Racism and Poverty in ICT4D and Aid Work

Racism and Poverty in ICT4D and Aid Work

In the forthcoming weeks, our group will explore the topic of ICT for Development, Aid Work and Communicating Development from different angles. In my posts, I will put a special emphasis on racism in the aid industry, and intersections between racism and other forms of systemic discrimination.

The topic of ICT for Development, Aid Work and Communicating Development includes many elements. Since engaging with international development has become deeply embedded in online culture and digital media, communicating development should be designed as global initiative that is fully integrated and coherent with the social and democratic principles.

Racism and poverty has become frequent themes in the exploration of polices, practices and new modalities of professionalism. Critical considerations on these problems is, therefore, essential, to effectively promote communication for development and to support participation of the citizens and communities in general.

The NGO images of global poverty are major forms of messages produced by ICT for Development, Aid Work and Communicating Development. As Ademolu and Warrington (2019) note, racialized “meaning making” potential that these images have is enormous. The NGO images of poverty should open a new dialogue on race and racial identity. The authors note that these images can even cause misunderstandings and conflicts because some individuals can interpret them as personal affronts.

Economic development is, according to Schlögl and Sumner (2020), a convergence of multiple indicators that has been theorised using different models over time.  There isn’t any single explanation for the economic development of a specific region or country. Unfortunately, the transfer from low-productivity agriculture to low-productivity services is what happened in many developing countries. Productivity is, of course, essential. However, the focus on economic activities and strategies should the enlarged or conversely broken down into more manageable parts. The images and the values promoted by ICT for Development are also extremely important.   Ademolu and  Warrington (2019) argue that the images of poverty produced and disseminated by NGOs are over-simplified, and can be very racist and discouraging. This problem can significantly affect ICT for Development, Aid Work and Communicating Development.

According to Birhane (2019), many of the images that characterize the regions that are target of the development studies have a very negative nature. These images often include elements such as poverty and irregular migration. Using new technologies to solve the development problems is above all creating a very clear view of the communities and how these communities want and need to be understood.  Birhane (2019) advocates for strong community values and for a new mentality in which nobody is left behind. In my opinion, these principles should have a special prominence in ICT for Development, Aid Work and Communicating Development. The promotion of strong community values would decrease the risk of depersonalisation or dehumanisation that the abundant use of new technologies and artificial intelligence may pose.

Photo by Anjo Cerdeña on Unsplash

Every actor in the aid industry may produce powerful results. Since the link between international development and digital communication is very tight, the expanded global journalistic coverage and global online activity change the perception of development and aid industry.  Digital elements have penetrated every single aspect and detail of aid work and development. From race to poverty and gender inequality, the work of aid and development workers and organizations, in the contemporary era, has to include a very careful evaluation of digital and media analyses.


Ademolu, E., & Warrington, S. (2019). Who Gets to Talk About NGO Images of Global Poverty?. Photography and Culture, 12(3), 365-376.

Birhane, A. 2019: The Algorithmic Colonization of Africa, Real Life Mag, 9 July.

Schlögl, L. & Sumner, A. (2020). Disrupted Development and the Future of Inequality in the Age of Automation. Cham, Switzerland: Springer.

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