ICT: A Magic Wand for Social Change in Rural India

ICT: A Magic Wand for Social Change in Rural India

Orance Mahaldar (Ghent University, Belgium) and Kinkini Bhadra (Jadavpur University, India)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8598-7.ch021
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Abstract

The concept of automation was first seeded worldwide by Industrial Revolution. Liberalization and privatization has contributed much in the welcome of updated and upgraded technology in India. World Wide Web being the core connector of earth rightly supports Mc Luhan's concept of the ‘Global Village'. ICT- Information and Communication Technology is an initiative cum phenomenon that is taken on Public-Private Partnership (PPP) in order to build a bridge between the two sections of the society (technology haves and have nots) so that it is accessible to all. e-Governance, e-Health and e-Commerce are some of its applications. India has witnessed a number of successful E- Projects. Nonetheless, the argument of social exclusion, questions on technology support communication and information dissemination is still on. The article intends to throw light on various aspects keeping in line with the ICT projects in India, the type of ICT usage and a comparison between the already established communication models.
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Introduction

The seeds of Industrial Revolution and technological innovation have grown up to spread its roots much strongly in the 21st Century in the form of telecommunication, computation and World Wide Web. Landing in the technology driven era where automation is the central concept; distances are shortened and spaces are virtually killed while paving a way to a more transformed and transparent world. Communication technology has made it possible to propagate information in a much faster and easier way. This has enabled to build a society enriched with information – “Information Society”.

Information society is one of the key terms that describe the modern world we live in today. It is said to be an outcome of the industrial and post-industrial society (Sarrocco, n.d.), where the creation, distribution, use and integration of information is recognized as an active political, cultural and economic activity in order to enhance participation and promote social inclusion (DESA, 2009). But information dissemination alone is not the magic solution of problems like hunger or poverty. In fact ‘Right information at the right time’ is the key to solution (Chhavi, 2008). Be it the cost of seeds and other raw materials required by farmers or the recent health care planning by the government, that plans to provide free health check up for expecting mothers; information stand alone is not important, but dissemination of it at the right time such that the end users can utilize the information and benefit themselves from the same is vital. Rural population in India are undereducated in terms of the policies, plans and programmes taken to aid them of facilities and amenities required for sustainable development and better living.

Information society concerns the use of information for societal upliftment, social control, management of innovation in order to ensure a better quality of living, break the boundaries of community and ensure better and organized work, that also finds application in solving rural problems of poverty, inequality, illiteracy and environmental degradation (Rahman, 2008). Therefore, information deals with human intellect. In a nutshell, information society combines human intelligence and technical innovation together to give rise to the concept of ‘technology-support development’ where the ‘way to use’ a technology is focused at. It can be put in two ways- One, technology providers make use of the right technology at the right place (also referred to as ‘context’ by some experts), i.e. at the planning and execution level. Two, the end users make use of the technology for their own benefits (with reference to e-literacy). For example, installation of kiosks and computers in rural areas are not enough until it is the right technology for the purpose targeted and the target mass is capable of using them for own benefits.

A quick sneak peak in the history of social & technical development unearths the fact of the matter of the long going debate of technology supporting development. The first seed of development paradigm, as highly known today among the academicians, is the modernization theory or the dominant paradigm of development. This era was marked by technological innovation, capitalistic capability and experimentation to pave the way towards an economic boost. Advocates of the theory- Wilber Schramm (1964), Everett M. Rogers (1969) and Lerner (1958) greatly believed in technology bringing development (Fig- 1). Some of the primary features of the industrial society could be categorized as power production, increase of per capita production, high mass consumption, human liberalization and maximization of profit. However the negative peripheries include strikes, labour movement, urbanization and unemployment (Masuda, 1980).

Figure 1.

The above model describes the course of development according to modernization theory.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Digital Divide: Digital divide is used to describe the discrepancy between people who have access to and the resources to use new information and communication tools and people who do not have the resources and access to such technology. The term also describes the discrepancy between those who have the skills, knowledge and abilities to use the technologies and those who do not. The digital divide can exist between those living in rural areas and those living in urban areas, between the educated and uneducated, between economic classes, and on a global scale between more and less industrially developed nations.

