Communication and Information Technologies Annual: Volume 12

Cover of Communication and Information Technologies Annual

Digital Empowerment: Opportunities and Challenges of Inclusion in Latin America and the Caribbean

Subject:

Table of contents

(17 chapters)

Prelims

Pages i-xxix
click here to view access options

Section I Opportunities and Challenges: Young People

Purpose

In the last two decades, there has been much research and attention on information and communications technologies (ICTs) as tools that can contribute to the economic and social lives of persons with disabilities (PWDs). However, few studies have sought to explore and document the experiences of PWDs who use these technologies to access the democratic space. Using Democratic Governance as a conceptual framework, this qualitative study seeks to address this gap in the literature by exploring the experiences of several visually impaired Caribbean youth with the use of ICTs to access the democratic space.

Methodology/approach

This study uses the qualitative research design and is guided by Husserl’s Descriptive phenomenology. The study sought to explore common patterns elicited from the specific experiences of 14 visually impaired citizens in Jamaica and 9 in Barbados through the use of semi-structured interviews.

Findings

The findings suggest that ICTs have in some ways contributed to the lives of these visually disabled youth, specifically as it relates to improving their ‘political knowledge’ and encouraging ‘political talk’. In other words, ICTs have played a contributive role in terms of including visually impaired Caribbean youth in the democratic space.

Originality/value

This study contributes to improving our understanding of how and in what ways ICTs can promote the inclusion of visually impaired persons in the democratic space.

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to present a case study of a process undertaken to improve the provision of information and communication technologies (ICTs) for children with disabilities in the formal education system of a developing country.

Methodology/Approach

We review two inclusion-oriented interventions that have been implemented by a disability centre at a regional university in the Caribbean; firstly a survey of 100 primary and high schools in Jamaica to assess their technology accessibility and inclusiveness for children with disabilities, and secondly, a collaborative project between the centre and a government institution to provide assistive technologies, training and curriculum components for students with disabilities.

Findings

The results indicate that more than 77 per cent of Jamaican schools are inaccessible to children with disabilities, and 90 per cent of children with disabilities have not been provided with modern technologies to assist with their education. Inadequacies with the technological infrastructure of the educational system are related to broader inaccessibility issues for children with disabilities. A significant hindrance to ICT procurement is connected to costs of technology hardware and software, but institutional advocacy can be instrumental in mobilizing support for technology investments, particularly for vulnerable groups.

Originality/value

Partnerships between institutions, advocacy groups and government are important in developing countries in order to incorporate and sustain initiatives for ICT provision for children with disabilities in the education system.

Purpose

This paper presents the results of research carried out by the Media Education for Sustainability Project, based at the Federal University of Triangulo Mineiro (UFTM). The project investigated the potential for engaging marginalized communities with educational centers to generate and utilize media and networks, which can be used to promote healthier and resilient lifestyles in the community.

Methodology/approach

The project’s activities used the “Design of Meaning” theoretical framework to design collaborative group work in order to foster key skills for promoting agency and awareness of local problems affecting the environment. Underpinned by Action Research methodology, a series of workshops were piloted with the participation of 20 secondary school students.

Findings

Results suggested that such a creative learning environment can help students develop the skills needed to be active citizens, such as the ability to access, evaluate, use, and contribute to public information addressing issues of democratic participation and accountability. Nevertheless, challenges centered around student motivation and difficulties in engaging with their communities’ contexts will need to be dealt with in future Action Research cycles.

Originality/value

Based on our observations during the workshops, and subsequent feedback from participants, we suggest that Media Education tools show potential for improving school learning, encouraging the community in the search for answers based on local knowledge, and engaging students in a debate about critical issues and challenges at the local level. We believe that this outcome was achieved in part due to the deployment of multimodal languages and creative use of technologies.

Section II Opportunities and Challenges: Women and Gender

Purpose

This study examines the problem of unequal access to the Caribbean ICT industry on the part of women, and considers causes, consequences and possible solutions. The latter includes integrating gender perspectives in ICT policies and programmes to increase access for all to education and employment opportunities for national development.

