ICT and (Personal) Development in Rural China

Elisa Oreglia


Information and communication technology (ICT) is increasingly widespread in rural China, and is finding unlikely users: elderly people, rural women, and people with little education or disposable income. Their ICT use is driven by the desire to find connections and entertainment, and it offers three insights for broadly utilitarian ICT for development (ICTD) projects: first, rural users who are thought to be beyond the reach of ICTs because of their age or educational level and who do not see themselves as ICT users may nonetheless begin to use ICTs after observing other people going online and identifying activities that relate to their own lives and interests. Second, they have time to figure out how to incorporate ICTs into environments that are extremely different in terms of economy, social structures, and habits from the urban environments where ICTs originate. Finally, ICT uses that emerge from family-based practices rather than from hetero-directed programs can provide insights into the priorities or social practices of seemingly marginalized populations who have otherwise been overlooked.

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