Accepted paper:

The dialectics of open development


Yingqin Zheng (Royal Holloway University of London)
Becky Faith (Institute of Development Studies)

Paper short abstract:

This paper aims to provide a critical literature review on open development, explore the ideological assumptions, political foundations and economic forces behind open development, examine the challenges and unintended consequences, and consider the dialectics of boundaries in openness.

Paper long abstract:

In recent years open development initiatives have spread across many sectors; including open data, open government, open education, etc. There is often a normative assumption in the discourse that openness is good in and of itself. Nevertheless, the literature on open development shows a distinct absence of evidence of impact. The societal impact of open development is also challenged by asymmetries in digital infrastructure and access to supportive resources on a global and local level. Indeed, diffusing technologies in societies without addressing underlying inequalities due to gender, class and various forms of social barriers may serve to reinforce inequalities and consolidate segregation. For example, without sufficient technical and institutional protection to safeguard individual privacy and interests, participating and sharing on open platforms may render users inadvertent victims of commercial interests seeking profits from big data. Drawing upon the tradition of critical theory, this paper aims to provide a critical literature review on open development across a range of sectors, e.g. open data, open education, open government, etc., seeking to examine the following questions: - What are the ideological, political and economic assumptions behind claims made about openness? - What are the driving forces behind open initiatives? - What are the standards adopted in openness and who sets them? - Whose interests does openness serve and what is the evidence of developmental impact? - What are the challenges and unintended consequences of open development? - Which boundaries should be broken and which should be preserved to alleviate the effect of structural inequalities in openness?

panel P01
Power, politics and digital development [Information, Technology and Development Study Group]