Research Exchange: Ten Myths of ICT for International Development

Ten Myths of ICT for International Development

Lecture: Research Exchange | November 10 | 12-1 p.m. | Sutardja Dai Hall, Banatao Aud., 3rd floor

Kentaro Toyama, Researcher, School of Information, UC Berkeley

CITRIS (Ctr for Info Technology Research in the Interest of Society)

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The past decade has seen incredible interest in applying information and communication technologies for international development, an endeavor often abbreviated “ICT4D.” Can mobile phones be used to improve rural healthcare? How do you design user interfaces for an illiterate migrant worker? What value is technology to a farmer earning $1 a day?

Interventionist ICT4D projects seek to answer these kinds of questions, but the excitement has also generated a lot of hype about the power of technology to solve the deep problems of poverty. In this talk, I will (1) present several myths of ICT4D that persist despite evidence to the contrary, (2) offer a theory of “technology as amplifier” which explains the gap between rhetoric and actuality, and (3) provide one key recommendation for successful ICT4D interventions. My hope is to temper the brash claims of technology with realism about its true potential.


Kentaro Toyama ( is a visiting researcher in the School of Information at the University of California, Berkeley. He is working on a book that argues that increasing wisdom – knowledge, virtues, and actions that generate well-being – should be the primary goal of global development activity.

Until 2009, Kentaro was assistant managing director of Microsoft Research India, which he co-founded in 2005. At MSR India, he started the Technology for Emerging Markets research group, which conducts interdisciplinary research to understand how the world’s poorest communities interact with electronic technology and to invent new ways for technology to support their socio-economic development. Prior to his time in India, Kentaro did computer vision and multimedia research at Microsoft Research in Redmond, WA, USA and Cambridge, UK, and taught mathematics at Ashesi University in Accra, Ghana. Kentaro graduated from Yale with a PhD in Computer Science and from Harvard with a bachelors degree in Physics., 510-643-4866

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