Methodology/approach

Mixed Methods research techniques (questionnaire surveys, elite interviews and focus group discussions) were used to collect data from national stakeholders in Jamaica and St Lucia.

Findings

Despite policy commitments to gender equality and the deployment of ICTs to promote development, significant gaps persist between policy and practice. Results show that disadvantages in ICT access for women result in gender differences in sector involvement. Gender socialisation and the resulting discrimination in education and employment undermine commitments to inclusive development. Consequences include untapped opportunities for innovation, efficiency and business along the ICT value chain relating to development.

Research limitations

Case studies only represent Anglophone Caribbean and may not reflect all subregional contexts.

Practical implications

The paper demonstrates the value of collecting, analysing and using data disaggregated by sex to identify needs of vulnerable groups relating to inclusive development.

Social implications

Equitable access to ICTs for women through training, community Internet-access-points, and support to establish/expand Micro Small and Medium-sized Enterprises will enable women to combine paid and unpaid family caregiving work and to participate in the ICT value chain.

Originality/value

There is a dearth of gender-based analysis of ICT policymaking in the Caribbean. The paper contributes theoretical, methodological and policy analysis geared towards understanding and promoting inclusive access and gender equality in ICTs for sustainable development in the Caribbean.

Purpose

This study looks at how local grassroots organizations as well as international Women Non-Governmental Organizations (WNGOs) and multilateral organizations such as the United Nations utilize social media to empower women in Jamaica and Brazil. The researchers also evaluate how issues of socio-economic background as well as social media infrastructure influence the selection of entities with which the respective WNGOS connect.

Methodology/approach

This study uses NodeXL, a social media research tool, to analyze the information found on WNGO social media pages such as Facebook and Twitter. The authors also use content analysis to make sense of the data on WNGO Facebook pages. The study specifically uses summative content analysis, a method that translates the frequency of occurrence of certain symbols into summary judgments and comparisons.

Findings

Social media usage by WNGOs in Jamaica and Brazil show striking similarities regarding who gets reached or are connected to the networks. The study reveals that women of lower socio-economic backgrounds in both cases are not being reached via social media. Further, the outcomes of the observed current social media communication patterns on WNGO social media sites suggest the occurrence of what the authors refer to as the “noticeboard” effect, wherein communication patterns are top-down, exclusive, and non-reciprocal in nature.

Social implications

While social media offer less centralized ways of engaging in communication with local communities, inherent in social media infrastructure are issues of race, gender, and social class that affect how these communication platforms are used, potentially another dimension of the “Mathew Effect” in the context of social media usage for purposes of achieving national development objectives.

Originality/value

With the rise in internet penetration in both countries, WNGOs are increasingly incorporating social media into their communication strategies to accomplish development goals. This study is the first to compare both countries in this respect and so adds new insights to this area of the communication field.

Purpose

While access to devices and connectivity remain key issues in Latin America and the Caribbean, a growing body of literature also recognises the importance of media literacies and competencies necessary to navigate an information-rich society. This media literacy movement highlights skills that lead to critical analysis and the assembly and production of knowledge. In the Caribbean region, information literacies have been linked to competency in exploiting opportunities for informal and lifelong learning. This paper builds on the literature dealing with media literacies by drawing on ethnographic interviews with women in Trinidad and Tobago.

Methodology/approach

The methodology consists of an 18-month long ethnography including participant observation data as well as transcripts of 90 interviews.

Findings

The research shows how women in a lower middle class community dubbed ‘Belleton’ build and refine their digital media skills through lifelong adult learning. These informal learning processes that are facilitated by digital technologies that are spaces of learning where these women construct knowledge and build fluency and larger life skills.

Originality/value

This research makes a contribution to the literature on media literacy and digital skill-building. It ethnographically analyses the social practices of Trinidadian women who interact with digital media in a wide range of daily life activities including DIY consumption and small-business entrepreneurship.

Purpose

This paper examines the treatment of women in Caribbean news media, their visibility in relation to men, the news topics covered and the issues that influence the inclusion or exclusion of women in the news.

