Understanding the international ICT and development discourse: Assumptions and implications

Wilson, Merridy
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LINK Centre, University of the Witwatersrand (Wits), Johannesburg
This paper seeks to understand the assumptions underlying the international public ICT and development discourse and the implications of these assumptions for policy makers and development practitioners. The argument is situated within a power-knowledge framework and in broader critiques of the development industry. A discourse analysis of the public ICT and development discourse was conducted. Three main themes have been explored: 1) the construction of the category of ‘information-poverty’, 2) the construction of what counts as legitimate/valuable information and knowledge, and 3) the developmental aims of these programmes, in particular models of progress and catch-up to industrial country ideals. The paper argues that assumptions of technological determinism and a view of technology as a neutral tool for development underlie the ICT and development discourse. The use of technology as an index of development reproduces the binary opposition between the developed and the underdeveloped that has been widely critiqued within the field of development. The commonly assumed model of ICTs and development is grounded in these assumptions of technological determinism, which allow the complex political factors influencing poverty and inequality at local, national and international levels to be hidden, or at least go largely unquestioned.
Wilson, M. (2002). Understanding the international ICT and development discourse: Assumptions and implications. The Southern African Journal of Information and Communication (SAJIC), 3. https://doi.org/10.23962/10539/19833