The research presented in this paper is the first wave of a longitudinal study of a Cambodian information and communication for development (ICT4D) project, iREACH, aimed at testing a framework for evaluating whether and how such initiatives can contribute to capabilities, empowerment and sustainability. The framework is informed by Amartya Sen’s capability approach (CA), uses a participatory methodology, considers the micro-, meso-, and macro- levels in understanding the role ICT can play in the development process, and adopts a forward-looking longitudinal perspective. Key findings of this research are that the project had contributed to livelihoods and other aspects of well-being in diverse ways, primarily in education, health, and farming. Participants also valued the project because of its contribution to empowerment, particularly gender empowerment. Another way in which participants valued iREACH was of a more intrinsic nature, manifested in a general appreciation of just being part of the world and knowing about events in other parts of Cambodia and beyond. These findings are consistent with the CA’s emphasis on development being about more than economic growth and support the importance of considering external factors, conceptualised here as the meso- and macro- levels, in the conversion of commodities in the form of services provided at iREACH, to capabilities.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Abbreviation for “Development as Freedom”, (Sen 2001).
Cambodia Agricultural Market Information Project (CAMIP), an initiative funded by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and the Cambodian Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF).
Alampay, E. A. (2006a). Beyond access to ICTs: Measuring capabilities in the information society. International Journal of Education and Development Using Information and Communications Technology, 2(3), 4–22.
Alampay, E. A. (2006b). The capability approach and access to information and communications technologies. In M. Minogue & L. Cariño (Eds.), Regulatory governance in developing countries (pp. 183–205). Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar.
Alkire, S. (2002). Dimensions of human development. World Development, 30(2), 181–205.
Alkire, S. (2008). Choosing dimensions: The capability approach and multidimensional poverty. Retrieved on May 26, 2010 from http://mpra.ub.uni-muenchen.de/8862/1/MPRA_paper_8862.pdf.
Alkire, S., & Santos, E. (2009). Poverty and inequality measurement. In S. Deneulin & L. Shahani (Eds.), An introduction to the human development and capability approach (pp. 120–161). London: Earthscan.
Arnstein, S. R. (1969). A ladder of citizen participation. Journal of the American Planning Association, 35(4), 216–224.
Arocena, R., & Sutz, J. (2005). Evolutionary learning in underdevelopment. International Journal of Technology and Globalisation, 1(2), 209–224.
Barja, G., & Gigler, B.-S. (2005). The concept of information poverty and how to measure it in the Latin American context. In H. Galperin & J. Mariscal (Eds.), Digital poverty: Perspectives from Latin America and the Caribbean. Ottawa: IDRC.
Batchelor, S. & Norrish, P. (2004). Framework for the assessment of ICT pilot projects: Beyond monitoring and evaluation to applied research. Washington, DC: InfoDev. Retrieved July 21, 2006, from http://infodev.org/en/Publication.4.html.
Batchelor, S., & Sugden, S. (2003). An analysis of InfoDev case studies: Lessons learned. Washington, DC: InfoDev. Retrieved May 26, 2006, from http://www.sustainableicts.org/infodev/infodevreport.pdf.
Best, M., & Maclay, C. (2002). Community internet access in rural areas: Solving the economic sustainability puzzle. In G. Kirkman (Ed.), The global information technology report 2001–2002: Readiness for the networked world. New York: Oxford University Press.
Blattman, C., Jensen, R., & Roman, R. (2003). Assessing the need and potential of community networking for development in rural India. Information Society, 19(5), 349–365.
Byrne, E., & Sahay, S. (2007). Participatory design for social development: A South African case study on community-based health information systems. Information Technology for Development, 13(1), 71–94.
Cecchini, S., & Scott, C. (2003). Can information and communications technology applications contribute to poverty reduction? Lessons from rural India. Information Technology for Development, 10(2), 73–84.
Comin, F. (2001). Operationalising Sen’s capability approach. Paper prepared for the conference justice and poverty, examining Sen’s capability approach. Cambridge. Retrieved August 20, 2006 from http://www.st-edmunds.cam.ac.uk/vhi/sen/papers/comim.pdf.
Cornwall, A., & Jewkes, R. (1995). What is participatory research? Social Science and Medicine, 41(12), 1667–1676.
