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ICT4ICTD: Computational Social Science for Digital Development


While the ICT for Development (ICTD) community is well aware about the far-reaching changes introduced by the digital age, it is remarkably slowly getting used to the idea that digital tools also revolutionize its very own core business: research. Information and communication technology (ICT) is currently transforming the way knowledge is created and insights are obtained. This applies to inductive empirical inquiry (i.e. 'Big data'), as well as deductive theoretical scholarship (i.e. 'agent-based computer simulations'). This article explores best practices of the application of such Computational Social Science in the field of development and contributes an informed perspective to intensify an outstanding discussion within the ICTD community. ICT should not only be used for development (ICTD), but also for the constant updating of our understanding of digital development, in order to fine-tune policies and project designs: 'ICT4ICTD'. On the one hand, the article shows that the consideration of this double role of ICT has the potential to significantly increase the impact of ICTD. On the other hand, developing countries and the ICTD community face important challenges when applying these tools, which should never be adopted uncritically.

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