AUSTIN, Texas - The National Science Foundation has awarded just over $1 million to Diane Bailey, Associate Professor at the School of Information, to study the factors that may predict project success and guide decisions about funding, designing, and implementing major projects intended to use information and communication technology for socio-economic development.
In the past five years, over ten billion dollars of US and international government funding have been invested in such projects, yet many of these projects fail. Existing theories emphasize the inability of technology designers in developed countries to understand the needs and context of users in developing countries, but this research will go beyond a strict technology focus by exploring the interplay between technology plans and development goals.
When Bailey's doctoral student Caroline Stratton reviewed ICT4D case studies, she found them to be largely lacking in development theory and development metrics, key factors that could explain why similar gaps between designers and users in developed countries do not necessarily portend failure for successful technology use and adoption.
"Our goal is to uncover the factors that aid success in ICT4D projects and to evaluate success not in terms of technology metrics alone-for example, the diffusion rate of cell phones in a region, but in terms of development metrics as well-such as the increase in literacy or employment in a region."
This funding will allow Bailey, Stratton, and other student research assistants to study information and communication technology for development (ICT4D) projects in Latin America.
"We picked Latin America because it is underrepresented in a literature that focuses on India and Africa and because countries in this region tend to favor endogenous resources like regional banks rather than exogenous resources like the World Bank and foreign technology companies", said Bailey.
Bailey and Stratton will be spending most of August visiting sites in Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, and Argentina. Next year, Stratton will return to spend about six months doing extensive observations and interviews at these sites so that the research team can build in-depth case studies.
"Based on our analysis of these studies, and with the aid of other student researchers we hope to bring onto the project, we'll extend our study through surveys and site visits to include a broad sample of ICT4D projects in Latin America so that we can begin building predictive theory of project success."
The iSchool at UT is a unique, interdisciplinary graduate program committed to harnessing the power of information technologies to improve discovery, creativity and democracy in the 21st Century.