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Introduction to the Special Issue

Information and communication technologies for development (ICT4D) is a multi-/interdisciplinary research area focusing on the interactions among information (I), communication (C), technology (T), and development (D) (Thapa and Sæbø, 2014; Walsham et al., 2007). To date, ICT4D is a loosely defined term that refers to a wide range of socio-technical applications to foster the development of developing communities (Donner and Toyama, 2009), and researchers with diversified backgrounds have contributed to ICT4D studies (Walsham, 2017). In terms of theoretical underpinnings, ICT4D research draws on relevant theories from diverse disciplines and fields (Chipidza and Leidner, 2019; Sein et al., 2019). In terms of application domains, ICT4D projects have been carried out in many settings, including agriculture, education, public health, government, environment, and economic development (Patra et al., 2009).

The intellectual roots of ICT4D require new technologies, new approaches to innovation, and new theoretical and methodological integration (Heeks, 2010). While the ICT4D research borrows heavily from computer science and information systems research (Zheng et al., 2018), it draws less from the information science discipline. Few information science scholars have explicitly conceptualized ICT4D when studying information needs and information behavior of the stakeholders of ICT4D projects. Besides, theories and conceptual frameworks from information science play limited roles in bridging the knowledge gaps in ICT4D research. For instance, Chatman’s (1991) work studying information-seeking behaviors of underserved populations has contributed to the development of social theories within the information field, which are especially applicable to ICT4D research. Bates (1999) elucidates the meta-field of information science and suggests bringing the invisible substrate of information studies to the surface to better expand the social impact of information science. Zhang et al. (2013) further conceptualize the information field from a broader perspective and propose a four-component model that includes people, information, technology, and management, which is highly compatible with the conceptual framework and mission of ICT4D.

It is worth noting that both the information field and the ICT4D research are firmly located in human-centered imperatives. The information field has much to offer in terms of information needs assessment, information behaviors in developmental contexts, information literacy, scholarly communication, knowledge translation as well as digital equity, marginalized communities, and vulnerable populations. This premise encourages an investigation of the intersections and situatedness of ICT4D and the information field. On the one hand, the informational perspectives and the work of information scholars can contribute to the ICT4D research. There is a pressing need to examine ICT use, design, and evaluation in developmental contexts from an ecological view and socio-technical approaches adopted in the information field. On the other hand, how ICT4D can in fact, contribute to and nourish the information field also deserves further attention. For example, a more in-depth focus on how information services are designed and deployed in highly constrained environments may yield new socio-cultural insights regarding what role information systems play in diverse social contexts. Besides, it is essential to note that many ICT4D research initiatives are translational projects (Colusso and Densmore, 2020). This modality of research, that is, translational, can be beneficial to the field of information.

For this special issue of the Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology (JASIST), we seek submissions that extend theoretical developments and applications of the information science to ICT4D research. Conversely, how can the ICT4D community inform and reshape the research agenda for information science scholars and practitioners? The purpose of this special issue is to gather views on potential intersecting opportunities and critical gaps in ICT4D & the information field.

Topics of Interest

This special issue guest editors welcome original research papers, conceptual papers, and case studies that address a range of topics exploring the intersections between ICT4D and the information field, including, but are not limited to, the following areas.

  • Employing core theories from the information field to explore ICT4D issues
  • The epistemological impact of ICT4D research and practice on the information field
  • Human-information interaction in ICT4D projects
  • ICT-empowered social support and social inclusion for the marginalized communities
  • ICT for and by cultural, social, and memory institutions in developmental contexts
  • ICT for education, learning, and training in developmental contexts
  • ICT for health information behavior and decision in developing countries and regions
  • Overcoming technostress and literacy barriers to enhance access to data and information in marginalized communities
  • Knowledge management and information governance in ICT4D initiatives
  • Data infrastructure and data curation in ICT4D projects

Submissions that offer a descriptive analysis of ICT4D research or practice, or those that are premised on technology acceptance and ICT adoption, will not be considered for review.

