1963-2013 - 50 years of Research for Social Change

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Back | Project: Information Technologies and Social Development

A summary of project activities

  • Project from: 2000 to 2005

The project was launched with an international conference on Information Technologies and Social Development, held at the Palais des Nations in Geneva in June 1998. A background note on the event, as well as a copy of the conference programme and notes on speakers, will be found by clicking on “Events”.

The background paper for the conference (“New Information and Communication Technologies, Social Development and Cultural Change”), written by Cees Hamelink, can be downloaded from the “Published Papers” section of this site.

In addition, six conference papers have been reproduced online. Three (by Manuel Castells, Cees Hamelink and Rafal Rohozinski) are available in full text under the heading “Published Papers”. Three more (by Neil Butcher, Zarahom Nain and Mustafa K. Anuar, and Scott Robinson) are available in the site section called “Unpublished Papers”.

In 1999 preliminary steps were taken to organize the project’s first country study, in Senegal. Momar-Coumba Diop was named study co-ordinator, and an issues paper on information and communications technologies and social development in Senegal was commissioned from Olivier Sagna. This study is reproduced here, in French, under “Published Papers”. An English translation is also available as an “Unpublished Paper”.

After a planning seminar in Dakar in January 2000, at which Sagna’s paper was discussed, a team of ten Senegalese researchers set out to analyse how different kinds of information and communications technologies are being utilized in various sectors of national society. (For a list of researchers and topics, click on “Senegal country study”). Their findings were discussed a year and a half later, at a public meeting opened by the Secretary General of the Presidency of the Republic, in June 2001. More information on the meeting, including a list of participants, is available under the “Events” section of this web site. The final conference report can be found by clicking on “UNRISD Conference News”.

An innovative aspect of the Senegal project was its use of the local press to present preliminary findings to as broad a public as possible. UNRISD sponsored ten collectible newspaper supplements, of four pages each, printed between June 2000 and May 2002 in the Dakar daily Sud Quotidien. These supplements are stored online at the web site of OSIRIS, a well-known Senegalese NGO. Links are available by clicking on the part of this site dedicated specifically to the Senegal country study.

A volume entitled Le Sénégal à l'heure de l'information: Technologies et société edited by Momar-Coumba Diop, containing all studies prepared by members of the Senegal country team, has been published in 2002 by Karthala/UNRISD, Paris. This co-publication in French is also being translated into English.

Nine of the Senegal project papers (by Philippe Barry and Hamidou Diop, Cheikh Gueye and Serigne Mbacké Seck, Cheikh Gueye, Abdoulaye Ndiaye, Abdou Latif Coulibaly, Abdourahmane Ndiaye, Serigne Mansour Tall, Gaye Daffé and Mamadou Dansokho, and Saidou Dia) are available online in French, by clicking on “Unpublished papers”. English translations will be added as they are completed.

The UNRISD Senegal study has been financed by the Ministry of Development Co-operation of The Netherlands.

In 2000, the UNRISD InfoTech project commissioned a small and highly readable book on Global Media Governance: A Beginner’s Guide (Boulder: Rowman and Littlefield/UNRISD, 2002), written by Seán O’Siochrú and Bruce Girard, with Amy Mahan. The book provides an excellent introduction to international media issues and should be extremely useful for students and citizens’ groups. It has been published in paperback as well as hardback.

Following this initiative, the Institute commissioned a second study, on growing media concentration, written by Robert McChesney and Dan Schiller. It can be found by clicking on “Published papers”.

Both of these efforts now feed into a planned UNRISD contribution to the World Summit on the Information Society, in December 2003 in Geneva.

During 2000-2001, the Institute also served as advisor to the Ministry for Development Co-operation of the Government of The Netherlands, as it developed an information technology strategy. Cynthia Hewitt de Alcántara wrote a paper entitled “The Development Divide in a Digital Age”, co-published with the Ministry in August 2001.

Finally, during 2001 UNRISD commissioned papers that take up two questions often asked by members of the public, as they try to understand the social implications of new information and communications technologies. The first paper, by Judith Adler Hellman, explores the utility of dedicating massive resources to Internet-based distance education in developing countries. The second, by Jonathan Bach, explains how interactive technologies affect the ability of different kinds of NGOs to strengthen democratic participation in Eastern Europe.