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Information Technology for Development

For a Special Issue on

Alternative Local[ised] Philosophies for Sustainability Transformation in ICT4D

Abstract deadline
01 October 2024

Manuscript deadline
31 May 2025

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Special Issue Editor(s)

David Kreps, University of Galway, Galway, Ireland
[email protected]

Devinder Thapa, University of Agder, Kristiansand, Norway,
[email protected]

Sam Zaza, Middle Tennessee State University, USA
[email protected]

Caroline Khene, Institute of Development Studies, Brighton, United Kingdom
[email protected]

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Alternative Local[ised] Philosophies for Sustainability Transformation in ICT4D

Aims and Scope

This special issue aims to give voice to those whose philosophical perspectives are not well represented in the global norths, but whose views - including on the notions of ‘global norths’ and ‘global souths’ (Halvorsen & Zaragocin, 2021) and upon the contested nature of ‘transformation’ (Markus & Rowe 2023) - may improve our understanding through a more equal conversation.  We understand transformation as a holistic paradigm shift in terms of ontology, epistemology, and practice, and much less as a prescribed, top-down, vision-driven organizational change style of transformation (Tana et al., 2023), all-too-often open to charges of (post)colonial influence.

The editors seek to represent an inclusive theoretical framework, incorporating both Western and non-Western perspectives, which we believe is crucial for addressing the complexities of sustainable development in diverse global contexts.

Sustainable development, as broadly defined by the Brundtland Commission, entails meeting present needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own (WCED, 1987). To operationalize sustainable development, the United Nations General Assembly promulgated a set of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2015, later adopted by all UN member states (UN, 2015). However, the ongoing dialogue and debate surrounding Western thinking's role in shaping the conceptualization and implementation of sustainable development highlights the need for a more inclusive approach that recognizes the diversity of perspectives (Capra & Luisi, 2014; Escobar, 2018; Táíwò, 2022). Examples of ongoing debate point to issues related to a lack of contextualisation of the SDGs and realist metrics, power imbalances and neo-colonial practices by global powers, an emphasis on economic growth leading to extractive and exploitative models contributing to environmental degradation and social inequalities. The sustainability transformation requires not just sustainable development for the global souths but partnerships with and change within the global norths – and perhaps new terminology altogether.

The notion of ‘southern theory’ is relatively new in ICT4D.  Edward Said’s 1979 “Orientalism,” and Gayatri Spivak’s “Can the subaltern speak?” (1988) were likely the inspiration, but “Southern Theory,” as Raewyn Connell’s (2007) book describes it, or as de Sousa Santos (2014) called it, “Epistemologies of the South” is something for which there has been a call for exploration in the field of ICT4D (Kreps & Bass, 2019; Kreps, 2023).  Some streams of Western philosophy – e.g., Marx, critical theory, Arendt, Foucault – have been focused on personhood and social organization, and in this respect could be regarded as evolving towards a more (pre-colonial) African approach.  Indian and Chinese pre-Western epistemological, philosophical, and social positions and practices are arguably similar. Meanwhile, as Said and Spivak exemplify, contemporary non-Western philosophies have drawn benefits as well as differing from, in particular, this counter-history in Western philosophy.  An exploration, for example, of how Confucian ethics of kinship and loyalty, or the compassion and consensus building in Buddhism, or the Shinto, Hindu, and Bantu attention to how dynamic forces work through ancestors, places, and communities may temper the individualism and modernity of many western philosophical approaches, may be long overdue.  A sense of relationality, context, and contingency as foundational conditions of possibility for self-concept may bring profound insights to the Western focus on autonomous individuality.

