Ten Questions with Sajda Qureshi
Wednesday, June 15, 2016
Posted by: Brook Pritchett
This month, the AIS Insider features Sajda Qureshi, a Professor at the College of Information Science and Technology at the University of Nebraska, Omaha. Professor Qureshi conducts research on the implications of ICTs in a global context. As the Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Information Technology for Development (ITD), she has been instrumental to the advancement of an ICT4D research agenda. In this feature, she answers questions about the impact of IS scholars in the ICT4D space and sheds light on how doctoral students and faculty can become more active in this area. You can learn more about Prof Qureshi from her faculty website: http://faculty.ist.unomaha.edu/squreshi/
1. As the Editor-in-Chief for Information Technology for Development, a leading journal in this area read by both practitioners and academics, what is your assessment of the level of impact IS researchers are having in this space compared to scholars in other disciplines?
This is a very good question. Scholars in other disciplines that have made an impact in IT for development are in the areas of economics, government and international relations. I will refer you to my attached editorial on this topic (Qureshi 2015). In terms of citations and impact factor, here is the level of impact in the other disciplines conducting research in ICT4D:
From economics, Romer’s (1989) Endogenous technological change cited 21,773 times; Solow’s Technical change growth model cited 12,414 times; contribution to economic growth 20,094 times, Baliamoune-Lutz’s (2003) ICT diffusion in developing countries cited 222 times. From sociology, Malecki’s (1997) Technology and Economic Development cited 1667 times, and Utterback (1994). From government/Public Policy, Dosi’s (1982) Technical change cited 7538 times. And from community Informatics, Gurstein’s (1999) cited 443 times. The following are contributions by IS researchers to IT for Development. Information systems: Walsham and Sahay’s (2006) Research landscape cited 369 times, Cecchini and Scott’s (2003) ICT applications contribution to poverty reduction cited 284 times.
Even though the majority of development projects have large information and Communication Technology components, Information systems researchers have had a comparatively smaller impact than researchers in economics. For example, the more highly cited papers in the ITD Journal are written by economists. One of the reasons their impact appears to be less than that of other academics cited above is because IS researchers tend to use out dated classifications such as “developing countries’ and “third world” despite the fact that some of these countries have higher ICT penetration rates than most “developed countries”. For example, the country with the largest number of mobile payments users is Kenya and the country with the largest number of high speed broadband mobile phone users is China - both of these countries defy traditional classifications in their usage of ICTs
2. The potential for real world impact from ICT4D research is immense. However, there is a perennial gap between the academy and practice. How have ICT4D researchers dealt with this challenge?
ICT4D researchers are primarily represented through the ICT4D conferences, see http://www.ict4dconference.org. Yet this is more an area of practice connected to development projects. See attached my editorials on this topic (Qureshi 2015, Qureshi 2016).
3. In your opinion, what are some of the most important research areas with the potential for lasting global impact that are being ignored by IS researchers?
The role of ICTs for sustainable development, and climate change. My sense is that IS researchers tend to study IT phenomena after they have taken place. For example, during the Arab Spring, Facebook and other social networks were not being studied as drivers of social interaction but merely as ways to test existing concepts. Now that we can see that social networks can take a life of their own and bring about social, political and economic changes, IS researchers need to understand these changes and discover new concepts that help us explain and predict the effects of ICTs on improvements in people’s lives. Instead, as can be seen from ICIS and AIS proceedings, most IS researchers have now jumped on the next bandwagon: affordances in crowdsourcing and open source networks. See my editorials on this topic (Qureshi 2015, Qureshi 2016).
4. Recently, the World Economic Forum released a report that describes a paradox of technology across societies – while ICTs are driving economic growth and decreasing global inequality, they are contributing to rising within-country income inequality. How can information systems researchers better equip themselves to deal with such research topics?
