Limits of technology

The Jester analyses what ails tech companies like Google in their philanthropy efforts.

As a result of its developed-world attitude to solving developing-world problems, Google has taken to offering what the Jester calls “thin technology” in the vain hope that just putting good software in the cloud will transform the developing world. Thin technology is technology that isn’t thickly integrated into a working institution. It’s mobile search without trained healthcare workers who can interpret medical information for undereducated patients. It’s Google apps for schools without any attempt to support teachers, administrators, or students. It’s crisis response tools without crisis response teams. To the extent that thin technology is for a world that uses Google and Gmail, some of it might be useful. But, that’s not the vast majority of the developing world.

The Jester’s favourite line that makes an appearance in one form or the other in most of his blogposts

Technology (only) amplifies existing intent and capacity

…reveals his underlying philosophy regarding the use of technology in development. The ICT4D Jester is a must-read blog!

Technology solutions are regularly touted as the ‘next big idea’ in the development world – often introduced with more fanfare than real successes and results on the ground. Many either underestimate the institutional capacity required to implement them, or over-estimate the impact of their idea/product on the lives of those cut off from the grid. So while there is no reason to be anti-technology, there is every reason to push for rigorous evaluation of the next big technology for development idea.


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