Recapping the previous four posts on this topic, Mark Zuckerberg’s new non-profit consortium of information and communication technology (ICT) corporations would like to connect the remaining 5 billion inhabitants of the planet to the Internet who are not now connected (Internet.org, 2013). This post examines the implications of what the studies conducted on a reduced scale involving the distribution of laptops in Ethiopia found.
What has been established is that when Western ICT is available on a daily, long term basis to an individual who lives in a third-world, collectivistic environment, the ICT does cause change in individual self-construal, fosters the growth of individualistic, modern and agentic values, and increases levels of abstract reasoning among children. Although, these changes are individually significant, it does not immediately alter the individual’s culture and they are, from what appears to date, subsumed into the culture’s uniqueness (Hansen & Postmes, 2013; Hansen & Postmes, 2013; Hansen, Postmes, van der Vinne, & van Thiel, 2012; Kocsev, Hansen, Hollow, & Pischetola, 2009).
Keeping this in mind, one can generalize these effects may be possible by Zuckerberg’s project in certain countries that meet similar environmental profiles, if some key threshold of productivity, distribution, product availability, product infrastructure and support, and consumer purchase power are realized. As an example, currently Ethiopia has an approximate cell phone penetration rate of 15%, which if patterns follow, is found primarily among scientists/doctors and the upper class (CIA, 2013). It also has a 29% poverty rate as of 2011, down from more than 45% in 1995, and a gross national income of 410 dollars a year, or roughly 34 dollars a month among its population of more than 93 million, of which 44% are children under 14 (The World Bank, 2013; CIA, 2013). Additionally, 85% of the population live in rural areas (Freedom House, 2013). Hansen noted that during her visits there were no cell phones visible in the regions in which she worked, nor any of the supporting infrastructure that would be needed, to include electricity (N. Hansen, personal communication, Oct 9, 2013). While Ethiopia is an extreme case, effects will vary from country to country based on existing cultures and levels of modernity. The 19 million Americans without access to the Internet would probably exhibit little change in their cognitive functioning, culture or values.
If realized, Zuckerberg’s vision will rapidly increase the rate of globalization and modernization and may indeed create a digital caste system, but psychologically the changes will begin in one’s sense of self as an individual, their values and what that person sees as their role in their environment (Naughton, 2013; Hansen, Postmes, van der Vinne, & van Thiel, 2012). Globalization is an effect of international integration. This integration is fostered by greater contact and exchange of people, products and processes and the consequences of that trade between various groups (Prilleltensky, 2012).
This is a process through which material and social phenomena generated in one or more parts of the world become part of the lives of people in other parts of the globe. This process, massively accelerated through new technologies [ICT and the Internet], has widespread ramifications for ways of living, for peace and conflict, and eventually for justice and well-being (Prilleltensky, 2012, p. 613).
Therefore making the Internet, with all of its associated infrastructure and access devices, available to an additional 5 billion people who don’t currently have access to it will speed the rate of globalization and in turn hasten the need for the establishment of a global-community psychology which Marsella (1998) called for more than a decade ago. Ways of thinking and values may become more individualistic and therefore more homogenous globally, but long established cultures will assimilate the changes. One could take a high-level look at what the United States has become culturally during the last 200 years and perhaps begin to foresee similarities in our diverse patchwork of people and traditions of what the world may become due to greater connectedness.
This is the last article in a short series examining what types of psychological effects can be expected from the insertion of Western ICT into a collective environment devoid of such equipment; whether changes in cultures might be observed, and if so how might they manifest themselves and how long might that take; to how religious beliefs may impact the insertion of ICT.
CIA. (2013). Ethiopia. Retrieved from The World Factbook: https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/et.html
Freedom House. (2013). Ethiopia. Retrieved from Freedom House: http://www.freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-net/2012/ethiopia
Hansen, N. (2013, Oct 1). Personal Communication.
Hansen, N., & Postmes, T. (2013). (under review). Technology usage as a driver of cultural value change and gender equality. Manuscript under review.
Hansen, N., & Postmes, T. (2013). (under review). Technology usage as a driver of cultural value change and gender equality. Provided by author.
Hansen, N., Postmes, T., van der Vinne, N., & van Thiel, W. (2012). Information and communication technology and cultural change: How ICT changes self-construal and values. Social Psychology, 43(4), 222-231. Retrieved from http://www.hogrefe.com/periodicals/social-psychology/
Internet.org. (2013, August). Internet.org. Retrieved from Internet.org: http://internet.org/
Kocsev, M., Hansen, N., Hollow, D., & Pischetola, M. (2009). Innovative learning in Ethiopia. Joint working paper. Addis Abeba, Ethiopia: Engineering Capacity Building Program. Retrieved from University of Groningen: http://www.rug.nl/staff/n.hansen/KocsevHansenHollowPischetola_2009_Innovative_Learning_in_Ethiopia.pdf
Marsella, A. J. (1998). Toward a “global-community psychology”. American Psychologist, 53(12), 1282-1291. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/pubs/journals/amp/
Naughton, J. (2013, April 27). The new digital age by Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen – review. Retrieved from The Guardian: http://www.theguardian.com/books/2013/apr/29/digital-age-schmidt-cohen-review
Prilleltensky, I. (2012). The what, why, who, and how of globalization: What is psychology to do? Journal of Social Issues, 612-629. Retrieved from http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/journal/10.1111/%28ISSN%291540-4560
The World Bank. (2013). Ethiopia. Retrieved from The World Bank: http://data.worldbank.org/country/Ethiopia
- Zuckerberg’s Dream of Connecting the World: What Can We Expect? (Part 4 – The Findings) (mediapsychology101.com)
- Zuckerberg’s Dream of Connecting the World: What Can We Expect? (Part 3) (mediapsychology101.com)
- Zuckerberg’s Dream of Connecting the World: What Can We Expect? (Part 2) (mediapsychology101.com)
- Zuckerberg’s Dream of Connecting the World: What Can We Expect? (Part 1) (mediapsychology101.com)