ICT Appropriation: A Knowledge Creation Perspective - A Case Study of Rural Community Capacity Building In Bangladesh
This thesis investigates information and communication technologies (ICTs) as instruments of community development processes in the context of a case study conducted in collaboration with a community empowerment program (CEP) of the non-government organization (NGO) Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee (BRAC) in Bangladesh. I have taken on the challenge of conceptualizing a learning theory-based model for ICT appropriation at the local, intra-personal level to inform NGOs and regional political strategies.
The CEP uses an intermediation approach to address the information needs of marginalized people. Specifically, it helps marginalized people access basic livelihood information and cultivates their skills to avail information from governmental and non-governmental services. The program also seeks to enable dialogue and participation among the different levels of stakeholders involved in community empowerment processes that are geographically distributed across rural areas.
My point of departure for this work in rural Bangladesh is that computer literacy must be locally contextualized in order for digital means to become appropriated. My approach to conducting the fieldwork is inspired by the collective resource approach of the Scandinavian participatory design tradition. The overall goal of the research is to support knowledge creation from ‘the bottom of the pyramid’, with a specific focus on the capabilities of rural, less privileged communities in the context of ICT practice.
The theoretical basis of my research is Activity Theory, as developed by the Finnish psychologist Engeström on the basis of the Russian development psychologists Vygotsky’s and Leontjev’s research. This learning approach I have combined with Nonaka and Takeuchi's theory of the dynamics of knowledge creation in organizations.
The primary objective of this research is to understand the conditions of ICT appropriation as a collective knowledge creation process within rural community development projects—and, thus, to provide tools for perceiving and constructing local ICT development. I chose the participants’ prevailing obstacles and the ICT-related contradictions and obstacles as springboards for ICT capacity building and for constructing the development of participants’ everyday practice. My goal is that the insights I have analysed from my micro-level data can inform decision-makers at the macro level and thus, at best, return as improvements at the micro-level. As a basis for the analysis, I have supplemented with Wertsch's interpretation of Bakhtin's theory of appropriation.
Empirically, I collected my data during interactions with field facilitators and while conducting digital literacy workshop sessions in rural Bangladesh. I employed techniques of reflective mutual learning and ‘photo-voice’, by means of which I helped participants to articulate their experiences and capabilities. In so doing, I found that the participants’ articulations could be integrated into a wider community development process. The mutual learning I staged in the digital literacy workshops made the participants feel more capable by giving them instant ownership of the ICT transformations of their work. Thus, this study identified strategies for making participatory design approaches work in a developing country context.
This thesis argues that ICT appropriation is a process through which participants can transcend the boundaries of the old and move into the new if they work through a mutual negotiation and learning process to acquire new knowledge.
This research also argues that ICT capacity building through a collective resource approach may sustain a knowledge-creation process based on hands-on participation and interaction among individuals, communities, and the sharing of artifacts. This study seeks to inform meso- and macro-level organizations about the importance of the knowledge creation hub that I, through my analysis, have found at the micro level.
Finally this study offers an ICT appropriation model by reflecting on the contributions of the thesis. It is my hope that the ICT appropriation model will be useful as a thinking tool for future research in the context of ICT for development (ICT4D) by addressing the relations between rural community capacity building and ICT as practices and values.