How a unique Culture uses Information and Communication Technologies : An ethnographic field study of the community of Lamu, in Kenya

University essay from Karlstads universitet/Fakulteten för ekonomi, kommunikation och IT

Author: Stefanie Jochheim; [2011]

Keywords: Ethnography; ICT s; Culture;


The study has investigated the culture of Lamu through an ethnographic field study and the usage of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT’s) through interviews. The field study, including the interviews, was conducted during a fifteen week period. Theories of technological and cultural determinism as well as theories of Information and Communication Technologies for Development (ICT4D) are presented as theories which my analysis is based upon. What is investigated is the interplay between technology and culture in Lamu. The data collected will be used to discuss possible ICT4D assessments for future projects; what factors need to be investigated and mapped out prior to a project plan.

Lamu is a complex community with a long history of outside influences. Nowadays, the influences are not from imperialistic power nations but from tourists, Non-governmental Organizations (NGO’s), Governmental Organizations (GO’s) and private investors. The culture of Lamu has gone through a change in behavior throughout the generations. What has changed lately is the adoption and usage of ICT’s. In conclusion, this study shows the unique way in which the culture uses technologies. This has been analyzed with former ICT4D projects in mind and seen out of a development work perspective. Lamu’s religious character has colored the three spheres of the community and is presented as one of the many important binary factors that need to be considered in development work assessments.

What has been found out through this study is the importance of a culturally humble assessment before making a plan for ICT4D projects. Previous projects have failed due to the top-down approach. What has worked is the bottom-up approach and this is proclaimed in this study. All of the dimensions of a community, its history and all spheres need to be assessed before successful projects can be made. Lamu is a unique case and shows the complexity of assessments due to the binary factors and the many layers in the society that are important to take in account.

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