Manu Luksch on Tue, 6 Jun 2000 22:24:31 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Mozambique

hi, thought this posting from another list might be of interest...

           [GKD] Multimedia in Mozambique/ ICT for the poor?
           Mon, 29 May 2000 00:54:11 +0200

Dear fellow GKD listers:

Some days ago I sent my first contribution to this list in the form of a

reply to Bruce Rowse's affirmation that there was no one working with
multimedia in Mozambique. As a result, I got messages from several of
you asking me about my views on the value of ICT and the Internet for
the poor and/or the underdeveloped countries.

I thank you all, and I'll answer through the list, telling you three
stories to illustrate how  I feel about these issues.

Let me first present myself:

I am a female librarian/alias information systems specialist in my mid
fifties, born in Norway, raised in Chile and living in Mozambique since

Story No.1:

When e-mail was introduced in Mozambique in 1993/94 (As a university
pilot project, with a twice-a-day dial-up connection to a server in a
South African university, using Linux and DOS and with a small user
group serving as very enthusiastic guinea pigs!) I was very excited.

I had friends all over the world, including my mother and my own grownup

children, whom I suddenly could be in touch with fast and cheaply. I
could participate in technical discussion lists in my field of work,
etc. etc. I felt almost in paradise.

For a few months I was convinced that the Global Village and the
Information Superhighway finally had arrived, and that no matter what
economic, political and cultural barriers separated us in other areas,
the North and the South, the rich and the poor  countries, would from
now on be equal at least in the capacity of  exchanging and sharing

My illusion soon vanished. Firstly, because while I was happy exchanging

e-mails in DOS, and creating icons in ascii text, the rich countries
moved on to the  Internet and Windows95 and multimedia and I couldn't
follow them there. After a  while it even became difficult to receive
e-mails, because of all the  sofisticated coding/decoding systems
available i Win based e-mail  software, but not in DOS. This means that
a well-proven, narrow  band technology, well adapted to the state of the

local  communications infrastructure, practically had to be abandoned
before it was even given the chance to show its potentialities in this
country, because everybody was running after the resource-hungry

But there was still very, very little Mozambican relevant information on

 the Internet...

Secondly, when in my enthusiasm I went on a gospel campaign for e-mail
among my Mozambican friends and colleagues in Maputo, I soon realized
that most of them did not have anyone spread all over the world they
wanted to talk to; their family and friends were back in the village,
were there certainly was no e-mail and hardly even any snail-mail. Who
really wanted to use e-mail to communicate, were the many hundred
Mozambicans studying in univerities abroad! They had access to this
technology on campus, they were homesick and they organized all kind of
schemes to have messages delivered
<color><param>0000,0000,0000</param>to relatives. Messages
were<color><param>0100,0100,0100</param> collected in   printout from
the home- or the office computer of someone in Maputo with e-mail
access. So my lesson was very clear: IT has to be clearly, and
immediately useful, or people won't have the motivation to use it...

And while several thousand people in urban Mozambique now have Win95/98
and reasonable fast Internet connections on the job or at home, there
still is very little Mozambique relevant information content on the

The moral of the story?

No, we do not live in the Global Village.

A village is solidary,  equalizing, all march more or less at the same
speed, you are not  supposed to run ahead of the flock, but you will be
picked up by  your neighbours if you fall behind. In the era of the
Internet, we still  live in the Global Urbana, where the
information-poor kids stand on  the street staring through the shop
windows where the information-rich kids are playing...

Yes, we do have the information Superhighway.

There is a  lower speed limit, and pedestrians, bicycles and slow
vehicles are  not allowed to run on it...

Story No.2:

Last year I visited a prestigious research institute somewhere in the
North (name witheld, no need to hurt people's feelings more than

There they had developed a very nice website on a subject "X" in the
social sciences. It was a gateway to information resources in this
subject, and it was built up in a (for me) excitingly intereresting way,

making it very easy to find information. I loved it, technically and
conceptually, and I went to talk to the site developers, expressing my
interest in doing something similar in Mozambique, and asking about if
and how we could cooperate on this.

