In an article last month in the Boston Review, Kentaro Toyama, a former computer scientist for Microsoft turned ICT4D promoter, confronts the limits of technological solutions to development problems:
But the value of a technology remains contingent on the motivations and abilities of organizations applying it—villagers must be organized, content must be produced, and instructors must be trained. The limiting factor in spreading Digital Green’s impact is not how many camcorders its organizers can purchase or how many videos they can shoot, but how many groups are performing good agriculture extension in the first place. Where such organizations are few, building institutional capacity is the more difficult, but necessary, condition for Digital Green’s technology to have value. In other words, disseminating technology is easy; nurturing human capacity and human institutions that put it to good use is the crux.
Of course, the same criticism could be applied to most development interventions—institutions nearly always return as the limiting or enabling factor for every development program.