Information communication technology and endogenous community-driven development: A remote Australian Aboriginal case study

Information communication technology and endogenous community-driven development: A remote Australian Aboriginal case study Thesis

Curtin Business School of Management

  • Author(s): Singleton, Guy
  • Published: 2013
  • Publisher: Curtin University of Technology
  • Volume: PhD

Abstract: Aboriginal mobility within areas of social, cultural and economic activity is much lower than that of Australia’s mainstream population. Australian Aboriginal disadvantage and marginalization is well documented, and Australia’ first people share this development disparity with other Indigenous peoples of the world. In response to this, the disparity between the development mobility of Australian Aboriginals and the mainstream population has been popularised in the phrase ‘The gap’. Australia government policy initiatives now target ‘closing the gap’ with the intent to statistically equalise Australian Aboriginals with mainstream Australians. During the 1990s, within the development field recognition of the importance of participation emerged as underpinned by growing academic (Nussbaum & Sen, 1993 Sen 1999) and institutional (UNDP 1990, 1993) concerns for alternative development pathways. Since then, significant international development investment has been made to increase the mobility of marginalised and disadvantaged peoples through a normative ‘best practice’ participatory oriented equity approach, but with limited success. More recently, development theory acknowledged that deterministically the particular lived realities of peoples in specific geographic contexts matters (Rao & Walton 2004). A more people-centre approach emerged; one that acknowledges that the worldviews, values and practice of particular peoples, in particular settings are valuable assets and resources to drive locally determined community development approaches. Such an approach now underpins an adaptive ‘best fit’ (Chambers 2010) participatory approach to development agency. Revolutionary developments in the early 2000s of information and communication technologies (ICTs) contributed to development practitioners identifying them as appropriate tools for marginalized peoples to increase participation, local ownership and decision-making during development related initiatives. Organizations, such as the United Nations, began to explore understanding the role ICT may play within development, particularly development of the marginalized and disadvantaged. Subsequently, the notion of ICT for Development (ICT4Dev) emerged as a potentially powerful participatory tool to facilitate locally determined development. These ICT4Dev ideas offer potential insights into how Australia’s Aboriginal population may increase their development agency and mobility. This thesis aims to contribute to discussions on overcoming Aboriginal disadvantage through research into the role ICTs play in facilitating locally determined, driven and hence, meaningful development (endogenous) for remotely located Australian Aboriginal communities. A substantial analysis and critique of the normative effects of policy and dominant development discourse set the theoretical framework for the Aboriginal ICT development imperative. The project was physically based in four Australian Aboriginal communities, three of which classified as remote; which in an Australian geo-regional and Aboriginal context, assumes lower access to government resources and support, and higher levels of sociocultural dysfunction and marginalisation than more centralised and mainstream localities. Participant observations were carried out in primary Ngalia community case study over six years. This community was characterized by its Aboriginality, remoteness, degree of systemic disadvantage, and a demonstrated history of community-driven development action. Three minor cases were included for comparative data involving communities with similar characteristics, though much shorter contact periods (two weeks to two years). The qualitative data collection methods employed included participant-observation, and interviews to capture local specificities, participant’ trust, and engagement within ICT-interaction and related development initiatives. The endogenous community driven and participatory actioned nature of project initiatives served as a vehicle for iterative experimentation and generative learning, i.e., reflexive inquiry. The researcher participated in a wide range of ICT-related development initiatives within each case study, allowing the researcher and participants to share the reflexive learning journey together. Within this reflexive participant-observation process elemental patterns emerged, i.e., participants involved, ICT-used, participatory approach, community development themes and development outcomes, capturing themes, such as advocacy, cultural maintenance, strengthening and economy. Together these patterns and themes contributed to a conceptual framework – the agency elements of ICT-interaction for Endogenous Community Driven Development or ‘EnCDD’. Using this framework to interpret the data enabled assessment of the meaningful role of ICTs as tools within the case-based Aboriginal EnCDD. The findings offer insights for further research into the role of ICTs in Aboriginal EnCDD and community adoption; this study concludes that there may be a diverse and complex yet interlinking set of drivers for Aboriginal people to engage ICT for community development. Some ICT applications are particularly well suited to facilitating community driven development. To take advantage of the full range of ICT opportunities, groups must contain a certain level of internal understanding or reasoned agency of the opportunities and applications that exist for their given circumstances and needs.

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Suggested Citation
Singleton, Guy, 2013, Information communication technology and endogenous community-driven development: A remote Australian Aboriginal case study, Volume:PhD, Thesis, viewed 19 May 2024,

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