DT&SC 1-5: The ICT for Development Cube Framework



And the digital age is the result between
interplay of technology, society, and guiding policy guidance that ensures the technology
is used for the intended purpose. So how can we think about the interplay among
the technology, society, and these kind of intervening guidance? Well, first of all, we need the technology,
that is, the basic fundamental in which the digital age is based on, and additional technology
that can be separated and distinguished among very different layers and categories (there
are at least 7 of them). Keeping things simple, we just distinguish
between 2 of them. We basically distinguish between everything
that is tangible and intangible, you can think about it like that. So the tangible infrastructure, the first
infrastructure layer, refers to basically everything you can touch, that's all the hardware,
the computer, the mobile phones, the cell phone towers, the modems, the cables, and
so forth. And the generic service layer — that refers
to software, things that you can or cannot necessarily touch, these are all the software,
apps, email services, social networks, and so forth. So both hardware and software create the technological
fundamentals of the digital age. Then we also need the human component –capability,
skills, and cultural change, that uses, adapts, and applies this technology for our purposes. And now we put parts of the informational/communication
flows of different sectors of society into electronic networks, and that's why often
people put this e in front; so its e-government, e-business, e-health, and e-education when
you have parts of the information and communication first realized in electronic networks, and
there are many other e-sectors. There's e-banking and e-science and e-security–
actually this e, we, our generation we just use it as a placeholder. Future generations, they won't use the e anymore
because they are used to this reality. For example, if I ask my little nephew where
the government is, he will point to an internet browser and says, "there it is!". He doesn't even consider that the government
is in a capital city, it is obviously in the internet. For future generations, this will be completely
natural, it is just our generation that is undergoing this transition, we use this placeholder
that it is the e-government. So this is necessary but not sufficient. We have the fundamental horizontal layers,
and we have these vertical sectors of social modernization, and now we need the third dimension
and the third dimension refers to these guiding interventions– the two basic kinds of intervention
that you can have that you can execute in a system, such as social systems, these positive
and negative feedback. Positive feedbacks mains to basically intend
kind of like a wave dynamic– you either like it or not, and you foster it or you don't,
like something and you try to eliminate it. And negative feedback means that there is
something going on in this system, that you like not too much not too little, something
that you try to stabilize. We will talk about this more. These are the two basic things that you can
do to intervene in a systems dynamic and then guide it. So as a result, we have a three dimensional
perspective on society between technology, basically society, and intervening guidance
policies. You can also think about it this way: what
you have up here is the development of ICT, and the development of the required human
resources to make use of ICT. Then what you have down here is ICT for development
for human development, for modernization, for progress, for increase of efficiency,
transparency, and on the third side you have – well – policy instruments. You have guidance, you intervene in order
to assure that the development of ICT also fulfills the purpose you have in mind for
human development and social modernization. I initially developed this cube while I was
working as the coordinator of the Information Society Program of the Secretariat of the
United Nations in Latin America and the Caribbean and I developed the cube basically out of
a frustration because back in the days in the early 2000's I was hanging out at a lot
of conferences and I listened to this discussion and it was quite frustrating because the discussion
always went in full circle. So somebody would start saying “Well what
we need for the digital age is we need to assure that there is enough technology, we
need to provide access because without access to the technology we cannot even get off the
ground.” Somebody else would say “No, no, no, what's
much more important is that we need to train the people because if they don't know how
to use this technology, they don't have skill – nothing makes sense.” A third person would say “No, no, what really
matters is we have to have an end in mind – the end comes first. So do we want to do this digitalization thing
because we want to increase the productivity of our economy, or because we want to introduce
transparency in the public sector.” and then a fourth person would say “Well,
no, what we need first of all is to elaborate a legislative framework, for example, privacy
protection. Without that nobody would even get online.”
and then the first person would say again “No, but without the technology why would
you want to have a legislative frame if first we need to provide–” and so it went in
full circle and full circle and the truth is, yes, all of these aspects do matter and
they're actually interdependent, one upon another. So actually then sitting there I started to
draw out this three dimensional framework and I've been using it ever since to think
about it – it helps me a lot to think about it – and we also used it to work with governments. Several governments have used this framework
to design their national policy agenda and also the first generation of the intergovernmental
action plan for digital development in Latin America which has been signed by 30 governments
– uses this cube framework as a reference of how to structure the digital development
action plan. So it is quite useful and during the course
we will basically work with this three dimensional framework. One of the benefits of the cube as a reference
cube is you can take it apart and play with it. For example, you can only look at the infrastructure
layer and ask about the installation of broadband, for example, or you can only look at the e-government
sector and then you can ask about what kind of specific infrastructure do you need for
e-government development. What kind of apps and generic services have
to be developed and what are the skills do people and government officials need to have
and are there some policies, be it through positive and negative feedback that you can
use to implement and foster e-government development. You can also zoom in to one very specific
challenge, for example, to create incentives for ICT infrastructure development in local
e-government, for example, connectivity of municipalities. It kind of like, look at one specific intersections
of these three basic dimensions. Or you can look at a cross-cutting intersection,
for example, you ask about regulation and legislation for all kind of generic services,
for all kind of apps that affect all kind of e-sectors, for example, privacy legislation. That will affect e-business but also e-health
and also e-government. So here we have a cross-cutting topic. So what we will do during this course is we
will take the cube apart, look at different aspects of it, and then put it back together
again.

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