Who was Amy Mahan

Amy Mahan (1961-2009), information and communication specialist


Amy Mahan, an information and communication specialist, died at the peak of her professional career. During her life time, she particularly contributed to improve the situation of developing countries.

Amy Mahan


The community of information and communication technologies has lost an important member. On 5 March, Amy Mahan, 47, at the peak of her professional career, died of cancer. Mahan's career was marked by a commitment to action research and its effective dissemination to improve the communication opportunities of the disadvantaged, as a foundation for human and social development. The focus of much of her work has been on telecommunication reform and information and communication technology (ICT) policies, particularly with respect to developing countries.


Although she was a productive researcher, Amy chose to devote most of her activity to helping others with her exceptional skills in research support, editing and report preparation. She had a rare talent for integrating technical production and substantive content editing to enhance the communicability of research presentation. She strongly believed the weakest link in the research process was dissemination, and she demonstrated innovation and imagination to improve its effectiveness wherever she worked. She was a team player who preferred to work collaboratively.


See more about Amy Mahan: An International Professional Trajectory


Amy Mahan, In Memoriam

Amy Mahan coordinated the Learning Initiatives on Reforms for Network Economies (LIRNE.NET) from Montevideo, Uruguay, and was a member of the Research Working Group of the Global Impact Study of Public Access to Information and Communication Technologies. She was also an active member of DIRSI (Diálogo Regional sobre Sociedad de la Información) and a founder of Fundación Comunica.

Amy left us at age 47 on 5 March 2009. She left suddenly, giving no warning. She did not want us to be distracted by her illness. She wanted to be known by what she thought, what she wrote, who she helped.

"...there are two predominant motivations for investing in and building physical spaces with computers and connections to the internet: 1) because there is a scarcity of ICT resources that the endeavour seeks to fill (and perhaps benefit from); and 2) because there is a need to build up community resources...

The literature assumes the importance of sustainability for community access points. But perhaps what is needed is a more holistic picture which widens the frame to view and accept some public access points as necessarily ephemeral and fleeting. In many instances what is required for adoption is the impetus (and attraction) of introduction to ICT services and applications - rather than a sustained relationship to provide this access. The establishment of a community capacity building access point considers the broader skill base of the community in its evaluations. Likewise, commercial (or nonprofit) enterprises simply seeking to fulfill an access gap should also be posited in context of the community it is serving and in context of shifts in local ICT adoption indicators during its lifespan."

As is often the case for social exclusion (gender being a key example), lack of data is still a key constraint for measuring positive effects and progress generally. If the design for the telecentre or cibercafé does not particularly target women and girls, or poor people, the handicapped, elderly, people who don't speak the official language - or others with special circumstances or needs, it is not likely to collect indicators on the access or use by these subgroups of the premises and ICT services. And, on the other hand, the challenges of simultaneously confronting ICT and a public place may prove insurmountable for some socially marginalized sectors.

Amy Mahan's foremost interest was on ICTs as tools for social inclusion; an opportunity to help women and traditionally marginalized peoples improve their lives and communities. Amy was committed to academic rigor; to learning from field observations and analysis to inform our investments and policy prescriptions; and Amy understood that rigor required thoroughness and an understanding of context.

At the time of her passing Amy had made substantial contributions to the research and the design of two ICT for development programs. It is with deep gratitude for her scholarship, personal courage and humanity, that we honor our friend and colleague by establishing the Amy Mahan Fellowships: