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On the emancipatory role of rural information systems

Shivraj Kanungo (Department of Management Science, George Washington University, Washington, DC, USA)

Information Technology & People

ISSN: 0959-3845

Article publication date: 1 December 2004


The use of information technology in rural and underserved settings is receiving increasing attention because of the immense potential it brings for improving the quality of life and reducing the digital divide. However, high costs coupled with infrastructure and context‐related inhibitors tend to dilute the advantages that are often taken as a set of givens. In this paper we present a case study of a pioneering experience of information system use in a set of villages in southern India. The research proposition for this study is that social processes can form a viable basis for providing sustainability to information communications technology (ICT) initiatives in rural regions. Theoretical support for this study comes from Habermas’ theory of communicative action. Given that such information systems are emancipatory in nature, and given that such information systems face many obstacles, the value added by these systems needs to be assessed in terms of their contribution to social capital in addition to economic value added. Our analysis reveals that social processes can be leveraged to accord viability to ICT setups in rural settings. Many social changes, that may have faced resistance or were unexpected, themselves became the reason for keeping the ICT setup. This is so because these changes form the basis of empowerment and a participatory framework that would have been absent earlier. We provide implications for researchers as well as practitioners.



Kanungo, S. (2004), "On the emancipatory role of rural information systems", Information Technology & People, Vol. 17 No. 4, pp. 407-422.



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