Meanwhile, the sustainability transformation - along with the digital transformation - is one that, in particular, requires a deeper understanding than it is often given - and a more global and inclusive perspective that allows for a multiplicity of views in different contexts.   Capra and Luisi (2014) argue that an inclusive theoretical framework integrating both Eastern and Western perspectives could provide a more comprehensive understanding of sustainable development, accounting for diverse cultural, social, and environmental contexts. This inclusive approach is essential for addressing the needs and priorities of both Northern and Southern regions. Norwegian philosopher Arne Naess established the philosophical roots of sustainable development in 'deep ecology', drawing from both Eastern and Western philosophical traditions (Naess, 1973). Deep ecology underscores the intrinsic worth of all organisms and advocates for their preservation not solely for human benefit but for the integrity of ecosystems. It challenges anthropocentric perspectives, emphasizing a re-evaluation of human relationships with nature.

Connecting digital technology to sustainable development necessitates an information system capable of integrating data from various sources and facilitating collaboration among multiple parties. However, digitalization processes sometimes stray from the principles of sustainable development (Karki & Thapa, 2021) and prioritize economic benefits. While existing digitalization processes primarily focus on economic benefits, equal attention should be paid to societal and environmental impacts (Capra & Luisi, 2014). A shift is required from an anthropocentric to an eco-centric approach, aligning with Capra and Luisi's notion of designing a sustainable society that harmonizes with nature's ability to sustain life (Capra & Luisi, 2014). Achieving this requires embedding the essence of deep ecology into the digitalization process.

Organizations can adopt an ethical framework rooted in deep ecology when introducing digitalization processes. Such an approach necessitates a paradigm shift in mindset, moving from a mechanistic to a systemic view of interconnected entities (Capra & Luisi, 2014). Given the interconnected and interdependent nature of sustainability phenomena, studies should adopt a systemic approach, providing a holistic view of ontological and epistemological dimensions (Capra & Luisi, 2014). This entails not only assessing the impact of digitalization on sustainability but also designing digitalization processes based on sustainable principles, including insights from non-Western perspectives in epistemological investigations. For example, Vandana Shiva's work emphasizes the importance of indigenous knowledge systems and local communities in sustainable development efforts (Shiva, 1997). Such an inclusive theoretical framework, incorporating non-Western perspectives, is crucial for addressing the complexities of sustainable development in diverse global contexts (Capra & Luisi, 2014; Escobar, 2018; Naess, 1973).

ICT4D can support alternative philosophies of governance, such as deep ecology, by facilitating decentralized decision-making, promoting knowledge sharing and awareness, enabling monitoring and accountability, and fostering global collaboration and solidarity. By harnessing the potential of ICT4D, we can work towards governance structures that are more responsive to ecological concerns and conducive to the well-being of both human and non-human beings.

The editors believe this topic could attract a very fruitful set of conceptual papers with some fascinating illustrative examples from around the world. We are not looking for papers about an Information System (IS) in a particular community. We are specifically looking for papers about how a non-Western philosophy is shaping or moulding an IS in a community.  Examples could include (but are not limited to):

  • How might integrating Buddhist principles of collectivity and socially situated identity contribute to the development of community-driven ICT solutions aimed at reducing energy consumption and waste in local contexts?
  • In what ways could leveraging Confucian ethics of kinship and loyalty support the resilience and sustainability of family-owned businesses amidst climate-related challenges, utilizing ICT tools for adaptation and continuity?
  • How can a Bantu worldview, which emphasizes dynamic forces encompassing ancestorial and elderly knowledge, spirituality, and collectivity, inform the design and implementation of digitalised fundraising (crowdfunding) practice, such as ‘Stokvel’ in South Africa and ‘Harambee’ in Kenya?
  • How could a deeper understanding of the Dreaming and its interconnectedness between community and land empower the establishment of digitally-enabled healthcare networks tailored to the unique needs of remote indigenous communities in Australia's northern territories?
  • How might the ancestral ties, familial networks, cultural values, and religious affiliations prevalent in Middle Eastern societies drive collaborative efforts towards sustainable development initiatives, utilizing ICT platforms as facilitators and enablers of collective action and progress?
  • What are the types of information flows that can help decentre Global Norths policy and strategies to accommodate perspectives from the Global Souths?
  • Are existing IS theories still relevant with new paradigms, such as sustainable transformations where the focus is on change in Global North philosophies?


