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Deconstructing the South African Government's ICT for Development Discourse

Deconstructing the South African Government's ICT for Development Discourse
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Author(s): Sagren Moodley (Human Sciences Research Council, South Africa)
Copyright: 2008
Pages: 10
Source title: Electronic Government: Concepts, Methodologies, Tools, and Applications
Source Author(s)/Editor(s): Ari-Veikko Anttiroiko (University of Tampere, Finland)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59904-947-2.ch053


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The post-apartheid South African government has placed ICTs at the centre of the national agenda for social and economic development (Mbeki, 1996, 2002b; Presidential National Commission on the Information Society and Development (PNC on ISAD), 2003a). The question of whether the application of technologies to improve information and communication access can increase the capabilities of disadvantaged and poor people is central to whether the new ICTs (particularly the Internet) will support or undermine real development. Technology appears in the South African government’s ICT for development discourse as a politically neutral force with the power to develop, and without which people are classified as information-poor. As Wajcman (2002) cogently argues, “governments everywhere legitimate much of their policy in terms of a technological imperative” (p. 348). One effect of this discourse is to render poor people passive and dependent, as objects to be developed, rather than as active agents of development. Failure to address these assumptions may lead social scientists to become complacent in distracting attention away from the very real global economic, social, and cultural inequalities, to virtual inequalities, which merely hide an unwillingness to address the core failings of the development paradigm. The paper attempts to meet the challenge put forth by Robert Wade (2002): The current campaign to promote the uptake of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in developing countries and to get aid donors to redirect their aid budgets needs devil’s advocates to challenge what John Stuart Mill once called ‘the deep slumber of a decided opinion.’ (p. 443)

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