INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY AND THE NEW DEVELOPMENT PARADIGMS
This research will show how modernization through its technological by-product, Information Technology (‘IT”), can effectively serve to propel developmental efforts in Africa by playing a vital role in the educational process. The modus operandi in this modernization equation is IT as a tool for individual modernity. Modernity can be defined as the ideas, principles and ideals covering a range of human activities that have underpinned Western life and thought since the seventeenth century. By casting modernization and modernity as an empirically valid phenomenon, this research intends to show how modernization, as a process that affects individuals, can distinguish between more or less modernized individuals. Consequently, when applied to individuals, modernity “refers to a set of attitudes, values, and ways of feeling and acting, presumably of the sort either generated by or required for effective participation in a modern society." 1 Modernization for this undertaking is defined as a process of dynamics that has brought about global interaction. In this process, technology has played a primary role by being the engine force of industrialization. Consequently, modernization is further defined as, “the use of inanimate sources of power and the use of tools to multiply the effect of effort.”2 In this context, development is defined as the process of industrialization that is inherently a consequence of the modernization process. Pursued by every state, development invariably involves the provision of roads, water, schools, hospitals, electricity, and other material comforts that make ordinary life more bearable.
Alex Inkeles Exploring Individual Modernity (Columbia 1983) p.74. Marion J. Levy Jr. Modernization and the Structure of Societies (New Jersey: Transaction Publishers, 1996).p.
The IT gap between the industrialized west and Africa is difficult to assess. Particularly with the overall exponential growth of IT in the global community and its multiform transformation such as from ADSL (Asymmetrical Digital Subscriber Line), to WDM (Wavelength Division Multiplexing) and from terrestrial (Cable based FiberOptics) to extra-terrestrial (Satellite) services. Leaders of the IT field have stated that the new technologies are capable of assisting the poor in a multitude of ways. Bill gates is quoted as stating that “using the power of the PC (Personal Computers), the internet and cheap telecommunications …. the poor are not standing still; they are catching up faster than they ever did in the industrial age.”3 Provided that one is able to obtain the aforesaid technology, this assistance in effect may prove to be redemptive. The mere fact that PC’s and their products have a short life-span, being that industry constantly demands an upgrade of existing wares because of manufacturers seemingly endless improvements, would imply that a wealth of obsolete, by western standards, computers and their products exists and are obtainable. These wares, their location, transportation and distribution once mastered, could prove to be indispensable for technology impoverished nations. The training required for bringing about IT proficiency, the networks of communications that have to be in place, and the know-how associated with the IT world, are all comparatively minor hurdles integral to keeping pace with the information age. Focus must be preserved on the continual importanace of the priorities of health, food and shelter in the development equation. This proposal does not negate the fact that the underdeveloped nations of the world need to have access to vaccines before they have access to computers.
Bill Gates and Michael Dertouzos, “Titans talk Tech” page 80 MIT Technology Review, May, June 1999
The industrial revolution of the west has left the underdeveloped world, according to Talcott Parson, “running to keep up”4. The fuel that served to fire the industrial revolution in Europe during the Periods 1800-1895 and thereby foster development, simultaneously subjected the rest of the world to labor deprivation, exploitation of resources, territorial, political, economic and cultural imperialism. When drawn to their logical conclusion these conquests served to lay the foundations for under-development. However, history teaches us that conquest is a reality of contact and forced change the by-product. The question that is raised is what can IT, as a by-product of modernization, do to expedite the modernization process in Africa ? What transformative processes can IT introduce in order to bring about positive change? The role of Education in modernization and modernity has been studied by numerous scholars. Conclusively IT can serve as a vehicle for information and by default education. Although IT is not a panacea for modernizations ills, it serves as an effective, and limitless vehicle for the latter’s modernizing role.
Alex Inkeles’ research work and subsequent book Exploring Individual Modernity (Columbia 1983), the primary report and findings having been reported in his text Being Modern: Individual change in six developing countries (1964. This research is a HarvardStanford study of Urban modernization in developing nations where "modernity" is a set of personal traits. " A sociopsychological approach to modernity and a way of perceiving expressing and valuing ....a set of predispositions to act in a certain way." 5
Talcott Parson Alex inkeles, Being Modern: Individual change in six developing countries (1964), p.16
Inkeles, by stating that modernity is indeed a process that affects the individual, seeks to cast modernization as a empirically valid phenomenon. This is postulated through the authors OM (Overall Modernity) Scale. The scales intention is to demonstrate that modernization is a process that affects individuals, so that one can distinguish between more or less modernized individuals. Inkeles shows that "modern generally means a national state characterized by a complex of traits including urbanization, high levels of education, industrialization, extensive mechanization, high rates of social mobility, and the like. When applied to individuals, it refers to a set of attitudes, values, and ways of feeling and acting, presumably of the sort either generated by or required for effective participation in a modern society ." 6 Consequently the most important findings have to do with modernizing influences of specific institutions: education, the factory urbanism, and mass communications. These four institutions are found to be the strongest forces of modernization as it affects the individuals in his attitudes and conduct. For our purposes, IT can be classified as a means of education. Thus for the authors of the study, it is the change in attitudes and values that they conclude are "one of the most essential preconditions for substantial and effective functioning of ...modern institutions ."7 Modernity can therefore be perceived as an innate tendency. At the heart of the methodology is the central question of the relation of attitudes and values to behavior. In outlining the theoretical perspective of the study we are informed that "the main purpose of the research is to test whether, where and how far individuals come to incorporate as personal attributes qualities which are analogous to or derive from the organizational
Alex Inkeles Exploring Individual Modernity (Columbia 1983)p.74. Alex inkeles, Being Modern: Individual change in six developing countries (1964), p.13
properties of the institutions and the roles in which these individuals are regularly and deeply involved."8 Few people would be surprised to be told that the individual-modernity index rises as people are subjected to education. Education being cited as the most important influence refers to this measurement by a "scale of modernization based exclusively on attitudinal questions, rigorously excluding those dealing with action rather than belief or feeling". 9 In defining individual modernity through the changes in attitude and values, the accompanying behavior gives meaning to and support for the changes in political and economic institutions that lead to the modernization of nations. A leading premise in the beneficial characteristic of IT in developing nations, is that Information, left to its own devices, does not discriminate. The driving force for the innovation and industry that propelled the industrial revolution is the same force that works under the same “invisible hand” in the information revolution IT has introduced. Consequently, the same credos of distinction also operate, in that in order to acquire the best accessibility one must own the latest technology. Being that new technology begets new technology, the conclusion of this premise is as logical and it is inescapable. The information technology of the 20th and 21st century will only marginally distinguish between those who have the best access and those who have any sort of access. It may not be the total equalizer but it is indeed the great equalizer. This great if not total equalizer behooves the ilk of development paradigms still to come in the 21st century.