Friday, December 14, 2012

ICT4D's Are still Limited

Despite the technocentric focus on the impact of mobile phones in bridging the so-called "digital divide," the full extent and accessibility to information and communication technologies remains a continued developmental issue in many parts of the world.  For example, in Southeast Asia (SEA), many states possess weak building infrastructure causing both inaccessibility and capability in possessing information and communication technologies (ICTs) like the Internet. 

Closely-linking ICTs with socio-economic development as Araba Sey points out in his piece, SEA nations through the Association of Southeast Asia Nations (ASEAN) have started to pursue new strategies in order to develop telecommunication infrastructure, to provide their citizens with access to popular and new emerging connective tools. Following suit many other developing nations in Africa are looking for new ways to increase their own ICT development. Through the efforts of state governments or nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), the ICT for development (ICT4D) initiative was created to introduce ICT services in unconnected communities.

Analyzing the impact that newly introduced ICTs and mobile phones have had inside these communities many research has shown that the immense of opportunities that these tools provide cannot be denied. Linda Raftree, an ICT4D advisor of Plan International USA, believes that ICTs can offer specific support and opportunities depending on how they are utilized. In Ghana, Sey notes that many Ghanaians utilize mobile phone technology differently, by using mobile phones for different purposes such as a shopkeeper contacting his customers to inform them of the store closing, or a priest facilitating communication with his parish while the church is being renovated.

ICT4Ds and mobile phones have certainly provided more connectivity to many developing areas. But, full access in these regions remains limited. According to the Chenxing Han reading, many South African citizens doubt the affordability and continuity of the ICT4D and even mobiles for development (M4D) initiative that has grown over the last few years. With lack of a viable affordability and future plan goal for both of these initiatives, the long-term impacts of each remains clouded. ICTs provide both a positive and negative dimension to developing nations.  Enabling connectivity and access to a wide variety of resources they provide potential for these once unconnected communities to improve their livelihoods and well-being.

With new ICTs emerging from the developed world, new hope arises that the "digital divide" will decline. However, providing limited impacts in the areas that they are introduced, ICT4Ds and M4Ds are not a one-step solution. Acknowledging national contexts, ICT4Ds and M4Ds cannot fully provide large-scale access and connectivity to developing nations who lack sufficient infrastructure. 

Chengxing. Han. South African Perspectives on Mobile Phones:
Challenging the Optimistic Narrative of Mobiles for Development. (2012). International Journal of Communication 6.
Raftree, Linda. Empowering girls through information, communication and technology. (27 November 2012). The Guardian. Retrieved from: Accessed on December 5, 2012.
Sey, Araba.  We use it different, different: Making sense in trends of mobile phone use in Ghana. (2011). New Media and Society. Vol. 13:375.

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