Sunday, November 4, 2012

Thinking about "social media" and its role in national development

I've been busy reading and thinking about social media these days in connection with a consulting project for a United Nations Asia Pacific regional center devoted to information and communications technology for development (ICT4D).  The field of development communication, which was my focus in graduate school at Stanford back in the mass media era, has changed a great deal, mainly because of the revolutionary development of the internet and digital communication technology generally.  ICT4D and more recently social media for development are now in vogue, in no small part because of the tremendous hopes for the role that mobile broadband internet via smart phones, tablets and other devices, may play in bolstering socioeconomic development in the poor nations of the world.
On the infrastructure side of things, there is ample reason for optimism since it appears that nearly everyone in the world will have some form of mobile broadband access within a decade.   At the end of 2011, the ITU estimated that over 87 percent of the world's population had mobile phone subscriptions.
However, it is well to remember that there were high hopes in the 1970s that mass media would contribute to national development, and those hopes were never realized.   I'll be following this topic more closely and may post here occasionally.  For those of you interested in following the main issues, I recommend two blogs.
The first is the ICTs for Development blog authored by Richard Heeks of the University of Manchester's Centre for Development Informatics.  To ensure a balanced perspective, I also suggest that you consult the ICT4D Jester blog, written by Kentaro Toyama of U.C. Berkeley.
More on all of this in future posts.

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