Use ‘ICT for social inclusion’ instead of ‘digital divide’
While searching for ICT books the other day, I came across an interesting book written in 2005. The concepts are just as valid today as they were four years ago. Below is an excerpt:
What is missing is a deeper focus on the “true” knowledge needs of particular cultures and communities, and the relevance of ICT to individual social contexts. This aspect is receiving more academic and practitioner attention nowadays with a shift in perspective from the digital divide to “ICT for social inclusion.” Here social inclusion may be achieved when “individuals, families, and communities are able to fully participate in socieyt and control their own destinies, taking into account a variety of factors related to economic resources, employment, health, education, housing, recreation, culture, and civic engagement.” – Perspectives and policies on ICT in society, Edited by Chrisanthi Avgerou and Jacques Berleur, New York: IFIP TC9, 2005. (Link)
Such a condition can be achieved by focusing on four areas:
- Physical resources: This area has seen the most activity in recent years and is having a beneficial effect on African economies. Howeer, voice and data access in secondary towns and village is still lacking.
- Digital resources: Simply put, this is the transfer of knowledge into information systems. However, we must question whether Africans are creating their own ICT materials and if they cater toward African social contexts. Are many Africans merely importing visions of modernity. One example is the lack of web pages in local languages.
- Human resources: This category includes literacy and educational issues, such as those required for computer use. Does ICT actually provide for useful learning? Many schools are not yet connected, and even then, the teachers do not necessarily enforce proper ICT skills. Additionally, cyber cafés tend to promote western models of entertainment.
- Social resources: These are the community structures that support ICT access. The youth need support from parents, schoolmates, and elders. NGOs, private organizations, and community groups fall into this category as well.