Can we improve X with technology Y?

by | Feb 20, 2020 | ICT4D, Questions |

The answer is almost always yes. Partly because no one wants to read or write an article with a heading like that and answer ‘no’. But also because in many cases, there are ways in which technology can improve a current service, product, system. No service, product, or system is perfect so there are always ways to improve. And if we look hard enough, we likely can find a specific role for the technology we want.

Can we improve X with technology? This question can result in or lead us to technocentrismthe fallacy of using of technology to try to answer all questions. It also often appears to be a solution looking for a problem. It is almost as useful as asking ‘can you drive in a screw with a hammer?’

So perhaps we need to be asking different question. Perhaps, instead of asking can, we need to be asking ‘should we improve X with technology Y. And maybe this too is flawed. It seems a bit odd as if improvements can be made, shouldn’t they? But perhaps starting with ‘should’ helps us ask other questions. Questions about what are the tradeoffs? What are the alternatives? What are the longer term implications of doing this? Of not doing this? What are the risks? Who is deciding? And so on.

Oh, and yes, you can drive a screw in with a hammer, if you hit it hard enough or use a big enough hammer. But it comes with lots of undesirable side affects.

Maybe it’s time we ask better questions.

Photo by Jozsef Hocza


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