The over-aching objective of African Local Innovation Ecosystem (ALOIECO)
project is to explore the above mentioned context for STI4D and ICT4D, and,
through creation of new observational data and analysis of broader policy
frameworks, to advance our understanding of appropriate programming practices
and policy approaches for the use of STI and ICT in benefit of the
under-privileged people in poor and rural contexts of Africa.
Within the broader background of innovation driven development, we propose to
explore more highly focused and narrow sub-segment of research. Three key
research questions constitute the structure of the proposed project are: What
key components and dynamics of rural local innovation ecosystems in the Iringa
region in Tanzania and in general in the rural areas of East Africa;
relevant intervention logic for ICT / STI4D in rural Africa for donor and
local national governments?;
near-market and long-term ICT technologies of great potential for rural Africa
and how they can be best supported through new forms of development
cooperation (incl. public-private partnerships);
ALOIECO project will be launched in December 2010 and it will run
approximately one year. It is funded as contract research by the Finnish
Ministry for Foreign Affairs.
RE-VISITING LOCAL CONDITIONS FOR KNOWLEDGE DRIVEN DEVELOPIMENT IN AFRICA
The contribution of knowledge, in particular science, technology and
innovation (STI) and information society, for long-term development is casual
wisdom today, and gaining increasing momentum among development professionals
and academics. Deservedly, policy frameworks and practices of harnessing
knowledge, new technologies and ICT for the benefit of the world’s poor are
being re-considered in the developing countries, donor governments, as well as
academics and other stake-holders.
Knowledge and technologies are context dependent, goes one of the central
observations of innovation studies. In the context of STI4D and ICT4D, it
implies consequences for the practices of creating, disseminating and
implementing knowledge. In short, whereas new technologies are wealth creating
in the developed world, the primary function of STI4D and ICT4D is poverty
reduction. This simplistic change of perspective leads to fundamental
challenges for knowledge based development of the poorest regions of the world.
The over-aching objective of this project is to explore the above mentioned
context for STI4D and ICT4D, and, through creation of new observational data
and analysis of broader policy frameworks, to advance our understanding of
appropriate programming practices and policy approaches for the use of STI and
ICT in benefit of the under-privileged people in poor and rural contexts of
The STI4D/ICT4D movement increasingly recognizes that the insights, models,
and policy prescriptions borrowed from advanced industrial economies fail to
deliver on the immediate needs of countries struggling with the Millennium
Development Goals (MDGs). In addition, there is growing sense of failure to
recognize how developing countries are building original, context specific and
need-based, national models of science, technology and innovation and
information society. At the heart of these new emerging models is the search
for right balance between creating excellence science and technology, and
providing enhanced access to technology and knowledge for the poor in a manner
that increases equality.
While we share the conceptual framework developed within the “systems of
innovation” framework, this proposal is not exploring the development of
national systems or innovation policies or information society per se, but
seeks to shed light on the potential and capacities of innovation in perhaps
the most challenged areas of Africa, the rural Africa.
Our focus on rural Africa has been chosen in order to create a complementary
bottom-up perspective on STI4D and ICT4D policy frameworks, which are often
derived from government agenda or driven by donor needs. Another, even
critical factor, is that so much of Africans live in the rural areas, as is
the case of our focus country, Tanzania.
Moreover, rural African regions have proven to be especially difficult cases
to deliver on the promises of ICT and STI for many reasons, such as: They do
not fit the ready mass-market strategies tailored for concentrated urban
populations and therefore do not attract private investments; lack of local
infrastructures (energy, road, health, ICT) arrest high-minded innovation
development programmes; complexities of local cultures and social fabrics
frustrate top-down planned programming; and so forth.
This research proposal is an attempt to create new evidence on the nature and
dynamics of knowledge society in the rural Africa, and thereby enhance our
capacity to plan and implement STI4D/ICT4D projects in such regions. We
propose to study the above listed challenges through the prism of the Iringa
region in Tanzania, and to arrive at a set of observations and policy
recommendations on more general level through analysis of broader policy
frameworks and development practices.
OBJECTIVES OF THE PROJECT
Central objective of the proposed project is to contribute towards the
development of conceptually sound and evidence based framework for employing
science, technology and innovation, as well as information and communication
technologies for poverty alleviation in developing countries, especially in
the context of rural African regions.
Corresponding to the work package plan of the research, this over-aching
objective is broken down in the more concrete sub-objectives as follows:
These objectives are achieved step-by-step according to the work plan, and by
iterating policy insights throughout the project.
From practical point of view, the research seeks to carry out three
Analyze the specificity of innovation and information society environment in
rural Africa, in this case the Iringa region and its selected sub-region in
Tanzania. This involves in particular examination of the needs, capacities and
expectations for STI4D/ICT4D that are established by local conditions of
poverty, gender issues, local economy development, as well as sustainable
environmental development. These observations must be adapted into relevant
insights and recommendations for the Finnish government development
cooperation activities, both at project and programming level;
Create broader contextual understanding of STI4D/ICT4D driven development in
the word’s poorest rural regions. This is done by situating the case study of
Iringa region into our broader theoretical and experience based understanding
of how knowledge and innovation behaves in different circumstances, and by
adapting this with our insights from the case study;
Augment the efforts of African and donor governments to generate policy
frameworks fostering innovation driven development especially among the
poorest (bottom of the pyramid approach). This is done by summarizing insights
from the two previous tasks into our analysis of broader African policy
frameworks for STI/ICT.
RESEARCH METHODS AND MATERIAL
The objective of the study is to understand the socio-economic and cultural
factors that shape the co-creation, adoption and diffusion of innovation in
rural context i.e. ICT in Iringa. To understand this process in a local
context qualitative data is gathered in a field research in Iringa. The field
research includes two shorter field research trips and one long-term expert
trip. The data will consist of thematic interviews, descriptive field notes
and audio/video recordings.
In the field research ethnographic method will be used and further developed.
Ethnography is an anthropological method to make observations in the context
of social reality. In addition to traditional anthropological studies
ethnographic method has been used e.g. in science and technology studies
(STS). Bruno Latour has described exactly in his book Laboratory life (1979)
how ethnographic method can be applied when studying the activities of
researcher scientist in the construction of a scientific fact. This micro
level analysis of the co-creation of social and technical is still a valid
methodological starting point for the field research in Iringa.
Certain characteristics are linked to ethnographic method. The basic idea is
to learn through experience and to understand the object of study from inside.
The researcher is typically living a certain period with the objects of the
study. Some scholars even argue that the validity of the study is dependent on
the duration of the visiting period. The focus is on the activities of the
research objects and the careful description of the activities is a crucial
part of the study. The data is mainly based on descriptive field notes and
interviews and discussions with the object of the study. Recently video
recordings of activities have been used as well.
This project foresees extended field research activities to be undertaken in
Iringa and extensive interviews with Tanzanian stake-holders.
PROJECT ORGANIZATION AND PARTNERS
Project is lead by Dr. Hannes Toivanen. VTT is the main partner, but the
project is undertaken in cooperation with Aalto University, Department of
Communications and Networking.
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