1963-2013 - 50 years of Research for Social Change

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Technology, Business and Society Programme Paper 17: Technologies, Power and Society: An Overview

11 Nov 2005

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, writes the author of this paper recently released by UNRISD.

The paper, the English translation of the introductory chapter to the volume Le Sénégal à l’heure de l’information: Technologies et sociéte, synthesizes the findings 10 case studies to examine the role of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in forming contemporary Senegal and to predict major future trends. According to Diop, the case studies fall into two groups: ICTs and Economic Transformation, and Technologies and Societies.

The paper uses the case studies in an attempt to order and analyse the relationships between technologies, power and society. It endeavours 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, Diop writes, 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.
Diop also reviews the case study material to 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. He emphasizes the ways markets and individualism - which underpin these technologies - are adapted and rethought in a context that is quite different from those where these technologies originated. Here we enter the heart of the debate concerning technological modernization as a way of reversing - or reinforcing - tendencies toward economic and social marginalization.

In view of the structural constraints described in the cases, 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. Diop writes that 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.

Momar-Coumba Diop is a Researcher at the Institut fondamental d’Afrique noire, Cheikh Anta Diop University, Dakar.

Order TBS PP 17 from UNRISD, 20 pages, 2005; US$ 12 for readers in industrialized countries and US$ 6 for readers in developing and transitional countries and for students.