Abstract

The world is changing and new information and communication technologies (ICTs) are powerful contributors to this change. Society is moving from an industrial model with vertical hierarchical structures to a networked society with increasingly horizontal organizational structures. The change has been underpinned by the Internet and increasingly interconnected devices for computation and communication (such as mobile phones) that have greatly increased communication and collaboration possibilities. In this environment Openness is becoming an increasingly relevant concept for ICT for development (ICT4D) activities (“Open ICT4D”). We define Open ICT4D as a way of organizing social activities for development benefits that favour: a) universal over restricted access to communication tools and information; b) universal over restricted participation in informal and formal groups/institutions; and c) collaborative over centralized production of cultural, economic, or other content. Note that we view open ICT4D as a hypothesis. We hypothesise that there are many processes that can be made more open through the use of ICTs and that doing so will generate development outcomes that are accomplished: a) in a more efficient and/or effective manner, and/or b) in ways that earlier were not possible. This paper argues that openness is especially relevant at this point in time because policy choices made in the near term will shape the future possibilities for Open ICT4D activities. Only with a proper understanding, both theoretically and empirically, can we hope to influence policy in a pro-development direction. This paper is a first step in improving our understanding of the concept of openness and is implications for ICT4D.

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