The importance of capabilities in the sustainability of information and communications technology programs: the case of remote Indigenous Australian communities
- First Online:
The use of the capability approach as an evaluative tool for Information and Communication Technology (ICT) policy and programs in developing countries, in particular at a grass-roots community level, is an emerging field of application. However, one of the difficulties with ICT for development (ICT4D) evaluations is in linking what is often no more than a resource, for example basic access, to actual outcomes, or means to end. This article argues that the capability approach provides a framework for evaluating the strength of this linkage and that the latter is a key determinant of whether or not communities sustain ICT4D programs beyond the initial start-up phase. The argument is made by describing an evaluative application of the capabilities approach to community ICT4D programs using two Indigenous community case studies conducted in Cape York, in the far north-east of Australia. Key to the evaluative approach is the identification of community defined, context specific concepts of well-being and constitutive valued functionings and the derivation from this of required capabilities. This move away from normative definitions of capabilities or capability types to a definition that reflects the Indigenous culture, history, circumstances, and well-being aspirations of each community is intended to give a voice to the people and at the same time provide a deeper informational base—through narrative—for policy and program design than has previously been available. The article concludes that by operationalising the capability approach in a context and purpose specific way, policy and program design can be improved so as to include more communities on the margin and thereby achieve more socially inclusive ICT based development. A process is also outlined for using the evaluative application of the capability approach for community ICT4D within a policy feedback loop.
KeywordsCapability approach Capabilities Collective Community development ICT ICT4D Indigenous Policy Well-being
- Alampay, E. (2005). Beyond access to ICTs: Measuring capabilities in the information society. International Journal of Education and Development using Information and Communication Technologies, 2(3), 4–22.Google Scholar
- Alkire, S. (2002). Valuing freedoms—Sen’s capability approach and poverty reduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Alkire (2007). Choosing dimensions: The capability approach and multi-dimensional poverty, Chronic Poverty Research centre, Working Paper 88.Google Scholar
- Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). (2001). Measuring Wellbeing: Framework for Australian Social Statistics, ABS Online http://www.ausstats.abs.gov.au/ausstats/free.nsf/0/D609B8E54F0EDCA8CA256AE30004282D/$File/41600_2001.pdf. Accessed 2 July 2009.
- Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). (2006). Population Distribution, Aboriginal And Torres Strait Islander Australians, ABS Online http://www.ausstats.abs.gov.au/Ausstats/subscriber.nsf/0/377284127F903297CA25733700241AC0/$File/47050_2006.pdf. Accessed 27 July 2010.
- Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). (2010a). Framework for Measuring Wellbeing: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, Online http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/ProductsbyTopic/E8B15412D3BD0B3ACA2576DC001456EF?OpenDocument. Accessed 27 July 2010.
- Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) (2010b). Indigenous Disadvantage And Selected Measures Of Wellbeing, Online http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Latestproducts/1301.0Feature%20Article9012009%E2%80%9310?opendocument&tabname=Summary&prodno=1301.0&issue=2009%9610&num=&view= Accessed 10 November 2010.
- Australian Government (2010). Social Inclusion Principles for Australia, Online http://www.socialinclusion.gov.au/SIAgenda/Principles/Documents/SIPrincilpes.pdf. Accessed 12 July 2010.
- Bell, T. (2006). Village computing: A state of the field—reflections on the village computing consultation, Grameen Foundation, November 2006 Online http://www.villagecomputing.org/docs/A_State_of_the_Field.pdf. Accessed 14 October 2008.
- Calma, T. (2008). Essentials for social Justice: Land and culture. Speech at the Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts, 7 July 2008, Online http://www.hreoc.gov.au/about/media/speeches/social_justice/2008/20080707_essentials_land_and_culture.html. Accessed 25 June 2008.
- Cape York Institute for Policy and Leadership. (2005). Freedom, Capabilities and the Cape York Reform Agenda. Viewpoint, October 2005, Online http://www.cyi.org.au/WEBSITE%20uploads/Speeches_Articles%20Folder/Papers%20and%20Position%20Pieces/6%20Freedom,%20capabiltiies%20and%20Cape%20York%20reform%20agenda.pdf. Accessed 25 October 2005.
- Coeckelbergh, M. (2010). Human development or human enhancement? A methodological reflection on capabilities and the evaluation of information technologies. Ethics and Information Technology, Online http://www.springerlink.com/content/d84u378862kg345g/fulltext.pdf. Accessed 10 November 2010.
