Culture Matters points to “exciting” working papers by the Information Society Research Group about the social and economic benefits of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in low-income communities in Jamaica, India, South Africa and Ghana: “These working papers strongly re-enforce the benefits of an ethnographic approach for the wider world".
One of the most convincing papers is according to Culture Matters written by Daniel Miller and Heather: Horst juxtaposes conventional ICT policy making in Jamaica with ethnographic findings and uncovers that the assumptions concerning internet use held by the government as well as international NGOs diverge hugely from the realities.
Culture Matters juxtapose some of the current policies with Miller’s and Horst’s recommendations:
- Instead of more computers in secondary schools invest in post-educational training for young adults
- Instead of investing into expensive high-end computers invest in low-price computers without gaming facilities
- Instead of creating their own content at high costs, a lot of money can be saved by creating portals which identify useful and high-quality web resources
- Instead of investing in community computers, offer Internet access via individual mobile phones
Also fascinating according to the blog: the reports from Ghana by Don Slater and Janet Kwami:
Again, ethnography unveiled a huge gap between policy assumptions and actual usage. On the one hand there is the widespread belief amongst governments and NGOs that the Internet is a tool of development through information distribution.
Yet all Internet users in the Accra slum studied used the internet only for chat with foreigners (as well as some diasporic family members and friends). “There was exceptionally low awareness of even the existence of websites”. In internet cafes everybody is chatting with unknown foreigners, largely in the North but also in Asia, with a view of accumulating actual and symbolic goods (either on IM (Yahoo or MSN) or in Yahoo chat rooms).
Internet access, although widespread and popular in Accra, is not cheap - one hour costs much more than the average kid’s lunch money – but many teenagers come several times a week, for several hours, solely to chat with foreigners.