Fair share of rewards

Some research in developing countries has been criricised as ‘extractive’, i.e. that the benefits of the knowledge discovered or generated has delivered much greater gain for external researchers and sponsors than for the people who helped to make the research possible. ICTD researchers and practitioners are placed in a powerful position in relation to project participants and so have an obligation to ensure that benefits are shared fairly.   This is particularly the case when research is framed as being ‘for development’ and the vulnerability of participants has been used to justify the value of the work. The idea of fair shares applies to both compensations received during a project for work put into the project and benefits that may arise by exploiting the knowledge generated.

Some Issues

  • External actors (practictioners, researchers, ICT specialists) are often being paid rates for their input that are many multiples (100s of times) of the rates paid to the participants in those projects.
  • Where participants in projects are on very low incomes, a large payment from an external project could be a coercive inducement.
  • If participants are selected in some way, a large payment from an external project can cause jelousy and resentment in a community.
  • Sometimes particular individuals who have developed a history of relationships with external projects can use that position within a community to further their own interests, and may promote themselves as the best people to work with for new projects.
  • External funding of activities has the potential to disrupt local economic arrangements, and such disruption might have negative consequences when the external funding is withdrawn.
  • Externally supported activities may compete with existing locally based sustainable businesses (or universities, or research organisations), but with significant advantages.
  • UNICEF recommends that new technology designs should be shared using open source licencing, but mandating this might restrict the opportunity for private sector actors to contribute to ICTD, and might also prevent a participating community from extracting benefits and incomes from their ideas.
  • When discussing or negotiating how benefits from a project might be shared, external ICTD actors are in a very powerful position because of their wider knowledge of the potential opportunities.

Some Questions

  • Should minimum standards recommend / mandate using open source / creative commens etc. sharing of outcomes?
  • If participants in a project are to be selected in some way, what is a fair process for this and how should external actors approach potential participants?
  • Should research informants / participants who are on very low incomes always be compensated for their time, and if so how should a fair rate be decided?
  • If efforts are made to protect the rights of the originators of ideas, what mechanisms should be in place? Should mimimum ethical standards set any specific obligations on projects with regard to fair shares?
  • Sustainable interventions using ICT usually rely on ICT skills being available to maintain technologies and manage future developments. What minimum standards should we expect with regard to collaborating with local organisations and building up local capacities?

Some Resources

  • The Honeybee network provides one possible approach to protecting the interests of local innovators
  • Concepts such as Responsible Research and Innovation, and the idea of businesses Creating Shared Value may be relevant to this discussion

Your comments

Please consider the questions, or suggest other questions and join this discussion. You can provide comments here, or you can email Andy & Dorothea

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