Mistrust and social hierarchies as blind spots of ICT4D projects

Lessons from Togo and Rwanda

Authors

  • Roos Keja Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology, Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main (DE)
  • Kathrin Knodel Collaborative Research Centre “Discourses of Weakness and Resource Regimes”, Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main (DE)

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.14512/tatup.28.2.s35

Keywords:

mistrust, social hierarchies, ICT4D, Rwanda

Abstract

Information and communication technologies for development (ICT4D) are seen to have great potential for boosting democratization processes all over the world by giving people access to information and thereby empowering them to demand more accountability and transparency of authorities. Based on ethnographic research in Togo and Rwanda on an SMS-based citizen monitoring and evaluation system, this article argues that focusing on access to information is too narrow a view. We show that it is crucial to take into account the respective socio-political backgrounds, such as levels of mistrust or existing social hierarchies. In this context, mobile phone usage has rather varied and ambiguous meanings here. These dynamics can pose a challenge to the successful implementation of ICT4D projects aimed at political empowerment. By addressing these often overlooked issues, we offer explanations for the gap between ICT4D assumptions and people’s lifeworlds in Togo and Rwanda.

References

Alzouma, Gado (2005): Myths of digital technology in Africa. Leapfrogging development? In: Global Media and Communication 1 (3), pp. 339–356. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/1742766505058128

Archambault, Julie (2009): Being cool or being good. Researching mobile phones in Mozambique. In: Anthropology Matters 11 (2). Available online at https://www.anthropologymatters.com/index.php/anth_matters/article/view/161/287, last accessed on 22. 04. 2019. DOI: https://doi.org/10.22582/am.v11i2.161

Bimber, Bruce (2000): The study of information technology and civic engagement. In: Political Communication 17, pp. 329–333. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/10584600050178924

Bratton, Michael (2013): Briefing. Citizens and cell phones in Africa. In: African Affairs 112 (447), pp. 304–319. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1093/afraf/adt004

Carey, Matthew (2017): Mistrust. An ethnographic theory. Chicago: HAU Books.

Charles-Iyoha, Christiana (2010): Mobile telephony. Closing the gap. In: Sokari Ekine (ed.): SMS uprising. Mobile phone activism in Africa. London: Fahamu Press, pp. 116–123.

de Bruijn, Mirjam; Nyamnjoh, Francis; Brinkman, Inge (eds.) (2009): Mobile phones. The new talking drums of everyday Africa. Bamenda: Langaa Group. DOI: https://doi.org/10.2307/j.ctvk3gmgv

Donner, Jonathan (2006): The use of mobile phones by microentrepreneurs in Kigali, Rwanda. Changes to social and business networks. In: Information Technologies and International Development 3 (2), pp. 3–19. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1162/itid.2007.3.2.3

Etzo, Sebastiana; Collender, Guy (2010): The mobile phone ‘revolution’ in Africa. Rhetoric or reality? In: African Affairs 109 (437), pp. 659–668. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1093/afraf/adq045

Hahn, Hans (2012): Mobile phones and the transformation of society. Talking about criminality and the ambivalent perception of new ICT in Burkina Faso. In: African Identities 10 (2), pp. 181–192. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/14725843.2012.657862

Hahn, Hans; Kibora, Ludovic (2008): The domestication of the mobile phone. Oral society and new ICT in Burkina Faso. In: Journal of Modern African Studies 46 (1), pp. 87–109. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/S0022278X07003084

Hayes, Niall; Westrup, Chris (2012): Context and the processes of ICT for development. In: Information and Organization 22 (1), pp. 23–36. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.infoandorg.2011.10.001

Horst, Heather; Miller, Daniel (2006): The cell phone. An anthropology of communication. Oxford and New York: Berg Publishers.

Jackson, Michael (2017): How lifeworlds work. Emotionality, sociality, and the ambiguity of being. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. DOI: https://doi.org/10.7208/chicago/9780226492018.001.0001

Keja, Roos (2019): Intimate information flows in hardship. Mobile phones and the civic-ness of connectivity in Sokodé, Togo. Unpublished PhD dissertation, Goethe University Frankfurt.

Kenaw, Setargew (2012): Cultural translation of mobile telephones. Mediation of strained communication among Ethiopian married couples. In: The Journal of Modern African Studies 50 (1), pp. 131–155. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/S0022278X11000632

Kleine, Dorothea; Unwin, Tim (2009): Technological revolution, evolution and new dependencies. What’s new about ICT4D? In: Third World Quarterly 30 (5), pp. 1045–1067. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/01436590902959339

Ligtvoet, Inge (2018): Made in Nigeria. Understanding duress and upwardly mobile youth in the biography of a young entrepreneur in Enugu. In: Conflict and Society. Advances in Research 4 (1), pp. 275–287. DOI: https://doi.org/10.3167/arcs.2018.040120

Ling, Rich; Yttri, Birgitte (2002): Hyper-coordination via mobile phones in Norway. In: James Katz and Mark Aakhus (eds.): Perpetual contact. Mobile communication, private talk, public performance. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 139–169. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511489471.013

Mudhai, Okoth; Tettey, Wisdom; Banda, Fackson (eds.) (2009): African media and the digital public sphere. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1057/9780230621756

Mutsvairo, Bruce; Harris, Suzanne (2016): Rethinking mobile media tactics in protests. A comparative case study of Hong Kong and Malawi. In: Ran Wei (ed.): Mobile media, political participation, and civic activism in Asia. Dordrecht: Springer, pp. 215–231. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-024-0917-8_12

Ochara, Nixon; Mawela, Tendani (2015): Enabling social sustainability of e-participation through mobile technology. In: Information Technology for Development 21 (2), pp. 205–228. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/02681102.2013.833888

Sey, Araba (2011): ‘We use it different, different’. Making sense of trends in mobile phone use in Ghana. In: New Media & Society, 13 (3), pp. 375–390. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/1461444810393907

Southwood, Russell (2008): Less walk, more talk. How Celtel and the mobile phone changed Africa. Chichester: John Wiley and Sons.

Wasserman, Herman (2011): Popular media, democracy and development in Africa. London: Routledge. DOI: https://doi.org/10.4324/9780203843260

Downloads

Published

08.07.2019

How to Cite

1.
Keja R, Knodel K. Mistrust and social hierarchies as blind spots of ICT4D projects: Lessons from Togo and Rwanda. TATuP [Internet]. 2019 Jul. 8 [cited 2023 Jan. 27];28(2):35-40. Available from: https://www.tatup.de/index.php/tatup/article/view/217