De’, R. (2007). The impact of Indian e-government initiatives. Regional Development Dialogue, 27(2), 88–100.
Duncombe, R. (2006). Using the livelihoods framework to analyse ICT applications for poverty reduction through microenterprise. Information Technologies and International Development, 3(3), 81–100.
Estache, A., Gomez-Lobo, A., & Leipziger, D. (2001). Utilities privatization and the poor: Lessons and evidence from Latin America. World Development, 29(7), 1179–1198.
Evans, J., & Ninole, M. (2004). Minding the information gap in Papua New Guinea: A view from Wewak. In R. F. Garcia (Ed.), Divide and connect: Perils and potentials of information and communication technology in Asia and the Pacific (pp. 49–60). Mumbai: Asian, South Pacific, Bureau of Adult Education (ASPBAE).
Falch, M., & Anyimadub, A. (2003). Tele-centres as a way of achieving universal access: The case of Ghana. Telecommunications Policy, 27(1–2), 21–39.
Fillip, B., & Foote, D. (2007). Making the connection: Scaling telecenters for development. Academy for Educational Development. Retrieved on July 10, 2008, from http://connection.aed.org/pages/MakingConnections.pdf.
Forestier, E., Grace, J., & Kenny, C. (2002). Can information and communication technologies be pro-poor? Telecommunications Policy, 26(11), 623–646.
Friedmann, J. (1992). Empowerment: The politics of alternative development. Oxford: Blackwell.
Gagliardone, I. (2005). Virtual enclaves or global networks? The role of information and communication technologies in development cooperation. PsychNology Journal, 3(3), 228–242.
Galperin, H., & Bar, F. (2006). The microtelco opportunity: Evidence from Latin America. Information Technologies and International Development, 3(2), 73–86.
Garai, A., & Shadrach, B. (2006). Taking ICT to every Indian village: Opportunities and challenges. New Delhi: OneWorld South Asia xix, 133 p. Retrieved on Dec 13, 2008, from http://www.dgroups.org/groups/oneworld/OneWorldSA/docs/TICTEIV_pdf.pdf.
Garnham, N. (1999). Amartya Sen’s capabilities approach to the evaluation of welfare: Its application to communications. In A. Calabrese & J.-C. Burgelman (Eds.), Communication, citizenship and social policy: Rethinking the limits of the welfare state (pp. 113–124). Oxford: Rowan and Littlefield.
Gasper, D. (2002). Is Sen’s capability approach an adequate basis for considering human development? Review of Political Economy, 14(4), 435–461.
Gaved, M., & Anderson, B. (2006). The impact of local ICT initiatives on social capital and quality of life. Chimera working paper 2006-6, University of Essex, Colchester. Retrieved October 30, 2006, from http://www.essex.ac.uk/chimera/content/pubs/wps/CWP-2006-06-Local-ICT-Social-Capital.pdf.
Gigler, B.-S. (2004). Including the excluded—can ICTs empower poor communities? Towards an alternative evaluation framework based on the capability approach. Paper for the 4th international conference on the capability approach, University of Pavia, Pavia. Retrieved May 26, 2006, from http://www.its.caltech.edu/e105/readings/ICT-poor.pdf.
Gigler, B.-S. (2008). Enacting and interpreting technology: From usage to well-being. In C. Van Slyke (Ed.), Information communication technologies: Concepts, methodologies, tools, and applications. Idea Group.
Green, N. (2009). Govt key to lower internet prices. The Phnom Penh Post. Retrieved on April 1, 2009, from http://www.phnompenhpost.com/index.php/Special-Supplements/Govt-keyto-lower-internet-prices.html.
Grunfeld, H., Hak, S., Long, D., Tara, P., Dara, S., Chanda, P., Pen, R., & Ann, C. (2009). What villagers think of iREACH. Report on participatory evaluation conducted in February 2009. April. Retrieved on April 29, 2009 from: http://ireach.org.kh//project_docs/res_papers/what_villagers_think_of_iREACH_February_2009.pdf.
Guba, E. G., & Lincoln, Y. S. (1981). Effective evaluation. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Gurstein, M. (2003). Effective use: A community informatics strategy beyond the digital divide. First Monday, 8(12).
