Conflicting Conceptualizations of the Role of ICTs in Development and Conflict Resolution
Researcher Tiina Seppälä, University of Lapland

The presentation analyzes current theoretical discourses in regard to the role of new information and communication technologies (ICTs) in development and conflict resolution. Their role has been conceptualized from many perspectives. Typically, approaches are either highly optimistic or highly pessimistic. Technology enthusiastics emphasize the possibilities of ICTs as instruments for enhancing peace/security and bringing more stability to the international system. Some even regard ICTs as the cure for problems of developing countries. For example, sociologist Manuel Castells (2001, 269) argues that ’Development without the Internet would be the equivalent of industrialization without electricity in the industrial era’. He claims that it is not possible to solve first the ’real problems’ related to water, health, electricity and education if the economy and management system of a country is not based on the Internet.

Technology skeptics, on the contrary, argue that promotion of ICTs to developing countries serves rather the interests of western developed countries. They underline, for instance, economical interests (there are enormous ICT markets in developing countries), political interests (information technology enables some forms of control and surveillance) as well as cultural interests (promoting western values). Moreover, technology skeptics claim this legitimatizes the leading role of developed countries in decision-making over issues which concern development and peace/security in developing countries. 

Tiina Seppälä

Licentiate of Social Sciences (YTL) Tiina Seppälä is an Assistant in International Relations at the University of Lapland where she has been working as a teacher and researcher from 2001 onwards. In her research Seppälä has studied, for example, war propaganda and media management as well as the relationship between war and media on a more general level. Currently, she is finalizing her PhD thesis on resistance by the anti-war movement against the War on Iraq.

She is also part of an on-going research project Governing Life Globally funded by the Academy of Finland. The project seeks to critically analyze the growing interconnections between development, security and foreign policy. In the project, Seppälä studies conceptualizations of the role of the Internet in promotion of peace and development.

Tiina Seppälä