Nowadays we all have access to social media in all its shapes and forms. By all we obviously assume us, the privileged North. So who is the social media has been created for? By whom? In the pool of opportunities, potentials, future visions and missions attached to social media phenomena we should pay special attention to one important aspect related to social media and development. The beginning. The core. The design in its essence. What does the so called generic designer have in mind? What does the designer envision as he winds up the social media mechanism? Who is the designer? Is it the privileged North that creates ICT for the underdeveloped South? Social media and ICT created in the North have different purposes implied, potentially different from those required and needed to fulfill the needs in the South. More power, knowledge and opportunities are attributed to the North which naturally enables it to participate in the development of ICT and new media infrastructures and thus, at the embryonic stages, participate in its shaping according to its own needs. This again and again brings about a notion of the digital divide. In other words, economic, geographical, technical, social divide accented by Pieterse in Lovink and Zehle, 2005. Creating even more dependency between North and South due to a fast-paced developmental progress in the North and not such a speedy one in the South.
How does social media benefit the not so privileged ones? If it is enforced unto them from the top, will it be accepted, will it reach the desired goals and outcomes, will it benefit the developing communities? Grassroots participation at the initial stages of ICT design and development is essential for ICT projects to be viable, successful and even enjoyable for developing communities as it gives them a sense of ownership, makes them value their own input and enhances their participation in their own development (Granqvist in Hemer and Tufte, 2005, p. 289).
Rao in Hemer and Tufte (2005, p. 276) emphasizes the importance of ownership of ICT and new media by local communities which can be achieved through 1) making it possible for media content to be created by local communities, 2) by making it possible for local language to be used in media, 3) by communities’ ownership and therefore control of websites and servers, 4) by their ability to access information in local language, 5) by the possibility for local communities to create the content and contribute to it in voicing their needs are as opposed to needs perceive by developers.
Global Digital Divide Map/United Nations Global Development Goals Indicators. InvisionFree. Retrieved October 21, 2013, from http://z3.invisionfree.com/DigitalDivide/index.php?showtopic=8 .
Hemer, O. and Tufte, T. (2005). Media and Glocal Change. Rethinking Communication for Development. Buenos Aires, Götebörg: GLACSO/Nordicom.
Lovink, G. and Zehle, S. (2005) the Incommunicado Reader. Amsterdam: Institute of Network Cultures.