Methodology/approach

The work is based on a quantitative content analysis. Data and analyses focus on the 2015 findings of a regional and global longitudinal study entitled ‘Who Makes the News’, conducted every 5 years since 1995 by the Global Media Monitoring Project (GMMP), with active Caribbean participation. It is mainly the results of the 2015 Caribbean content analysis that is presented and considered here against the background of the prior data gathering cycles. On a single day, March 25, 2015, 120 newspapers, radio and television stations, internet and twitter news sites across the Caribbean region and globally were monitored for content and treatment by gender, across seven news topic categories.

Findings

The study found a continuing under-representation of women in news coverage, but on a differentiated basis by topic category, among others. Overall, there was a regional average of 28% of women in the news compared with 72% of men. However, while this confirmed a consistent gender disparity throughout the 20-year lifespan of the study, the 2015 results for the Caribbean reflected a three percentage points narrowing of the gap in favour of women when compared to 2010.

Research limitations

The empirical study on which the paper is based is only a snapshot in time and may not reflect the nuances that a broader data gathering timeframe and additional data gathering could provide. It also does not offer qualitative data on the definitive reasons for the results, leaving a basis for informed but nevertheless only conjectural author analyses as to reasons. At the same time, the longitudinal nature of the study allows for well-founded inferences associated with past findings and now predictable trends.

Practical implications

The findings and analyses in this paper disclose a continuing disparity that invites practical measures at the level of news organizations and journalists to redress the imbalance.

Social implications

The results and analysis lend support to advocacy for greater gender balance in news coverage, more respect for female newsmakers and better newsroom coverage planning and inclusive policy-making.

Originality/value

The study shines a light on an important area of disparity in public life, but does so with the support of multi-country statistical and multi-year longitudinal data. It provides a yardstick by which changes in media overage can be measured and monitored over time.

Section III Opportunities and Challenges: Existing Policy Frameworks

Purpose

Peru’s recent macro-economic success has not translated into significant changes in the capabilities of the state to shape economic activities like Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) through specific policies, even though the country has drafted a national action plan, Agenda Digital del Perú, with stakeholders’ participation, as well as a National Broadband Plan. While there are some state programs that have been considered successes and are potentially examples for Peru and the region, the intent of having a full set of “information society” policies, as in the European Union, has failed.

Findings

The paper explores two sets of issues: the diffusion of internationally sourced policies and the capabilities of governments to impact the use of ICT. In the Peruvian case, the state has not been capable of both designing its own set of policies while still following the lead proposed at international fora. To understand the lack of success, it is necessary to differentiate between the shortcomings of local policy-making and the international agenda. Policy makers’ insistence on an “information society” approach is particularly prominent, as the term has been ever present as a policy objective while still lacking actual meaning.

Originality/value

This paper will explore the role of policy-making and the failures of digital policies. It will also consider the contradictory nature of a policy-making process that privileges policies stemming from international bodies over locally driven understandings of ICT policy needs.

Purpose

In Latin America, technology has been advancing faster than society is able to adjust to it on its own. Thus, information and communication professionals should merge their efforts to research and discuss the relevant role they play in the society transformed by technology.

Methodology/approach

This paper presents and discusses the initiatives that the Brazilian government and stakeholder institutions are developing in regards to ICT and memory and heritage preservation.

Findings

The international relevance of describing the Brazilian initiative of ruling the internet in a non-restrictive way shows the trend the country has adopted.

Social implications

In the current context of development of the Information Society and expansion of cultural economy and digital culture in Brazil, it is imperative to define public policies for digitizing Brazilian memory and heritage collections. Such a national policy involving the three levels of the Federation as well as private institutions committed to the custody of cultural collections, should play an essential role in guiding the efforts to digital reproduction of collections and their publication on the internet.

Originality/value

Brazil is the first country in the world to rule the use of internet openly, in a non-restrictive way, through the Marco Civil da Internet. Since 2007, an academic initiative named Memory Network has been working to promote the digitization and access to Brazilian collections of memory and heritage.