Hab, H. (2009). More mobile firms due to enter market. The Phnom Penh Post, March 24, 2009. Retrieved on March 25, 2009, from:http://www.phnompenhpost.com/index.php/2009032424958/Business/More-mobile-firms-due-to-enter-market.html.
Harris, R. (2001). A place of hope, connecting people and organisations for rural development, through multipurpose community telecentres (MCTs) in selected Philippine Barangays; a learning evaluation. Report for International Development Research Centre (IDRC), Ottawa. Retrieved October 5, 2006, from http://www.idrc.ca/IMAGES/ICT4D/PanAsia/HarrisPhilippineReport.pdf.
Harris, R., & Rajora, R. (2006). Empowering the poor. Information and communications technology for governance and poverty reduction: A study of rural development projects in India. UNDP Asia-Pacific Development Information Programme.
Heeks, R. (2006). Theorizing ICT4D research. Information Technologies and International Development, 3(3), 1–4.
Heeks, R. (2009). The ICT4D 2.0 manifesto: Where next for ICTs and international development. Retrieved on September 9, 2009, from http://www.sed.manchester.ac.uk/idpm/research/publications/wp/di/documents/di_wp42.pdf.
Heeks, R. (2010). Do information and communication technologies (ICTs) contribute to development? Journal of International Development, 22(5), 625–640.
Heeks, R., & Molla, A. (2008). Compendium on impact assessment of ICT-for-development projects. Manchester: IDRC. Retrieved Dec 2008, from from http://idrc-ia-for-ict4d-compendium.doc.
Hudson, H. E. (2006). From rural village to global village: Telecommunications for development in the information age. New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
ITU–International Telecommunication Union. (2009). Measuring the information society: The ICT Development Index. Geneva: International Telecommunications Union.
James, J. (2006). The Internet and poverty in developing countries: Welfare economics versus a functionings-based approach. Futures, 38(3), 337–349.
Kingdom of Cambodia, Law on Commune. (2001). Retrieved on April 7, 2009, from http://www.interior.gov.kh/other_doc.asp?id_doc=1.
Kleine, D. (2010). ICT4 what?—Using the choice framework to operationalise the capability approach to development. Journal of International Development, 22(5), 674–692.
Kumar, R., & Best, M. (2006). Social impact and diffusion of telecenter use: A study from the sustainable access in rural India project. Journal of Community Informatics, 2(3).
Macueve, G. (2008). E-Government for development: A case study from Mozambique. The African Journal of Information Systems, 1(1), 1–17.
Madon, S. (2004). Evaluating the development impact of e-governance initiatives: An exploratory framework. The Electronic Journal on Information Systems in Developing Countries, 20(5), 1–13.
Mansell, R. (2006). Ambiguous connections: Entitlements and responsibilities of global networking. Journal of International Development, 18(6), 901–913.
McNamara, K. (2008). Enhancing the rural livelihoods of the poor: Recommendations on the use of ICT in enhancing the livelihoods of the rural poor. Infodev. Retrieved on April 1, 2009, from http://www.infodev.org/en/Publication.510.html.
Meera, S. N., Jhamtani, A., & Rao, D. U. M. (2004). Information and communication technology in agricultural development: A comparative analysis of three projects from India. Agriculture Research and Extension Network, ODI paper no.135, Overseas Development Institute, London. Retrieved August 1, 2006, from http://www.odi.org.uk/agren/papers/agrenpaper_135.pdf.
Musa, P. F. (2006). Making a case for modifying the technology acceptance model to account for limited accessibility in developing countries. Information Technology for Development, 12(3), 213–224.
Nielsen, L., & Heffernan, C. (2006). New tools to connect people and places: The impact of ICTs on learning among resource poor farmers in Bolivia. Journal of International Development, 18(6), 889–900.
Niles, S., & Hanson, S. (2003). A new era of accessibility. URISA Journal, 15(APAI).
Nussbaum, M. (2000). Women and human development: The capabilities approach. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Nussbaum, M. (2003). Capabilities as fundamental entitlements: Sen and social justice. Feminist Economics, 9(2/3), 33–59.
Ó Siochrú, S., & Girard, B. (2005). Community-based networks and innovative technologies: New models to serve and empower the poor. UNDP.
