Technology and Human Development

Oosterlaken, Ilse (2015). Technology and Human Development. New York: Routledge.

This book introduces the capability approach – in which wellbeing, agency and justice are the core values – as a powerful normative lens to examine technology and its role in development. This approach attaches central moral importance to human capabilities understood as effective opportunities people have to lead the kind of lives they have reason to value. The book examines both the strengths and limitations of the capability approach when applied to technology, and shows the need to supplement it with other approaches in order to deal with the challenges that technology raises.

The first chapter places the capability approach within the context of broader debates about technology and human development. The middle part then critically scrutinizes the relation between technology and human capabilities, arguing that attention needs to be paid to both design details and to embedding technology in broader socio-technical networks. It also discusses the relationship between technology and the good life, including the danger of imposing one vision of what it means to lead a good life through the transfer of technologies. The final chapter examines the case of ‘ICT for Development’ (ICT4D), as the technology domain where the approach has been most extensively applied so far.

This is an invaluable read for students in Development Studies and STS as well as policy makers and practitioners looking for an accessible overview of technology and development from the perspective of the capability approach.

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