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Understanding benefits realisation of iREACH from a capability approach perspective

Abstract

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.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Abbreviation for “Development as Freedom”, (Sen 2001).

  2. 2.

    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).

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Acknowledgments

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.

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Correspondence to Helena Grunfeld.

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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

Appendix

Appendix

See Table 5.

Table 5 Topics related to capabilities, empowerment, and sustainability raised in iREACH 2009 focus group sessions

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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

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Keywords

  • Cambodia
  • Capability approach
  • Empowerment
  • ICT4D
  • iREACH
  • Longitudinal study
  • Micro- meso- and macro-levels
  • Participatory evaluation
  • Sustainability