1963-2013 - 50 years of Research for Social Change

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Back | Programme Area: Technology and Society

Technologies, Power and Society: An Overview

This Programme Paper presents the English translation of the introductory chapter to the volume Le Sénégal à l’heure de l’information: Technologies et société. The book aims to illustrate, via 10 case studies, the important role of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in forming contemporary Senegal and to predict, on the basis of the collected information, major future trends. According to Diop, Senegal will continue to be marked by political changeover of the kind that occurred in March 2000, as well as by a considerable recomposition of the social and economic fabric of society.

The contributions to the volume attempt to order and analyse the relationships between technologies, power and society. They endeavour to make sense of the complex links between “the local” (mastering of ICTs) and “the global” (the reform and restructuring of the international capitalist system). Indeed, global opportunities and constraints must not be overlooked or underestimated in attempting to anticipate the changes that will take place in the Senegal of tomorrow. An overarching goal of this research undertaking was to produce a discourse based on Senegalese experience, but which is also universal.

The contributions spell out the cultural, historical and institutional factors influencing the ways in which social groups take over technologies, adapt them and use them to solve their everyday problems. Emphasis is also placed on the ways in which markets and individualism—which underpin these technologies—are taken up and rethought in a context that is quite different from those where these technologies originated. Here we enter into the heart of the debate concerning technological modernization as a way of reversing—or reinforcing—tendencies toward economic and social marginalization.

The contributions to part one of the volume are grouped under the heading ICTs and Economic Transformation. Gaye Daffé and Mamadou Dansokho set out the general framework in their study on the implications of information technology for growth and patterns of economic development in Senegal. Abdoulaye Ndiaye’s contribution focuses on the opportunities and threats posed by the Internet for small and medium-sized enterprises in Dakar; and Philippe Barry and Hamidou Diop present similar information for a sample of 50 medium-sized and large industrial enterprises. These studies trace the changes in management, in relations with suppliers and clients, and in the making of new international contacts. Finally, Abdou Latif Coulibaly looks at the role of computer-mediated systems in the modernization of journalism in Senegal.

The second set of contributions to the volume is grouped, in part two, under the heading Technologies and Societies. This part of the volume opens with Cheikh Guèye’s examination of the role of ICTs in urban transformation in Senegal. His research focuses on how information technology is being used to strengthen the religious and business interests of the Mouride brotherhood in Touba, the second largest city in Senegal. Next comes Mansour Tall’s chapter, which looks at the role of ICTs in facilitating financial and social “relations at distance”, between Senegalese migrants and their country of origin. It shows how rapid growth and diversification of telephone services and Internet options are changing the way migrants are able to participate in day-to-day decisions about family matters and manage businesses dependent on their investments. Saidou Dia’s study traces the development of radio, which—especially following the creation of FM stations in 1990—has become a vital source of information in local languages for the majority of Senegal’s people. Moussa Paye’s contribution analyses the impact of ICTs on the democratic process. The gradual relaxation of state control over the media is reviewed, as are recent attempts to improve communication with citizens through creating neighbourhood-level offices, where anyone can access public records and obtain official documents. The volume closes with two studies on the role of ICTs in Senegal’s educational system. Serigne Mbaké Seck and Cheikh Guèye review the experiences in this field between 1960 and 1992. And Abdourahmane Ndiaye shows how ICTs have been introduced and developed at Cheikh Anta Diop University in Dakar.

In view of the structural constraints described in the different contributions to the volume, the gap that has to be reduced to give a new momentum to social development in Senegal via ICTs is not only a quantitative issue. It is above all economic, social and political. Not only has the role of the state to be rethought; but its relationships with society, and the way families and enterprises are organized, also require due attention in order to identify the cultural and social values that will enable the most advantageous use of ICTs for the majority.
  • Publication and ordering details
  • Pub. Date: 1 Sep 2005
    Pub. Place: Geneva
    ISSN: 1020-8216
    From: UNRISD