Open ICT Ecosystems Transforming the Developing World

December 06, 2016 by Matthew Smith, Laurent Elder

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In the years following 2008, developing countries as a whole may invest as much as US$100 billion annually in information infrastructure (Khalil & Kenny, 2008). In addition, the rapid expansion of mobile phones – even in the poorer regions of the world – and the emergence of the "social" (i.e., participatory and collaborative) Web are rapidly reshaping not only the ways people access and share information, but also how they relate, collaborate, and organize (Benkler, 2006; Shirky, 2008). These new technologies, most notably information and communication technologies (ICTs), offer new and transformative applications and services, means to communite and produce content, and decentralized innovation models (Heeks, 2008). In this context of expanding ICT networks and applications, Khalil and Kenny (2008) appropriate ask, "How can we catalyze the impact of ICTs on development?" The hypothesis of this paper is that open social arrangements, enabled by ICTs, can help to catalyze the development impacts of ICTs. In other words, open ICT ecosystems provide the space for the amplification and tranformation of social activities that can be powerful drivers of development. Note that an ICT ecosystem is understood to be more than just a technological system; rather, it is a social system within which ICTs are embedded.