[Top] [All Lists]

AFRO-NETS> Information Technology and Third World Countries

Information Technology and Third World Countries
Source: Repro-Health

In none of the developing countries where I work is it true that only 
the rich and/or educated have access to internet and e-mail. It may 
be true that for people of middle and old age, only the rich and/or 
educated have access, but not for the younger people, at least in ur-
ban areas, but in many fairly isolated rural areas as well. Wherever 
there are computers being used at work, or in universities or 
schools, there are gangs of teenagers and young adults at those com-
puters after office hours, teaching each other to use the technology 
and communicating with the world. Someone who is officially there has 
to be present to unlock the door, but most of these people are not 
connected with the workplaces where the computers are, just dropping 
in to visit. 

There are many cases of people clubbing up to buy a shared computer 
and pay for access too, or sharing the cost of sessions at urban cy-
bercafes, which are popping up everywhere around the world. And once 
there are a few computers in offices, suddenly people who know how to 
use them begin to give training to others on a moonlighting basis -
even in tiny villages. And, of course, the fact is that those who do 
not use computers are already marginalised in the United States, and 
also that the counties which pay less taxes and therefore have fewer 
or no computers in the school, are not giving their children an even 
break. Do we suggest taking computers out of the primary schools of 

And we must not overestimate our potency - it is not within our power 
to marginalise or not third world countries. They are already margi-
nalised by poverty, lack of access to many resources, often very bad 
government, and so on. In any event, one of the hardest things about 
living in many third world countries is the lack of access to accu-
rate information on what is going on around the world, a state of af-
fairs which has enormous political implications domestically. 

One simply has to take a look at any of the Sudan discussion groups, 
which are participated in by people in and out of Sudan, to see how 
much this access contributes to understanding of what is actually go-
ing on. Or Iran, for that matter, or Egypt, or many other places.

And, in fact, we pour money into these countries for the most in-
credible projects, often with no demand for such activities at all, 
but here is an area in which there is a very high level of demand, 
and in fact computers and internet don't cost much relative to these 
others things.

Perhaps what we should be doing rather than arguing against email and 
internet in the third world is to work to increase the relevance of 
what is on the internet to the needs of people working for construc-
tive change within third world countries. It is extraordinarily dif-
ficult in most third world countries to know what is going on in 
one's field elsewhere, and the internet is still very far from sup-
porting change in this area. Much more can be done to report to col-
leagues everywhere things such as what projects were tried, with what 
inputs, toward what ends, with what results, with what lessons 
learned, for instance. What is on now has a distinctly commercial 
flavor, alas, and we would do much better to be more analytic and 
more collegial.

In sum, I think trying, even unconsciously, to limit the information 
available to people is not a good recipe for development, nor for 
growing autonomy, nor anything. I do wish the internet had more to 

Linda Oldham
6704 NC 86 Chapel Hill, NC 27514, USA
Tel: +1-919-932-3527
Fax: +1-919-968-8863

Send mail for the `AFRO-NETS' conference to `'.
Mail administrative requests to `'.
For additional assistance, send mail to:  `'.

<Prev in Thread] Current Thread [Next in Thread>
  • AFRO-NETS> Information Technology and Third World Countries, Linda Oldham <=