Conceptualising ICT4D Champions

Student thesis: Phd


ICT4D champions are individuals who make a decisive contribution to an ICT4D initiative by actively and enthusiastically promoting its progress through critical stages in order to mobilise resources and/or active support and cooperation from all stakeholders.Mindful of the poor performance of development projects generally, and ICT4D projects in particular, the thesis argues that the seemingly important role of key individuals, such as champions, lacks research. Based on the repeated calls for research to better understand champion-type individuals and their roles in ICT4D initiatives, the thesis claims to have identified an original and significant knowledge gap towards which it contributes.Extant literature on champions of information systems innovations shows that champions can be conceptualised in terms of three core orientations: towards results, relationships and resources. This body of literature and conceptualisations has been used in the thesis as the starting point for exploring and describing the champion phenomenon in an as yet unexplored context - ICT4D initiatives.Critical realism is the assumed philosophical position for the research undertaken in the thesis. Theoretical constructs from the model of Transformational and Transactional Leadership and Social Capital Theory are combined in a conceptual framework to guide the empirical investigations and analysis. The research draws on three ICT4D champion cases in South Africa; case data was collected through the careful combination and sequencing of multiple mixed methods: in-depth interviews, a social network analysis (SNA) survey, and semi-structured interviews with the ICT4D champions and other key initiative stakeholders. A literal replication design was followed whereby the case studies explored and described the individual champion cases and subsequently synthesised findings across the three cases.The main contribution of the thesis is a knowledge contribution; the thesis contributes fifteen empirical findings to our conceptual understanding of ICT4D champions - their origins, competencies, characteristics and motivations, and their orientations towards results, relationships and resources. The analysis has shown how ICT4D champions are similar to champions of IS innovation in some ways, but has also revealed unique aspects, such as the importance they ascribe to addressing social concerns.This, in turn, led to a number of theoretical and practical contributions, as well as a methodological and a research contribution, all emanating from the three case studies. Firstly, two inductively generated theoretical contributions are offered: i) a conceptual framework for analysing and describing the origins of ICT4D champions; ii) a hybrid and contextual model of ICT4D champions that combines a complex set of factors (personal, organisational, and external) and the orientations of champions as a means to account for the complexity of these key individuals and their roles in ICT4D initiatives.The thesis contributes to ICT4D practice by suggesting ways to identify, develop, deploy and support champions; in so doing it offers actionable guidance on how to harness the potential positive contributions of these key individuals. Furthermore, a network-based approach - such as SNA used in the thesis - are rarely, if ever, followed in conducting champion research and this is offered as a methodological contribution.Finally, ICT4D champion research is in its infancy; the exploratory approach followed in the thesis draws on literature, the empirical findings and the theoretical contributions to offer an extensive agenda for future champion research in general, and ICT4D champion research in particular.
Date of Award31 Dec 2016
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorRichard Heeks (Supervisor) & Richard Duncombe (Supervisor)


  • Multiple Mixed Methods
  • Case Study
  • Social Network Analysis
  • ICT4D Champions
  • Leadership
  • Champions
  • Social Capital

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