TRACK 10: Open & Inclusive Development
Simon Frasier University
Burnaby, BC., Canada
Judge Business school
University of Cambridge
International Development Research Centre
Ottawa, On., Canada
Open’ and ‘openness’ have become buzzwords for activities where the diffusion of information & communication technology underwrites the emergence of new ways to organize social systems to share, collaborate, and produce. This trend began perhaps most prominently with open source software, but has more recently spread to government (e.g., open government data), education (open educational resources), science (e.g., open access, open data), and business (open business models), to name a few. A major reason underlying the significance of these changes is their ability to break apart more traditional, ‘top down’ approaches to development and their supporting structures: a potency that in time may reframe conceptions of ‘development’ itself. In turn, new power relations will arise as control of emerging networks by ‘brokers’ gradually supplants more traditional organisational structures. These changes are not just happening in the global north, but are increasingly reshaping of society in the so-called ‘developing’ world. From these observations the term ‘open development’ was coined to denote the significance of these emerging social systems for achieving development aims.
While more sanguine predictions suggest that open development will herald a more inclusive society, the history of ICT4D suggests that, at least in the short to medium term, the benefits may disproportionately benefit the ‘haves’ more than the ‘have-nots’, or ‘have-less’. Certainly, the potential for benefits from these new forms of social systems to flow more marginalized populations is there; for example, open educational resources have the potential to supply high-quality free educational curriculum that is adaptable to the local context to those who can access and use it. However, in reality, there are a myriad of challenges to the inclusion of marginalized populations, not least of which being the still limited or restricted access of certain populations to these activities, alongside socio-economic, political, and other factors. Furthermore, there exist a range of obstacles to realising these new open development forms such as opposition from incumbents, cultural resistance, the lack of technical standards, maximalist intellectual property (IP) policies, and a mature understanding of the dynamics of ‘openness’, to name but a few. In this track, we are looking for papers that improve our theoretical and empirical understanding of the development and relevance of open development models, and in particular, those that seek to be transformative and inclusive of marginalized people and communities. We seek theoretically informed analytical contributions that explore opportunities and challenges, extract principles around implementation and management, and/or provide empirical evidence on the positive and negative outcomes of open development activities. Comparative and interdisciplinary research is preferred.
Some research questions to explore:
What different philosophical/theoretical perspectives can we identify with the notion of openness?
How and in what contexts do different open systems bring about developmental benefits for marginalized communities? For example, how could open government data initiatives be designed to benefit those with minimal access? When do open educational resources increase access to quality educational experiences?
How open is open ‘enough’ in different social systems? What are the limits of openness / are there situations in which it is better to pursue ‘closed’ strategies? When and how might openness undermine developmental aims and inclusion, for example, by reinforcing existing power asymmetries?
What is the difference between the ‘openness’ on mobiles as compared to PCs with respect to social innovation and human freedoms?
Are recent trends towards commodification of information a threat to open development?
When and how do (or do not) open systems drive innovation by and for the ‘poor’?
How does ‘openness’ reconfigure traditional notions of developmental planning, service delivery, and control?
For paper format and submission guidelines please refer to the main conference website.
Some Relevant References
Special issue (2011) of Information technologies and International Development on Open Development, 7(11): http://itidjournal.org/itid/issue/view/40
Smith, M. L., Elder, L. (2010) Open ICT ecosystems transforming the developing world. Information Technologies and International Development, 6(1):65-71.
Thompson, M. (2008) ICT and development studies: towards development 2.0. Journal of International Development, 20(6): 821-835.