The Importance of Intent: Reflecting on Open Development for Women’s Empowerment

Buskens, Ineke. 2011. “The Importance of Intent: Reflecting on Open Development for Women’s EmpowermentInformation Technologies & International Development Volume 7, Issue 1 – Spring 2011 (Special Issue: Open Development).

In their article, “Open ICT Ecosystems Transforming the Developing World,” Matthew L. Smith and Laurent Elder (2010) pose the hypothesis that open social arrangements, enabled by ICTs, can help to catalyze the development impacts of ICTs. An ICT ecosystem is understood to be a social system within which ICTs are embedded, and an open social
arrangement consists of social relationships that favor:
(a) Universal over restricted access;
(b) Universal over restricted participation in informal and formal groups or institutions; and
(c) Collaborative over centralized production.

“In other words, open ICT ecosystems provide the space for the amplification and transformation of social activities that can be powerful drivers of development” (Smith & Elder, 2010, pp. 65–66). I subscribe to the idea that more sharing, connecting, and collaborating among people in free, unbound, and uncontrolled ways through the use of ICTs will have developmental benefits because of the acceleration of learning opportunities that such openness provides. The open development hypothesis suggests that positive development ends can emerge
through new models of engagement and innovation that are more participatory, collaborative, and driven by the beneficiaries (Elder, Emdon, Petrazzini, & Smith, 2011).

My hesitation to embrace these perspectives on open development without reservation comes from two concerns, which are related.

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