Submission Guidelines

Before submitting your manuscript, please ensure you have carefully read the JASIST Submission Guidelines ( The complete manuscript should be submitted through JASIST’s Submission System ( To ensure that your submission is routed properly, please select “Yes” in response to “Is this submission for a special issue?” and specify “Special Issue on ICT4D” when prompted later. Manuscripts of less than 8,000 words are expected. Authors who seek to submit longer manuscripts (of up to 9,000 words) are encouraged to communicate with the editorial team ahead of submission to justify their additional need.

Paper Development Workshop

The guest editors of this special issue will host a virtual paper development workshop (PDW). The purpose of the PDW is to provide potential authors with developmental feedback on their current research proposals. Authors are to submit a single PDF file that includes (a) their proposal or extended abstract, which should be no more than four pages total length (including references, tables, and figures), and (b) an optional one-page description of specific issues on which they would like feedback at the workshop. Submissions will be peer-reviewed by two members of the guest editorial team. The workshop will include (a) editors’ panel discussion on developing papers for initial submission to JASIST, and (b) roundtable discussion led by editors on authors’ submissions to the workshop. Potential participants will be invited to submit a PDF file via email: before 25 April 2021. The workshop will be held online in late May and the exact time will be announced.

It is important to emphasize that authors who are unable to attend this PDW are still welcome to submit their completed papers to the special issue. All papers will go through a full peer-review process to decide which papers to include in the special issue.

Submission Deadlines

Paper submission due: September 30, 2021

Note: please do not submit until after September 15, 2021 – the manuscripts will not be reviewed until after the submission deadline passes.

Guest Editors

Yuxiang (Chris) Zhao, Nanjing University of Science and Technology (

Jia Tina Du, University of South Australia (

Natalie Pang, National University of Singapore (

Hui Yan, Renmin University of China (

Jaya Raju, University of Cape Town (


Bates, M. J. (1999). The invisible substrate of information science. Journal of the American society for information science, 50(12), 1043-1050.

Chatman, E. A. (1991). Life in a small world: Applicability of gratification theory to information‐seeking behavior. Journal of the American Society for information science, 42(6), 438-449.

Chipidza, W., & Leidner, D. (2019). A review of the ICT-enabled development literature: Towards a power parity theory of ICT4D. The Journal of Strategic Information Systems, 28,145-174.

Colusso, L., & Densmore, M. (2020). Translation in conversation. Interactions, 27(5), 26-33.

Donner, J., & Toyama, K. (2009). Persistent themes in ICT4D Research: priorities for inter-methodological exchange. 57th Session of the International Statistics Institute, Durban, South Africa, 17-21.

Heeks, R. (2010). Do information and communication technologies (ICTs) contribute to development? Journal of International Development, 22(5), 625-640.

Patra, R., Pal, J., & Nedevschi, S. (2009, April). ICTD state of the union: Where have we reached and where are we headed. 2009 International Conference on Information and Communication Technologies and Development (ICTD) (pp. 357-366). IEEE.

Sein, M. K., Thapa, D., Hatakka, M., & Sæbø, Ø. (2019). A holistic perspective on the theoretical foundations for ICT4D research. Information Technology for Development, 25(1), 7-25.

Thapa, D., & Sæbø, Ø. (2014). Exploring the link between ICT and development in the context of developing countries: A literature review. The Electronic Journal of Information Systems in Developing Countries, 64(1), 1-15.

Walsham, G. (2017). ICT4D research: reflections on history and future agenda. Information Technology for Development, 23(1), 18-41.

Walsham, G., Robey, D., & Sahay, S. (2007). Foreword: Special issue on information systems in developing countries. MIS Quarterly, 317-326.

Zhang, P., Yan, J. L. S., & Hassman, K. D. (2013). The intellectual characteristics of the information field: Heritage and substance. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 64(12), 2468-2491.

Zheng, Y., Hatakka, M., Sahay, S., & Andersson, A. (2018). Conceptualizing development in information and communication technology for development (ICT4D). Information Technology for Development, 24(1), 1-14.