Pacific Information and Communication Technology for Development Collaborative

The Pacific ICTD Collaborative: A Long and Rich Heritage

The mission of the Pacific ICTD Collaborative is an extension of the rich heritage of decades of great scholars at the University of Hawai'i and the East-West Center (EWC) who helped drive development in the region through research and programs on the impacts of media and information technologies on its economic, cultural, social, and political development. In particular, two such scholars stand out: Prof. Wilbur Schramm (1907-1987) and Dr. Meheroo Jussawalla (1923-2012), two iconic figures in communication, information, and economic development in the Pacific region.

As early as 1964, Schramm, often referred to as the "father of communication studies," and Daniel Lerner, known for his theories of modernization, sponsored a seminar at the newly established East-West Center about the role of communication in development. In 1973, Schramm returned full time as founding Director of the EWC's Communication Institute (1973-75). He also served as a member of the University's graduate faculty, with an appointment in the Department of Communication. In 1975, he and Lerner convened a second influential seminar. Their theories were key to the establishment of the then-dominant paradigm of development, which figured prominently in U.S. "Cold War" strategies. Although Schramm retired from the EWC in1980, he continued to be active as a researcher and teacher until his passing in 1987.

Schramm helped put together at the Institute what he later (1983) described as, "an almost unequalled team of scholars and communicators . . . with respect to less developed countries" in Asia and the South Pacific. The Institute was a hothouse of research, programs, visiting experts, regional leaders, and others who recognized the importance of this field. It was into this rich environment that another leading scholar stepped, to pick up the same themes, but develop different theoretical approaches. This was Dr. Meheroo Jussawalla, who focused on the economics of regional ICT and development.

Jussawalla arrived in the U.S. from India in 1975, with few resources, but a long string of "firsts" in India: first woman to earn a Ph.D. in economics; first female Dean of a major university, to name a few. But her economics did not conform to Indira Gandhi's Marxist economics, resulting in her exit under pressure. She became a EWC staff fellow in 1977, as well as a member of the University's graduate faculty in Communication, Economics, and Communication and Information Sciences. She taught in the University from the 1980's until 2000.

Jussawalla was one of the first classically trained economists to conceptualize communications as an important factor in model building for development. Studying with Wilbur Schramm, she helped build "information economics" into a respectable branch of study. She co-edited a book, Communication Economics and Development (1982) with Don Lamberton, another economist, who had been a Fellow at the EWC. It became a foundational reading in information economics. She lived to see her work applied widely to the rapid IT-based development of the Pacific hemisphere.

Over the course of her professional career she published some 15 books and more than 100 articles. In 1998, a Festschrift (a book in her honor), titled Communications and Trade: Essays in Honor of Meheroo Jussawalla, was published with chapters written by 19 leading scholars and experts in the field.

She directly and indirectly influenced not only many students, but also visiting scholars, regional regulators and administrators, industry leaders, and other scholars in her field. She raised funding and ran major international conferences. She was one of the founders of the Telecommunications Policy Research Conference (Washington, D.C.) and of the Pacific Telecommunications Council (Honolulu, HI), both of which have honored her. She collaborated with, and mentored, a whole generation of leading U.S. and international telecommunications scholars. Her work and theories had a profound impact on the field, which persists. Her view of development focused more on indigenous capacities and capabilities than on technical foreign aid.

It is on this lineage that the Pacific ICTD Collaborative is grounded, and plans to build. Although the worlds of Prof. Schramm and Dr. Jussawalla have evolved, there is no less of a need – in fact, we believe even more of a need – to support applied and scholarly research on the never-ending challenges as the world moves to adopt a whole new set of technologies that present new challenges to understanding the interplay of ICT and development.