- Crocker, D. A. (2008). Ethics of global development. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
- Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities (2010). Location of Indigenous Protected Areas in Australia, Online http://www.environment.gov.au/indigenous/ipa/declared/pubs/map.pdf. Accessed 11 November 2010.
- Department of Treasury. (2004). Policy Advice and Treasury’s Wellbeing Framework. Economic Roundup, 2004 Winter, pp. 1–20, Online http://www.treasury.gov.au/documents/876/PDF/Policy_advice_Treasury_wellbeing_framework.pdf. Accessed 30 June 2009.
- Gigler, B. S. (2004). Including the Excluded—Can ICTs empower poor communities? Towards an alternative evaluation framework based on the capability approach. Paper for 4th International Conference on the Capability Approach, 5–7 September, 2004 University of Pavia, Italy.Google Scholar
- Good, T., Morales, L., Quereshi, S. (2010). Investigating Capabilities Associated with ICT Access and Use in Latino Micro-enterprises. In Americas Conference on Information Systems (AMCIS), AMCIS 2010 Proceedings Online http://aisel.aisnet.org/amcis2010/500. Accessed 4 October 2010.
- Grunfeld, H. (2010). Framework for evaluating contributions of ICT to capabilities, empowerment and sustainability in disadvantaged communities. Paper presented at CPRsouth2 Conference, Chennai, India—December 15–17, 2007 Empowering rural communities through ICT policy and research Online http://www.cprsouth.org/wp-content/uploads/drupal/Helena_Grunfeld.pdf. Accessed 10 November 2010.
- Heeks, R., Molla, A. (2009). Impact assessment of ICT-for-development projects: A compendium of approaches. Development Informatics Working Paper Series, Paper No. 36.Google Scholar
- Henry, K. (2007). Addressing extreme disadvantage through investment in capability development, closing keynote address to the australian institute of health and welfare conference. Australia’s Welfare 2007, Canberra, 6 December 2007, Online http://www.aihw.gov.au/eventsdiary/aw07/presentations/ken_henry_addressing_extreme_disadvantage.pdf. Accessed 29 December 2007.
- Ibrahim, S. (2006). From individual to collective capabilities: The capability approach as a conceptual framework for self-help. Journal of Human Development, 7(3).Google Scholar
- Nussbaum, M. C. (2000). Women and human development—The capabilities approach. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
- Oosterlaken, I. (2009). Design for development: A capability approach, Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Design Issues, 25(4).Google Scholar
- Sen, A. (1992). Inequality re-examined. USA: London: First Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
- Sen, A. (1999). Development as freedom. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Sen, A. (2004). Capabilities. Lists, and public reason: Continuing the conversation, feminist economics, 10(3), 77–80.Google Scholar
- Sen, A. (2009). The idea of justice. Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University PressGoogle Scholar
- Stanner, W. E. H. (2009). The dreaming & other essays. Agenda: Black Inc.Google Scholar
- Steering Committee for the Review of Government Service Provision. (2009). Overcoming Indigenous Disadvantage Key Indicators Report 2009, Commonwealth of Australia, Melbourne 2009 Online http://www.pc.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0003/90129/key-indicators-2009.pdf. Accessed 4 July 2009.
- Stewart, F. (2005). Groups and capabilities. Journal of Human Development, 6(2).Google Scholar
- Taylor, J. (2008). Indigenous peoples and indicators of well-being: an Australian perspective on UNPFII global frameworks. Social Indicators Research, 87, 111–126.Google Scholar
- United Nations (UN). (2007). United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UN DRIP), 2007 Online http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/unpfii/en/UN DRIP.html. Accessed 10 March 2010.
- United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) (2010). Indigenous people and ICT Online http://portal.unesco.org/ci/en/ev.php-URL_ID=23284&URL_DO=DO_TOPIC&URL_SECTION=201.html. Accessed 17 January 2011.
- United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII). (2006). Report Of The Meeting On Indigenous Peoples And Indicators Of Well-Being Ottawa, 22–23 March 2006, Online http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/unpfii/documents/workshop_indic_report.doc. Accessed 17 June 2009.
- Van Dijk, J. A. G. M. (2005). The deepening divide—Inequality in the information society. USA: Sage PublicationsGoogle Scholar
- Warschauer, M. (2003a). Technology and social inclusion. Massachusetts, USA: The MIT PressGoogle Scholar
- Zheng, Y., Walsham, G. (2009). Inequality of what? Social exclusion in the e-society as capability deprivation. Information Technology and People, 21(3), 222–243.Google Scholar