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Selective exclusion : the digital divide in the context of indigenous knowledge systems in South Africa

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This article provides an alternative view to questions of technological inclusion and exclusion in sub-Saharan Africa via an analysis of the South African governmental discourse on indigenous knowledge systems (IKS). The concept of 'selective exclusion' (SE) is developed in relation to the digital divide, highlighting that technology is not always perceived as neutral or universally beneficial, but rather is negotiated in relation to specific socio-political contexts and alternative systems of knowledge. The concept of SE highlights the following: (a) 'Western' rationality and technology can be perceived as threats to indigenous identity and knowledge and as a result treated circumspectly; (b) nevertheless the 'Western' domain is seen as promising economic benefits, which need to be accessed; (c) therefore, the 'Western' domain and its associated technologies are selectively excluded; (d) the existence of a digital divide is not necessarily seen as negative as it offers protection against globalisation; and (e) the agency of indigenous individuals and communities is considered central and the ability to appropriate technology in relation to this is stressed.
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Keywords: Africa; Digital divide; ICT; Indigenous knowledge systems; Selective exclusion; South Africa

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: March 1, 2009

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