Cultural Acceptance of ICTs: Perceptions in Practice
The emergence of new information and communication technologies (ICTs) has generated much debate both in and out of academia in relation to theories ranging from economic advancement to imperialism. In the context of the ‘low-income’ economies, a dominant discourse associated with ICTs persists. The discourse of development predicts that nations which have joined the global market will use ICTs to harness global knowledge that will enable them to be competitive and therefore attain development. This has led to change in policy from international to local as ICTs are embraced as the next big development tool. Recently however, there have been reports of more failures of ICTs initiatives than success as professionals in the industry complain about unsustainability of the systems. A genuine issue is that so far analysis of this discourse has tended to be economically or technically deterministic, with little attention paid to social and cultural perspectives. In order to understand how the role of norms, practices and politics of people in particular communities play in this discourse in ‘low income’ economies, over 1000 semi-qualitative questionnaires were analysed from five geographical locations in The Gambia. A key conclusion that has emerged from the research is that there are different attitudes towards the ICTs in the different locations, which vary from full acceptance to rejection of ICTs. Such diverse reactions are underpinned by the religion and information ecologies in which gender plays a critical part. This result challenges the ICT4D agenda, and might be applied to reports of unsustainable ICT initiatives, especially in Africa.