After that, we had about forty-five minutes of talking past each other:

First, the guys couldn't understand why I wanted to make something
similar in Mozambique, when their site already existed. It was just a
question of linking our pages to theirs, and that's it.

I tried to explain that, well, it would be nice to see something
Mozambican on the screen, there was the question of language, for
example, we would like this site to be in Portuguese.

The guys looked at each other, and seemed to have great difficulties to
swallow that there would be someone, somewhere in the world, who would
actually prefer to read from a website in a language other than English!

And they still couldn't understand why we wanted to make a site of our
own, and didn't simply append our info on their site...

Then I said: Well, you see, there might be some differences in the
perception of the subject; we might want to give the site a
Mozambican/south/third world perspective; after all, this is social
sciences, where different worldviews is the rule, not like chemistry...

Aha! This, the guys did simply not accept! They said that they were
working from the heart of the mainstream of this subject, they were
absolutely neutral, their only task was to collect the information and
index it faithfully, no ideologies here, please.

I gave up on this matter, and asked about something else: how, exactly
did they collect the information, when they were such a small team?

Well, they said, that's the easy part, really. We send out crawlers on
the Internet during the night,and next morning we have all these updated

links to work from.

I laughed, and said that, well, in Mozambique we will most probably have

to send human crawlers from office to office asking for a copy of  the
latest reports to add to our website!

But I still think this gateway concept is very good and very adequate
for Mozambique. How we do it technically, backstage, is another story.

So, I said, finally: Do you think there is any basis for collaboration
between your centre and our Mozambican colleagues in this area? (I was
thinking of sending people to do apprenticeships working with the site
"X" development team)

OH, yes! they answered. We have heard that in the computer department
of your university there is a bunch of very capable programmers. We
would certainly be interested in hiring them to do some development work

for us, you see, wages here in the North are impossible!

I allmost fell from the chair. Do you realize what you are saying? I
cried. There is, yes, a handful of very capable young computer engineers

at our state university, but they are in charge of extending a computer
network to all the campuses spread out over the city! They have barely
the time to scratch themselves, and you want to take them away from
their tasks and make them work for you at a distance?

Well, that's even worse than the classical brain-drain, now you want to
take advantage of them at home! And who is going to develop the ICT
services at our university in the meantime?


I understood that the meeting had finished, said good-by, and left.

The moral of the story?

That nothing has changed in the paradigm us/them since the days it was
called civilized/savages. In the age of the Internet the poor world is
still supposed to provide cheap labour and to consume ready made
products from the rich...

Story No.3

A poor, illiterate peasant woman, head of a family of seven, manages to
feed her whole family from a small plot of land that she got assigned by

the traditional village chief. According to the state law, she has the
right to formally claim tenure for this piece of land, almost for free,
but the process is so bureaucratic, so erratic and so full of pitfalls
and opportunities for corruption, that she has simply given up to try.
She would never have the money nor the time to get through the process
anyway. And she risks to lose her plot any time, when powerful
commercial interests based on the law of the state invade her village
and overrun the power of the traditional chiefs.

Why is this so? Because the old, manual land registry and cadastre have
collapsed. It takes ages to find out whether a particular piece of land
has been allocated to someone or not.

So, accelerate the computerization of the national land registry, and
put an on-line GIS based information focal point in each district head
(there are only 130 or so districts in the whole country), and hundreds
of thousands of poor peasants will be able to stake their claim and get
their papers done, without delay and no payola.

And put computers in every village school so that her children can have
access to this technology just like rich urban kids, despite the
distances, and the peasant woman's kids might become the generation that

finds new, creative ways to put ICT at the service of the village poor.
It's not our task to do it for them.

The moral of the story:

When approaching new technology, people in the so-called third world
should not be copy-cats and do whatever the Americans or the Europeans
do with the technology. On the contrary, they should do _exactly_  what
the American and the Europeans do, which is: whenever new technology
appears, they play around with it until they discover practical uses
for it, in their own particular environment and context.

Wenke Adam
Pandora Box Lda
Maputo, Mozambique
Tel. 258-1-421432 (work)
Tel. 258-1-424303 (home)
P.O.Box 928


160 Richmond Rd ===================== London E8 3HN
T: 020-7923 1166 ================= F: 020-7923 0984 ======

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