Law in the Internet Society

View   r1
MadihaZahrahChoksiSecondEssay 1 - 16 Mar 2018 - Main.MadihaZahrahChoksi
Line: 1 to 1
META TOPICPARENT name="SecondEssay"
It is strongly recommended that you include your outline in the body of your essay by using the outline as section titles. The headings below are there to remind you how section and subsection titles are formatted.

A Reflection on ICT and Broadband Infrastructure Development

-- By MadihaZahrahChoksi - 16 Mar 2018


"Technologies for Choice"

Last semester I read a book that I found perusing the library stacks titled Technologies for Choice by Dorothea Kleine. I enjoyed the book, and decided to write a paper about information communications technology for development (ICT4D? ) in Chile, and Amartya Sen’s capabilities approach to freedom, in which I argued that broadband connectivity and digital inclusion should be approached as means rather than an end in itself. In other words, the integration of ICTs in societies that have little to no exposure to digital communications require an approach that balances infrastructure development and policy making with the goal of expanding human freedoms.

I thought I was done with the topic until I came across the December issue of National Geographic which features an article on “Africa’s Tech Generation.” The cover story illustrates in beguiling photographs, the stories of some young entrepreneurs who are using their local broadband access to distribute profitable digital services in various cities, towns, and villages. The article highlights two apps: an Uber-like platform for safe motorcycle taxis in Rwanda, and another called FarmDrive, which facilitates agricultural record-keeping and verifies the creditworthiness of farmers in Kenya. Although both apps were locally-created, the backbone of their financing and operations come from US venture capital and European programming expertise.

The article reminded me of the Chilean case study, and the role of the Chilean government in forming and regulating the relationship between their constituents and ICTs. As ICT engagement increases across the globe, the decisions surrounding user experience and privacy are top down: will user-engagement with platforms cater to user-interests by offering local content through which they feel empowered to create and share? Or will the interactions be uniform, through a global platform that welcomes new users to their free and limitless platform capabilities; all while deceptively data mining and collecting user behavior as a highly profitable source of revenue? These factors are inextricably dependent on the influence their governments exert within the context of digital development.

Well, what is the Agenda Digital?

The Agenda Digital came into being as an extension of the federal government’s ICT implementation work throughout the 1990s. Although the goal of broadening the REUNA (Red Universitaria Nacional) network fell short, in 2004, the Agenda Digital adopted what Dorothea Kleine classifies as a “neo-liberal macroeconomic agenda” in an effort to include all Chileans in the ICT-enabled social, economic, and cultural spheres. The Agenda Digital executed an approach to development that prioritized ICT enablement which meant that the distribution of ICTs and broadband infrastructure reached all members of society and thus, enabled by the public sector through centralized government investing.

ICT4D? vs. Software Industry Development

Consider for a moment, the outcomes of a software industry development approach: unequivocal proliferation of software suites created and maintained by the same industry giants, an economy of platforms that discourage collaboration and open access. The cycle of market domination and disempowerment deters open sourced programs, or even locally created software, webpages and apps to ever infiltrate the economy. The software development approach taken by Facebook Free Basics is the most apparent example where development is initialized both around, and as a result of the software industry. Drawing from Massimo Ragnedda’s types of access theory, without local, or free software, local content thus struggles to find its place within the networked public sphere.

One step forward, more than two steps backwards…

The Chilean approach to ICT4D? leveraged national policies and education towards the goal of including diverse stakeholders, such as the public sector, local businesses, as well as marginalized indigenous groups. The ICT industry that emerged from national regulatory policies and frameworks prioritized the accessibility of local access points.

The relationship between informed participation in the global knowledge society and economic growth is recognized as an evaluative incentive for ICT4D? policy integration in Chile, however, when it came down to the most critical decisions surrounding the day to day use of ICTs in telecentros, and within the homes of Chilean people, the same policymakers and stakeholders ignored the rights expanding and “for development” principles they originally promised. Most notably, the government subsidized personal computer “My Primera PC” came equipped with Microsoft Office, and other proprietary software. Moreover, neither infocentros nor telecentros propagated free software at the local level.

Will we ever get it right?

While taking steps towards local infrastructure and policy development in Chile can be identified as a step towards user control over technologies they interact with, there is an aberrant parallel between the end-user experience of Chileans, and that of the Rwandan’s and Kenyan’s in the NatGeo? article. Neither case study is wholly successful, they reveal distinct advancements that nonetheless continue underserve the rights of users to be entirely in charge of their individual experience with technology. On the one hand, are users whose access to unregulated technical education is driving ingenuity, but who fall short in their ability to secure funding, and the skill set for the wide scale implementation of their innovations. On the other hand, are users who are both systematically empowered and disempowered to enhance their technical capacities as directed by the interests and motivations of their government. The imperfect and inherently discriminatory practices surrounding ICT development, proliferation, and access point to a reality in which there is no ideal development approach to broadband and ICT infrastructure development. Perhaps if governments were to identify and mediate, in a nondiscriminatory manner, the relationship between research and development, policymaking, and the public and private sectors could advancements really be advancements…but nothing, not even history is on our side on this one.

You are entitled to restrict access to your paper if you want to. But we all derive immense benefit from reading one another's work, and I hope you won't feel the need unless the subject matter is personal and its disclosure would be harmful or undesirable. To restrict access to your paper simply delete the "#" character on the next two lines:

Note: TWiki has strict formatting rules for preference declarations. Make sure you preserve the three spaces, asterisk, and extra space at the beginning of these lines. If you wish to give access to any other users simply add them to the comma separated ALLOWTOPICVIEW list.

Revision 1r1 - 16 Mar 2018 - 21:58:04 - MadihaZahrahChoksi
This site is powered by the TWiki collaboration platform.
All material on this collaboration platform is the property of the contributing authors.
All material marked as authored by Eben Moglen is available under the license terms CC-BY-SA version 4.
Syndicate this site RSSATOM