Framing ICT4D Research Using Activity Theory: A Match Between the ICT4D Field and Theory?

Stan Karanasios


Despite the advancement of the ICT for Development (ICT4D) field over the last decade, it has been argued that its knowledge and theoretical contribution has been weak. It has also been argued that ICT4D lacks appropriate theoretically driven approaches to frame studies to generate insights. This article introduces the use of activity theory in the context of ICT4D, as a theory-based framework, to answer questions concerning how ICT4D has enabled changes at the “activity” level in the development setting. While activity theory has been used expansively in a number of related technology, education, cognitive, and social-psychology disciplines, it has been largely ignored in ICT4D research. Five activity theoretic contributions are identified for framing the study of ICT4D. Notwithstanding the relatively unexplored use of activity theory in ICT4D research, it is argued that there are several appealing ways it may generate insights. It is also argued that the ICT4D field is compatible with the underlying critical and emancipatory commitments of activity theory.

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