Posted to the Ethnos Project by on July 15th, 2013

Community participation is often suggested as a means to a relevant, contextual rural information system (such as a telecentre). Yet, the ICT for development field has much to learn from development literature on the complexities of community participation. We first review the critical literature on participation in development and then analyze our case against this. Findings from our ethnographic study on a village community radio and IT project in south India show that even though the project is contextual (for example, it disseminates local information in an audio rather than written format) and participatory (for example, it conducted a Participatory Rural Appraisal and has a management committee drawn from the community), it faces a number of challenges – participation is a top-down concept and the “insiders” learn what the “outsiders” want to hear, rather than vice versa as Chambers hoped for in his work on participation. Finally, even though the villagers are interested, they find a lack of time to participate. The research concludes that community participation in rural information systems projects is far more complex and contradictory than “ICT for development” implementers have described so far.

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