Remittance and recovery: a paradigm for ad-hoc inclusion through ICTs

Little, Stephen (2005). Remittance and recovery: a paradigm for ad-hoc inclusion through ICTs. In: Development Studies Association Annual Conference 2005: Connecting People and Places: Challenges and Opportunities for Development, 7-9 Sep 2005, Milton Keynes, UK.



The emerging network of global production and consumption is driven by information and communication technologies (ICTs) and information systems can play a key role of in overcoming the so-called Digital Divide. This paper argues that the digital divide is also a knowledge and capability divide that can be bridged though local initiatives into the use and development of information and communication technologies.
A set of recent events have challenged our understanding of the nature of global connectivity and a new framework is required with which to explore the relationship between new information technologies, globalisation and social exclusion

The concept of the springboard story (Denning 2001) is used to encapsulate a shift in the nature of both access to the infrastructure of the global economy, and in the governance and metagovernance of that infrastructure. A short account of the delivery of effective warnings to several communities in Tamil Nadu affected by the Asian tsunami illustrates the ad-hoc use of key technologies. The technologies were available for a number of reasons, including the active presence of an NGO, the support of overseas members of the community and the management of the flows of the remittances that funded the construction of the local fishing fleets.

The same technologies also created a new sense of connection between western tourists and the communities they have visited in the tsunami affected regions. Public response to the disaster contradicted assumptions about “compassion fatigue” in part because of a virtual presence created for outsiders by the powerful images and accounts brought to the rest of the world by the tourist technologies of digital video cameras and cell phones.

The partial nature of coverage and connectivity left many areas affected by the disaster much less visible to the outside world, but collective logging of events and monitoring of relief and recovery efforts continues and includes coverage of the less connected areas. Many groups have already found their own voice on the web, but the new sense of connection allows the development of mutual support and understanding across the “digital divide”.

In the past developing new practices and new knowledge has required proximity or adjacency to others who hold a relevant set of skills and interests. The Open Software Development paradigm has demonstrated that this adjacency can increasingly be delivered electronically. However, sufficient skills for effective use of the Internet in support of advocacy and communication can be acquired relatively simply. The process of skilling can draw on extensive experience with electronically supported distance education and the pragmatic experience of diasporic communities.
Key technological changes, such as satellite communication and open source software, are providing a basis on which the necessary co-development and co-adoption can take place. The paper discusses the successful bridging of socio-cultural divides in order to access benefits from ICTs.

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