A Framework Using Institutional Analysis and the Capability Approach in ICT4D

Julian M. Bass, Brian Nicholson, Eswaran Subhramanian


Institutional theory and the capability approach have grown influential in development research and practice. Both theories offer analytical tools for interpreting and guiding information and communication technology for development (ICT4D) interventions. In this article, we propose an analytical framework that applies institutional theory and the capability approach in the domain of ICT4D. Using empirical evidence from a case study, we argue that there are benefits for both ICT4D-research and -practice of using the contrasting strengths of these analytical tools. A combined theoretical framework offers analytical and practical insights in terms of potential for stimulation (excitation) and degradation (inhibition) of development goals. The novel approach taken for combining institutional theory with the capability approach uses institutional theory to understand the social drivers that may inhibit or enable individuals from taking full advantage of ICT resources for furtherance of their lives. These social drivers could be overlooked when using any of the approaches in isolation. We also observe how enhanced capabilities can strengthen and develop institutions. In this article, we contribute a combined framework linking both theories and their attendant exciters and inhibitors. The framework’s utility is illustrated with a case study based on empirical work in the Ethiopian higher education sector. The combined framework and case study contribute to theory development and inform practice by offering a novel approach to analyzing ICT-led developmental interventions.

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