ICT4D and the Human Development and Capability Approach

The Potentials of Information and Communication Technology

2010 Occasional Paper
By Hamel, Jean-Yves

This study frames a review of information and communication technology for development (ICT4D) within the human development and capabilities approach. Looking at the basic dimensions of human development, which make up the core measurement of its achievements: health, education and a income, and additionally at the dimensions of participation and empowerment, a survey of research and evidence seeks to evaluate whether or not ICTs have demonstrated positive outcomes for these dimensions of human development and more broadly to the practice of its approach. The paper reviews the literature and research conducted in these dimensions in order to establish a sense of the scope and potential that ICTs have for human development. By doing so, the paper seeks to assess whether or not the use of ICTs is pertinent to the human development of the poor, and if so, which are documented cases and outcomes that can perhaps be replicated in differing development contexts. The paper also seeks to answer questions on the role of government policy and investment in ICTs as keys to their success in development and whether or not ICTs should be emphasized at all in poor countries. The paper concludes with the important realisation that ICTs alone cannot improve peoples’ lives; the use of ICTs needs to occur within broader strategies that are tailored to make the most use of these tools and techniques in order to reap their potential benefits for human development.