14 November 2005: Day 2, Representations at a Glance

At the end of the day, Maxigas and I decided to take a
walk and survey the images of women, men, elderly people, young people and
isabled people at the ICT 4 All Exhibition hall. Afterall,
the claim is that ICT is for all right? So who is this 'All' we are talking

We didn’t have much time, so please bear in mind that this is a rough
overview survey, and not very nuanced.

We didn’t include representations of race or ethnicity,
regional locations or whether the booths were government, private sector or
civil society. The method is coarse and simple, we merely checked if the booth
had pictures of women, men, young people, elderly people or disabled people,
and if the booth had any pictures that fit into the categories, we counted it
as one respectively.  There are about 161
booths listed in the the main exhibition map. Most of them were still in the
process of being built and populated, so I doubt we surveyed that many. We were
also chased out of the exhibition hall before we could survey the second
exhibition hall.

Anyway, caveats aside, these are the results of our
critical, though cursory eyes (tah dah!):

Women: 45

Men: 40

Young people (including
children): 39

Elderly people: 10

Disabled people: 1

So, at a glance, it would appear that it is impossible to
speak about the potential of ICTs (whether for development, e-governance,
community building and a million other technology-promised utopias) without at
least showing an image of women. However, we took into account even images of
women who did not have anything to do with technology, i.e. pictures of women
holding scarves in the wind, having pots on their head, carrying children and
so on. Likewise with men and elderly people (we included portraits of Heads of
States when they are displayed on the booth). Interestingly, although women
were highly represented in images, only about 8 booths specifically mentioned
women as an important or priority constituent in their work. Quite unlike young
people who were mentioned almost at every instance their portrayal was marked.

Youth and children are evidently important groups for the
shaping of the Future when it comes to ICTs. Very different from the elderly,
who are marginally represented. Maybe it’s because they are old, the future
(morbidly) cannot contain them. But if we are building an Information Society,
then knowledge has to come from somewhere. Technological tools and solutions
may amplify or atrophy knowledge, but surely people of all ages are personally
and socially invested to be included in the making of this ‘brave new world’.

Disabled people.. well, one booth had a poster on projects
specifically for the visually impaired. And that’s about it. I think this
speaks volumes on its own.

ICTs for All?


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