Accepted paper:

Configuring the users adapting the system: participation and ICT4D in Afghanistan


Melanie Stilz (Technical University Berlin)

Paper short abstract:

Participation is still almost exclusively defined from a donor perspective. How can those offering their help and resources enable participation by those receiving the support? In this paper I examine how “participation” is interpreted and executed in ICT project in the Afghan education sector.

Paper long abstract:

Currently, technological products are transferred to Afghanistan primarily by international producers and organisations. Other than Eglash (2004) and Pisani et al. (2007), however, I argue that the 'high social power' is not exclusively represented by the producers, but in the case of ICT projects in international development also by those designing the project and deciding about the technology and its configuration. Similarly to Orlikowski (2000) and Carroll (2004) I argue, that a technology in use must be treated differently from the technology as artefact. Technology appropriation in ICT projects, I demonstrate, is a combined effort of all stakeholders where multiple elements influence the outcome. This participatory appropriation, as observed in Afghanistan, not only depends on the participation of local stakeholders, but also on interacting with those in control of designing and configuring the devices. Technology introduction, therefore, is a process that is less about the technological system and more about the ensemble of users and technology that remains, sometimes more, sometimes less, in constant motion and development. In looking at ICT4D examples within the Afghan education sector, I suggest in this paper that a supportive environment could not only encourage and support appropriation depending on capabilities, social practice and institutional context but could also play a crucial role in 'completing the design in use' (Carroll, 2004) by collaborating to adapt a technical system to the unstable physical and technical conditions.

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