Welcome to the ICT4D Jester!

Why, if personal computers are so great, have obesity rates in America only skyrocketed since their introduction in 1972? Why, if Google is so wonderful, have levels of happiness in the United States not gone up since it was founded in 1998? Why, if the iPhone is so awesome, have poverty rates kept climbing in the land of the free since its debut in 2007?

Ridiculous questions, aren’t they? Thank you, thank you, thank you… Ridiculous questions are the specialty of the Jester. But, he’s not as unique as he would like to believe in his ridiculousness. Consider, for example, the following quotations…

  • “Can the cellphone help end global poverty? …the possibilities afforded by a proliferation of cellphones are potentially revolutionary.”[i]
  •  “[T]he Internet should be a human right in and of itself.”[ii]
  •  “There is a pressing need to employ information technology for rural healthcare in Sub-Saharan Africa.”[iii]

That’s right – the mobile phone might end poverty, the Internet is a human right, and information technology will save the healthcare system in Africa! These quotations are all by respectable people writing in serious publications. Why are the Jester’s questions ridiculous, while these latter comments are not?

That is the question!

In response, the Jester takes arms against a sea of ICT4D hype, and attempts to explain (1) why information and communication technologies (ICTs) won’t save the world, (2) why sane people keep thinking that it will, and (3) what to do if you’re a technologist who still wants to do some good. (See summary for quick answers.)

The ICT4D Jester welcomes you!


[i] Corbett, S. (2008) Can the cellphone help end global poverty? The New York Times, April 13, 2008. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/13/magazine/13anthropology-t.html, retrieved March 24, 2010. 

[ii] Best, M. L. (2004) Can the Internet be a Human Right? Human Rights & Human Welfare, Vol. 4. University of Denver. http://www.du.edu/korbel/hrhw/volumes/2004/best-2004.pdf, retrieved March 24, 2010.

[iii] Friedman, E. (2009) Computer-assisted medical diagnosis for rural sub-Saharan Africa. IEEE Technology and Society, 23(3):18-28. http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/stamp/stamp.jsp?arnumber=05246999, retrieved March 24, 2010.

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