Being Open in ICT4D

8 Pages Posted: 19 Nov 2014

See all articles by Matthew Smith

Matthew Smith

International Development Research Centre

Date Written: November 17, 2014


This paper attempts to clarify what it means to be open in ICT4D. The current uses and understandings of ‘open’ and ‘openness’ are problematic for at least two reasons. First, openness as an umbrella term covers a multiplicity of connotations, applications, and interpretations. There is no set of common theory with which to learn and compare across openness applications. Second, specific instances of openness are typically defined in universal legal and technical terms that, while often necessarily enablers for openness, are not sufficient for understanding the reality of openness in a development context. To address these challenges, this paper argues for placing ICT-enabled open practices at the center of theory and research on open applications in ICT4D. The open practices are: sharing, transparency, reuse, revise, remix, peer production, and crowd-sourcing. Being open in ICT4D is then defined as the strategic application of ICT-enabled openness practices (sharing, transparency, reuse, revision, remixing, crowdsourcing, and peer production) in ICT4D interventions/activities to help tackle a development problem. From a research and practice perspective, the paper argues that a focus on openness practices is beneficial because it: a) theoretically connects openness to development outcomes, b) is where practical learning and theorizing about open practices and their interactions in different contexts is possible, and c) makes comparison across different open applications possible.

Keywords: openness, research, theory, sharing, transparency, peer production, crowd-sourcing, comparative analysis

Suggested Citation

Smith, Matthew, Being Open in ICT4D (November 17, 2014). Available at SSRN: or

Matthew Smith (Contact Author)

International Development Research Centre ( email )


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