technologies and Development, 2007. ICTD 2007. International Conference on

Date of Conference:

15-16 Dec. 2007