The purpose of this blog entry is to continue some of the momentum from recent discussions regarding development — to add to the discussion and open it up for your most recent thoughts/ideas/questions. It is such a key, central concept in so much of the work we do that I think it is well worth our time.
With some of my graduate students and colleagues, we have now begun some discussion on the book “The White Man’s Burden: Why the West’s Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good” I thought it would be helpful to post a few videos I captured when I heard him speak at a lecture in early March.
Why has most of “development” done more harm than good?
Whereas compassion to those that have the least is appropriate, Easterly argues that the way this often turns into “authoritarian paternalism” is completely objectionable — essentially treating poor people like children. Easterly points out that even the original term “development” was a biological metaphor – a patronizing way of describing how “more sophisticated societies” would help take poor people from childhood into adulthood. He takes as example the Millennium Development Goals — suggesting as a patronizing attitude that some know better than poor themselves what the goals should be for those in poverty.
(Sorry the quality of the video on this one is not as good — I think it is definitely compensated for in the high quality of the ideas and questions he raises.)
In essence, he says that paternalism is so objectionable – we too often treat poor people like children.
He also talked about images that he calls “Disaster pornography” – where the media feels incentive to reinforce the stereotype that all Africans are helpless and need us to come to their aid.
For example, from 1990-2005, the average annual percent of the African population affected by famine was in reality only 0.3%. Sometimes the media can influence those outside of Africa to think that of Africa is filled with famine swept refugees hunted by child soldiers with HIV!
Well-meaning compassion can lead to stereotypes that hurt their ability to help themselves.
What is the alternative to paternalism?
Ultimately he suggests economic and political freedom, individual liberty, and an entrepreneurial kind of mindset.
He gave as an example the fact that in 1776 America was more tech backward, more diseased, and needy than Africa is today. He suggests that they were lucky to have been led by those who believed in individual liberty – that all men are created equal. Per capita income in America has increased by 35 times since those words were spoken (with only a little blip in the overall growth representing the great depression)
Are even the poor rebelling against traditional “development”?
William Easterly describes how the poor on their own are rebelling against Authoritarian Paternalism. He makes the case that the poor should have liberty to decide what they need best, just as anyone should. Men are created equal, and even development should reflect that.
Part of the beauty of the world we live in is that we can debate what the solution should be — until we find which are the ideas that lead to the best results.
–Even these videos above are obviously an American talking to a group of Americans. Surely a group of nearly 30 – 50 of the brightest graduate students and faculty from over 20 different countries and different disciplines can find the right creativity, data, compassion, and resourcefulness to add something of value to the debate and conversation that will make a practical difference in improving the lives of the poorest people in the world!
We have already had some great discussions regarding the concept of development. It would be well worth the time to go back and read some of the valuable thoughts shared by everyone up to this point. The evolution of thinking is interesting to me, and the perspectives from each person who is coming from very different backgrounds.
Team Praxis: SaraJoy started it off with some great thoughts, Andres gave some interesting insight from his recent assignment in Kenya, Sören list of five definitions of development as well as mentions GNH – Gross National Happiness vs. GNP – Gross National Product as a potential measure of development, Thai seeks to understand it from his technical background/perspective, Vasilis leading a great discussion. http://ict4dconsortium.rhul.ac.uk/elgg/mod/groups/topicposts.php?topic=1091&group_guid=405
Team Crocs (Jani leads a great discussion where interesting thoughts were shared by Yulia, Vera, Efosa, Robert, and James, Thato offering counter points to Easterly’s positions, and Ali describing how his view of “development” is changing) http://ict4dconsortium.rhul.ac.uk/elgg/mod/groups/topicposts.php?topic=1180&group_guid=1179
Team Ameya (Myriam, Marcus, Monika, Barun, Shujau, Ashes, Sharham, and Damira all offering interesting thoughts about power relations, ICT and education, “leap frog” technologies, sustainability, technical issues, and other valuable ideas and questions) http://ict4dconsortium.rhul.ac.uk/elgg/mod/groups/topicposts.php?topic=965&group_guid=923
While I was in Guyana I had the privilege of meeting with Len Singh. I interviewed him regarding the state of ICT in the Caribbean, and in the midst of the interview I got this great clip on his definition of development.
Then we just had an interesting controversial session led by Rajarshi Sahai where he shared from India his thoughts on why most of “development” fails. (You can listen to the recording of that session here: http://video.uku.fi/p68445724/)
In an earlier post, Raj asks these questions:
“I am quite shocked by the unnecessary stress on Developing countries context, when infrastructure and penetration of technology is very much an issue even within western Europe! How many of your countries have a good 3G network even in the city centres? How many of our internet services providers have a good service delivery record? How many of poor people are ICT literate there? these are just some of the many questions which can initiate a new debate, of seeing development, vulnerability and poverty as a global issue. We need to see these questions accordingly.
Why can’t global North learn from global South? Why can’t things be seen in a more objective sense than just dividing the world, and hence the wisdom inherent in it, into so called Developed and Developing countries, and thereby giving undue legitimacy to the so called developed to dictate the developing?”
Now is your turn to continue the discussion:
* When you think of the “development” part of ICT”4D” what do you think is should refer to? (maybe you even have a better name for it?)
* Why do you think traditional approaches to “development” have so frequently failed?
* What do you think we should do instead, particularly in ICT4D?
* Do you see any exceptions to the failures — some successes which can give us clues of what actually works?
* What will you do to create an answer/solution to the question you (and your colleague/s) select which will be better than what anyone else has yet has come up with?