Using the Livelihoods Framework to Analyze ICT Applications for Poverty Reduction through Microenterprise

Richard Duncombe


This paper provides a contribution to theorizing information and communication technology (ICT) and development by applying a livelihoods approach. This is found to provide the basis not only for an information-centered understanding of ICTs but also a means for broad and systematic analysis of poverty. The specific development issue analyzed is the role of ICT in microenterprise because microenterprise represents a viable route out of poverty through increased and more diversified income streams for poor households. A case study of Botswana is presented to demonstrate how the livelihoods framework can be applied. This suggests that ICT applications may only bring marginal direct benefits for poverty reduction. Viewed from the perspective of a livelihoods approach, greater benefits for the poor may be derived from ICTs if they are applied to strengthen a broader range of social and political assets and if they are able to assist in building more effective structures and processes that favor the poor. The livelihoods approach is therefore able to identify information and ICTs as only one part of a much broader development picture, and it avoids the overemphasis on technology that can beset some development informatics/ICT for development (ICT4D) research. Mainstream application of livelihoods ideas tends not to engage explicitly with either information or ICT issues but the framework developed in this paper shows how such engagement can occur. It identifies both an analytical role for information/ICTs that helps understand livelihoods of the poor, and a functional role that uses these assets within livelihood strategies.


Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs); Development; Livelihoods Approach; Poverty; ICT4D; Livelihood Strategies

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