Technologies of Choice?
ICTs, Development, and the Capabilities Approach
280 pp., 6 x 9 in, 34 figures
- Published: February 8, 2013
- Publisher: The MIT Press
A new framework for assessing the role of information and communication technologies in development that draws on Amartya Sen's capabilities approach.
Information and communication technologies (ICTs)—especially the Internet and the mobile phone—have changed the lives of people all over the world. These changes affect not just the affluent populations of income-rich countries but also disadvantaged people in both global North and South, who may use free Internet access in telecenters and public libraries, chat in cybercafes with distant family members, and receive information by text message or email on their mobile phones. Drawing on Amartya Sen's capabilities approach to development—which shifts the focus from economic growth to a more holistic, freedom-based idea of human development—Dorothea Kleine in Technologies of Choice? examines the relationship between ICTs, choice, and development.
Kleine proposes a conceptual framework, the Choice Framework, that can be used to analyze the role of technologies in development processes. She applies the Choice Framework to a case study of microentrepreneurs in a rural community in Chile. Kleine combines ethnographic research at the local level with interviews with national policy makers, to contrast the high ambitions of Chile's pioneering ICT policies with the country's complex social and economic realities. She examines three key policies of Chile's groundbreaking Agenda Digital: public access, digital literacy, and an online procurement system. The policy lesson we can learn from Chile's experience, Kleine concludes, is the necessity of measuring ICT policies against a people-centered understanding of development that has individual and collective choice at its heart.
ICT in development is usually presented in broad, tech-oriented terms. There are few analyses grounded in long-term field work that combine not just technological awareness with strong theoretical basis but also consider social conditions and have the intent to connect individual practices with communal attitudes, a gendered perspective, and broader societal conditions. Dorothea Kleine's book does this, while providing an innovative conceptual framework, from a human development perspective, that brings not just a great understanding of a concrete reality in South America but a most welcome new approach to ICT4D studies, useful for all those involved in this emerging research field.
Eduardo Villanueva, Professor of Communications, Pontifical Catholic University of Peru
An intellectually exciting and ethnographically rich venture into the still largely uncharted terrain of the role of information and communication technologies in twenty-first-century development. Through her rigorous, multifaceted exploration of microentrepreneurs' engagement with state ICT policies in rural Chile, Dorothea Kleine offers a compelling, compassionate, and theoretically enlightening argument for retaining a focus on people-centred development in the cyber era. This landmark volume should become essential fare for all academics, policymakers, and practitioners with interests in the contemporary parameters of development, globalization, and the new and on-going 'technological revolution' at a world scale.
Sylvia Chant FRSA, Professor of Development Geography, London School of Economics and Political Science, UK
Technologies of Choice? successfully makes the case that a capabilities-based 'choice' framework is essential to advancing our knowledge of the complex relationship between ICTs and people in emerging societies, and more important, in formulating effective and people-centered government ICT policies. I laud Dorothea Kleine's thorough and practical examination of the Chilean experience to illustrate her point and advance more theoretically grounded research in an area that sorely needs it.
Laurent Elder, Information and Networks Programme Leader, International Development Research Centre (IDRC), Canada