If IS researchers are to realistically contribute to the goals of the WEF, they will need to move away from the outdated country classifications. See: Tariq Khokhar, “Is the term ‘developing world’ outdated?” https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2015/11/is-the-term-developing-world-outdated/. The data on ICT usage at the country and regional levels suggests that we need to consider innovations taking place in the many ways in which ICTs are being used. If IS researchers want to contribute to what we know about the how ICTs are driving economic growth and decreasing or in some cases increasing income inequality, they will have to move away from individual level constructs that look at how or why people adopt technology (such as TAM or UAUT) to more relevant constructs that help us understand the outcomes or effects of using ICTs to bring about improvements in the lives of people. See Qureshi (2015).
5. What community has visibly influenced your career? How can doctoral students and other IS researchers become part of this community?
The Development community comprises of practitioners and academics working in international agencies such as the United Nations and World Bank. Having worked with development experts at various stages in my life, I became aware of the global forces affecting our lives. My earlier work on virtual teams in the 90’s was spurred by the need for development experts in different parts of the world to work with each other in ‘real-time’. We continue to live in a very inter-connected world in which ICTs are a driving force. The ICT4D community is a very good example of such a group doing relevant work in a growing area. I would suggest doctoral students sign up and attend the ICT4D conferences:
They can also join the AIS SIG on Global Development and become active in current ongoing research projects in this area. If doctoral students wanting to pursue research questions in ICT4D, ITD, or societal aspects of IS, I suggest they take a look at the World Symposium on the Information Society: http://www.itu.int/net/wsis/ . The International telecommunications Union of the United Nations hosts this effort and offers a multitude of case studies and data for the inquisitive student. See the WSIS Stock taking database for case studies taking place all over the world:
If your interest is more on the quantitative side of the effects of ICTs on development, then take a look at the world bank database:
Using these above resources to conduct research also opens up new opportunities in international agencies, government and academic programs for doctoral students wanting to explore careers beyond the traditional MIS department in a business school.
6. Can you share the names of some trade press publications or online communities that have a record of producing or collecting high quality stories or accounts of ICT use in a global context?
“Development” is a publication produced by the Society for International Development. The World Bank
and ITU have a great supply of cases in ICT4D
7. What have you observed to be a major determinant of the productivity and research quality of doctoral students?
The major determinant for productivity and research quality of doctoral students is their prior research exposure or experience. In my experience, students who have been part of research projects, co-written papers, or attended conferences before or during their doctoral studies tend to do better research. Another factor is offering students opportunities to conduct research or explore questions in the field given them unique insights into research questions that are relevant.
8. With respect to your career, if you were to do it all over again, what would you have done differently? Why?
I am actually quite happy with the way my career has turned out. Looking back I had never thought I would enjoy teaching and research as much as I do. If there is anything I would do differently, I would make sure I get shares in all the tech companies my students set up.
9. Tell us something very few people know about you?
I spent the first seven years of my life on a ranch in Uganda, Africa.
10. What is your most rewarding service activity? And why?
Working with micro-entrepreneurs in underserved communities has been the most rewarding experience for me. I have learned from this service that it is the ways in which technologies are used that make the difference, not the technologies themselves.
Finally: Who would you like to see answer these questions next? And what would you like to see her/his thoughts on?
I would like to see Robert Davison, editor in chief of ISJ, answer these questions. He has worked tirelessly to mentor upcoming scholars in ICT4D and IS through his leadership as Editor of EJISDC which he also founded together with a group of IS academics including myself.
Qureshi, S. (2015). Are we making a Better World with Information and Communication Technology for Development (ICT4D) Research? Findings from the Field and Theory Building. Information Technology for Development,21(4), 511-522.
Qureshi, S. (2016). Creating a Better World with Information and Communication Technologies: Health Equity. Information Technology for Development,22(1), 1-14.
David Agogo, University of Massachusetts, Amherst.
For questions about this series or suggestions of who you would like to see interviewed, please contact David Agogo.
Also, view more information about the column, a list of past features and links to the full interviews here.