Areas of Focus
Information policy discourse has traditionally been inundated by numbers and metrics, which purportedly describe the "information society" and reflect national levels of such things as "E-readiness" and the "digital divide." Most approaches involving quantitative "indicators" produce results, which are primarily descriptive and comparative and the mere calculation of penetration levels provides information that ultimately directs policies, which are solely focused on increasing access. But in today's multimodal multimedia ICT environment, what is their value? Looking ahead, are they the numbers that matter? For the future, can we find numbers that would make a difference to development goals? A serious assessment of "development informatics" should quantitatively and qualitatively assess the information universe at ICT4D project sites--before, during, and after a given project is implemented. Across projects, we will be able to develop theoretically meaningful indicators of both need for ICTs critical for development and success of ICT4D projects. In the long run, this will help us do development work with more focus on critical indicators of need and success.
Social Media and Empowerment
Areas of social media and (dis)empowerment research inquiries include investigating the relationships between multiple strata of society and social media; the ability for new information and communication technologies (ICTs) to serve as a platform for empowerment or disempowerment. Social media offer a potential platform from which a greater spectrum of society can participate in activities in sectors that include: education, agriculture, commerce, social services, social movement organizations, non-governmental organizations and in shaping public policy. As adoption of new ICTs increase, foregoing areas of engagement provide opportunity for researchers to critically assess the interrelationships between technologies and society. Investigations can include taking stock of diverse uses and engagement as well as factors associated with the political economy of social media (digital divide, regulation of social media, and commoditization of surveillance).
If we assume that ICT deployment and adoption are important for development, individual and societal acceptance of ICT systems is essential. Understanding the decision making processes that go into development programs, and perceptions of them (along with perceptions of the corporations and the countries they represent) could help develop better and more productive partnerships between providers and recipients of ICT4D projects. Unlike previous generations of ICTs that were conveyors of information, modern ICTs have the additional capability to collect and store user information and often interact with them. If in the "Old ICT" world people communicating over media needed to trust only each other, "new ICTs" themselves pose a risk to their users as a result of the personal information they store. This research stream will investigate how ICTs become trustworthy in the development context, what kinds of cultural, societal, psychological, economic, policy and usability factors influence the formation of trust in the machine at all levels (from individual farmers adopting ATMs to countries adopting electronic voting machines), how trust influences development initiatives, and how can trust be designed into systems and programs (e.g., corporate social responsibility) for better achieving development objectives.
ICT Use for Formal and Non-Formal Education
The Consortium believes in the transformational potential of education in people's lives, and the potential of information and communication technologies to aid educational strategies which seek to produce real, collaborative solutions. Motivated by this belief, we will conduct research and outreach on the educational applications of ICTs, both in the formal and informal sectors. Our research will address topics such as ICT access in the classroom, the development and evaluation of educational technology applications and related pedagogical initiatives, digital literacy among both traditional and non-traditional student populations, and ICT applications in non-formal and continuing education. Through our outreach efforts, we seek to communicate the findings of our research to non-governmental organizations, community groups, and governments at all levels as a means for further stimulating the efficacy and humanitarian intent of our research outcomes.