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Producing the internet and development: an ethnography of internet café use in Accra, Ghana

Burrell, Jennifer (2012) Producing the internet and development: an ethnography of internet café use in Accra, Ghana. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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The United Nation's World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), that took place between 2003 and 2005, elevated the 'information society' to the level of 'gender equality' 'environmental sustainability' and 'human rights' as one of the central Development tropes of our time. The concept of the network has come to figure heavily in the political discourse of both developed and developing nations and transnational agencies. These organizations employ statistics, academic theories, popular wisdom, and utopian visions shaped by Western experiences to extrapolate an expected impact of new technologies on the developing world. However, to date there has been very little on-the-ground research on the diffusion and appropriation of these technologies as it is taking place in developing nations and how this might challenge and reorient the expectations of traditional Development perspectives. This thesis seeks to provide such a response drawing on the experiences of Internet café users in Accra, the capital city of Ghana where an estimated 500 to 1000 of these small businesses were in operation. Departing from the categories and hierarchies favoured within Development circles, my approach is to look holistically at the way the Internet was produced as a meaningful and useful tool through the practices of users. The practices that defined the Internet in Accra encompassed not only individual activities at the computer interface, but also other formal and informal, collective and everyday rituals such as story-telling, religious practices, and play and socializing among youth. A similar production process was observable in the activities of the Development experts and government officials who arrived in Accra in February 2005 to discuss the role of networking technologies in socio-economic development at the WSIS Africa regional conference. The activities of both groups reconstituted the Internet, Development and the relationship between the two, but along very divergent pathways.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2012 The Author
Library of Congress subject classification: H Social Sciences > HT Communities. Classes. Races
Sets: Departments > Sociology

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