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Keywords:

  • information and communication technologies (ICTs);
  • development informatics;
  • value chain;
  • empowerment;
  • capabilities;
  • impact assessment

Abstract

This editorial introduces the three papers in this Policy Arena on the contribution of information and communication technologies (ICTs) to development. Contribution in terms of technology diffusion and use – especially of mobile phones – is easy to detect. But focus has only recently shifted along the ‘ICT-for-development value chain’ from these indicators of ICT readiness and availability, to the question of development impact.

In part, the absence or poor quality of ICT impact assessment to date derives from its lack of conceptual foundations. This editorial maps out the intellectual roots of the emerging sub-discipline of ‘development informatics’ to show where such foundations may come from. It also summarises the conceptualised contributions made by each of the Policy Arena papers. The papers draw on models of enterprise value chains, empowerment and Sen's capability theory to demonstrate ICTs' contribution to conceptions of development as economic growth, as sustainable livelihoods, and as freedom.

Of course, not all ICT initiatives succeed, and the editorial provides a good practice summary drawn from experiences of success and failure. It moves beyond the perennial call for practitioners and policy makers to incorporate impact assessment as part of this good practice. First, by identifying the need to address motivational and structural issues around impact assessment. Second, by calling on policy makers to be more aware of the transformational potential of ICTs in development; so-called ‘Development 2.0’. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.