I was interested to read the recent and ongoing debate that ICT4D is slowly dying or perhaps just changing and thought I would throw my two cents in for what it’s worth. After seven years working within ICT4D or more specifically M4D, I have definitely seen a change in recent months and had myself wondered if perhaps it was dying a slow death. Certainly many of ICT4D’s promising tools seem to be hovering near to the ‘trough of disillusionment’ in Gartner’s Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies but that doesn't necessarily mean they will be dead anytime soon. Let’s be honest, as the follow up post The slow death of ICT4D, Part II points out, many of us within this space are not technies, but unlike the article suggests, I would argue that this is not a trend we are moving towards, but one that has always existed, certainly within M4D in any case. The rise of technology has come at such a speed, no one saw it coming, nor have we, within ICT4D or anywhere for that matter, come to yet fully understand how it will work for, or against us as a society. Health practitioners, teachers, farmers, development experts, governments – the list goes on - had to ‘get savvy’ with technology overnight. For many this was a scary change, for others, it was an exciting opportunity to be part of something innovative and boundless. A chance to build something from the ground up and stamp our names on it. And so now it seems we are in a lull.
One of the key changes I have witnessed is the decline of exciting research projects paving way for the more ominous M&E projects. We've moved from what and how, to why and how many. And this brings about several things –nerves as all the hard work to date is scrutinised, a slowing down of the momentum (perceived as ‘death’??), and as the needs and dynamics shift and change, new opportunities but also a refocus for those of us working in this space. But that’s not to say we should all give up our day jobs. We have built a strong community of experts. Well, a community of people who know stuff, because let’s be clear, in the big scheme of things and within an industry as new as this, there are no experts. And perhaps here lies an important point. We are at the beginning with technology. The fields of medicine or psychology did not get to where they are within 20 or 40 or even 500 years. They are thousands of years’ worth of trial and error, supporters and sceptics, highs and lows - and they are still growing and changing. We still have a long way to go here however, I think it’s important to remember this: technology itself is not going away and still remains the single greatest leveller of our time. So whether you believe in the concept of ‘development’* or not, technology is the great enabler of equality and progression - and it will happen with or without our community. So perhaps all we need is a simple acronym change - ICT4P(rogression) – and to roll up our sleeves and get to work!