Mainstreaming ICTs means they should be understood as one among a number of tools seeking to achieve other development goals – poverty alleviation, health, education – of the MDG variety. Subsuming the technology into individual development goal silos means learning about ICTs becomes trapped by mainstreaming. The specialist knowledge that successful ICT4D deployment requires – about design, development, implementation, evaluation, etc. – does not flow across the silos, causing wheels to be continuously and wastefully reinvented.
Mainstreaming of ICTs has been driven alongside an info-centric view that conceives them as tools for handling the information and communication that development requires. This is ICTs’ “intensive” role of improving existing activities. It ignores ICTs’ “extensive” role of creating new development processes and livelihoods. As a result, for example, ICTs’ productive role gets ignored. Yet we know from the 2010 UN Information Economy Report that ICTs are creating millions of new jobs and micro-enterprises in developing countries. Which donor agency, which government, which development organisation has its eye on that ball?