One very important feature of ICT4D is that it focuses on technology, law, information, data and communications from a lens of how it affects people and communities. Sustainable development requires consistent development efforts and specifically the acquisition of digital technology. If we focus on digital development more, we can acquire tools for education, for employment opportunities, and provide access to online services for a variety of needs. In communication for development we also see the importance of crisis communications to tackle organization, environmental and human crisis in an accurate manner, and in many ways, it can be argued that digital technology can act as a key enabler to the efficacy of these endeavors if used properly.
Crisis communications can be defined under the sub area of Public Relations, but it essentially looks to mitigate damage to an organizations’ reputation by third party sources, and for international development it is the effective communication strategy and problem-solving exercise to crisis situations. It is part of crisis management, which looks to lessen the negative outcomes of an emergency at any given time. The first part entails the pre-crisis, where a focus is put to advert future crisis, followed by a crisis response to a given issue, and lastly the post-crisis, where lessons learned are taken for future improvement. But crisis communication, as the author Coombs argues, is very ethnocentric at the present time, and needs to be examined more in depth and with an international lens. Digitalization can help crisis communications expand its efforts by providing key interconnectivity between governments, societies and individuals, and thus attempt to close the gap.
But digital development in ICT4D starts with digital literacy. There is no longer an ‘on’ and ‘off’ button or developed vs. underdeveloped communities when it comes to technology, that is the old way of looking at the world. Individuals and communities need to work together to bridge the gap and make technology accessible to all. The journey starts with governments, organizations and communities getting together in one room and analyzing the development of a certain community and its key needs to become up to speed. Governments need to then assist societies in building key infrastructures and teach people how to use these. This includes key training in areas of crisis communications where individuals and groups can use technology to efficiently treat humanitarian crisis for example and get the response and necessary aid in a shorter timeframe. But digital literacy goes beyond a crisis need – computer programming skills for example, are also key for communities as it advances education and job prospects for individuals, which in turn aids in the economic development of a region.
Many organizations have now identified these needs and are beginning to tackle them. A clear example is Spider, the Swedish Program for ICT in developing regions, which specializes in multidisciplinary research in democracy, education and health. Researchers at Spider investigate ICT in relation to gender, culture, democracy, corruption, education and health, as well as to partner with universities and partner countries to focus on technology development and the sharing of knowledge. The field is not quite there, this could be partly due to the rapid changing nature of technology, but through such programs, digital development work is not only feasible but remains an optimistic endeavor. Click on the desciption section of this websute if you would like more information on how we can help further ICT efforts.
*Coombs, W. Timothy (1999): Ongoing Crisis Communication: Planning, Managing, and Responding. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.