Introduction to Context and Culture and its effect on deployment of ICTs in rural Africa

Friday, October 28, 2011 - 2:33pm


Thursday, November 10, 2011
11:00 – 12:00 PM
Computer Science Conference Room, Harold Frank Hall Rm. 1132

HOST: Elizabeth Belding

SPEAKER: Gertjan van Stam
Macha Works

Title: Introduction to Context and Culture and its effect on deployment
of ICTs in rural Africa


Information and Communications Technologies seem to be present
everywhere. However, not so for people in rural Africa. Apart from
mobile phones, not much computing seems to go on in rural areas of
Africa. This presentation, postulating from a definition of Internet,
puts the case for the need of African drive and further exploration of
both theoretical and practical concepts in and around computer science
paradigms. It pinpoints unique, rural African viewpoints which play a
role in reshaping the landscape of African societies. The presentation
is deducted from long term experience in sensitization, introduction and
operations of information and communications technologies in rural
Zambia?. Although quantitive aspects play a role, a multitude of
qualitative and interlinked factors feature prominently?. Constraints in
rural areas involve unique contextual, geographic, and cultural
ingredients. In a drive to sustainability, appropriate interventions
must include sensitivity to such a mix of context and culture.
Contextual ingredients include aspects like orality, traditional
leadership structures and regulatory practice, human resource and
agency, and practicalities like housing, roads, distances, electricity,
business, and cost levels. Culture encapsulates history, sense of
solidarity, relatio economics, a focus on human relations, and a sense
of security. Such issues are fundamental, substantial, and materially
different then those in contemporary western context from which
Information and Communication Technologies have emerged. The
presentation calls for interdisciplinary research and evaluation which
is sensitive to rural challenges – context and culture – and which is
required if all of Africa is to receive proper inclusion and
participation in computing in the wake of pervasive/ubiquitous


Gertjan van Stam is a professional with broad management, start-up and
strategic management experience. He has international experience in
telecoms industry, using analytical and conceptualization skills, plus
his results focus and hands-on approach. In addition, he has strong
interpersonal skills and broad networking experience. Gertjan earned his
engineering degree in wireless communications. He has lived in Belgium,
India, Netherlands, Swaziland, and Zimbabwe with his current residence –
for over eight years – in rural Zambia. Gertjan is the initiator and
innovator of LinkNet, incorporated, in holistic rural community,
sustainable progress cooperative organisation Macha Works. Macha Works,
based in rural Zambia, brings together a broad coalition of partners in
the North and the South, whose aim is to inspire people in rural
communities to reach their collective and individual potential. It does
so by engendering local talents to take reigns in their communities and
be leading towards sustainable progress.