The Development Equation/Research Proposal

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Learning and Knowledge in the 21st Century : The Development Equation
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Theoretical Model

In order to articulate the general approach and to apply it to the specific objective, the author proposes a theoretical model that explains the relationships between ICT’s for development (ICT4D), access to knowledge (A2K), networked partnership (NP) and knowledge for development (K4D) (Figure 1). The model situates the university as a hub for knowledge-based development. Partnerships and networks are both seen as natural activities for a university and as vehicles for institutional capacity-building. A preliminary diagram has been constructed by the author and is posted in the key concepts section below, with greater elaboration to come during the research itself.


In light of the global development discourse on knowledge, communication and digital technology, networks and partnership - one possible approach is for Northern and Southern partners to focus on the basics of research and education capacity in the digital context, attempting to approximate symmetry in these basics between partners. This is an approach to institutional capacity-building where the Southern partner quickly shifts from beneficiary and follower-partner to leader and contributor. The hypothesis is that such a shift is not possible without network access, and that with network access alone, the investment in access has smaller returns. This is because the web resources most relevant to universities are high quality knowledge resources that are the focus of the open access and access to knowledge movements. Network and literature access without partnership may also not be enough, given the literature vacuum that developing country institutions have faced over many years. Certainly the purpose of partnership is the mutual development of knowledge and capacity. The model proposes that under the conditions of equitable access to research and of network access, the partnership has vastly increased potential for impact on development for both partners. Finally, ‘capacity-building’ and ‘knowledge transfer’ have too long been development goals where the longer they remain a concern, the more they can be said have been unsuccessful on the whole. It is hoped that where successful, the basic approach taken in this model can tip the scales on an institution by institution basis.


There are four main variables in the model describing the dynamics of network access (ict4d) and access to literature (a2k), networked partnerships (np) and their relationship to development through knowledge (k4d). Variables (note the small caps refer to the variables not the concepts)

  1. a2k – Level of access to literature. This variable is observeable through indicators and can change (like an independent variable if this were an experiment.). The primary influence on the a2k variable is policy change.
  2. ict4d – Level of network access (access to the internet). This variable is observeable through valid indicators and can change (like an independent variable if this were an experiment). The primary influence on change for ict4d is technological intervention, though policy is relevant over the long-term.
  3. recently added np - networked partnership - can compare networked partnerships with partnerships past and present that do not focus on this - networked partnerships would be distinguished as focusing on communication technologies for human networks at individual/departmental/institutional levels, ICT development and ICT for development, and utilizing digital library resources/accessing research online. ie. they would be addressing 'learning and knowledge in the 21st century', bridging digital divides and harnessing those potentials. *Need to look at indicators for this variable.
  4. k4d – Impact of knowledge on development. This variable is observeable through a wide variety of indicators. It is hypothesized that changes in ict4d and a2k will affect k4d, since communication, dissemination and access are thought to be critical to gaining and using knowledge. (The k4d variable is similar to a dependent variable.)


Several indicators are proposed for the model. Some indicators are statistical in nature, while others describe the policy and legal environment. Tables to be posted shortly.

Research Design

Objective 1

Situating the University in the Knowledge Economy and Development.

Each main concept in the model (ICT4D, A2K and K4D) has been discussed vigorously in the literature over recent years, along with longer standing literature on higher education as well as North-South research and institutional partnerships. Essentially situating the university’s role will not only require a thorough review of the literature, but an attempt at synthesis and integration of these concepts with the university as the main actor. Therefore, in fulfilling the objective, the author should be able to describe how universities are active development actors who currently access unequal opportunities to use communication technologies and on-line literature as well as networks and partnerships to generate and disseminate knowledge, and this analysis should describe the nature of the inequality. It should evaluate the degree to which such opportunities are central to the capability of knowledge institutions to have an impact on development outcomes locally and globally. Finally, the discussion will lead to what new opportunities exist along the ICT4D-A2K-K4D axis, and what realistic priorities can be set to empower knowledge institutions globally in their ability to contribute to human development.

Objective 2

Model for University-based development.

The support for and any challenges to the general theoretical model will be analysed through existing data, concepts, theories and expert opinion. Specific indicators are proposed to empirically assess the unequal development from North to South along the three main variables, and the relative impact or obstruction to development associated with their development or under-development. The validity of indicators to variables to concepts to development will be suggested by the first objective and validated through expert consultation. Finally, the indicators describing ict4d, a2k and k4d can be related to traditional human development indicators, both economic and social. The model should be developed in a way that can provide a useful framework for analysis by policy-makers and institutional decision-makers, and can be applied to specific partnership projects or national policy.


  • Existing data and literature search
  • Literature review/synthesis using Google Scholar with keywords and the database ERIC. This is a search for the conceptual grounding of the model. Theoretical leaders will be identified along with empirical studies
  • Web Search of Reports and Statistics Databases for Indicator Data

Search for reports by UN organizations, NGO’s, governments or other research institutions to gather information on indicators.

  • Knowledge Assessment Methodology KAM – World Bank

This web-based tool allows the user to make country profiles and country to country comparisons on several knowledge economy and human capital indicators.

  • Expert consultation.

    Existing Data Analysis.
    The general approach to literature synthesis and data analysis will a) to verify the meaning and relevance of the indicators, possibility dropping some or adding others b) give relative weight to the indicators based on their relevance to the model and c) Simplify the statistics through creating categories for interpreting the data according to the constructs in the model and d) Interpret the simplified data with regard to the objectives. Appendix II contains a chart indicating how variables are measured under several conditions (Table 1), similar to an experimental design. Appendix III (Tables 2, 3 and 4) lists the indicators suggested so far.

Cost-value-benefit analysis

  • Estimates of the cost of network access. Existing data will provide estimated costs of network access and maintenance. An effort will be made to establish funding and subsidy opportunities
  • Value of literature. The value of literature access will be defined in three ways, cost of production, market value and use value. The use value is more difficult to put a dollar figure on, and will be described based on the theoretical analysis and in relation to K4D indicators.

Theoretical Analysis

Bringing it together following analyses

Testing/applying the model

There are at least two North/South partnerships known to the authors that are in the initial stages of developing along the priorities of network access, library capacity-building (both physical and digital), and access to research literature, as stated priorities of the Southern partner. The model can expand to national, regional and global analyses and can also zoom in and treat the unit of study at the institutional level observing change in two or more partners.

The approach in developing this model is non-interventionist, it is to provide a framework for addressing all of the factors, obstacles, opportunities, best practises, costs and benefits to network partnerships based on the development equation, open solutions and information and communication plus access to knowledge for development(icta2k4d), to be used, shared, distributed and modified in good faith, with content here published under Creative Commons license. Thus the theoretical model is an open model. We believe that there are many possible research questions that can be derived from this model. In order to express caution, it will be important to provide a brief overview of the relationship between models, theories and evidence, and what the role, limitations and usefulness of models in research.