The most common definitions of 'ICT4Development' focus on ICT infrastructures and their governance to stress the centrality of ICT to processes of development. But beyond technocratic visions of access and connectivity, the idea of 'ICT4Development' is already transforming visions of cultural exchange, economic empowerment, political transformation, and social change.
For some, the UN World Summit on the Information Society is just another moment in an ongoing series of intergovernmental jamborees, glamorizing disciplinary visions of global ICT governance. For others, WSIS revives 'tricontinentalist' hopes for a New International Information and Communication Order whose emphasis on 'civil society actors' may even signal the transformation of a statist system of intergovernmental organizations. Either way, WSIS continues to encourage the articulation of agendas, positions, and stakes in a new politics of communication and information.
Many of the social and political desires triggered by the rise of the so-called info-society are channeled through the concept and organizational vision of 'civil society', not least because of the lure of 'a seat at the table' in multi-stakeholder dialogues or at intergovernmental summits. What are the strengths and limits of 'civil society' strategies in the evolving organizational infrastructure of a politics of communication and information?
In the dot-gone era, even the 'digerati' no longer embrace the vision of an unfettered cyberliberarianism and its promise of dematerialization-through-technology. Slowly, the new sobriety acknowledges what even WIRED considers to be the 'dark side of the digital age': the tremendous environmental and social impact of IT-related resource extraction, manufacturing, use, and disposal.
The critique of development has always been both a theoretical project and the agenda of a multitude of 'subaltern' social movements. Yet contemporary ICT-for-Development discourse shows little if any awareness of this critique. Has development scepticism simply been forgotten? Or has it been actively muted to disconnect current struggles in the area of communication and information from this history, adding legitimacy to new strategies of 'pre-emptive' development, based on an ever-closer alliance between the politics of aid, development, and security?
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