O’Neil, D. (2002). Assessing community informatics: A review of methodological approaches for evaluating community networks and community technology centres. Internet Research: Electronic Networking Applications and Policy, 12(1), 76–102.
Olatokun, W. M. (2009). Analysing socio-demographic differences in access and use of ICTs in Nigeria using the capability approach. Issues in Informing Science and Information Technology, 6.
Oosterlaken, I. (2009). Design for development: A capability approach. Design Issues, 25(4), 91–102.
Orlikowski, W. J., & Baroudi, J. J. (2002). Studying information technology in organizations: Research approaches and assumptions. In M. D. Myers & D. Avison (Eds.), Qualitative research in information systems (pp. 51–77). London: Sage.
Overå, R. (2006). Networks, distance and trust: Telecommunications development and changing trading practices in Ghana. World Development, 34(7), 1301–1315.
Pal, J., Lakshmanan, M., & Toyama, K. (2009). My child will be respected: Parental perspectives on computers and education in rural India. Information Systems Frontiers, 11(2), 129–144.
Parfitt, T. (2004). The ambiguity of participation: A qualified defence of participatory development. Third World Quarterly, 25(3), 537–555.
Perkins, D., & Zimmerman, M. (1995). Empowerment theory, research and application. American Journal of Community Psychology, 23(5), 569–579.
Plepys, A. (2002). The grey side of ICT. Environmental Impact Assessment Review, 22(5), 509–523.
Ramirez, R. (2001). A model for rural and remote information and communication technologies: A Canadian exploration. Telecommunications Policy, 25(5), 315–330.
Ramirez, R. (2007). Appreciating the contribution of broadband ICT with rural and remote communities: Stepping stones toward an alternative paradigm. The Information Society, 23(2), 85–94.
Ramirez, R., & Richardson, D. (2005). Measuring the impact of telecommunication services on rural and remote communities. Telecommunications Policy, 29(4), 297–319.
Richardson, J. W. (2008). ICT in education reform in Cambodia: Problems, politics, and policies impacting implementation. Information Technologies and International Development, 4(4), 67–82.
Robeyns, I. (2001). Understanding Sen’s capability approach. Wolfson College, Cambridge. UK. Retrieved on August 20, 2006, from http://www.ingridrobeyns.nl/Downloads/Under_sen.pdf.
Roman, R. & Cole, R. D. (2002). Themes and issues in telecentre sustainability. Development Informatics, Working Paper Series, Paper No 10, Institute for Development Policy and Management, University of Manchester. Retrieved on August 30, 2009, from http://unpan1.un.org/intradoc/groups/public/documents/NISPAcee/UNPAN015544.pdf.
Schech, S. (2002). Wired for change: The links between ICTs and development discourses. Journal of International Development, 14(1), 13–23.
Sciadas, G. (Ed.). (2005). The digital guide to digital opportunities: Measuring infostates for development. Montréal: Claude-Yves Charron.
Souter D., Scott, N., Garforth C., Jain R., Mascarenhas, O., & McKemey, K. (2005). The economic impact of telecommunications on rural livelihoods and poverty reduction: A study of rural communities in India (Gujarat), Mozambique and Tanzania. Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation for UK Department for International Development. Report of DFID KaR Project 8347, London.
Sen, A. (1982). Rights and agency. Philosophy & Public Affairs, 11(1), 3–39.
Sen, A. (1985). Well-being, agency, freedom: The Dewey lectures: 1984. Journal of Philosophy, 82(4), 169–221.
Sen, A. (1997). Development thinking at the beginning of the XXI century. In L. Emmerij (Ed.), Economic and social development into the XXI century (pp. 531–551). Washington: Interamerican-Development Bank.
Sen, A. (2000). Social exclusion: Concept, application and scrutiny. Social Development Paper No. 1, Asian Development Bank, Manila. Retrieved on August 2, 2009, from http://www.adb.org/Documents/Books/Social_Exclusion/Social_exclusion.pdf.
Sen, A. (2001). Development as freedom. London: Oxford University Press. (First published in 1999).
Sen, A. (2002). What can Johannesburg achieve? World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD), Mimeo. Retrieved on December 13, 2009, from http://www.digitalnpq.org/global_services/nobel%20laureates/08-13-02.html.
