Examining the "Local" in ICT4D: A Postcolonial Perspective on Participation

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ICT4D has increasingly adopted participation and community involvement to address power imbalances, namely through the figure of the "local". However, this reliance makes assumptions about the nature of the "local" while limiting scrutiny of research approaches. Through a Postcolonial Critical Discourse Analysis, this paper argues that 1) communities are often essentialized in agency-depriving ways, 2) researchers claim substantial discretionary power in representing communities, and 3) participatory approaches are framed as inherently beneficial, obscuring compromises. The analysis suggests participation serves to maintain the status quo. Going forward, ICT4D research should ground claims in evidence, demonstrate community benefits, acknowledge complexities transparently, and question premises that empirical gaps alone justify research. Rather than participation as a panacea, a reflexive ICT4D should scrutinize representational practices and notions of empowerment that may perpetuate inequities.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCHI '24: Proceedings of the CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems
Publication date12 May 2024
Article number618
Publication statusPublished - 12 May 2024


  • ICT4D
  • Community Involvement
  • Postcolonial Critical Discourse Analysis
  • Participatory Approaches
  • Discretionary Power


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