Bridges & Barriers to Development:
Communication Modes, Media, & Devices

By Rebecca Walton, Utah State University

Technology has been associated with development (defined as efforts to improve the well-being of people in resource-constrained environments) since the birth of international development in the 1940s (Truman, 1949). More recently, digital communication technologies have been playing increasingly central roles in efforts to improve well-being, particularly within a subset of development called information and communication technology for development (ICTD).

Drawn from a four-month field study of seven ICTD projects in India, this webtext reports a subset of findings about how communication modes, media, and devices affected the ability of projects to meet their development goals, such as improving the livelihoods of subsistence farmers. This research identified (1) communication-related factors that contributed positively (i.e., bridges) and negatively (i.e., barriers) to meeting development goals and (2) interrelations among those bridges and barriers. One important finding of this research is that some communication-related bridges to meeting development goals also exacerbate barriers to meeting those goals. This finding correlates with work in complex systems, which shows that in complex systems desired outcomes may directly compete with other, equally important goals or even directly contribute to negative outcomes (Churchman, 1968; Davenport, 1997). In other words, ICTD environments are complex enough that pursuing one aim—such as increased geographical reach—can directly lead to challenges—such as increased difficulty in identifying and conveying information that is relevant to stakeholders.

To convey communication contexts and constraints of ICTD projects, each page following this homepage conveys a communication scenario using a multimodal communication strategy: illustration (background image) and text (description in a yellow box on the right side of the screen). Because language and literacy pose a significant barrier to communication in the context of study, the Methods section conveys the first sentence in the Indian language Kannada with an English translation available as an audio file and in a pop-up box when you rollover the Kannada script. The primary navigation (the "Next" arrow at the top right) will step you serially through the webtext. To skip from section to section, you can use the secondary navigation at the bottom left. A PDF of this webtext is available at the bottom of the references list.

Home | Framing | Methods_1 | Methods_2 | Findings | Conclusions | References
Next button