Here is a response on the Heeks paper from the DevMedia listserve.
---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Wed, 14 Jul 1999 19:11:00 -0400
From: Katherine Morrow <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To: Media for Development in Democracy <[log in to unmask]>
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: ICTs poverty & development - GREAT paper
I absolutely agree with Don. This is the best I have read on ICTs and
development since the Panos Media Briefing The Internet and Poverty: Real
help or real hype? - Briefing No.28, April 1998
Heeks' paper is an important reality check at many levels. It seems that
when it comes to the Internet, many people have a tendency to adopt a
"technology is development" stance even when it directly conflicts with
their own deeply held opinions about appropriate technologies and the
"rusting tractor" lessons of the past. Heeks spells out the result of this
tool-focused approach: bad development planning (imposed from the top,
unsustainable, not responsive to local needs). He calls it the ICT Fetish.
Every young medium must have its fetish phase. Why else would "Government
Department Launches Web Site" be considered news? The development community
North and South is subject to the same coercive, consumerist hype: get on
board the superhighway or you are toast professionally. Not only that, but
your children will have no jobs and your country will not be able to
compete. This ideology is pervasive. A Chinese government slogan depicts the
ideal [socialist] citizen flying into the future on two wings: one is
knowledge of computers, the other is knowledge of English.
Richard Heeks' choice of the word fetish is very apt. This elevation of the
medium over the message in the case of ICTs is a testament to the uneasiness
generated by any new technology that is associated with the word
"revolution" (like steam power). This new beast brings out the Luddite -or-
the technological utopian in people, especially those who do not have first
hand experience using it for everyday tasks (Development Policymakers who
shall remain nameless).
But in terms of development, we have generations of experience working with
new technologies and new media in a development context, so we all know a
lot more than we think and there's no need to reinvent the wheel. I was
watching the Wizard of Oz on TV last night, and this reminds me of the scene
where the huge ghostly Wizard is uncurtained by the dog Toto. He turns out
to be an ordinary guy, "a good man but a bad wizard". He can't work miracles
but he helps everyone a lot.
Ottawa - Canada
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