Web2.0 and development studies

2/4/2008 | Christian Kreutz

In my last post I argued that the collaborative web has its implications for development aid. And yesterday I read an interesting article by Mark Thompson from the University of Cambridge titled "ICT and development studies: towards development2.0." The article is an attempt to highlight the potentials of the web for development, its push for openness and collaboration will effect development aid and at the end this can fit in an theoretical framework of development studies. Most interesting to me is his argument about how the "philosophy", "approach" or "pressure" - or however you want to call it - behind web2.0 goes way beyond using ICT more efficiently in development work: It does influence and ultimately will push forward a different approach to development.

The key insight here is that in its emerging Web 2.0 form, ICT can no longer be conceived as assemblages of hardware, software, and user behaviour. Viewed instead as an ‘architecture of participation’, ICT becomes an opportunity for generating, mediating and moderating a particular paradigm of social life; and this paradigm poses a direct challenge to much of the way in which ‘development’, with its associated visions for social life and supporting infrastructure, has been conceptualised and delivered to date. As public goods and services, developmental initiatives are arguably subject to modern, ICT-driven critiques about the need for public service reform such as Leadbeater and Cottam’s The User Generated State: Public Services 2.0 (2007), which calls for a shift from the focus on ‘delivery’ during the last ten years (also seen in the developmental discourse) to a focus on ‘co-creation’.

My contention is therefore that the increasing ubiquity of ICT within development has implications that extend even beyond its role as mediator of economic, social, and political opportunity. Conceived as ‘Web 2.0’, a paradigm for technology-enabled social life comprising diversity, collaboration, and multiple truths, ICT now poses a direct challenge to development studies itself, demanding attention to ways in which, in the future, Web 2.0 models may drive increasing calls for a much more plural and collaborative Development 2.0. The next section

The whole article can be downloaded here.