Thursday, April 22, 2004

Abhiyan here with weekly questions/comments:

It is a great idea/concept of building communities with the use of technology rather than just providing ICTs on the platter.

What disturbs me is: Introduction of computers and technology will make information easily available, and eventually will increase the transparency and efficiency of the system. However, the author mentions, in a rural district in India, three computer personnel will replace the job of 9000 individuals, if ICTs are introduced.

So what does this tell us? Isn’t this perpetuating the same digital divide in a different form? What about the other socio-economic problems? What about unemployment, stratification according to technical skills? If one person looses his job, especially in country like India, that means the family (4/5 people) looses source of income, this could have detrimental effects again on other developments. And I am strictly talking about jobs that technology optimists want to replace in rural India.

The book is a great example of cross-cultural research on development and ICTs. However, it still does not account for the complex socio-cultural factors that impede the smooth introduction, and further, the development of community due to ICTs, especially in India. Cultural factors include not just the language, but also how the nation has developed, historically and politically. How do communication and developmental policy changes have been implemented, and what factors make them successful or a failure. These factors are region specific in a place like India, and I am sure they are region specific in most developing nations. Somehow I find it difficult to believe that use of ICTs would provide minimum wage or rather food twice in a day. I think most people in rural India want security of basic factors. Once this is established for a while then ICTs could be used for further development.

Though 70% of people in India are farming communities, the rural people do not own any farms, if any, then it does not require the soybean prices or weather reports from anywhere.

This year 670 million voters will go to vote in the biggest democracy. For the first time electronic voting machines will be used in India. I do not know what people think of these, how the retrieval and processing of these votes by machines would affect the outcome.

Leapfrogging could be good, but I also think it could have detrimental effects on the development of the society as a whole. As, some section of the populace, regions, sections of society would be ‘leaped’ upon leaving them behind in the race to ‘developed’. And in the end, who decides which region or populace should be the ‘test site’ or the one where ICTs have to be implemented. This matter is clearly political in most developing countries, unless NGOs take interest. But again they are vested with financial and personnel problems.


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