Global Development Institute Blog

by Richard Heeks

A key theme in the post-2015 development agenda is transformation: a belief that the incremental developmental changes achieved to date will no longer be sufficient in the remainder of the 21st century; and an aspiration for a step-change in approach.

Analysis reported earlier argues development informatics research – studying ICT4D policy and practice – should give a higher priority to researching the relation between ICTs and the transformation of development.  Such research already has a terminology – Development 2.0; understood as the ICT-enabled transformation of development.

But what would the Development 2.0 research agenda consist of?

Defining that research agenda has been difficult because defining Development 2.0 has been difficult.  And defining Development 2.0 has been difficult because defining “transformation of development” has been difficult.

First, there is the threshold problem – when is a change sufficiently large to be classified as “transformative” as opposed to just “incremental”?  Second, there is the direction problem – transformation of what?  Of context (e.g. structures)? Of inputs (e.g. goals, visions, aspirations)?  Of processes (e.g. business models, partnerships)?  Of outputs (e.g. inclusion, sustainability)?

But uncertainty of this type can provide the basis for research.  We can use this, plus a few sources that do engage with Development 2.0 as the intersection of ICTs, transformation and development (Thompson 2008[1], Heeks 2010[2], Hanna 2011[3], Thompson 2013[4], Hanna 2014[5]), to give some outline shape to a Development 2.0 research agenda:

1. Definition: what does Development 2.0 mean?  This could start with content analysis of what little has been said and written about Development 2.0; looking for definition in terms of the extent and content of transformation of development.  Interpretive work on a broader range of stakeholder views could also be provided.

2. Conceptualisation: how should we understand Development 2.0?  Related to definition, this might attack the issue in a more deductive manner by seeking to conceptualise Development 2.0 through particular theoretical lenses drawn from development or informatics studies or other disciplines.

3. Political Economy: who drives Development 2.0?  Who are the main stakeholders arguing for ICT-based transformation of development?  Why are they putting forward these arguments?  Who benefits from this discourse?

4. Ecosystem: who and what makes up a Development 2.0 ecosystem?  A Development 2.0 ecosystem is that combination of organisations (government, private sector, NGO/community, etc); institutions (policies, culture, etc), technologies (standards, infrastructure, architecture, applications, etc), and other resources (money, skills, etc) which allows ICTs to have a transformational effect at anything from district to regional to national to international level.

5. Business Model: what are the new ICT-based business models that provide for a transformative developmental impact?  In many ways, the Development 2.0 business model is the organisational equivalent of the higher-level ecosystem; covering organisational strategy, structure, process and value chain from suppliers to clients.  Despite the ‘business’ language, Development 2.0 models can be identified in public, private and NGO sectors (Heeks 2010).

6. Facilitation: what processes and capacities are needed to facilitate emergence and successful implementation of Development 2.0?  This can be answered for both broader ecosystems and narrower business models.  It can encompass a focus on structures, on processes, and on the agency of individuals or groups.

7. Impact: what impact does Development 2.0 have?  This could be answered in terms of any economic, social, political or environmental understanding of development.  So, for example, using lenses of growth, capabilities, inclusion, or sustainability.

The agenda here is still quite general – feel free to suggest inclusions, exclusions, modifications, specifications – but at least it represents a starting point for us to follow.



[1] Thompson, M. (2008) ICT and development studies: towards development 2.0Journal of International Development, 20(6), 821-835

[2] Heeks, R.B. (2010) Development 2.0: Transformative ICT-Enabled Development Models and Impacts, Development Informatics Short Paper no.11, Centre for Development Informatics, University of Manchester, UK

[3] Hanna, N. (2011) e-Transformation: Enabling New Development Strategies, Springer, New York

[4] Thompson, M. (2013) Development 2.0 and beyondICT4D Seminar Series, Oxford Internet Institute, 27 Feb

[5] Hanna, N. (2014) An E-Transformation Research Agenda, personal communication with author, 26 Mar


This post was originally published at: on April 25 2014