Of Hammers and Nails

“When a hammer is all you have, everything begins to look like a nail…

"When a hammer is all you have, everything begins to look like a nail…" and when ICT4D focuses too much on technology, ICTs begin to look like they will hit the nails of development issues on their heads.

This was the premise of Mridul Chowdhury’s critique of common ICT4D assumptions and strategies. The presentation tackled the assumptions behind the three most common (and heavily funded) ICT4D strategies: telecentres, e-governance and e-commerce. Generally, these strategies assume that technology sufficiently addresses development issues, specifically:

- building a telecentre will fulfill a community’s information needs

- introducing ICT systems to governments will reduce corruption and improve government services

- creating an e-commerce portal will open up markets for small scale businesses

Assumptions on which the hopes (and resources) of ICT4D have been pinned. Assumptions that obviously need further interrogation because ICTs can not sufficiently addressed development dilemmas, according to Chowdhury’s presentation.

When the 10-minute presentation ended, there was a few seconds of silence — highly out of character for the enthusiastic bunch in this workshop. The contemplative silence of people who are suddenly brought back down to earth… or given a lot of food for thought.