University of Padova


ICT in International Cooperation and Development

THE INTERNET’S PARADOX

Internet represents a media for telematic, interactive, universal and free communication. Thanks to its characteristics, the Web can break down many social barriers thanks to its ability to increase a democratic access and management of information; moreover it facilitates a kind of horizontal communication positively affecting information quality (Hacker, 2002). But, paradoxically, this same technology is the source of new social inequality because just a little part of the world population can access it. This inequality is defined as the Digital Divide phenomenon.

DIGITAL DIVIDE

The Digital Divide is defined by Servon (2002) as the “unequal distribution of computer technologies that cause the split between who has the Net in hand and who has not”. This phenomenon had the effect to increase the social and economical distance between Country of North and South of the World; in fact poor countries have less possibility to access the system of information management and production.

Furthermore, within the same western countries, the Digital Divide increases social inequalities between young and old people, man and woman, people with high vs. low level of education and so on.

Graph showing internet users in Italy divided by education level (data in percentage). Retrieved in Livraghi (2006)
Figure 1. Internet users in Italy divided by education level (data in percentage). Retrieved in Livraghi (2006)

Nowadays the International Cooperation (IC) is sensible to problems concerning the Digital Divide and it is engaged to resolve them. Unfortunately, to erase this divide, distribution of equipments and technological Know-How seem to be not enough; the requirement to manage a social and cultural Know-How, namely the contextualization of technologies according to the needs and interests of people, is the first step to be performed.
How can we use technology to facilitate this process? What is the role of technologies in supporting IC?
The HTLab project “Psicologi senza Frontiere” (PSF) tries to deal with this problems with the support of a website and a blog.

“SU CAMBIO POR EL CAMBIO” WEBSITE

“Su cambio por el Cambio” is a social project developed in Ecuador that helps Quito street’s guys. This work is based on a collaborative net between PSF volunteers: while coordination activities are developed from Italy (through website management) and actively performed by volunteers working in loco.
Figure 1 represents a web page from www.elcambio.org; this website aims to shorten the distance between street’s guys and the European supporters, to find new donors, to enhance comunication with donors and involve Quito’s children into the website creative activities.

"SU CAMBIO POR EL CAMBIO" WEBSITE
THE PSF’S BLOG

An other application of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) to support IC is the Blog of “Psicologi senza Frontiere”(visible in Figure 2). This blog creates a network between various communities of practice that are sensitive to thematic of International Cooperation. It underlines intercultural view of our engagement in Cooperation, and founds supporters that want to collaborate on our project.

"SU CAMBIO POR EL CAMBIO" WEBSITE

The ICTs are instruments for participation and information sharing (like for example Skype and e-mail) that help the work of volunteers in poor contexts, and have the potential to improve living conditions of disadvantage populations. In this way technology can be used in different modalities to help and develop social projects based on the problems it solves.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Hacker, K., (2002) Networking Democracy, Political will and the fourth Word: Theoretical and empirical Issues Regarding Comuputer-Mediated Communication (CMC) and Democracy. Euricom2002.
Livraghi, G., (2006), Dati e statistiche su Internet in Italia, in Europa e nel mondo, http://www.gandalf.it/dati/index.htm, gian@gandalf.it
Servon, L., (2002) Bringing the Digital Divide, Blackwell publishing.


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