1963-2013 - 50 years of Research for Social Change

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Back | Programme Area: Technology and Society

Les émigrés sénégalais et les nouvelles technologies de l'information et de la communication



While not a new phenomenon, the migration of Senegalese to other countries grew rapidly between 1980 and 1990, and has had significant social and economic implications. An increase in both the number of destinations and points of origin has raised complex issues. The need to establish “long-distance relations”—that is, the set of economic, financial and social ties between migrants and their country of origin—becomes all the more urgent when the receiving countries are farther from and have fewer historical links to Senegal. The migrant is an actor whose life evolves across different geographic spaces, and the migratory system is structured between different poles: country of origin, host country and investment zones. In order to organize and enliven this complex network, migrants must ensure that information is transmitted between the different poles of the system, despite the distance, through a process of nearly constant interaction. Migrants, like all actors within vast and highly mobile networks, need communication.

New information and communication technologies (ICTs) are the modern tools (cable, satellite, the Internet, telematic applications) that facilitate the circulation of ideas and bring together data and people. This study attempts to shed light on the role of ICTs in the long-distance relations between Senegalese migrants and their families at home. Migrants take up and use these technologies in a myriad of ways. As with any innovation, ICTs bring into question age-old beliefs and knowledge, long-established positions and well-established local structures.

Rapid social changes occur as a result of the new forms taken by relations between migrants and their families living in Senegal, who survive thanks to contributions sent from abroad. Migrants’ decision-making power in the management of domestic affairs is facilitated by ICTs. For example, they use the services of companies specializing in the long-distance sale of foodstuffs to cover family expenses, through merchant networks and ICT facilities. Migrants introduce the use of ICTs into their families by paying the fees for connection of fixed telephone lines or by providing them with cellular telephones, and often ensuring the payment of bills. To fulfil the requirements associated with long-distance management of the domestic realm and of their personal affairs, migrants are introducing innovative uses of ICTs.

How are migrants adopting ICTs? How are ICTs eliminating the physical element in the financial transfers of migrants and promoting the circulation of private capital? What is the role of migrants in introducing these technologies in villages that are, a priori, isolated? What are the social and economic implications of accessibility to ICTs? This study attempts to gain an understanding of how Senegalese migrants and their families who remain behind use these new communication tools and how, in turn, these tools influence their interactions and ways of life. Migrants, relying on the opportunities offered by ICTs, their money and their savoir-faire, are attempting to instil a new dynamic in their relations with their families in Senegal. This study is focused squarely on the link between technological innovation and social changes, under the influence of one key actor: the migrant.

Serigne Mansour Tall is Research Assistant at the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) Sahel Programme, Dakar.
  • Publication and ordering details
  • Pub. Date: 1 May 2003
    Pub. Place: Geneva
    ISSN: 1020-8216
    From: UNRISD