Understanding the opportunities and constraints for technological development in unstable, developing economies: a capabilities perspective on ICT4D in Lebanon

Cornelius, Nelarine; Pezet, Eric; Harfouche, Antoine (2014). 'Understanding the opportunities and constraints for technological development in unstable, developing economies: a capabilities perspective on ICT4D in Lebanon' Paper presented at the annual conference of the HDCA, 2-5 September 2014, Athens, Greece.

Understanding the opportunities and constraints for technological development in unstable, developing economies: a capabilities perspective on ICT4D in Lebanon




Recent articles on technology implementation for development have highlighted first, the limitations of a focus on assessing the supply of technology whilst not taking into account sufficiently it contributions to the unequal expansion of capabilities (Fernandez-Baldor et al, 2014) and secondly,  the potential of a 'process approaches (versus project or blueprint approaches) as the basis for development management. The process approach is of interest as it enables an assessment of technological project development and implementation that is informed by context, the relationship between environment and implementation, and idiosyncratic, dynamic and unpredictable elements (see for example, Mosse, 1998).


We consider implementation of information and communication technologies for development (ICT4D) in Lebanon, which highlights the potential of 'process approach' thinking. Specifically, Lebanon is a consociational state, Consociational democracy means government by elite cartel designed to turn a democracy with a fragmented political culture into a stable democracy' (Liphart, 1969: 216).  


Liphart, (1996) identify four principles of a consociational democracy: grand coalition, mutual veto, proportionality, and segmental autonomy .The political leaders of all of the segments of such plural societies jointly govern the country (grand coalition). The mutual or minority veto guarantee prevails: a minority will not be outvoted by a majority when vital interests are at stake (mutual veto).  Proportionality is as the basic standard of political representation, for civil service appointments, and the allocation of public funds (Liphart 1996: 500-501). Decision-making authority is delegated to the separate segments as much as possible (segmental autonomy). Nations may choose the consociational option as a means of creating stability in an inherently divided and unstable context, with consociational democracy a social and institutional system that can achieve stability by building political compromise between factions. However, this compromise is not stable because nationalism for example, is not passive and specific groups are likely to want to monopolize state power (e.g. Newman, 2000)


Further, states such a Lebanon are not 'free agents' for development. The experience and threat of civil and regional instability and war has created numerous development challenges. Not only there community based differences in what might be construed as 'legitimate' paths for ICT4D, but much of this development has been part funded by international donor institutions, many wedded to models of development informed by more traditional blueprint models that have been developed in the context of the assumptive structure of liberal democracy that is likely create tensions with Lebanon's consociational political context. Unsurprisingly, the government of Lebanon aspires to improve the quality of life of its citizens, and the capabilities approach (CA) provides many insights into what could and has been achieved.


In this paper, we explore the challenges relating to the implementation of ICT4D in Lebanon, from the post-civil war period through to 2013, considering in particular how ICT4D has enabled the expansion of individual freedoms and increasing people choices (Sen, 1992, 1999; 2009) across community divides, and why this expansion has taken root fastest in areas of the public sector, and struggled to establish any footprint at all in others. Technology implementation is explored from the perspectives of historical analysis of government and donor documents and the views of political and administrative actors in the Lebanese government in 2008 (when an e-government strategy unit was established) until the present. We contend that the findings may have implications for those wishing to evaluate ICT4D for developing economies experiencing or under the enduring threat of violence and war and the aspiration of peace and stability.




Fernandez-Baldor, A., Boni, A., Lillo P. & Hueso, A. (2014). 'Are Technological Projects Reducing Social Inequalities and Improving People's Well-Being? A Capability Approach Analysis of Renewable Energy-Based Electrification Projects in Cajamarca, Peru'. Journal of Human Development and Capabilities, 15 (1):13-27.


Ferrero y Loma-Osario, G. & Zapeda, C.S. 2014. Rethinking Development Management Methodology: Towards a 'Process Freedoms' Approach. Journal of Human Development and Capabilities, 15 (1):28-46.



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Lijphart A. 1996. The Puzzle of Indian Democracy: A Consociational Interpretation. The American Political Science Review, 90 (2): 258-268.


Mosse, D. 1998. 'Process-Oriented Approaches to Development Practice and Social Research'. In Development as Process: Concepts and Methods for Working with Complexity, edited by D.Mosse, J.Farrington and A. Rew. London: Routledge.


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