Sen, A. (2005). Human rights and capabilities. Journal of Human Development, 6(2), 151–161.
Sey, A., & Fellows, M. (2009). Literature review on the impact of public access to information and communication technologies. CIS working paper no. 6, University of Washington, Center for Information & Society, Seattle. Retrieved on May 9, 2009, from http://cis.washington.edu/depository/publications/CIS-WorkingPaperNo6.pdf.
Sorasak, P., & Kosona, C. (2009). ‘kh’ Cambodia. In S. Akhtar & P. Arinto (Eds.), Digital review of Asia Pacific 2009–2010 (pp. 168–174). New Delhi: Sage.
Talyarkhan, S., Grimshaw, D. J., & Lowe, L. (2005). Connecting the first mile: Investigating best practices for ICTs and information sharing for development. Rugby, UK: ITDG.
Thomas, J. J., & Parayil, G. (2008). Bridging the social and digital divides in Andhra Pradesh and Kerala: A capabilities approach. Development and Change, 49(3), 409–435.
Torero, M., & von Braun, J. (Eds.). (2006). Information and communication technologies for development and poverty reduction: The potential of telecommunications. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.
Ulrich, P. (2004). Poverty reduction through access to information and communication technologies in rural areas: An analysis of the survey results from the social impact assessment conducted by the Chinese Ministry of Science & Technology and the United Nations Development Program. Electronic Journal of Information Systems in Developing Countries, 16(7), 1–38.
UNDP—United Nations Development Programme. (2009). Cambodia country competitiveness: Driving economic growth and poverty reduction. Discussion Paper no. 7.
Unger, B. W., & Robinson, N. T. (2008). ‘.kh’ Cambodia. In F. Librero & P. Arinto (Eds.), ‘.kh’ Cambodia. Digital review of Asia Pacific 2007–2008 (pp. 122–130). New Delhi: Sage.
van Dijk, J., & Hacker, K. (2003). The digital divide as a complex and dynamic phenomenon. Information Society, 19(4), 315–326.
Walsham, G., & Sahay, S. (2006). Research on information systems in developing countries: Current landscape and future prospects. Information Technology for Development, 12(1), 7–24.
Warschauer, M. (2003). Demystifying the digital divide. Scientific American, 289(2), 42–48.
WCED—World Commission on Environment and Development. (1987). Our common future. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
World Bank. (2002). Private solutions for infrastructure in Cambodia: A country framework report.
World Bank. (2008). Cambodia: Improved access to communications in rural Cambodia. GPOBA Commitment Document.
Wresch, W. (2009). Progress on the global digital divide: An ethical perspective based on Amartya Sen’s capabilities model. Ethics and Information Technology, 11(4), 255–263.
WSIS—World Summit on the Information Society. (2003). Geneva plan of action. Retrieved on July 24, 2006, from http://www.itu.int/wsis/docs/geneva/official/poa.html.
Zheng, Y., & Walsham, G. (2008). Inequality of what? Social exclusion in the e-society as capability deprivation. Information Technology & People, 21(3), 222–243.
We are grateful for the support given to us by IDRC and iREACH project staff on many aspects of this study, ranging from focus group facilitation to interpretation and logistics. In particular, we want to express our appreciation for the support of Chea Sok Huor and staff at the two pilot sites. We are equally grateful for the constructive comments we received from Maria Ng (IDRC), Sean Ó Siochrú, and Brian Unger (iREACH advisors). Thanks are also due to the many community members who, in their different ways, enabled us to conduct this study in the expectation that it will benefit their communities and hope we have delivered on this expectation. The contribution of Professor John Houghton of Victoria University to the evolution of the conceptual framework is acknowledged, as are the very constructive comments received from anonymous reviewers.
H. Grunfeld—prepared the conceptual model and research framework presented in this paper for her PhD thesis
S. Hak and T. Pin—assisted with the field research in Cambodia
See Table 5.
About this article
Cite this article
Grunfeld, H., Hak, S. & Pin, T. Understanding benefits realisation of iREACH from a capability approach perspective. Ethics Inf Technol 13, 151–172 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10676-011-9268-4
- Capability approach
- Longitudinal study
- Micro- meso- and macro-levels
- Participatory evaluation