Excerpt from Foreword
In any developing country, a prime ingredient for development is information. How that information is spread among people and how it is understood and used are also crucial, be it the latest research on fertilisers; agriculture or land development; town planning and community building; environment; disaster preparedness; HIV and AIDS; public health; human rights; education; cultural heritage etc.
Useful information makes communities aware, and ICTs can promote the free-flow and dissemination of such information in an appropriate and cost-effective manner. Through ICT-based communication, the world really does become a global village where people from one country may learn about happenings in many other countries – as soon as the news breaks. If introduced sensitively and appropriately, moreover, ICTs can help some countries to leapfrog entire stages of economic growth through modernised production systems and increased competitiveness, similar to the Asian Tigers: Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia and South Korea.
But alas! We live in a world marked by contrast. Amidst breathtaking advances in science and technology and consistent economic growth, massive poverty, illiteracy, inequality, and social exclusion persist. Unless marginalised, socially excluded, deprived people are fully involved in the processes of development, the divide will persist and knowledge societies will remain a distant dream. It is a common view that there is a direct correlation between access to ICT and social development. ICT is no longer the consequence of development – rather it is a necessary precondition, with an emphasis on engagement once access is achieved.
This publication is the logical culmination to the Finding a Voice collaboration. It provides substantial evidence of the manner in which ICTs are beneficial to marginalised communities, in the struggle against poverty and the achievement of the UN Millennium Development Goals. Ground-breaking in its approach, the axis of its interventions has been the people themselves. Communities were motivated to keep their senses trained on their own lives and livelihoods; and to use ICTs to support and preserve their culture and traditions, rather than destroy or divert attention from these basics. Experiences demonstrate that by providing the appropriate infrastructure, ICTs can reach rural and remote areas; democratise the most insensitive and challenged education systems; and make transformative advancements on a national scale. It is also clear that without full consultation with and agreement from the intended primary beneficiaries of efforts to eliminate poverty, illiteracy and powerlessness, success in these endeavours is likely to be unattainable. For uninformed ICT interventions will not only be difficult to sustain, but also will be of doubtful effectiveness in adding value to the intrinsic resources of communities. Through lack of consultation and participation, the potential of ICTs can be defeated before they have ever been applied on the ground.
The Finding a Voice project examined the practicalities of stimulating participation through creative engagement with digital ICTs; using convergent social media tools and systems – such as digital storytelling – for the democratisation of society through giving voices to the voiceless. These systems provided unprecedented opportunities for self-expression and the sharing of culture, hopes and dreams through narrowcast, cablecast and other media channels; opportunities which are crucial to peaceful co-existence.