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Context and the processes of ICT for development

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

Published
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>01/2012
<mark>Journal</mark>Information and Organization
Issue number1
Volume22
Number of pages14
Pages (from-to)23-36
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English

Abstract

This paper argues for a rethinking of the notion of context in the information and communication technology for development (ICT4D) research domain. We argue that context can be conceived of as a dynamic outcome constructed through processes of development and interpretation rather than as an entity which can be isolated and represented. We argue that instead of focusing on Issues of IS and their context is not one of the adequacy of the representation of context – the motivation of contextualism – instead researchers should consider the processes by which context is represented. Three principles are proposed to assist in this endeavour. Firstly, that representations of context is a relational process in which both ‘macro’ and ‘micro’ actors engage. Understanding context of ICT4D requires multiple accounts drawn from different actors. Secondly, while research needs to describe the concepts used by ‘macro’ actors to represent context it is crucial to recognise them as outcomes of processes of development and not as self evident entities. Finally, we suggest that research needs to attend to how these accounts are produced, be they by ‘macro’ and ‘micro’ actors. This can be understood as an emergent activity showing not only unexpected outcomes but that the concepts describing actors also change in development. These principles are applied to the case of M-PESA, now widely known as an innovative mobile banking application from Kenya. One outcome of this approach is that it helps explain why ICT4D projects in general, and M-PESA in particular, are often difficult to replicate successfully.