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The Digital Divide—Should we Bridge It?

Thursday, October 24th, 2013

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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

New community media – joining the community against HR violations and bridging the digital divide?

Thursday, October 24th, 2013


New community media is being used worldwide for different reasons and in different ways. As written in Cammaerst and Carpentier (2007), they are developed to meet local needs, by the community itself. In the case of, a homepage managed by the NGO Cambodian Centre for Human Rights (CCHR), anyone can contribute with their own experiences and information or share news from other sources. It has been awarded with the Communication for Social Change award of Queensland University in 2013 and Information Society Innovation Fund in the category of Rights and Freedoms in 2011 ( 2013). In this post I will discuss its success in joining a big NGO community in the fight for human rights in Cambodia, also for those who do not have access to new technology. – a source of human rights information in Cambodia

This portal has two main purposes according to its About Sithi-page:


First, to encourage civil society organisations and others working on human rights in Cambodia to be more effective by providing information and resources to encourage greater professionalism, specialism and collaboration. Second, to provide information on the human rights situations in Cambodia to increase awareness and understanding of human rights in Cambodia in order to mobilize action to protect and promote them. ( 2013)


To get help in fighting HR-violations, information and evidence must be gathered and spread in order for the global community to act and donors to finance development programs in order to protect the citizens of Cambodia. The country hosts over 400 NGO’s ( but many have limited resources and are of course tied to the aims and financial restrictions of their donors. Many of these organization can upload their own content on, as long as it is connected to HR-work. There is a map of HR-violations, a free hotline phone number to call in news of violations or events and all information is accessible both in English and Khmer. This makes it possible for people that normally would not connect with social media due to language, economical, educational or infrastructural difficulties to actually get their experiences shared with the NGO’ and the local community – they get a voice online.


Bridging the digital divide?

But, is this way of connecting people and spreading information bridging the digital divide? I would say yes, and no. Civil society is today an important part of global politics (Lovink & Zehle 2005) but the voice of civil society is still not the voice of those affected by, for example, HR-violations or immense floodings caused by dams or climate change. Organizations like CCHR, founder of, actually don’t bridge the digital divide in the meaning of giving more people access to new technologies. However, they are doing something that may be  more important; they are giving marginalized people a chance to voice their experiences to the world and thus have access to the audiences on new media. As stated in Cammaerts and Carpentier this kind of new community media have a development-oriented function “in giving access to information and communication for the large parts of the world population that continue to live on the ‘other side’ of the digital divide’” (2007:253).


Cammaerts, B. and Carpentier, N. (eds) (2007) Reclaiming the media: communication rights and democratic media roles. Intellect: Bristol, UK.

Hemer, Oscar & Tufte, Thomas (2005) Media and Glocal Change. Rethinking Communication for Development. Buenos Aires: CLACSO. Online at:

Lovink, Geert & Zehle, Soenke (2005) the Incommunicado Reader. Amsterdam: Institute of Network Cultures.  Available online:

Pact Cambodia (2013). Retrieved at the 21/10 2013 (2013). Human rights information portal of Cambodia. Retrieved at the 14/10 2013.