ICT for Social and Cultural Capital in Pacific Island Communities

ICT for Social and Cultural Capital in Pacific Island Communities

Usha Sundar Harris (Macquarie University, Australia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59140-575-7.ch066
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When new technology arrives in a society, it enters an already existing order of social hierarchies, power relationships and a knowledge base. The adoption of the technology can enhance the position of individuals or groups in the social order and isolate those unable to co-opt it easily for their own benefit. It can widen class, gender and generational gaps. For example, young people are able to interact with new information and communication technologies (ICT) more easily then their parents. Women and rural dwellers, on the other hand, benefit the least from ICT diffusion through lack of access (Joshi, 1998). In developing countries, adoption is further constrained by the fact that the technologies which are introduced have been primarily developed for use in industrialised societies. The frustrations of rural communities, attempting to adapt to products which were designed for urban consumers, have been the cause of mirth as well as desperation among local users. The incompatibility of technology, human needs and lack of knowledge and infrastructure in developing countries is exemplified in the following anecdote which the writer first heard when working as a journalist for the Fiji Times: A rural dweller, Jone, arrives in the city of Suva to visit his niece. In the morning, when he awakes, his niece plugs in the electric kettle to boil some water for tea. Not having seen such technology before, Jone is amazed at this “miracle”. He decides to buy one and take it home for his wife. Upon his arrival in the village, Jone gathers the clan to show them his new miracle appliance. He takes the kettle out and plugs it into the wall of his thatched bure and they wait…and wait…and wait. Of course, nothing happens because Jone had missed out on one minor detail when he purchased this new technology. He needs electricity to boil his water and his village is still unconnected. Instead of enhancing his position in the clan as an early adopter, this lack of knowledge makes Jone a laughing stock of the village.

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