ICTD London: one Kibera perspective

by: March 2nd, 2011 comments: 0

At ICTD London 2010 conference, Kibera mapper and journalist Douglas Namale was inspired to write this post:

ICT4D Should know ICT is NOT Development

The tech and development community appear not to read from the same script the meaning of ‘development’. As budding entrepreneurs cripple with profitability factors, the social school of thoughts, remains skeptical whether ICT is indeed the vehicle to poverty eradication. I agree with Prof. Geof Walsham’s argument that there is need to distinguish between research on ICT in developing countries and research on ICT for development.

Allow me to look at the most mentioned M-PESA as the yard stick to authenticate Prof. Walsham’s belief. One, is it true M-PESA has helped reduce poverty or it has simply lessened the means of money transfer mechanisms? To try and attempt to respond to this question, let us look at it from two perspectives. First, the inventor of the idea, Safaricom, is making close to Ksh. 20 billion profits annually, but the kiosks owners who operate the business on behalf of the company are simply making about ksh. 2 per transaction made though the company deducts ksh. 30 per transaction. On the same note, for every ksh. 20 scratch sold by Safaricom agent/vendor, you only make Ksh. 1.

The above figures leads us to the question, how much does it cost the company to say send one SMS? According to the figures released by Communications Commission of Kenya, for each SMS sent, the cost is about Ksh. 0.30. Until recently, Safaricom was charging an SMS Ksh. 5 and a call was costing Ksh. 7.

The above simple analysis simply explains why this company is making billions in profits and fools people that it’s actually promoting poverty reduction campaigns. Just to borrow a leaf from one of the papers that was presented to ICT4D London yesterday, some communities are actually selling their goats (assets) to get money to buy airtime which already has inflated prices, is it true ICT is promoting poverty reduction?

In my perspective, I can’t indicate any history where ICT alone has fostered development. But history is clear that ICT inventors have used the invention to amass wealth. To mention but a few, Facebook, Microsoft, Dell corporations inventors are today ranked among the world top billionaires, can we be able to locate anything these names have helped in the poverty alleviation agenda?

To conclude, ICTD should be fused in other disciplines if at all it is to achieve its objective use the vehicle to foster development.

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