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The Digital Divide—Should we Bridge It?

Thursday, October 24th, 2013

Screen Shot 2013-10-23 at 20.31.34

There has been an explosion of new technological solutions in recent years, and as West has becomes more tech-centered is has also become on of the areas in which the developing world is lagging further behind. The idea of the digital divide as one of the main factors for underdevelopment has shifted the development discourse in to a path where ICT’s in general and ICT4D in particular is described as has gained the status of universal solution the development issues of today (Pieterse 2005).

According to Howley (2005) the main purpose of community media is the participatory aspect. To empower the underprivileged and raise the voice of the poor, the media whether it’s television, radio or just community education is that is has to be both of and by, and not just for a particular community (ibid).

Pieterse (2005) challenges the idea of ICT4D as an answer to underdevelopment and refers to the digital divide a “deeply misleading discourse”. He goes as far as to call it “digital capitalism” and simplification that fails to see the underlying problems (Pieterse 2005:12). Instead he sees how the tech-focus in development risks to just another area of dependency for the developing world (Pieterse 2005:14). Or to use one of Pieterse’s examples “Once the illiteracy problem is solved […] cheap books are a great boon, but giving illiterate people cheap books does not solve illiteracy”, (Wade 2002 as quoted in Pieterse 2005:14).

Cisles (2005) shares the concern, that the tech-focus fails to see underlying problems. On one hand  we have the demands from donor countries and the IMF to cut public spending, on the other hand we have the demand to improve public services such as healthcare and education. To demand computer accesses for every student in an environment that lacks many of the more basic conditions for education makes little sense, especially as computers demands costly infrastructure and updates which oftentimes results in long term expenses without adding any real benefits to the community. The dogma of the ICT4D discourse risks to lead away from transparency and open discussion between partners by promoting unrealistic demands on instant success as a condition for long term commitments, nurturing a culture where  “doing well by doing good” rules over actual change and sustainability (Cisles 2005:156).

Magic Bus and the end of gender inequality in rural Indialogo

For this assignment I have chosen to look closer at MARD and their initiative with the Magic Bus to see how they have worked with new community media in order to educate youth in gender issues to change cultural patterns of abuse and discrimination towards women.

“Every time I look into the mirror, I want to see a man whose mother, sister, wife and daughter are proud to call their own.” – Farhan Akhtar co-founder MARD

The Magic Bus is a community mentorship program sprung out of the organization Men Against rape and Discrimination (MARD) they aim to educate rural children in gender equality.

I think this project is a good example of how organizations tries to combine the ideas of ICT with old fashion analog learning. By solely educate mentors via online learning the project relies less on capital intensive solutions which in turn them gives accesses to spread the program to rural areas (where it’s needed the most) that lacks infrastructure and financial means for electricity and internet connection.

The local knowledge on the mentors facilitates the efforts to design classes to target the main issues of the particular area (Howley 2005). Despite the lack of tech media and online learning, the children both girls and boys gains valuable lessons in team building, gender awareness and leadership that lets them graduate with tools to fight traditional gender roles in their community. Participation in the  program also gives an equal opportunity to graduate with the chance of become future mentors and educators in their community.


Magic Bus


Howley, Kevin. (2005) Community Media – People, Places, and Communication Technologies. Cambridge Univ. Press.

Lovink, Geert & Zehle, Soenke (2005) the Incommunicado Reader. (Chapters by Pieterse and Cisler.) Amsterdam: Institute of Network Cultures. Chapter by Cisler;  Available online:

Pieterse, Nederveen, Jan. Digital capitalism and development: The unbearable lightness of ICT4D

Cisler, Steve. What’s the Matter with ICTs