Kimppa, K. (2010), "Introduction to the special issue", Journal of Information, Communication and Ethics in Society, Vol. 8 No. 1. https://doi.org/10.1108/jices.2010.36408aaa.001Download as .RIS
Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2010, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Introduction to the special issue
Article Type: Guest editorial From: Journal of Information, Communication & Ethics in Society, Volume 8, Issue 1
This special issue of the Journal of Information, Communication and Ethics in Society (JICES) is based on papers presented in the International Federation of Information Processing (IFIP) 8th International Conference on Human Choice and Computers (HCC8) which was organized in Pretoria, 25-27 September 2008. The special issue editor, Kai Kimppa, invited the papers most suitable for JICES to be further developed for the special issue. The papers bring forth a range of topics in the field of information and communication technology (ICT), ethics and society, especially, but not only in relation to development policies and free (libre), open source software (FOSS or FLOSS). The special issue editor and the editors of the journal hope you find the content informative – irrespective of whether you were able to participate in HCC8 or not.
Authors of 12 papers were approached on the possibility to further develop the theme from HCC8 to JICES. These six papers in this special issue are the result of over a year of work by the authors and the editorial team on the development of the original papers. The common themes in these papers are ICT development policies and FLOSS use. In the papers the authors address various issues on why the ICT development policies experience problems and why FLOSS has not delivered the promises associated with it in development environments differing from the “traditional” western ones.
The first paper is by Magda David Hercheui, “A study on how public policies affect legitimacy in virtual communities”. She shows how public policy funding can influence the social structures of virtual communities (Brazilian environmental education virtual communities) and how these effects carry on even after the public funding has terminated, as the leadership positions of those who have received the funding have been legitimated in the meantime. This affects the stakeholders in these virtual communities and she recommends that these effects need to be consciously discussed and analysed for better understanding of them.
The second paper is written by Robin Mansell on “The information society and ICT policy: a critique of the mainstream vision and an alternative research framework”. Her paper addresses some reasons why research that is critical of mainstream research on ICT policies – which are parts of broader development policy initiatives – are sometimes not taken into account even when the points raised are valid. She points out that there is a UNESCO-based alternative research framework which could be useful for development policies to take the ICT component into account better. She also points out that unequal power relations need to be considered and solved when aiming to improve the material conditions in people’s lives through the introduction of ICTs.
In the third paper, “Free and Open Source Software in developing contexts: from open in principle to open in the consequences” by Gianluca Miscione and Kevin Johnston look at the possibilities of FLOSS usage in developing context in Kerala, India and in South Africa – and bring forth potential reasons for the active introduction of FLOSS in Kerala, and why this has not happened in South Africa. They find out that being open in principle is not enough to being open in consequences – other, deeper reasons than the enabling of FLOSS for economically and socially possible solutions must be found to actualize the potential in the FLOSS model in a developing context. Even if the local authorities believe the FLOSS model to offer a possibility for the enablement of development, the adoption processes are not necessarily linear. Other resistance needs to be overcome, as is seen in the paper.
Farid Shirazi looks into the filtering of ICTs in Iran in his paper “The emancipatory role of information and communication technology: a case study of internet content filtering within Iran”. He analyzes the effects of filtering ICTs on marginalized groups (e.g. female activists or ethnic and religious minorities) and their possibility to both find out and distribute information on their interests under a system which is used to control information flows. He also shows how these groups circumvent some of the harms done to their activities by the system. His conclusion is that even though the filtering systems are politically and religiously motivated, they also hamper the possibility to use and develop ICTs even for government sanctioned purposes, let alone purposes which would call government policies into question.
Bernd Carsten Stahl, Neil McBride and Ibrahim Elbeltagi, in their paper “Development and emancipation: the information society and decision support systems in local authorities in Egypt” looks in the conflicts between the promises for emancipation given by the authorities to legitimize their ICT policies and the reality of ICT development being used as a way to attract investments – whether emancipatory or not – into the area. His analysis, based on a Habermasian and Foucauldian approaches shows the glaring difference between the official explanations and what actually happens.
In the final paper, “A human environmentalist approach to diffusion in ICT policies: a case study of the FOSS Policy of the South African Government” Lizette Weilbach and Elaine Byrne introduce the human environmental model as a useful alternative to the more traditional South African view that the introduction of technology per se, is enough to bridge the gap between the haves and the have-nots. They critique the purely linear technology development models and offer a socio-technical alternative to assist in a more holistic approach to ICT development. This is hoped to widen the perspectives of policy makers to find real solutions instead of “solutions”.
The editor of the special issue would like to thank all the approached and especially selected authors for their contribution for both the HCC8 and this special issue. He would also like to thank IFIP Technical Committee 9 (TC9) on ICT and Society Chair, Chrisanthi Avgerou and the many TC9 members and others who participated in the organisation and review processes of both the conference and the special issue and thus made the special issue possible.
Kai KimppaGuest Editor