Research Project: ICT 4 Uganda
New media is coming to Africa. With the fastest growth rate of mobile telephony on the planet and huge investments in fiber optic cables competing with satellite technologies, investors are bringing broadband connections to the continent. Africa is on the verge of joining the global network, the cables that will provide high speed information exchange can be literally seen from the shores; yet the social implications of these technologies are less obvious.
The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) says that the mobile phone industry in Africa is growing at twice the global rate and remains the fastest growing mobile phone market in the world. This growth is also reflected in the spread of Internet connections that have increased by 1,031.2 % between 2000 and 2008. (UN World Investment Report, The International Telecommunications Union (ITU), Internet World Stats – June 2008).
The breakneck pace of development in African connectivity entails important changes taking place on the ground. How do the man and woman in rural and urban Africa engage with new ways to communicate? To what extent is ICT already incorporated into local activities and cultures and what are the motivations behind their usage? What are the new opportunities and challenges ICTs afford civil society and what does this mean for the future development of ICTs on the continent?
To answer these questions the Mambo Mpya group, consisting of five master students, decided to pick up the topic. Combining Business, Economics, Journalism, Development Studies and Anthropology with a common interest and expertise in New Media, we are planning to go to Uganda and set up a social research project that touches five distinct fields; Entrepreneurship, Politics, Development Cooperation, the Informal Sector and Print Media.
By doing this research the aim is to better understand the significance of ICT from the ‘end user’ perspective. The vantage point of our research will be on the “man on the street” as opposed to an organizational or governmental approach. Given this focus, the aim is to classify five distinct groups of users and to study them using ethnographic research techniques. The aim is to sketch different profiles of end-users based on various research methods. The profiles will provide a framework for further analysis and will be put in a historical perspective. In this way the project aims to develop a model and approach that might be replicated for further research.
Next to the individual research questions the group will work together on a general research which will focus on some broader issues concerning business outsourcing, media convergence and general connectivity. These themes will be discussed and presented as a group and will be build up off the groups knowledge and experiences in the field.