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IDIA2014 Conference
Port Elizabeth, South Africa
3-4 November 2014

Investigating Ways to Assess ICT4D’s Impact on the Larger Community

Marita Turpin
Department of Informatics
University of Pretoria
South Africa

Joan Mwenda
Department of Informatics
University of Pretoria
South Africa

Full paper

Abstract

As the field of ICT4D is starting to mature, its research is increasingly concerned with evaluating the contribution of ICT projects towards development. However, impact evaluation remains too focused on easily measurable, direct and predominantly economic benefits that are not appropriate for measuring human development. ICT4D evaluation needs to look at intangible benefits as well, at an individual as well as collective level. Very little has been done to date in terms of qualitative impact evaluation at collective or community level. This study investigates impact assessment frameworks that could be used to pay attention to ICT’s impact on the broader community. A literature search is used to identify suitable frameworks, which are then described and analysed. Evidence is presented of these frameworks’ prior successful application in ICT4D. The frameworks presented are Sen’s Capability Approach, the Sustainable Livelihoods Framework as well as a recently developed framework using Social Autopoiesis. The findings of the analysis are as follows: All the frameworks assessed meet the criteria for being able to consider intangible benefits, evaluate human development, and being applied to assess impact at the community level. However, they are all difficult to apply, requiring effort to ensure that qualitative framework concepts are interpreted correctly, and requiring more time and effort to collect and interpret data. Since the need to do more thorough impact assessment remains, it means that the ICT4D community needs to take impact assessment more seriously and be willing to invest more in it. The contribution of this paper is to alert ICT4D researchers and practitioners of the need to do community level impact assessment, to provide guidance by means of a discussion of evaluation frameworks that could be applied at community level, and to point to the commitment required to perform appropriate impact assessment.

Key words

ICT4D impact assessment, Sustainable Livelihoods Framework, Sen’s Capability Approach, Social Autopoiesis