Information Technology for Development: Volume 29, issue 1

IT for Development journal cover image
Information Technology for Development

In this issue, an editorial by Annika Andersson and Mathias Hatakka offers a historic overview of the different development goals that the UN has offered, and discuss how  Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) can be used to realise, or undermine, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and sustainability more generally, through an analysis of the eight papers included in this issue.

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Editorial: ICT4D and the Sustainable Development Goals: A road well-traveled

Annika Andersson & Mathias Hatakka

Some 35 years after the United Nations published its Brundtland report on the many threats our planet is under due to over- and underdevelopment, we are still struggling with how to make our world sustainable. Today we have the Sustainability Development Goals (SDGs) to guide us, but they have been largely criticized just like their predecessors. The debate in Information and Communication Technologies for Development (ICT4D) mainly concerns to which extent Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) may contribute to the SDGs. This editorial offers a historic overview of the different development goals that the UN has offered and eight papers that offer a view into the discussion of the challenges facing the SDGs, but also examples of experimental strategies on how ICTs can be used in realizing, or undermining, these goals.

Digital development, inequalities & the Sustainable Development Goals: what does ‘Leave No-One Behind’ mean for ICT4D?

Franz-Ferdinand Rothe, Leo Van Audenhove & Jan Loisen

This article analyses the integration of intersectional inequalities in the SDG framework and the resulting need for coherent policies, and demonstrates the parallels between this challenge and the reproductive nature of digital inequalities. On this basis, the authors argue that the issue of digital inequalities should be mainstreamed in development programming in order to avoid worsening existing inequalities through digital development. Moreover, they discuss recommendations for a potential post-2030 agenda succeeding the SDGs.

Nowcasting for hunger relief: a study of promise and perils

Wayne Wobcke, Caroline Compton, Fleur Johns, Jayson Lamchek & Siti Mariyah

Combining technical (both computer science and statistical) and social analysis, this article employs a close reading method drawn from humanities and legal research not usually directed at digital platforms or websites in combination with interview-based techniques. By this means, it scrutinizes HungerMap LIVE’s potential to guide or mislead users and canvasses some elaborations that could enhance its usability. It argues that interdisciplinary research of this kind can counter both the historical and technological determinism troubling the ICT4D field and better position decision-makers to employ machine learning in history- and context-attentive ways.

Contract approaches for sustainable community-based access to e-service provision: a comparative study between Bangladesh and the Philippines

Jeremy Brown & Shah Md. Safiul Hoque

Public–Private Partnerships are touted as a ‘silver bullet’ to address issues surrounding the sustainability of community-based ICT projects. This paper considers the PPP’s role in the provision of sustainable services at community access sites in Bangladesh and the Philippines. A comparative analysis of current community access operations in Bangladesh and the Philippines has been made in this study. The study investigates how the different adopted contract approaches (PPP vs. Public) have impacted the telecenter infrastructure attributes, and specifically, the impact on the types of services offered at telecenter sites. The data collection procedure utilized a mixed-methods approach, including user surveys, combined with telecenter operator interviews, and site observations. Simple descriptive statistics were used to compare the quantitative data collected regarding each of the telecenter infrastructures and telecenter services. This analysis contributes to the current understanding of telecenters concerning the adoption of PPPs toward the sustainability of public access initiatives.

Does digitalization contribute to lesser income inequality? Evidence from G20 countries

Zi Hui Yin & Chang Hwan Choi

This study examines both the direct and moderating effects of digitalization on income inequality by using the panel data of Group of Twenty countries for 2002–2018. We find that digitalization alleviated income inequality and the interaction of digitalization with trade openness, and foreign direct investment helped narrow the income gap in the full sample, but the impact is heterogeneous by income level. The impact of digitalization on narrowing income gap has a greater effect on middle-income countries than on high-income countries. The interaction between digitalization and trade openness tends to widen the income inequality in high-income countries but has the opposite effect in middle-income countries. The interaction of digitalization with foreign direct investment has helped narrow income inequality in both high-income and middle-income countries. It implies that digitalization contributes to narrowing income inequality; there is a difference in the intensity of the digitalization effect between high-income and middle-income countries.

The role of information and communication technology and financial development in shaping a low-carbon environment: a Belt and Road journey toward development

Shah Saud, Abdul Haseeb, Songsheng Chen & Huiyun Li

This study considers the role of ICT and financial development in shaping a low-carbon environment for sixty Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) economies using balanced panel data spanning 1990–2018. This study adopts the Driscoll–Kraay standard error long-run estimation technique and the Dumitrescu–Hurlin panel causality approach. The results reveal that ICT, financial development, and globalization are negatively related to CO2 emissions; however, economic growth and electricity consumption stimulate CO2 emissions, threatening environmental sustainability. Interestingly, a U-shaped relationship is observed between economic growth and CO2 emissions for BRI economies. Moreover, the causality results reveal bidirectional causal relationships between ICT, financial development and globalization with CO2 emissions. The findings urge the adoption of advanced ICT in the industrial sector for efficient energy use and socioeconomic development.

Impacts of information and communication technologies on the SDGs: the case of Mayu Telecomunicaciones in rural areas of Peru

Ignacio Prieto-Egido, Teresa Sanchez-Chaparro & Julia Urquijo-Reguera

Using a case study approach and the digital-for-development paradigm proposed by Heeks, this paper explores an innovative strategy for addressing the rural connectivity gap and examines its impact on the SDGs. The model under analysis is the Rural Mobile Infrastructure Operator (RMIO). The specific case analysed is the first company operating under an RMIO figure and offering services in underserved rural areas of Peru. The results show that the RMIO strategy primarily contributes to some specific targets of SDGs 3, 9, and 17. Key stakeholders can use the methodology and results of this study to develop strategies to address the connectivity divide and promote the achievement of the SDGs in rural contexts.

Can information and communication technologies contribute to poverty reduction? Evidence from poor counties in China

Rui Gu, Wei Zhang, Kevin Chen & Fengying Nie

This paper uses a unique three-wave panel data set of household surveys, collected from seven officially recognized poor counties in rural China during 2012–2018, to examine the effect of ICT adoption on poverty. The results show that ICTs contributed positively to poverty reduction in the sampled counties, which may have been primarily achieved through increased migration and off-farm income, instead of through improved agricultural production and farm income. This suggests that ICT development facilitated households escaping poverty by helping them diversify their livelihood strategies away from agriculture in remote mountainous areas. The findings highlight the importance of creating incentives to complement the opportunities brought by ICTs for local development. It is important to strike a balance between poverty reduction and food security objectives.


Digital finance and happiness: evidence from China

Kexin Meng & Jing Jian Xiao

This study uses data from the China Household Financial Survey and Peking University Digital Financial Inclusion Index to examine the association between digital finance and happiness. Results show that the association between digital finance and happiness is negative. Mechanism analyzes suggest that digital finance is negatively associated with happiness through the increasing debt burden and overspending behavior. Further heterogeneous analyzes find that age, debt level, and trust degree can be moderators in the relationship between digital finance and happiness. The results have both academic and practical implications for improving digital finance business and human development.