On two kinds of intervention, one that works and another that makes one feel good

Posted on April 17, 2016  /  0 Comments

I received an email from some magazine catering to the NGO Sector, saying they had studied our website and wanted to do a feature on us. After I agreed, the next email included the following question.

First of all, I would just like to know if LirneAsia are implementing projects as of the moment or is it focusing solely in research? If there are, are there any projects being implemented in terms of ICT and digital divide?

Since this showed that they had not actually studied our website, and this was likely to be a waste of time, I replied thus:

We not only do not do projects, we believe they are mostly a waste of time and money.

Our theory of change is laid out here. By helping Myanmar implement the right kinds of policies we have contributed to a bridging of the digital divide on scale that cannot be matched by any tinny project.

That email achieved the objective. End of communication.

But the good thing in this line of business is that nothing is ever really wasted. Here is how all that recycled in more polite form in a a book review that will be published shortly.

Intervention takes two primary forms. One is intervention that seeks to remove barriers to innovation by users of ICT and by those who seek to supply ICT goods and services to such users. This generally takes the form of legal or policy reform to enable certain actions (e.g., market entry) or constrain others (e.g., anti-competitive practices). The decentralized innovation that emerges once the barriers have been removed may appear chaotic when seen at a point of time by a well-intentioned proponent of ICT4D. But over time, robust outcomes emerge (e.g., Jensen, 2009).

The other kind of intervention, privileged for the most part in this book, is generally initiated by an external actor who knows what “effective use” is, for the benefit of the subjects who do not.

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