This week’s readings about development and new media brought up interesting ideas about influence of communication technologies on development, particularly mobile phones. While the papers showed that communication technologies are not necessarily a fix-all solution to development problems and come with drawbacks, it’s undeniable that these technologies have made significantly impacted the way federal agencies, NGOs and other organizations approach development problems. I would argue that for many, new communication technologies have made a positive impact, particularly as they relate to micro financing.
In a nutshell, new media technologies are bridging the gap between the developed world and the developing world, and one way this is happening is through micro financing. Last year, for example, I read a fantastic book called “Half the Sky” about the plights faced by numerous women in the developing world. The authors argued that improved education and economic opportunities could make a huge difference in these women’s lives, and at the end of the book, they listed several websites where you could help finance business loans for women in developing countries. The website Kiva.org, for example, lets you browse through profiles of projects, participate in a “team,” create a profile, etc. It blends the experience of social media with development projects. The site serves as a platform for communication, but it also offers people a way to transmit messages about their values and beliefs through the “teams” option. This type of engagement in development work would never have been possible thirty years ago, but thanks to new media technologies, it’s not only the present, but the way of the future.