ICT 4 the MDGs? A Perspective on ICTs’ Role in Addressing Urban Poverty in the Context of the Millennium Development Goals

Siobhán Clarke, Gillian Wylie, Hans Zomer

Abstract


Since the year 2000, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) have anchored efforts to combat global poverty. As we near 2015, this article assesses ICTs’ role in reaching the goals, with an emphasis on urban poverty. Over the lifespan of the MDGs, debate about ICTs and development has grown. At one pole of this debate are those who see ICTs as enabling rapid growth and citizen empowerment; at the other pole are those who warn that “technical fixes” cannot overcome the historic and structural causes of poverty. In this article, using the organizing framework of the eight MDGs, we discuss these debates by reviewing examples of ICT projects that aim to further the goals’ realization. Many of these projects suggest that ICTs are useful, particularly with respect to increasing information and enhancing services, a common theme throughout this article. However, we also raise critical queries about the allure of “technology-boosterism” (Heeks, 2010, p. 629). These range from questioning the measurable impact and sustainability of ICT4D to the vision of development embedded in ICT4D and whether new technologies can subvert the underlying causes of global poverty. Our article shows that, while ICTs can be enablers for developmental processes, we must listen to communities in poverty when deciding how ICTs should feature in the post-2015 agenda.

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