Sunday, May 27, 2012

ICTs represent the new “new imperialism of Africa in the Global Electronic Village Ya’uY (2004) or “virtual colonialism”

ICTs represent the new “new imperialism of Africa in the Global Electronic Village Ya’uY (2004) or “virtual colonialism” Cline –Cole et al, (2004) whilst for some ICTs represent “a chance for breakthrough” in technological development. Critically examine

Globalisation has led to the treatment of ICTs as the major tool for development, whilst the Third World countries are struggling to achieve the millennium development targets of 2015. Goal number eight aims to develop a global partnership for development and ICTs within developmental power relations have been regarded as the major component to accomplish goal number eight. However the demise that is envisaged in making the ICTs as the main strategy of enhancing global partnership, scholars such as Ya’uY (2004) have emphasised that ICTs represent the “new Imperialism of Africa in the Global Electronic Village”. In my assessment Western countries have developed strategies that make Third World countries become more dependent of their own technological developments making them consumers not producers of their own Information, Communication and technology. Problems of uneven economic growth, poverty, hunger and disease, unequal educational opportunities and gender equality will never be solved directly through ICT development. Nevertheless proponents of globalisation such as Cline-clone et al (2004) view ICTs represent “a chance for breakthrough” in technological development this claim can not be sidelined as technological innovations in information and telecommunications are paramount for development in developing countries. This essay will critically examine the sentiments elaborated by the scholars above.

Rampant effects of globalisation can be noted in the exclusion of African and developing regions in determining of trade treaties and membership in powerful institutions that instigate the spread of ICTs globally, the equality in decision and policy implementation in international regimes of African countries has been suppressed or declined. While institutional bodies such as WTO advocate for the free trade it sidelines the aspect that the market orthodoxy has resulted in the developing states to surrender their sovereignty for economic gains. According to Ya,uY (2004;12) Africa is poorly positioned in cyberspace to benefit form globalisation and has been affected by new challenges of imperialism as it has become knowledge and technologically dependent on the north. The enthusiasm for ICTs according to McNamara (2003;4) in development thinking has been overemphasized while failing to focus adequately on the complexity and difficulty of fostering pro-poor change, and on the political and structural constraints on that African countries have.

ICTs in this era of global competition in very aspect of live from business to knowledge they facilitate fast speed of communication to enhance fast solutions in formulating developmental strategies. According to Thompson (2004;104) “ICT integrate various strands of developmental discourse ICT networking has become a tool for addressing the entire ‘African development problem’ the ‘seven D’s’ of demography, desertification, drought, dependency, disequilibrium, debt and destabilisation (Adedeji, 1986) through its ability to facilitate a mix of accountability, education, informed decisions, resource management, trade, performance monitoring, and competitiveness (Adam, 1996).” In enhancing communication different stakeholders are able to come up with strategic solutions to enhance national policies that are inclusive as ICTs results in public participation and public awareness of government developmental strategies. According to Cline and Powell (2004;8) national e-strategies will be developed and funding proposals formulated with the people’s consent and participation from different development partners hence through ICTs it allows grass root oriented development and people centred development, as information is disseminated and inturn response is given by the recipient. To ascertain Ya’uY (2004) claims that Africa is poorly positioned in the global cyber space can be overestimated when countries such as South Africa, Egypt and Tanzania have high internet connectivity similar to those of European countries such as Sweden. According to Polikanov et al (2003:46) the media of ICT developed nations such Ghana, Egypt, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Cote d’Ivoire, Senegal, Tanzania, and South Africa are better represented in cyberspace

While globalisation is at its peak with high capital, skills, technology and knowledge mobility Africa has remained in exclusion, advocates of development have emphasized that ICTs are intertwined with development but ICTs can not be implemented in countries with poverty, droughts and wars as a tool for development. Ya’uY (2004;13) cites that “globalisation is the breaking down of national boundaries in terms of trade, flow of information and capital in terms of ownership of key industries”, with the aid of ICTs countries boundaries are more porous. Countries that have the high connectivity in telecommunications such as the internet benefit more form the globalisation according Ya’uY (2004;16) Africa has low internet and PC usage, low bandwidth capacity, low consumption of ICTs and zero percent production of global ICT production the global digital divide in increasing he further retaliates that with ownership of the ICT mainly dominated by multinational companies from Europe and USA. Cline- Cole (2004) thesis that view ICTs representing “a chance for breakthrough” in technological development is comprised of Western ideologies and thoughts not grass root oriented ambitions of Africans that advocate for other means of economic development rather than ICTs, issues of good governance, democracy, regional integration and indigenisation and local empowerment as the core central variances to development not solely dependent on ICTs.

