Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Kenyan Youth Civic Engagement and ICTs
by Mjwara, Nolwazi , M.A., The American University of Paris (France), 2018, 88; 27605886
Abstract (Summary)

Initial Information and Communication Technologies for Development (ICT4D) discourse embraced Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) for their potential to reduce inequalities and empower marginalized communities. Early literature applauded the ways ICTs provided platforms where “networks of outrage and hope” (Castells 2015) and the “network society” (Castells 2011) could emerge. For democracies in particular, techno-optimists interpreted these networks as strengthening public spheres. However, as much as these technologies have provided potential for meaningful impact to occur, ICT4D theory is often applied in reductionist ways in Global South contexts, and technological determinism is still apparent throughout this literature. Within these studies, the gap between the information rich and poor is solved through the ‘digital divide’. This overlooks the complexities of development within non-Western contexts. Additionally, ICT4D practices, and how they are increasingly vulnerable to the attention and post-truth economy, are often neglected. This thesis wishes to contribute to a broader, less-reductionist understanding of ICT4D by researching these technologies within the context of youth civic engagement in a non- Western region through a case study of the Slums Information Development and Resource Centres (SIDAREC), a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) in the urban slums of Nairobi, Kenya. The case study will look at the ways SIDAREC attempted to achieve optimal youth civic engagement during the tense, contested 2017 presidential election by exploring the role of ICTs and the extent to which they contributed to electoral participation. The paper posits that Castells's idea of the “network society” (2011) can thrive within collectivist societies such as SIDAREC's online community because of the communal nature of social networks, and the identity of the self within collectivist societies where it cannot wholly exist without the other. The thesis furthermore argues that Bakhtin's (1981) dialogical perspective and Freire’s (1997) participatory approach are also useful for explaining the benefits of ICT4D (and its platforms) for youth civic engagement in facilitating dialogue and participation during election seasons. This dialogical and participatory potential of ICT4D is; however vulnerable to the influence of the post-truth politics and attention economy web in which it is entangled.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Harsin, Jayson
Commitee: Elder, Tanya
School: The American University of Paris (France)
School Location: France
Source: MAI 81/3(E), Masters Abstracts International
Subjects: Communication, Multicultural Education, Developmental psychology, Information Technology, Sub Saharan Africa Studies
Keywords: Development, Technology, Youth, Civic engagement, Communication
Publication Number: 27605886
ISBN: 9781088346488
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