The sustainability of ICT4D projects

Mananga Ranjula Charm De Zoysa

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) are identified as a promising technology that can be employed in promoting development in the developing-world. Embracing this view, many developing nations have shown an avid interest in leveraging ICTs for development and invested heavily in such projects. Unfortunately, the vision of ICTs acting as the transformative technologies in enabling development in developing nations has not been realised. In reality, successful implementation and benefits realisation from ICT-enabled development initiatives has proven a daunting challenge and project failure is a prolific and widely-acknowledged phenomenon. Among the issues that have contributed to this disheartening state of affairs, the difficulty of sustaining ICT projects for development in developing nations is a prominent concern. This thesis presents a study which examines the less-understood and neglected problem of project sustainability with respect to ICT projects for development implemented in developing nations. The study answers the research question of "How can ICT projects for development (ICT4D projects) in developing nations achieve sustainability?" The research question is addressed via an interpretivist, embedded case study on a large-scale, national level, government sector ICT project that targets agricultural development implemented in a South Asian developing nation. In examining project sustainability, the study employs Actor-Network Theory (ANT) concepts to extend analysis beyond the typical influencing factor and sustainability dimension-based interpretations of the phenomenon which are inherently static and limited in terms of the extent to which the dynamics of sustainability can be analysed. Through the adoption of this alternative theoretical lens, project sustainability is visualised and explored as a dynamic phenomenon that involves critical influencing relationships in actor-networks. The study has produced two key outputs. The first output is an alternative theoretical approach that could be employed by practitioners in enabling project sustainability, which is based upon the formation and sustenance of critical relationships that influence project sustainability. The second output is a framework that can be employed in sustaining ICT4D projects implemented in developing nations. Considered overall, the study findings suggest that project sustainability in the context of an ICT4D project in a developing nation can be visualised, interpreted and addressed on the alternative basis of critical influencing relationships in actor-networks. The results of the study essentially emphasise the importance of treating project sustainability as an ever-evolving, dynamic phenomenon that must be managed pro-actively and constantly throughout the lifetime of an ICT4D project implemented in a developing nation.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Publication statusUnpublished - 2013


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