However septics view development as it is intertwined with ICTs; this means Africans are at the mercy foreign powers in developmental strategies as they control the world ICTs and inturn foreign domination in ICTs in Africa means intervention in countries policies and the disappearance of the notions of self determination of a sovereign territory. Ya’uY (2004;17) elaborates that the WTO intervention in the ICT sector centred around General Agreement on Trade and Services (GATS), Trade related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) and the Agreement on Telecommunications in advocacy for liberalisation and privatisation has resulted in the African states losing control over national developmental agendas. In this era of free market economies instead of African countries being developmental states Ya’uY (2004;19) retaliates that social service provision has been removed from the domain of social responsibility this transformation of being an African State welfare state to a capitalist state were the majority can not afford services such as ICTs . Thompson (2004;105) retaliates the same sentiments that ICT may assist in replicating a wider discourse of marginalisation unless there is real sensitivity to their local meanings. Ya’uY (2004) claims that ICTs are being used by the western powers as a vehicle for imperialism does not look on the overview point that the digital divide is being fuelled by other internal factors in African states themselves such as high illiteracy, low economic capabilities and poor infrastructure as well African states lack of clear and coherent national programmes for Internet development. Thompson (2004;105) argues that the “increasingly perceived importance of ICT as components of development has resulted in unprecedented levels of investment in ICT by major developmental donors, often at the expense of alternative forms of initiative”.

The World Summit on the Informational Society (WSIS) of 2001 in response to digital divide, indentified the link between ICTs and development power relations according Cline (2004;5) indentified ICTs as an integral part of broader processes of informationalisation and globalisation, for African states to be fully integrated in the global village ICTs play a major role the, G8 in 2000 stipulated the fundamental role of ICTs in global reconstruction and socio-economic change. African countries in their pursuit to attract foreign direct investments (FDIs) the role of ICTs have been paramount in informing to the investors about the country political, social and economic environment Polikanov et al (2003:5) most African Countries have established websites aimed at developing tourism, attracting foreign investments, and promoting the image of the state.

Regional organizations as Polikanov et al (2003:5) retaliates that African Development Bank, the COMESA (Common Market for East and Southern Africa), the ECA (Economic Commission for Africa), the SADC (Southern African Development Community), the IGAD (Inter-Governmental Authority for Development) and the ECOWAS (Economic Community of Western African States) have websites containing lots of information on their work and activities of individual member states. Remarkable strides are in place to dissolve the digital divide that exists between north and African countries hence the issue of marginalisation and Western imperialism is with high contestation as many countries through government and international institutions such as the IMF and World Bank have been helped to attain ICTs through their programmes such as World Bank assistance programmes in ICTs through the infoDev unit. According to Ya’uY (2004;23) infoDev facilitate in market development and promote the use of ICT in areas such as education, health, government, commerce and environment in African states. But these multi- lateral organisations are dominated by Western powers that have other ambitions rather than development of ICTs in Africa most of the companies that controls ICTs such as AT&T, France Telecom and British Telecom are all foreign owned. These foreign monopolies over ICTs have eroded African culture replaced by Westernization as an element of imperialism conquest.

The new form of imperialism is characterised by dependency of the African states on knowledge and ICTs for their own developmental strategies Ya’ uY (2004;21) emphasise that this trend is shown by the control mechanism exerted through the WTO which acts on behalf of Western powers and multinational co operations. Further marginalization of the African states is due to the broadening digital divide caused by the institutional regimes not fully formulating statutes that protect the developing world due to their alignment to the imperial forces that are after extracting the African resources but all means. The Telecommunications Agreement according to Ya’uY (2004;18) required the African governments to end ICTs monopolies and open the sector to international investment this requirement meant that only indirectly that to open the sector to Western companies as they are the one with the resources and financial strength to invest in ICTs. WTO in regards to such advocacy shows its imperial agenda to control and render the Africa State weak as local companies can never compete with capitally powerful multinational co-operations.

Despite the facts raised by Cline-clone et al (2004) of ICTs representing “a chance for breakthrough” in technological developmental path, problematic concerns of imperialism raised by Ya’uY (2004) are the sole reality of why ICT strategy as being advocated by the West. Developmental initiatives in Africa must be left to Africans, as development initiatives can not be determined by people living outside African society. The failure of Structural Adjustment Programmes (SAPs) shows that International institutions have failed to recommend strategies for development; what then would justify ICTs as tools of development. The western powers in their quest to extract raw materials form African states initiate unpleasant policies, although NEPAD involved ICT development as a developmental tool it was not the main metaphor of the document. ICTs are important to integrate African states in the global arena but not the only chance of technological development.


Polikanov, Dmitry andAbramova, Irina(2003) 'Africa and ICT: A Chance for Breakthrough?',
Information, Communication & Society, 6: 1, 42 — 56 London Routledge
Kerry S. McNamara Information and Communication Technologies ,Poverty and Development: Learning from Experience A Background Paper for the info Dev Annual Symposium December 9-10, 2003 Geneva, Switzerland

Thompson, Mark(2004) 'Discourse, 'Development' & the 'Digital Divide': ICT & the World Bank',
Review of African Political Economy, 31: 99, 103 — 123 London Routledge