Examining “Digital Development”: The Shape of Things to Come?

Research output: Working paper


For at least a generation, the current ICT4D paradigm will dominate the relationship between digital technologies and international development. But there are signs of change. Diffusion and use of ICTs is such that we can start to talk about a “digital nervous system” for development. And ICTs are becoming more deeply integrated into all aspects of development. So we can foresee a “digital development” paradigm in which ICTs are no longer just tools to enable particular aspects of development, but the platform that mediates development.
This paper proposes a model for understanding what digital development consists of, and then investigates the patterns of economic, political and social transformation that may be associated with digital development. To frame this investigation, it sees economic and political life dominated by a competitive logic that contests with a subordinate cooperative logic. The signs from digital development to date are that five broad patterns can be seen. “Copy”, “Spread”, “Curve” and “Boost” are patterns involving the dominant competitive logic. “Shift” involves strengthening of the subordinate cooperative logic.
These patterns have implications – often negative implications – for the wider digital ecosystem, for digital inclusion, digital sustainability, and digital harm; all of which are explained and explored. These implications in turn require action to be taken on digital policy, and the paper ends by discussing not just the worldview and content of future digital policy, but also the “Digital Development Policy Collaboratories” through which the process and structure of digital development policy-making needs to be implemented.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationManchester
Number of pages85
Publication statusPublished - 2016

Publication series

NameGDI Development Informatics Working Papers
PublisherCentre for Development Informatics

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Global Development Institute


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