Purpose

The present paper analyzes the implementation of Open Digital Television (Televisión Digital Abierta or TDA) in Argentina. It takes up a sociotechnical standpoint and considers TDA as a public policy designed to foster social inclusion.

Methodology/approach

The ideas presented in this paper are derived from a sociotechnical perspective, both at a theoretical and at a methodological level. The main postulates of this perspective are based on constructivist criteria; they explain outcomes as a result of the constant interplay of technical and social realities. Thus, this relation is intrinsic and continuous. We work with the concept of technology in its broadest sense. That is to say, TDA is not seen as just a mass communication infrastructure, but as a technology which involves knowledge, production practices, and content broadcasting, as a result of the interrelation of cultural, political, social, economic, scientific, and technological factors. The study of TDA in Argentina as a public policy for social inclusion shows how the constant sociotechnical interrelations have to be taken into account (technical standard, antenna features, social actors involved, produced content, etc.) throughout the whole process, from the conception and design of public policies to their implementation, but mainly at the stage of results analysis.

Findings

We concluded that throughout the implementation of the TDA public policy, a determinist view of technology prevailed. This can be seen in relation to both the role of television as a medium for social inclusion and the actions regarding the role of the user. The idea of viewer in the traditional sense prevailed over the idea of an active user. This stage provides significant data to assess the range and the limitations of the current public policy, and to think of improvements to implement in the future. These observations suggest a new challenge lying on the horizon: to construct a new concept of television; that is, to analyze TV as a social actor that is crucial for social inclusion rather than simply a medium of mass communication.

Practical implications

The sociotechnical perspective sheds light on the actors involved in the development, implementation, and production of a public policy designed for social inclusion. It focuses both on the government plan and the usage practices of the users themselves. The approach we propose for the study of the relation between technology and public policy is consistent with the notion of an active government.

Originality/value

The value of this paper lies in its theoretical and methodological approach, since a sociotechnical analysis grounded on relativism is a different view to the one that is dominant in studies in the field of communication and public policies. This view offers innovative insights into the problems regarding TDA by exploring the interrelations between actors and the power relations embedded in the public policy.

Section IV Opportunities and Challenges: Communities and the Public Sphere

Purpose

Although researchers have proposed a shift in digital divide studies toward a focus on Internet use and skills, it is still relevant to talk about access as autonomy of use, as some individuals in both developing and developed countries still face barriers and do not have the freedom to choose how to connect to the Internet.

Methodology/approach

We look at the relationship between autonomy of use and online interaction with government and the relationship between the latter and individuals’ perceptions of the government. Data for this study was collected in 10 cities in Colombia between August 29 and September 17 of 2012 and represented Colombia’s urban adult population.

Findings

Results showed that autonomy of use had a positive relationship with online interaction with government. This online activity was positively related with individuals’ trust in government and negatively with perceptions of government corruption.

Originality/value

Findings suggest that certain uses have a higher probability of emerging as individuals’ environments become saturated with a broad set of connectivity options. Redundant efforts to increase connectivity can be valuable in assisting internet users. Public policy projects focused only on one access alternative might not be as beneficial as those that facilitate more varied types of Internet use. Additionally, the results could be interpreted to mean that that those high-trust individuals who perceive the government as less corrupt, tend to interact online more with it because they are part of an elite which has benefited from the government in some way.

Purpose

In this paper, we examine the social stratification in the favelas, urban slums, both in general and how it correlates with technology. The analysis is based on Weberian stratification theory, since it provides for a broad understanding of the different factors that make up the digital inequalities.

Methodology/approach

Based on a 10-month critical ethnographic research dealing with LAN houses and state supported telecenters in the favelas of Vitória, Brazil, we analyze how the use of technology by residents of such marginalized areas expands our understanding of Weber’s axes of stratification, namely class, status and political power. The data was drawn from user observations, Facebook interactions, and 76 semi-structured interviews.

