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The impact of Social Networks on developing countries

The Foundation Phase of the IGCBP is coming to an end, but the debates raised in class will be preserved for a very long time... especially if they’re also shared on the IG community portal!

The following comments by Africa Group C participants were posted during a debate on a very current issue: Social Networks. The class was asked, what is the impact of Social Networks on developing countries? Here are some of the comments...

“My side of the developing world is missing a whole generation of youngsters who have left for the diaspora and left behind family and loved ones. This separation would have taken a huge toll on these social relationships in the snail-mail era.”

“The thematic issue is the impact, which I think is profoundly positive on this generation going forward. Most social networks allow file sharing which could benefit invaluable resources to developing countries – I have sent several software drivers to my partner in Zimbabwe. Developed countries have moved on to e-government such that people from developing countries can access facilities to access college application and visa requests that where inaccessible before. This is not all as positive as it sounds because the down side is brain drain and other ills like proliferation of economic refugees from my country.”

“We can get more benefits from the SNS sites in terms of:
- More friends,
- Better connectivity,
- Link with prospective recruiters.

Hence we can get more negative impact in terms of:
- Loss of privacy,
- Loss of time,
- Reliance on electronic medium
- Less emotional bond in relation

So that, if we look to the other side that can get more benefits from the SNS such as business side, I can see that, the rise of Internet marketing, social media in our region is being embraced by businesses more and more. Innovative ways of utilizing these tools by connecting directly with customers are being found and for marketing, at the end the developing countries sure have more benefits from SNS sites, but we need more harmonization of ICT policy and its legislation in order to develop the current situation of the telecommunicate infrastructure facilities.”

“SNSs have a big impact especially in the social and technological lives of the younger generation. Most people I know have an SNS account which they use to share, inform and reconnect with friends and relatives. If you need to get in touch with them and catch up on any issues or on their lives they simply say "ndibate pafacebook" which literally means "get hold of me on facebook". They are used to spread messages, share information and news about oneself and to keep people updated. They are also used for educational and business purposes, where people form groups and interested parties join the group. They are useful for mobilisation as well as promoting certain causes/issues. This makes it possible to reach a wider audience, to get more support, e.g UNIFEM's say not to violence campaign. While they may be termed SNSs, they have evolved as people have found more uses for them other than for social reasons. They have an impact on all aspects of life.”

SNSs are important especially for businesses as they are cheaper to setup, maintain for marketing purposes. They rarely go experience frequent outage like some websites outage and provide an opportunity to reach out to a larger market for potential customers in different regions.”

“SNSs have a positive impact on developing countries. However there is still need for developing countries to come up with regulatory and legal frameworks to cater for users of the internet. There are problems especially for youngsters who are not fully aware not only of the benefits but also of the dangers associated with using the internet including SNSs which store a lot of individual information. Security threats such as hacking into user accounts, stealing of private information, bullying etc and even human trafficking can result from the use of SNSs."

"The nature of SNSs is such that anyone interested can open an account and communicate any ideas they may wish to share with friends and relatives. The langauge of the content is not restricted to that of the website. So people can share their ideas in own local languages. And this is happening, especially among the diaspora. In a way such communication helps them feel close to home. Use of local langauges on SNSs assists young people in the diaspora learn their parents mother tongues and culture."

"African diaspora also link up among themselves and with friends back home on SNSs to brainstorm, collaborate on projects that they envisage could bring progress to their home areas. They pull resources together and look for additional resources from the different parts of the globe where they are based and make things happen."

"With all the benefits already explained, I think a missing link is the usage of these social network sites. They are still quite elitist, requiring users to be English and computer literate for most cases. It would be nice to have local versions that allow those not literate in English interact as well as I am sure they too have a lot to share. There is some positive impact of SNSs on developing countries and this may be attested to by the increase in the use of these social networks, with Facebook topping the list of sites visited. The usage of cell phones in accessing the internet helps people with otherwise poor infrastructure be able to browse the web. Jon S. von Tetzchner, CEO of Opera Software reports on the study that was undertaken in 'top ten' African countries. He states that "in Africa ... we saw triple-digit percentage growth in mobile Web usage in just one year. Page views in the top 10 countries increased by 374%, unique users increased by 177%, and the amount of data transferred increased by 183%" (http://www.opera.com/smw/2009/11/). It is the same trend with Asian and Latin American countries. Even in terms of data transfer according to this report, Africa is not lagging behind."

"Distances and lack of transportation infrastructure hinders the development in Africa, social networking, by connecting people from different locations will help emerging of projects with a wider foundation and effect.
The main effect of these Social Networks lies in driving young people to develop relationships online or developing the existing ones. it can contribute to attract these young people to the world of internet and ICT, and with the power of word and the spread of information more youth find themselves dragged to the cyber-space and this is a benefit need to be utilized."

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Comment by S.P.ANANDAN on September 12, 2010 at 3:26pm
Yes. It is true. Distance and lack of transportation hinder development in developing countries like India. Social networking connects people from different countries and the role of ICT in sustainable development is appreciated by all. The world of Internet and ICT has changed lives of rural and indigenous communities in India. Even the IPRs are protected thanks to the ICT...
Comment by Felix Samakande on June 19, 2010 at 12:34am
Developing countries have been taking pages from diaries of developed nations in terms of development path of ICTs which includes social networking, e-commerce, e-gov, etc and now mobile internet to grip everything together. However, I cannot help loosing sleep over this new bill in the USA Senate, Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act or PCNAA. The thought of 'internet 2' leaves me with a bad taste in the mouth, especially the 'kill-switch' for internet. I never envisaged internet developing along that trajectory and I hope the bill does not pass - unless there is something else about cyber vulnerability that I do not know. link: http://hsgac.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Files.View&...
Comment by BOURGOU Idrissa Martial on June 1, 2010 at 6:56pm
Social Networks are probably doing a great job in Africa: driving ICT adoption especially by young people. But what are the real benefits? What are the real purpose of these usage apart from posting photos, chatting etc...
I am sceptical on the real impact of social networking in developping countries...
Comment by Poncelet O. Ileleji on May 31, 2010 at 11:24am
Personally to me SNS is growing rapidly in developing countries especially in Africa where a lot is been done by the mobile cellular companies to get people connected via their phones, this has definitely speedy up the use of SNS by young people.

In the Gambia a particular cellular company Africell has been able to link people up on Facebook through their mobile phones. Infrastructure is still an issue but the underlying fact remains the way forward is been driven by the cellular companies.

When you look at issues relating to what is happening in Bangladesh regarding the banning of Facebook, you will discover that in developing countries SNS is getting more and more popular and is impact even though seems minimal for now, but its picking up day in day out.
Comment by Henry Owera on May 28, 2010 at 11:59am
Thanks for sharing this wonderful piece with us. There is a thing about Online Social Networking that I feel needs to be explored to some gainfulness and by online social net-workers. I like the post.
Comment by Seiiti on May 21, 2010 at 8:48pm
Amazing post, Stephanie! Group C had very interesting exchanges!

I particularly like the one who says that they are still elitist, and that the new wave of users will make a huge transformation!



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