Araba Sey’s article We use it different, different reminds me a lot of the topics we have covered in Levinson’s class “Communication in Social & Economic Development.’ Her thesis, that ICTs in developing nations are oftentimes used for different purposes intended by those that provide the technologies, has become a common theme in developmental communication. Those disseminating ICTs in the developing world must take into consideration not only the needs of the people, but also the culture of the people in which they are working. It was Bill Gates who said that those in the developing world need access to food and water more than they need access to a computer – providing ICTs may have showcase some developmental improvements in these regions but at the end of the day core issues need to be first resolved.
Unfortunately this article was lacking in anything really groundbreaking:
“The surveys revealed a similar trend – when subscribers were asked to indicate their top reasons for owning a mobile phone, the most frequently selected reasons were: ‘So other people can contact me’ (74.6%), ‘So I can contact other people’ (69.5%), and for ‘Emergency situations’ (36.4%).”
…Really? So you’re telling me that subscribers in the developing nation of Ghana use their mobile phones to talk to people? Riveting. This article is basically artful rhetoric used to cover up a lack of content. Yes, it’s true, different cultures use ICTs for different reasons, but the fact that mobile telephony in the developing world has been used by its subscribers to increase connectivity is nothing ground breaking.
What’s more groundbreaking is how ICTs, such as TV dramas, are being used in Northeast and Southeast Asia to disseminate information about health related issues. This topic was discussed in Khiun’s Information-Dramatization. Levinson talks about how this tactic was used in Nepal through community radio. That those in the developed world use TV and Radio “serials” for entertainment, those in the developed world have found a way to combat talking about taboo subjects through TV programs to get HRMs (health-related messages) out to the public. That is how a culture truly used ICTs in a different way:
“Not limited to distribution and consumption, the circulation process also entails adaptation and localization of commercially successful foreign screen narratives by cautious television stations.”
This provides a different way of diffusing information and developing low-income countries in terms of health, a way that is different from the traditional top-down approach where practitioners from the developed world come in and try to immediately introduce an institutional change. By providing ICTs and allowing a more bottom-up, participatory approach, attention is paid to the culture where ICTs are implemented. It is in this way that practitioners can be successful in increasing public awareness of a taboo topic in a developing nation, such as HIV aids or women’s health issues.