11 December 2006

How ICTs contribute to sustainable rural livelihoods

How have Information Communications Technology (ICT) contributed to sustainable livelihoods of the rural poor?

This question is posed by researchers at IDS and ODI as part of a project about ICTs and Rural Livelihoods funded by infoDev. The research project comprises six country scoping studies in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, a global literature review and interviews with interested international development agencies.

The starting point for the study is the growing recognition that poverty has multiple, interrelated causes and manifestations beyond the core phenomenon of "income poverty". This recognition of the complexity both of poverty and of poor people's response to their conditions has led to a focus on the livelihoods of the poor, the strategies and practices they develop to navigate both their poverty and the broader social, economic and environmental conditions that reinforce that poverty.

There is some degree of understandable scepticism about whether information and communication technologies are appropriate tools for addressing the needs and challenges of the poor, particularly the rural poor. A number of donors and other international organizations have done good work on these issues. There are also several Northern and Southern independent organizations that have studied innovation by and for the poor, including innovation in using a range of technologies to improve the livelihoods of the poor. Yet knowledge about this set of issues is widely dispersed and not easy for donors and other key actors to access in a manageable fashion and, more importantly, to apply in specific contexts.

There is a pressing need to provide a clearer map of what we know (and what we do not know) about these issues, along with a general framework for thinking about these issues, and concrete evidence from successes and failures in the field.

An expert meeting will be convened by ODI on March 23, 2007 to present and discuss the research findings so far help to chart the next steps of the project.

Read more information on the project at Livelihoods Connect - www.livelihoods.org/hot_topics/ICT4D.html


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