e-STAS 2008 (VIII). Last reflections. On access as a dependent variable.

e-STAS is a Symposium about the Technologies for the Social Action, with an international and multi-stakeholder nature, where all the agents implicated in the development and implementation of the ICT (NGO’s, Local authorities, Universities, Companies and Media) are appointed in an aim to promote, foster and adapt the use of the ICT for the social action.

Last reflections

It’s a pity that I couldn’t take notes on the last session of the event, where conclusions from the different round tables and workshops where read: I was on the stage and just had not the chance to type.

Summing up now is way too difficult. I can just say that this is one of the events you cannot miss, especially because “everyone” is there and the people you meet, their reflections, their insights, etc. are richest for your own knowledge development.

But there is a growing feeling that I have regarding how people look at ICTs. On one hand, there is more and more the consensus that users do have to be taken into account in the design of the projects, tools, initiatives, programs, etc. that are addressed to them. Whatever their origin. If it ever made sense, now it’s pretty clear for almost everyone that governments have to listen to the citizenship to build e-government, e-administration or e-democracy initiatives; that nonprofits do have to have the participation of their beneficiaries (and all other stakeholders such as volunteers) when spending their budgets in whatever; even that firms need to listen to the customer and the society at large and put them in the equation when engaging in any sort of project.

On the other hand, I worry about the ironically appearance of a new tier of actors in this ICT-adoption game. Thus, the usual donor-receiver or expert-beneficiary scheme has been altered this way:

  • Late adopters: the ones that do not use and/or do not know about ICTs and their application
  • Heavy adopters: the ones that use them intensively and try to replicate their own path elsewhere
  • Digerati: the ones that are aware (or think so) of the potential benefits and costs of ICTs, and deeply reflect and think about the implications of ICT use and the impact of the Information Society in development and life in general

Surprisingly, heavy adopters and digerati — formerly the same thing — are not necessarily the same people. I’m progressively seeing heavy adopters that simply can not put themselves in the place of others or are not aware of the implications of what they are doing (teens vs. social networks, privacy or intellectual property rights is often put as a good example of this; developed countries’ users vs. developing countries’ potential users is another one). And, indeed, there is a growing plethora of digerati that can provide theoretical grounded evidence and advice but are not heavy users and, sometimes, not even users at all (yes, scholars and blogging is a pretty clear example; international development agencies vs. developing countries another one).

The problem is that they both need each other: heavy adopters need to take their time to think, “thinkers” can’t think of what they do not know by heart. And they all need to engage in the conversation with the goal of their thoughts and actions. Which leads me to the next question.

On access as a dependent variable

Dani Matielo asked on a comment about Raul Zambrano’s statement that we had to take access as a dependent variable and no longer as an independent one.

The rationale behind is the following: even if there still is a lot of work to do to provide access to billions of people, two aspects seem to have more relevance:

  • Access for the sake of it has proved to be completely wrong. Only purpose-driven access (for what services, for what content) can succeed, so we need to first define what for, and then design how.
  • But how access takes place (e.g. with a desktop, with a mobile phone) will also determine and be determined by the uses, the services… and the overall development of an Information Society

This is why access is no more an exogenous thing, an independent variable of the equation, but just a variable that depends on the addition of other ones (culture, the economy, labor, democracy, etc.) that define what the goal really should be: the development of the Information Society depending on each one’s framework.

e-Stas 2008, Symposium on Technologies for Social Action (2008)

If you need to cite this article in a formal way (i.e. for bibliographical purposes) I dare suggest:

Peña-López, I. (2008) “e-STAS 2008 (VIII). Last reflections. On access as a dependent variable.” In ICTlogy, #55, April 2008. Barcelona: ICTlogy.
Retrieved month dd, yyyy from http://ictlogy.net/review/?p=713

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