After 17 years of publishing cutting-edge research about information and communication technologies (ICTs) and international development, the journal Information Technologies & International Development (ITID) will be taking some time to strategize about its future. During this time, authors are encouraged to submit their work to the International Journal of Communication, also published by the Annenberg Press, which has kindly agreed to consider papers relevant to ITID for publication under a possible Special Section. An archive of all previous ITID papers will continue to be available here.
Declining submissions in the midst of a global ICT boom suggest that our initial focus as a research outlet is due for rethinking and possibly an overhaul. When we began in 2003, ITID was one of the very few journals to publish peer-reviewed research papers about the then-nascent field of “information & communication technologies for/and development” (ICT4D or ICTD). In fact, in those days before the widespread use of mobile phones, the idea of applying digital technologies for international development was still in its infancy — early papers discussed PC-based telecenters and landline infrastructure. We now live in a different world, one in which low-cost, portable, real-time, point-to-point communication is nearly universal, with content spanning a spectrum from short text messages to high-bandwidth video. And, research about associated phenomena has expanded, as well. The idea that digital technologies might be used by smallholder farmers and non-literate households was once unusual and unexpected; today, such technologies are mainstream, and their application across international development domains is taken for granted. One consequence of this “mainstreaming” is that journals of global health, agriculture, education, governance, economics, sustainability, and so on, all now regularly publish work involving ICTs. This is perhaps as it should be, as meaningful development should be judged first by its impact on people and society, not the technological means to achieve that impact. At the same time, the umbrella term “ICTs” has become unwieldy in a world where billions of people now carry a supercomputer in their purse or pocket. Many of our constituent technical disciplines have therefore opened their own venues focused on global development, a trend that we are delighted to see.
A broad summary of what we have learned so far through the pages of ITID might read like this: ICTs can have a significant positive impact on low-income communities around the world, but that positive impact is hard to come by; often, technology has little, no, or negative impact. Tech-based programs are best designed through the participation of intended users or beneficiaries, or if not, with a deep understanding of the anticipated social context. Yet, there are occasionally technologies such as the mobile phone that see broad adoption and use without being designed with much attention to context. For technology use to lead to meaningful impact, however, development-focused institutional support is often an essential requirement. Plenty of additional insights, of course, can be found in individual ITID papers.
Through the end of 2021, if you have suggestions about the future of ITID, or recommendations for funding, please contact Professor Neha Kumar (firstname.lastname@example.org) who is leading the effort to reconceive ITID.
Thank you for your support and contributions over the years.
François Bar and Kentaro Toyama
Co-Editors in Chief