Reflections about ICT4D and Participatory Media


by Laura Saxer

Inspired by an article about blogging for ICT4D [1] I felt that in this context we need room here for some reflection and critical discussion about blogging in general and this blog in particular: What does blogging mean for whom? Who is reading blogs? Who is publishing their thoughts in blogs? Is this contributing to development and social change?

Our blog is centred on stories of how people are #ShoutingBack through ICT and participatory media to enhance gender equality. At the same time, this blog should be such a media itself by inviting everyone to participate, #ShoutingBack their thoughts and stories.

The core idea of ICT4D is that ICT use has the potential to enhance democratic participation in development. In that sense, blogging and social media are discussed as tools to contribute to such processes and the ICT4D discourse. It is an opportunity for a variety of people, for example politicians, academics, activists, journalists, or citizen journalists, to share ideas and experiences. Participants can interact with each other on issues of interest, while not being restricted to geographical or organisational boundaries.

To engage in blogging requires some preliminary conditions, personal and technological ones. You should be literate, have access to the needed technology, such as a computer and Internet, you probably need some basic skills to use that technology, as well as some basic knowledge about something that you want to share online. By looking at all these factors (and we could probably add some more) it becomes immediately clear that not everyone can engage in blogging.

What does that mean for our blog?

We are contributing to a discussion about gender equality and the idea of #ShoutingBack within a broader discussion about ICT4D and participatory media. “We”, unfortunately, are not everyone who is interested in those issues, since not everyone has the required resources to participate on this platform.

The democratic and participatory dimensions are limited, which is important to keep in mind when interacting with and talking about ICT and ICT4D. By doing so, at least, we can re-present voices of those who cannot contribute their voices here themselves (obviously a sensitive issue when we think in terms of misrepresentations that could happen, even unintentionally).

Are we going to contribute to development and social change? While having a critical reflective awareness about (im)possibilities of this blog or ICT4D in general, we also need to be idealistic if we want to achieve social change.

So, the answer to this question is: Yes, because great things are done by a series of small things brought together! And one such small thing could be #ShoutingBack!

[1] Ferguson, Julie et al. (2013): Blogging for ICT4D: Reflecting and Engaging in with Peers to Build Development Discourse. In: Information Systems Journal, 23, 307-328.

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  1. Pingback: What is Community? | #ShoutingBack

  2. After having posted this text, I just came across another important issue for ICT4D and participation/access: language. What languages do you speak? Which language to blog in? Who can understand that language? How many people thus are able to understand the blog?

    • Really good point Laura. It’s a tough one, because English has become assumed as the universal “language of the Internet” for so many audiences… but would certain sites, pages and messages be more effective in other, or local, languages? Absolutely! Access (both financial and educational) is such an important aspect of technology, as both Granqvist and Rao talk about in Media for Glocal Change.

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