Postcolonial ICT Challenges

Postcolonial ICT Challenges

Birgitta Rydhagen (Blekinge Institute of Technology, Sweden) and Lena Trojer (Blekinge Institute of Technology, Sweden)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59904-949-6.ch003
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Abstract

This article has a particular interest in the introduction of ICT in the postcolonial parts of the world. The fundamental arguments for investing in ICT all over the world rest on the view of ICT as a necessity for successful integration into the world economy. ICTs are regarded as having great potential to promote development in key social and economic areas where a shortage of capital, knowledge and local capacity obstructs progress. However, “information itself does not feed, clothe or house the world” (Main, 2001, p. 96), and it remains to be seen whether ICTs in developing countries will create wealth among the poor in those countries or among the already wealthy. In the promotion of ICTs for development, the introduction of these technologies is mainly discussed in technical terms, considering the problems of electricity, telephone access, and expensive computers. The argument for introduction is also rather instrumental, expecting income generation and economic improvement. At the same time, ICTs are sometimes referred to as revolutionary, but they will travel on existing technologies, modes of communication and (post) colonial relationships. The introduction of new technologies will not only be regarded as a technical issue. It may also be politically sensitive, if the technology shows signs of disrespect for the local culture, if it promotes only specific groups and ways of life in the local society, or if it bypasses the local society when reaching out for a specific target like a company (see e.g., Redfield, 2002). As for example Weckert and Adeney (1997) argue, the spread of ICTs in diverse cultural settings might very well be regarded as cultural imperialism, given the unequal access to resources for alternative technologies or content. The directions that ICTs lead towards, for example distant communication, may be interpreted as unifying and networking on a global scale between interest groups to their own and society’s benefit. ICTs may also lead to an increased spread of (androcentric) American and western ideals and commercial products, increasing the global dominance of the U.S. and other western nations. These examples show the impossibility in treating technologies as neutral tools. The aim of this article is to develop postcolonial and feminist technoscience requests for context sensitive and distributed ICT processes in relation to the development of ICTs for Tanzania at the University of Dar es Salaam.

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