Information and communication technologies (ICTs; the Internet, satellites, mobile phones, wireless computers, and so forth) play a major role in development communication initiatives. The use of media in development can be treated at two levels: mass media, often using television, radio, and print media in campaigns aimed at inducing the adoption of innovations or other changes in behaviors; and community media, mainly using radio and other folk expressions such as theater, concerned with giving voice and representation to the various segments of local communities. Media within a country into three groups: private, public, and community. Such a classification seems to better reflect the different nature, scope, and range of functions included within the broader media system. In the past, media systems were considered key elements in supporting the national development of poorer countries.
The media influence is not as strong as originally believed, especially if it does not take the local context into account. For instance, the community radio that has emerged in recent years is often more empowering and influential than the more celebrated medium of television, at the local level. The blind faith placed on media in the past as a means to push development in poorer countries resembles the current hype for ICTs. The rise of more sophisticated communication and information technologies, such as satellites or the Internet, has opened new horizons and opportunities. But it has not only increased the penetration of mass media, for instance, through satellites, but it has also created new opportunities to enhance communication at the local level utilizing technologies. The establishment of "tele centers" in rural areas is spreading in many countries as a way to support local development in the social and economic dimension.
However, to avoid past mistakes, media and ICTs, powerful as they are, should always be considered as tools to be used within the context of the broader social and communication environment. The effectiveness and value of ICTs and other new communication technologies are determined by the way they are selected and utilized. The research element of the communication strategy is crucial in determining the best and most effective use of media and ICTs.
There are some critical factors to consider before adopting them. These factors can be divided in three basic categories: economic, technological, and cultural.
From an economic point of view, there are high costs associated with the software and the hardware components of ICTs for individuals in developing countries, placing these commodities outside the reach of most people. In the case of the Internet, there are also access and connectivity costs to consider. liberation and privatization taking place in this sector in many developing countries can be a limiting factor for marginalized sectors of society, "The development of ICTs by the private sector fails in bridging the gap between the rich and the poor. The poor who are marginalized—and in some cases physically isolated—remain disconnected from the rest of society.
From a technological point of view, it is difficult to ensure the proper operation of such technologies in places where there are no phone or electric lines. In many countries, users need basic training in computer use, and prior to that, literacy skills to communicate effectively on the Internet.
From a cultural point of view, there are also a number of constraints. The language in which most of the information is available on the Internet can pose a barrier. In 1999, a survey concluded that about 86 percent of all Web pages are in English (Thussu 2000), thus precluding access to information for many users. Additionally, given the high illiteracy rate of many areas of developing countries, many potential users are excluded from the start. Even when language barriers are overcome, often cultural issues remain crucial in gaining fundamental knowledge and the needed frame of mind in order to take full advantage of the power of these technologies.
The digital divide—the division between those who have access to modern information technologies and those who don't—has become a hot one in recent years. Many development workers believe that ICTs can be the right answer to leapfrog developing countries toward a better future. The enthusiasm for these technologies is reflected in the demand for universal connectivity (Sachs 2005), but connectivity and access are only some of the issues that need to be addressed.
Many studies on the digital divide show that the information poverty gap between the have and have-nots is still a wide one , and it does not seem to be decreasing in any significant way. Despite such shortcomings, however, media and ICTs can and do play a major role in development communication. In addition to the widely used information dissemination functions, technologies such as the Internet also have the potential to support the horizontal processes of communication.
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