April 12: Technologies of choice? Chilean national ICT policies seen through the eyes of microentrepreneurs in rural communities

TASCHA Talk: Dorothea Kleine

April 12,  2011

In the early 2000s, Chile was considered a leader in Latin America in terms of its comprehensive and integrated national ICT policy, the Agenda Digital. Action lines included a campaign for digital literacy, networks of telecentres, access in schools, e-government initiatives, favorable import conditions for hardware, and an appropriate regulatory framework.

Dorothea discussed her recent paper, which draws on research that combined interviews with key civil servants leading each of the action lines at the national level with five months of ethnographic fieldwork and interviews with microentrepreneurs — from one of the most economically disadvantaged parts of the country — at the local level. Dorothea’s research draws on Amartya Sen’s capability approach, which positions development as the process of “expanding the real freedoms that people enjoy to lead the lives they have reason to value” (1999:3). In Dorothea’s study, she operationalized this approach for ICT for development (ICT4D) through a choice framework.

By asking whether state ICT policies have increased the freedom of local people, Dorothea’s research uncovers contradictions between the generally freedom-enhancing, multi-purpose intervention that telecentres represent, and the more pre-determined technology of the state e-procurement system, which frequently reduced the choices of microentrepreneurs. She argues that these contradictions are inherent in the contrasting ideologies embedded in these different technological systems and configurations. The paper, like Dorothea’s forthcoming book, Technologies of Choice (MIT Press), asks where decisions on technology and system design should be taken and how they could be made in more participatory and democratic ways.

About Dorothea

Dorothea Kleine is Lecturer in Development Geography at the UNESCO Chair/Centre in ICT4D at Royal Holloway, University of London. Her work focuses on the relationship between notions of “development”, choice, and technology. She has worked as a consultant and advisor to EuropeAid, DFID, GTZ, and to NGOs. She is the author of Surfen in Birkenstocks (Oekom, 2005), a book on the potential of the internet for the fair trade movement, and has recently been managing action research using smartphones to assist socially and environmentally responsible consumption choices (see fairtracing.org). Currently, Dorothea is completing her new book (Technologies of Choice, MIT Press), which offers an operationalisation of the capabilities approach for evaluation and project design in ICT4D. Dorothea is director of the new one-year Masters in Practising Sustainable Development (ICT4D specialism) at Royal Holloway.

View the presentation.

TASCHA Talks are bi-weekly sessions to share, discuss, and advance new ideas around topics related to technology and social change. Learn more at tascha.uw.edu/taschatalks.