The Basics

The International Institute for Communication and Development (IICD) was a non-profit foundation that specialised in Information and Communication Technology (ICT) as a tool for development. IICD was mainly active in sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America, where we brought about technical and social innovations that created and enhanced development opportunities in economic development, agriculture, education, governance, and health.

Established in 1996 by the Netherlands Minister for Development Cooperation, IICD set out to demonstrate that an integrated and human-centred approach to the use of ICT for development (ICT4D) helps amplify and transform development in a lasting manner and ultimately bring about sustainable social change.

Technology in general, or specific technologies in particular, was never IICD’s main focus. Just as supplying forks is not the answer to world hunger, we believed that simply providing laptops to schools does not improve students’ learning and equipping women with mobile phones is not a cure-all for maternal health challenges. For IICD, the people and organisations whose improved access to information and enhanced capacities to use ICTs for their own purposes were key to creating and sustaining new development opportunities. By connecting people to sustainable technology solutions and enhancing individual, organisational and institutional capacities to use ICTs effectively, people in remote areas of developing countries benefitted, not from dumping computers and mobile phones into rural schools and hospitals, but rather from the systemic changes that national and sector stakeholders mobilised around these technologies.

In times when some argued that developing countries should have other priorities than investing in ‘high-tech dreams’, IICD took to exploring the possibilities to use ICTs to bring about fundamental changes in the existing social, economic, legal and cultural fabrics of many societies, and creating enabling environments for the uptake of appropriate ICT solutions to thrive. These possibilities did not focus on donor- and technology driven projects, but on supporting the most promising initiatives of local governments, entrepreneurs and agents of change. To realise this vision, IICD acted as a capacity builder, catalyst, and broker, adopting a genuinely demand-driven approach.

IICD’s early activities focused on National ICT Roundtables and capacity building, expert ICT4D information services, and strategic policy advice. These activities assisted developing countries in their search for ways to introduce ICTs that could improve basic social services, enhance local ICT capacities, identify agents of change who could most effectively manage technological transformation processes, and stimulate innovative ICT application projects, particularly in sectors such as education, health, governance and economic development.

IICD was collaborative in nature. We engaged with partners with complementary expertise, resources, and reach. We collaborated with implementers who sought to connect their beneficiaries to digital opportunities for socio-economic progress. We worked with solution and service providers who saw development-oriented organisations as clients, brokering meaningful interaction between the needs of excluded communities and those best-suited to provide technological devices, skills and relevant solutions. With international partners, IICD established channels for networking and exchanging of knowledge, founding internationally recognised online platforms such as Dgroups, iTrainOnline, and iConnect-Online, as well as key cross-country learning and networking events on ICT4D. These activities further helped to build a global body of knowledge about the potential and appropriate deployment of ICT while at the same time mobilised international support for ICT as a development tool.

By the end of 2015, IICD had worked in more than 17 countries with a solid track record of sustainably implementing diverse and locally relevant ICT solutions that included Management Information Systems for schools, hospitals and farmer organisations, e-learning and m-learning platforms, mobile-based tools for digital M&E, ICT-enhanced marketing tools for farmers, among others.

On December 31st 2015, IICD ceased operations of its headquarters in The Hague and devolved existing activities to strong and capable organisations within IICD’s local partner network in its focal countries and organised its network digitally so that people interested in ICT4D could further connect with strong, experienced and locally relevant ICT4D players capable of serving ICT4D projects and programmes directly.

IICD’s work over the years would not have been possible without the support of like-minded development partners such as the Dutch Directorate-General for International Cooperation (DGIS), the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID), the Swiss International Development Agency (SDC), and the Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA), as well as valuable collaboration with international organisations such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the World Bank, CNFA, SPIDER, Heifer International, GSMA, APC, and prominent Dutch organisations such as HIVOS, PSO, Oxfam Novib, Cordaid, ICCO and Edukans.

About this website

This website aims to celebrate and leave a testimony of IICD’s record of work and lessons learned. It includes an online archive of publications, a collection of highlighted resources, descriptions of our key areas of work, and more information on our ICT-led Social Innovation Process, and our approaches to Capacity Development, ICT4D Networking and Participatory M&E. This legacy website aims to make visible and publicly celebrate our and our partners’ work by leaving behind IICD’s wealth of knowledge and experience for others to draw on and provide access to IICD’s Digital Network of ICT4D specialists.