A Reflective Account of Particularising Ethnographic Principles and Practices for Doing ICT4D Research

  • Steven Sam Computer Science Department, College of Engineering Design and Physical Sciences, Brunel University London
Keywords: information technology for development, development studies, ICT4D ethnography, mobile phone for development, research methods, digital ethnography


A growing number of studies have employed ethnography in information and communication technology for development (ICT4D) research, yet serious questions are still being asked with regard to the lack of rich ethnographic description and the failure to adequately position the ICT4D ethnography within the digital and media ethnographic tradition. This paper contributes to these questions by providing a reflective account of the principles and practices of doing ICT4D ethnography. It builds on the approaches of doing social research and field experience in Sierra Leone to demonstrate how the principles and practices of traditional ethnographic approach can be adapted and particularised for ICT4D study. It reflects on the what, why and how questions for doing ICT4D ethnography, illustrating its practical applications to exploring the complex relationship between ICTs and human development. I conclude by arguing that despite the usefulness of ethnography in ICT4D research, its appropriate applications are often constrained by the pressure for ICT4D researchers to adhere to the requirements of development agenda; demand for short-term outcome reports; and the pre-occupation of result-based approaches in development impact research.

How to Cite
Sam, S. (2021). A Reflective Account of Particularising Ethnographic Principles and Practices for Doing ICT4D Research. The Journal of Development Communication, 32(1), 128-144. Retrieved from http://jdc.journals.unisel.edu.my/index.php/jdc/article/view/193