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The Promise of E-Development? A Critical Assessment of the State ICT for Poverty Reduction Discourse in South Africa

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image of Perspectives on Global Development and Technology
For more content, please see Journal of Developing Societies.

In the hands of the South African government, Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) for development operates as a powerful discourse, which functions both as an ideology and a rhetorical tool. The South African government's discourse is framed in a rigid modernization schema informed by an overoptimistic understanding of the power and valence of ICT for poverty reduction and broad-based development. Government invokes new ICT as an autonomous and largely unassailable force. Over the last decade, a narrow and deterministic model of ICT for poverty reduction has become hegemonic as an ideal as well as a set of development practices, a model which operates to exclude alternatives. The view of technology as an external, autonomous force exerting an influence on society presents a limited set of options: (1) uncritical embracing of technological change or (2) defensive adaptation to it. If we are to attempt a more objective, detached analysis of ICT for development, then it would seem appropriate to move beyond the linear "cause and effect" model of technological determinism and explore alternative perspectives on society and technology.


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