A Grassroots Approach to the Democratic Role of the Internet in Developing Countries: The Case of Morocco

A Grassroots Approach to the Democratic Role of the Internet in Developing Countries: The Case of Morocco

Mohamed Ben Moussa (McGill University, Canada)
Copyright: © 2013 |Pages: 23
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-4197-6.ch013

Abstract

This chapter explores the role of the Internet in collective action in Morocco, and examines the extent to which the medium has empowered civil society and social movements in the North African country. Drawing on in-depth interviews conducted with activists belonging to key social movement organizations, the article analyzes how the appropriation of the Internet in activism is mediated through the socioeconomic and political structures proper to Morocco as a semi-authoritarian and developing country. In so doing, it sheds light on various intersections between technology diffusion, social movements’ organizational structures, and multiple forms of power relationships among social and political actors. The article argues that the Internet has certainly transformed collective action repertoire deployed by Moroccan social movements; nevertheless, it also demonstrates that the impact of the Internet is conditioned by multiple forms of digital divides that are significantly shaping its implications for social and political change in the country.
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Ict-For-Development: A Critical Perspective

The literature on the political role and democratic potential of ICTs and the Internet particularly is marked by what many commentators have termed a dichotomy between “utopian” and “dystopian” stances on technology (Saco, 2002; Dahlgren, 2005; Bentivegna, 2006; Dutton, Shepherd & de Gennaro, 2007;). A similar dichotomous theorization characterizes the scholarly examination of the role of ICTs in development insofar as two development paradigms are currently dominating the literature: on the one hand, there is the “modernization” development paradigm, and, on the other, the “social injustice” development one. While the modernization paradigm maintains that ICTs are crucial for development perceived to spread from the west to southern countries, the social injustice paradigm argues that ICTs exacerbate existing inequalities since they only benefit those who are “already dominant politically and economically” (Zembylas, 2009, pp. 18-19). Despite the polemics surrounding the issue, more evidence has emerged in the last few years as to the capacity of new technology to contribute to social and economic development, as the debate on the potential of ICTs has “shifted from whether but how ICT can benefit development” (Walsham, Robey, & Sahay, 2007, p. 317).

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