Ellie Rennie (2006), in her book Community Media: A Global Introduction she argues that community media are tend to work when entirely run by the community according to their own systems and imperatives. However it is not so simple as we might think. Often Global South’s community media work under legal systems or regimes that might be unsympathetic to their cause (Rennie, 2006: 135). Participatory media rely often on the relationship between non-governmental organisation and development organisation, thus funding and expenses. Donor involvement might determine where the funds are allocated and it places a pressure upon community to justify their projects in terms of measurable social outcomes and to focus their effort upon targeted group (Rennie, 2006: 152). In result community media tend not to work so well when it is at the center of a modernist development agenda to ‘save the world’. Community media is not about ‘DIY’ any longer but it is ‘Do It Your Own Way -DIYOW’ (Rennie, 2006: 186). Rennie writes that it is a big responsibility for communities to bear. Are they the one to blame if the change does not occur? Empowerment and social inclusion sounds desirable but it also turns away attention for the responsibly of a government to its citizens (191).
In a largely non-literate village in Andhra Pradesh, researches together with a Byrraju Foundation, one of South India’s leading development non- governmental organisations made available a set of video cameras to community members. This village faces challenges of public sanitation, unemployment, political unrest and division between castes and gender. Group members developed their own system of sharing video cameras, not being instructed before what to do with them, they created videos that were shared outside of the group, in different people homes. Community began to see their own ability to act upon larger community goal and identified their own vision. Videos included a new farming practise developed by families, the new temple that was constructed by villagers, and new technology program developed in cooperation with NGO. Neither top down nor bottom up approaches to development are the key. Rather projects that engage communities to reflect and act on the challenges facing can enable them to uncover their own capacities to aspire. It echoes Rennie (2006) argument that for the collective action for development to occur from grassroots rather then from NGOs or researches , community aspiration is a key.
Rennie, E (2006) Community Media: A Global Introduction. London: Rowman & Littlefields
Srinivasan R (2012) Rethinking Digital Cultures and Divides: The Case for Reflexive Media.Information Society 28 (1)
Shirky (2010) stresses how people can make use of Social Media for democratic action.
What happens if such political freedom gained through the Web 2.0 is censored, has been shown in the case of instant messaging being taken down and later the entire mobile Internet being put down by the government for days in the state of Gujarat, India.
The smartphone app Whats App has been reportedly used to organize these riots, which also led to various deaths and the government chose the drastic way of putting a curfew on the entire mobile Internet.
However, taking the entire infrastructure of the mobile Internet down for an entire state, with millions of inhabitants, shows what limitations the political use of social media and democracy can have in the real world context.
It further gives an idea, how vulnerable the infrastructure of the Internet is, when it comes to top-down governance approaches, like taking the Internet off for more than 60 million people in the state of Gujarat this year.
The Internet is vulnerable to the impact of the state, as the example shows, because the state still can intervene. Only in a working democracy, where the infrastructure of the Internet is not over-legislated, the potential of the Internet can be used by the people for democratic action to the fullest potential.
The program is meant to build a basic infrastructure across India as the following YouTube video implies:
Still, only implementing new ICTs and infrastructure won’t help the oppressed groups and women across the Indian society. Like the report by the GSMA shows, for every 3 men on Facebook, there is only one women (GSMA, 2015, p.30).
Without targeting the cultural influences and the social problems across the Indian society, especially when it comes to gender, structures of oppression and marginalization might be rather reproduced than “real social change” can occur.
The digital India agenda offers new ways for people to connect across the Indian nation. However, infrastructure improvement, without targeting the digital divide, will leave people behind, while a large part of the society might improve.
A real ICT4D approach, would rather target the human needs than simply implementing new ICT infrastructure. Here, the human rights and the improved capabilities would be in the focus of appropriating technology and implementing ICTs to the needs of the people across the Indian nation. Looking on Sen’s capabilities approach as citied by Kleine (2010) development needs to be about empowering people to make their own choices and increase their capabilities.
Looking back on Shirky (2010) it clearly shows that, with the enormous digital divide, especially when it comes to women and the gender divide, the potential of the participatory Web 2.0 cannot be used fully.
While the Internet is increasingly used for political participation as well, the top-down implementation of Digital India leaves little room for empowering people directly with the use of ICT4D.
Indian Government. (n.d.). About the Programme. Retrieved October 9, 2015, from http://www.digitalindia.gov.in/content/about-programme