  • Capra, F., & Luisi, P. L. (2014). The Systems View of Life: A Unifying Vision. Cambridge University Press.
  • Connell, R.: Southern Theory. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press. (2007)
  • de Sousa Santos, B.: Epistemologies of the South: Justice Against Epistemicide Abingdon: Routledge (2014)
  • Escobar, A. (2018). Designs for the Pluriverse: Radical Interdependence, Autonomy, and the Making of Worlds.Duke University Press.
  • Halvorsen, S., & Zaragocin, S. (2021). Territory and decolonisation: debates from the Global Souths. Third World Thematics: A TWQ Journal, 6(4–6), 123–139.
  • Karki, Y., & Thapa, D. (2021). Exploring the link between digitalization and sustainable development: research agendas. In Responsible AI and Analytics for an Ethical and Inclusive Digitized Society: 20th IFIP WG 6.11 Conference on e-Business, e-Services and e-Society, I3E 2021, Galway, Ireland, September 1–3, 2021, Proceedings 20 (pp. 330-341). Springer International Publishing.
  • Kreps, D., & Bass, J., (2019) ‘Southern Theories in ICT4D’, in Nielsen, Petter, Kimaro, Honest Christopher (Eds.) (2019) Information and Communication Technologies for Development. Strengthening Southern-Driven Cooperation as a Catalyst for ICT4D 15th IFIP WG 9.4 International Conference on Social Implications of Computers in Developing Countries, ICT4D 2019, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, May 1–3, 2019, Proceedings. ISBN 978-3-030-18400-1
  • Kreps, D. (2023) Talk at DSAI RESEARCH METHODS SUMMER SCHOOL: Territories of Technology, Innovation and Development
  • Rowe, F., and Markus, M. L., (2023) "Envisioning Digital Transformation: Advancing Theoretical Diversity," Journal of the Association for Information Systems, 24(6), 1459-1478. DOI: 10.17705/1jais.00850
  • Naess, A. (1973). The shallow and the deep, long-range ecology movement: A summary. Inquiry, 16(1-4), 95-100.
  • Táíwò, O., 2022. Against Decolonisation: Taking African Agency Seriously (African Arguments) C Hurst & Co Publishers Ltd, London.
  • Said, E.: Orientalism. New York: Vintage Books, (1979)
  • Said, E.: Culture and Imperialism. New York: Vintage (1993)
  • Shiva, V. (1997). Biopiracy: The Plunder of Nature and Knowledge. South End Press.
  • Spivak, C. G. (1988). Can the subaltern speak?. Marxism and the Interpretation of Culture, pp. 271-313.
  • Tana, S., Breidbach, C. F., and Burton-Jones, A., (2023) "Digital Transformation as Collective Social Action," Journal of the Association for Information Systems, 24(6), 1618-1644. DOI: 10.17705/1jais.00791
  • United Nations. (2015). Transforming our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. United Nations General Assembly. (accessed from
  • World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED). (1987). Our Common Future. Oxford University Press.
  • Zuboff, S. (2015). Big other: surveillance capitalism and the prospects of an information civilization. Journal of information technology, 30(1), 75-89.

Submission Instructions

Work-in-progress Workshop

Under a dual IFIP-AIS banner, the editors will host a work-in-progress workshop in Bangkok, Thailand, in December 2024, co-located with the International Conference on Information Systems.  Authors are invited to submit conference versions of their proposed papers to this workshop for feedback and discussion. (Submission to the workshop is not a requirement to submit to this special issue.)

  • Workshop papers for pre-ICIS / WG9.4 Co-located Hybrid Workshop December 2024 to be submitted by 1st October 2024 by email to [email protected].
  • Full papers are to be submitted by 31st May 2025 through the ITD journal submission portal.
  • Select 'Alternative Local[ised] Philosophies for Sustainability Transformation in ICT4D' when prompted during the submission process. 

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