// December 13th, 2012, CGCS presented a noontime seminar with Martin Hilbert on Conceptual Aspects of Digital Innovation for International Development.
Martin Hilbert is a doctoral student at the University of Southern California (USC). Before that, Hilbert coordinated the Information Society Program of United Nations’ Regional Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean for ten years, a program he created as a research a technological cooperation program of ICT-for-development.
This presentation reviews the most prominent conceptual aspects involved in the Information and Communication Technologies for Development discussion (ICT4D). The notion of the topic has its theoretical roots in Schumpeterian innovation theory of social modernization through “creative destruction”. Based on these ideas, we will work through a three-dimensional conceptual framework that models the ongoing digital transformations as interplay between technologies, social change, and policy strategies. The diffusion of the underlying enabling technologies through social networks is not instantaneous and therefore inevitably creates a divide between those that are already included and those still marginalized.The arising “digital divide” can be conceptualized as the response to the questions of who, with which kinds of attributes, connects how to what. Different constellations in these four variables lead to a combinatorial array of choices to define the digital divide.
Given this wide array of possible definitions, we show that the digital divide is best defined in terms of a desired impact. Since those are diverse, so are the definitions of the challenge. We will also review several traditional and more recent areas of social change through digital means, such as e-government, e-business, e-edutainment and the use of ICT for public diplomacy and counterterrorism actives. Last but not least, we have to remember that ICT do not automatically lead to “development” and that the application of the very same tools can also lead to counterproductive results. Like all technologies, ICT are normatively neutral (rejecting technological determinism).
Making ICT work for development requires the social construction of their usage through carefully designed policy strategies. We will review the case of the eLAC Action Plan, the intergovernmental policy strategy of Latin America and the Caribbean that is already in its third successful generation (eLAC2007, eLAC2010, and eLAC2015). Digital policy strategies for development face a set of challenges unique to digital progress (e.g. its speed and high levels of uncertainty) and to developing countries (e.g. the exogenous nature of technological progress). We review some of the most common tools to confront such challenges. These structural choices of development strategies aim at designing digital development policies with tangible positive impacts.