Better or Much the Same?

I have a pretty limited experience when it comes to my knowledge and involvement with international development related to technology.  In fact, I’m surprised that this is in fact my first class that puts any kind of focus on it.  Technology is clearly an important part of my life as a 21st century student, and it isn’t surprising to learn that technology can also have a huge potential for those living in developing countries.  It brings with it so many conveniences and opens so many doors of opportunity to learn and improve.  Technology makes it as easy as the click of a button to share information with people all over the globe. But is that what is actually happening? Or are there negatives to this technological expansion?

In this weeks readings, there was a case study that talked about the message from Alfred Austin’s line of poetry. It reads, “Across the wires th’ electric message came, “He is no better; he is much the same.” This line of poetry struck me and was very thought-provoking. Is technology actually improving the lives of those in developing nations? Of course there have been endless positives, but this is something we should really consider before it becomes an integral part of our efforts. What do you think? Are there any potential negatives to technology in developing nations? I know for me one that comes to mind is pollution.  Developing nations often are some of the major contributors to global pollution. What other negatives might there be? Is there a way to use technology to change this?


4 responses to “Better or Much the Same?

  • ctuck2014

    I, like Meredith, have had very little interaction with international development related to information technology up to this class. However, I have seen the impacts of technology in improving the circumstances of developing nations go in both positive and negative directions through my travels in India and China. Two summers ago, I worked with Tibetan refugees in Northern India who were taking classes to learn the rudimentary elements of using computers- when we began working with them, they weren’t aware of how to turn the machine on, and by the end of our two weeks together they were able to use basic applications, send email, and browse the internet. These capabilities allowed the refugees to reach out to family in other countries and to those left behind in Tibet, as well as have access to current events going on in their home country. The nun I worked directly with, Sangmo, recently emailed me to let me know she had reconnected with her sister, whom she had not seen in five years, and was using her computer skills to help slum children involved with a Dalai-Lama supported charity to learn English. I think that it is imperative for those living in developing nations to have access to technology, because knowledge is power- people in rural areas without access to education or information can use internet cafes to learn, stay current, and improve their circumstances for very little money.

  • kaelalovejoy

    My post also touches on some of the negatives of technology in the developing world. Science and technology are obviously an integral part of our society and the source of innovations that have had an incredible impact on human kind. However, Western society has the tendency to blindly follow technology with little reflection on how its application in the developing world may have grievous impacts. For example, the green revolution, though embraced as novel at the time, introduced fertilizers that polluted vulnerable environments and raised the costs of agricultural inputs so that small scale farmers became disenfranchised. Furthermore, incidents such as the Bhopal disaster reveal how many companies involved in technological production in poverty stricken areas abandon ethical principles because it is convenient and all too possible to ignore the voices of the marginalized. Technology can be enlightening and empowering, but it can also be just the opposite, especially for the poorest of the poor.

  • hrenda

    I have not had much interaction with the concept of ICT4D in my idev classes either. It’s unfortunate that this isn’t emphasized more because technology plays such an important role in today’s world. Both citizens of developing countries and development practitioners have so much to gain through the application of ICTs and their inclusion in the development process. When I studied abroad in Ghana, I volunteered at a women’s vocational school, and part of my work there was teaching a class on computer basics, such as turning the system on and typing skills. Most of the women had never touched a computer before, and many of them were intimidated by the technology. However, the other volunteer and I led a discussion on why these women wanted to learn how to use the computer. The most common responses given were that they wanted to start their own businesses and that they wanted to communicate with migrant family members. Learning how to use ICTs was very important to them. There are certainly cases, as described above, where technology can have negative impacts, but I think that overall, on an individual level, knowledge of ICTs is largely beneficial.

  • emcdona1

    Nearing the end of semester, I realized that I never really knew about the negative aspects of ICTs until this class. Like the above comments, I do believe that overall it affects individuals positively. However, it is naive to believe that every aspect of ICTs works smoothly. One of the most important aspects of ICTs is ensuring that it is used and monitored appropriately. A needs assessment should be conducted and the community at hand should be taken into account before any ICT project is implemented.

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