“Sustainability” and “Scale”: What’s that really mean for ICT4D?

What do you think is the single most important issue at the intersection of technology and development? Recently, the twin issues of sustainability and scale have come to the forefront in many conversations, with both peaking in October in several forums:

  • Sustainability: Besides being the buzz word de jour, this month’s Educational Technology Debate is focusing on ICT4E sustainability and at an IADB meeting, one discussant suggested that virtually everything that USAID does was unsustainable.
  • Scale: Both Joel Selanikio of Data Dyne and incoming mHealth Alliance Executive Director David Aylward recently reminded us that while there is an incredibly vibrant mobile phone industry, after 15 years of PDA and mobile phone pilots there are few, if any, scaled mobile technology development projects – most are small, non-sustainable proofs of concept.

But what do we mean by “sustainability” and “scale” in ICT4D?

ict4d sustainability
Is it only about private income streams?

Now here’s the real issue. What might be our shared definition of both “sustainability” and “scale” with information and communication technology programs in international development?

Is sustainability when projects are self-funding, like a for-profit business, and is scale reaching an entire country? Or can sustainability be reached by a dedicated funder, like government, and can scale be just a community large enough to support sustainability?

Also, is sustainability and scale different for different sectors in the developing world? Could donor support be a valid business model in education or health – two sectors dominated by government support in developed countries – while finance and agriculture are required to source private sector income streams?

Please join us Thursday, October 22, for what will be a lively discussion around sustainability and scale at the intersection of technology and development, lead by Kerry McNamara, a Scholar-in-Residence at American University and a noted expert on technology and development.

“Sustainability” and “Scale”: What’s that really mean for ICT4D?
October Technology Salon
Thursday, October 22, 8:30-10am
UN Foundation Conference Room
1800 Mass Avenue, NW, Suite 400
Washington, D.C. 20036 (map)

Do note that we’ll have hot coffee and Krispe Kreme donuts for a morning rush, but seating is limited and the UN Foundation is in a secure building. So the first fifteen (15) to RSVP will be confirmed attendance and then there will be a waitlist.

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