The Perils of Using Technology to Solve Other People's Problems

Ethan Zuckerman, The Atlantic, Jul 10, 2016
Commentary by Stephen Downes

"Many hard problems require you to step back and consider whether you’re solving the right problem," writes Ethan Zuckermaan in this excellent article. "If your solution only mitigates the symptoms of a deeper problem, you may be calcifying that problem and making it harder to change." This is the characteristic result when technologists see a social problem as an engineering problem. "The problem with the solutionist critique, though, is that it tends to remove technological innovation from the problem-solver’s toolkit." As I've long said, the best use for a technology is one people select for themselves, and designing a solution to a problem is exactly the wrong way to design technology (none of my colleagues at NRC agree with this). Recommended via Gerald Ardito. Related: UNICEF principles for digital development.

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