We have already briefly alluded to the relevance of openness to ICT4D at this point in time. Here we spell out the argument in more detail. There are two central reasons why an Open ICT4D paradigm, as defined above, is relevant for ICT4D research and development in the short, medium and potentially even long-terms:
- Novel situation: The Open ICT4D paradigm suggests that the potential of ICTs combined with open processes could greatly magnify access and use of fundamental human development resources - mainly information, knowledge, people (their knowledge and coordinated and collective action), platforms for participation and collaborative, and computational power – that can be mobilized for development activities. Thus, the total available resources are magnified directly by the network effect (i.e., networks can tap into other networks from the personal and local scales to truly global scales). The conditions for this have not existed previously, but future possibilities should only increase as we move towards smarter, cheaper and more pervasive mobile devices and deeper penetration of broadband throughout the developing world.
- Could be otherwise: Openness is not a guaranteed state of being; rather, it is the outcome of a series of human choices (policy decisions, institutional arrangements and so forth); it could be otherwise. As new forms of organization and production begin to threaten incumbents a battle over the openness landscape is inevitable. This battle places us at a crossroads: policy choices are changes to the social environment that determine the level of openness, with the effect of either constraining or enabling future openness possibilities (Benkler, 2002; Lessig, 2004; Shirky, 2008). For example, the current trend towards anti-open legislation in Northern countries bodes poorly for the viability of an social environment conducive to openness. As developing countries often follow the Northern examples (although with respect to IP laws there have been significant diversions), the issue becomes an even more pressing concern.