Information and communication technology for development in Samoa: exploring the interaction between the local traditions and information found on computer technology
Sao, Faumalevai Margaret
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In 2005 telecentres were introduced in 12 rural villages of Samoa, as part of the national Information and Communication Technology (ICT) strategy for development. The aim for the telecentres is to ensure the people of Samoa can be connected locally and globally. The telecentres provide access to ICT tools in villages where many have never seen a computer before. Reports indicate that villagers take pride in their telecentre, praising the convenience of its services to the local people. However, the introduction of ICT raises some concerns, especially having access to the internet. Compared with before, local villagers now have the potential to access a vast amount of information. While we cannot discount the fact that the internet enables villagers to access information which they see as useful to their daily life actions, the question of how and to what extent this computer-mediated information may affect local traditions deserves some attention. Will local villagers use these services to access information which will help develop their communities or will the information they access compromise their cultural values? This research, adopts a qualitative approach, focuses on the interaction of three rural villages in Samoa with the telecentres. Seventeen semi-structured interviews were conducted among residents from three villages. Data was also collected by observing the context of each village lived by the villagers. Together these methods collected rich data that was later analysed in an inductive fashion. The findings provide an insight into the encounter between the global environment and the local values, customs and beliefs of Samoans. This led to the identification of five categories of impact: expanding skills and capabilities, efficient tool for document production, panopticon-surveillance, virtual connection and community networks. The one theme emerging out of these five categories was that ICT is entwined in the social fabric of the Samoan culture.