Anthropology, Development, and ICTs: Slums, Youth, and the Mobile Internet in Urban India

Nimmi Rangaswamy, Edward Cutrell


In this article, we present results from an anthropological study of everyday mobile Internet adoption among teenagers in a low-income urban setting. We use this study to explore how information about everyday ICT use may be relevant for development research, even if it is largely dominated by entertainment uses. To understand how ICT tools are used, we need to study the spaces users inhabit, even if these spaces are dominated by mundane, non-instrumental, and entertainment-driven needs. The key here is for ICTD discourse to situate insights from anthropological studies (such as this one) within an understanding of what drives a specific user population to adopt technologies in particular ways. Clearly there is a link between context and use, and understanding this may be invaluable for development research. Adopting a narrow development lens of technology use may miss the actual engagements and ingenious strategies marginal populations use to integrate technologies into their daily lives.

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