IT for Change (ITfC) is a NGO located in Bangalore, India, that works for an innovative and effective use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) to promote socio-economic change in the global South. Current Information Society and 'ICTs for development' (ICTD) approaches predominantly represent Northern realities and perspectives, tending to favour market-fundamentalist thinking and valorising technology per se. They fail to integrate fundamental ethical cornerstones of development like participation, social justice and equity. Unfortunately, the development sector and, particularly, progressive groups, are mostly not equipped to deal with the challenge of influencing the direction of change being shaped by the emerging techno-social models and paradigms. We identify this as a major blind spot in the global struggle towards progressive ideals and addressing this is a task we have set for ourselves. IT for Change is in Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations. Directors: Anita Gurumurthy, Parminder Jeet Singh and Gurumurthy Kasinathan
Activities: IT for Change works on research, advocacy and field work, organised in seven programmatic areas:
1. Development and ICTs: Political Economy of the Information Society and Crosscutting Issues An equitable information society can flourish only through inclusive and informed debate, involving not merely actors from the technology arena but all actors in the development sphere, especially from the South. Current information society and 'ICTs for development' or ICTD approaches predominantly represent Northern realities and perspectives, tending to favour market-fundamentalist thinking and valorising technology per se. ITfC attempts to de-construct the dominant approach and concepts in relation to ICTs and development and articulate alternatives, based on information provided by field work. IT for Change writes and publishes from a ‘Southern’ perspective and engages in key spaces where discourse and policy are shaped (in national and international arena).
2. Community Informatics and Development ITfC strives to empower the marginalised by making information more accessible to them. It seeks to explore how development processes can be made more participatory and effective through new information and communication systems. The Mahiti Manthana Programme (‘Churning of Information’, in Kannada, the local language), implemented in rural areas of the District of Mysore, was conceptualised on this front. It is a collaborative project of IT for Change and the local NGO Mahila Samakhya (Women of Equal Value, in Kannada), with the support of Indian Education Department of the Ministry of Human Resources and Development (HRD). The programme works as a laboratory for innovative ICTs possibilities. In a rural context with high levels of illiteracy, the programme uses radio and video as instruments to empower women and young girls, encouraging them to get the information needed to develop their villages.
3. Internet Governance The techno-social architecture of the Internet is a key determinant of how the contours of the emerging information society will sahpe up. We engage with civil society networks,to push for development oriented perspectives in global policy spaces. Our focus has been on democratising global Internet governance, advocating for policy to preserve the Internet's egalitarian character and challenging the privatised governance mechanisms that dominate this space.
4. Public Software As software becomes important for almost all organisational processes, its importance to to the public sector is no less. ITfC contributes to conceptualise the principles for 'software for the public sector' and discuss the challenges and possibilities in adopting software for the public sector on a large scale for maximum societal benefit. One of the main projects in this area is ‘FOSS Include‘, a research and advocacy initiative that has a specific focus on the role of public sector agencies in adopting, supporting and enabling Free and Open Source Software (FOSS). Under this initiative, ITfC provides debates and training on the adoption of public software by the public sector, particularly the education sector.
5. Governance and ICTs ITfC engages with the Government of India’s e-governance policies – particularly the National e-governance Plan and the Right to Information (RTI) Act – to critically examin policies implementation in order to open up new possibilities for citizen and communiy information bases that can become relevant to community monitoring, institutional accountability and governance reform processes.
6. Gender and ICTs ITfC focuses on theory-building and policy research adopting a pro-south feminist approach. IT for Change seeks to build a theoretical framework of gender and information society that problematises women’s citizenship in the changing social order. ITfC’s research and advocacy have critiqued market-based approaches in policy making – globally and nationally – and have pushed for new frameworks based on citizenship and rights-based approaches.
7. ICT in Education It is well known that the public education system has a crucial role in developing an informed and responsible citizenry, as well as in working for the larger goals of social harmony and economic wellbeing. The aims of education in our national curricular frameworks emphasise the agency of the teacher in such development. Towards this, the public education system has developed structures and processes that seek to safeguard the the public interest and the common good in curricular design and transaction. Yet when it comes to the issue of the role of ICTs in education, these values are often given the go-by. Our work in the area of ICTs in Education has been to reclaim and restore the philosophical issues framing the debates in education. And when we were confronted with a national policy process in this arena, we came in actively to give leadership to civil society response to the process.