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Ethics and Information Technology

, Volume 13, Issue 2, pp 119–130 | Cite as

The capability approach and the ‘medium of choice’: steps towards conceptualising information and communication technologies for development

  • Dorothea KleineEmail author
Article

Abstract

Amartya Sen’s capability approach has become increasingly popular in development studies. This paper identifies controllability and operationalisability as two key stumbling blocks which prevent the capability approach from being used even more widely in development practice. It discusses the origins and application of the Choice Framework, a conceptual tool designed to help operationalise the approach. The framework can be used to deconstruct embedded ideologies and analyse the appropriateness of development goals, to map development as a systemic process, and to plan interventions which can result in increased freedom of choice for people. Three examples of the application of the Choice Framework in the field of information and communication for development (ICT4D) are given. The three technologies which are examined, telecentres (Infocentros), Chilecompra and Fair Tracing, can be placed at different places of a determinism continuum, some reducing the spectrum of choices a user has. The paper argues that while frameworks such as the Choice Framework can be developed further to increase the operationalisability of the capability approach, it is up to development funders to accept the fact that people’s choices are never fully predictable and thus Sen’s ‘development as freedom’ will inevitably be a dynamic and open-ended process.

Keywords

Capability approach Amartya Sen ICT4D ICTD Internet Choice Livelihood framework Empowerment Telecentre Telecenter Design 

Notes

Acknowledgments

I would like to thank Alexandra Norrish, Diane Perrons, Robin Mansell, Macarena Vivent and Rodrigo Garrido for comments on the Chilean study, which was made possible by a Fellowship of the Dr Heinz Duerr Foundation/Studienstiftung. Thanks to colleagues on the Fair Tracing Project, to Mike Powell, Mark Thompson and Ann Light for discussions on risk and development outcomes, and to two anonymous reviewers for their comments. The Fair Tracing Project was supported by the EPSRC, Grant Number EP/E009018/1.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.ICT4D Collective/UNESCO Chair in ICT4D, Department of Geography, Royal HollowayUniversity of LondonEghamUK

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