Social Inclusion: Social inclusion is a process by which efforts are made to ensure equal opportunities for all. The multi-dimensional process aimed at creating conditions which enable full and active participation of every member of the society in all aspects of life, including civic, social, economic, and political activities, as well as participation in decision making processes. Social inclusion may also be interpreted as the process by which societies combat poverty and social exclusion. Social inclusion aims to empower poor and marginalized people to take advantage of burgeoning global opportunities. It ensures that people have a voice in decisions which affect their lives and that they enjoy equal access to markets, services and political, social and physical spaces.

Public Participation: Public participation is a political principle or practice, and may also be recognized as a right (right to public participation). Public participation may be regarded as a way of empowerment and as vital part of the democratic governance. Public participation is marked by debates and discussion along with social inclusion. Generally public participation seeks and facilitates the involvement of those potentially affected by or interested in a decision. The principle of public participation holds that those who are affected by a decision have a right to be involved in the decision-making process. It initiates and enhances the knowledge sharing process within a community.

ICT: The term ICT (Information and Communication Technology) is used to refer to the convergence of audio-visual and telephone networks with computer networks through a single cabling or link system. There are large economic incentives (huge cost savings due to elimination of the telephone network) to merge the telephone network with the computer network system using a single unified system of cabling, signal distribution and management.

Digitalization: Digitalization is the integration of digital technologies into everyday life by the digitization of everything that can be digitized. The literal meaning of digitalization gives an apparent idea of development and technology dependent world. In this chapter, digitalization means computerization of systems and jobs for better ease and accessibility.

Sustainable Development: Sustainable development or integrated development deals with an overall development which includes improved quality of living, health, education, employment along with economic development. Sustainable development can greatly be related to developing countries like India, where economy is not just the problem, but lack of proper sanitation and clean drinking water also.

Development Communication: Development communication refers to the use of communication to facilitate social development. Development communication techniques include information dissemination and education, behaviour change, social marketing, social mobilization, media advocacy, communication for social change and community participation. Erskine Childers defined it as development support communications which is a discipline in development planning and implementation in which more adequate account is taken of human behavioural factors in the design of development projects and their objectives.

Communication Model: Models of communication refer to the conceptual diagrammatic representation used to explain the human communication process which primarily consists of a transmitter, a channel, a receiver and a destination. Models are used for the sake of simplification and presentation of the complex communication structure and often help to identify the type or pattern of communication. Models also help to predict the nature of communication and the type of its outcome.

Information Society: Information Society is a term for a society in which the creation, distribution, use, integration and manipulation of information is a significant economic, political, and cultural activity. The aim of the information society is to gain competitive advantage internationally, through using information technology (IT) in a creative and productive way. The knowledge economy is its economic counterpart, whereby wealth is created through the economic exploitation of understanding. People who have the means to partake in this form of society are sometimes called digital citizens. This is one of many dozen labels that have been identified to suggest that humans are entering a new phase of society.

Convergence: Convergence is the coming together of telecommunications, computing and broadcasting into a single digital bit-stream. The rise of digital communication in the late 20 th century has made it possible for media organizations (or individuals) to deliver text, audio, and video material over the same wired, wireless, or fibre-optic connections. This digital convergence of news media, in particular, was called “Mediamorphosis” by researcher Roger Fidler, in his 1997 book by that name. An example of device supporting convergence is smart phone that can involve n parallel work of a phone, pc, music system, compass, library, newspaper and so on.

E-Governance: e-Governance is the public sector’s use of the most innovative information and communication technologies, like the Internet, in order to deliver citizens with improved services, reliable information and greater knowledge in order to facilitate access to the governing process and encourage deeper participation (UNESCO). It is a generic term that refers to any government functions or processes that are carried out in digital form over the Internet. Local, state and federal governments essentially set up central websites from which the public (both private citizens and businesses) can find public information, download government forms and contact government representatives.

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