Beyond ICTs and developmental domains: The historical specificity of ICTD

Document Type

Conference Paper


That ICTD has generated much enthusiasm, hope and hype in the past two decades should not come as a surprise. As ICTs are increasingly powerful and affordable general purpose technologies, the possibility of deploying them to change the course of history, by improving the lives of the underprivileged, is alluring. While the field of ICTD has mostly focused on investigating the efficacy of the forms and outcomes of ICT deployments in different domains in recent years, it has missed out on a broader view of development: As the unfolding of the capitalistic mode of production over time and space. While a bottom-up, project based perspective provides insights into whether or not ICTD can make history with solutions to specific social ills, a top-down or long-term perspective can explain why history has given ICTD the characteristics it possesses. It is to provide such a perspective, which is missing in the literature, that this paper will explain ICTD as a socially, spatially and temporally specific outcome within a conjunctural configuration of long run changes in capitalism. But even as the paper highlights the endogeneity of ICTD to capitalism, it will also emphasize how and why this manifestation of capitalism is not business as usual. Not only are the technologies new, but it also seeks new forms of innovation (frugal innovation), and a new organizational logic (bringing together historically antagonistic players such as multinational enterprises and non-governmental organizations) in a quest for hitherto ignored markets (at the bottom-of-thepyramid). In other words, the paper will demonstrate the historical specificity of ICTD.

Publication Title

ICTD '16: Proceedings of the Eighth International Conference on Information and Communication Technologies and Development

Publication Date









bottom-of-the-pyramid, capitalism, frugal innovation, ICTD