Findings

The drug cartel members belonged to the higher class of favela residents due to their access to material resources and ability to afford smartphones and data plans. However, in terms of status groups, they did not represent the pinnacle of the community. Where status was concerned, the highest stratum of the community was composed of the “Facebook’s celebrities,” the few teenagers who knew how to produce content online, such as images and videos. An additional axis of social differentiation, related to political power, was observed during the 2013 protests in Brazil. Favela residents arrived late to the event and found themselves “fighting” for demands stipulated previously by the organizers who belonged to upper classes.

Originality/value

We highlight what access to ICTs can, and cannot, accomplish in a “highly disorganized,” conflict-ridden, and institution-poor environment. With that we hope to encourage academics and practitioners to do a better job in developing appropriate policies and technologies.

Purpose

In 2014, the city of São Paulo began to implement the public policy “WiFi Livre SP.” This policy created the infrastructure for a WiFi network providing unrestricted internet connectivity in a 120 public squares, distributed in 5 geographical regions of the city (center, south, north, east, and west). In order to monitor the effectiveness of this public policy, a series of surveys were administered to users. The survey ascertained their views about the quality and frequency of the signal in the public squares.

Methodology/approach

To carry out analysis of this service a survey was used. The researchers camped out in the squares and flagged people down asking whether they could participate in the survey. Data was collected between August and October 2015, using an application for tablets developed by the research team.

Findings

The data showed that the networks functioned effectively and provided good service to the users. Another positive factor is the good signal evaluation in the public squares, since it was an initial concern of the project makers. Further, access to these networks made it possible for residents to use several platforms to communicate in an intensive fashion.

Social implications

The findings show that a connectivity policy should be geared toward promoting the right of all citizens to access the internet regardless of their ability to pay. Free and full access without any sacrifices of privacy should be guiding principles in policy implementation.

Purpose

The main goal of the paper is to explore the origins and developments of the first community cellular network in Mexico.

Methodology/approach

Data were gathered in 2015 and 2016 through in-depth interviews, participant observation, workshops, photos, official documents, and informal interviews in the state of Oaxaca in southern Mexico. Data was also drawn from the work of two activists, P. Bloom and E. Huerta, working with the community assemblies of a number of Indígena communities: Villa Talea de Castro, Santa María Yaviche, San Juan Yaee, San Ildefonso Villa Alta, San Bernardo Mixetepec, Santa Ana Tlahuitoltepec, San Jerónimo Progreso, Santiago Ayuquililla, San Miguel Huautla, Santa Inés de Zaragoza, Santo Domingo Xagacia, San Pablo Yaganiza, San Pedro Cajonos, San Francisco Cajonos, San Miguel Cajonos, San Mateo Cajonos, Santa María Alotepec, and San Juan Tabaá. To analyze the data, using codes created in Atlas.TI and relying on an inductive approach, we analyzed the history of this network within a theoretical framework informed by Actor-Network Theory.

Findings

Participants in the enactment of this cellular network followed two programs of actions, one technical and one legal. Together, the community assemblies and activists took advantage of available devices, free software and ordinary computers, on the one hand, and communal rules, national laws, constitutional reforms and tacit knowledge, on the other hand. They brought about a new, non-profit, communitarian, and self-organized network that allows for inexpensive communication between members of small, marginalized Indígena communities in the state of Oaxaca in Mexico.

Social implications

The arrangement of actants that the case illustrates is replicable in other parts of the country and outside of Mexico. The new community cellular network reduces the economic costs of communication, facilitates some jobs and family bonds, expands the range of community-owned projects, encourages self-organization and ways of situated conflict resolution, and empowers communities in relation to external powerful telecommunication corporations.

Originality/value

This is a novel account of a highly unusual set of community-led institutional innovations based on firsthand information drawn from the main actants of the new network.

About the Editors

Pages 345-349
click here to view access options
click here to view access options
Cover of Communication and Information Technologies Annual
DOI
10.1108/S2050-2060201712
Publication date
2016-12-10
Book series
Studies in Media and Communications
Editors
Series copyright holder
Emerald Publishing Limited
ISBN
978-1-78635-481-5
eISBN
978-1-78635-481-5
Book series ISSN
2050-2060