This paper argues that internet and mobile phone use represent two opposed configurations of ICT use, rather than a single movement into an ‘information society’. Moreover each configuration exemplifies quite different poverty reduction strategies deployed by poor urban Ghanaians. Internet use is widespread and is predominantly used to chat with or email foreigners, generally in the North, as part of a strategy of accumulating foreign social, economic and cultural capital; it is part of a poverty reduction strategy of ‘escape’ that is generally conducted in a fantasy modality. Mobile phones, by contrast, are used to manage existing and embedded social networks, the complex family, business or social connections that constitute both resources and obligations. These two ICT configurations are not only opposed to each other, but they are also in some disjuncture with government and NGO policies on ICTs. Most significantly, such policies foreground use of the internet to meet information needs whereas most users understand the internet as a chat medium.
Working Paper 4, Information Society Research Group (ISRG), UK, 15 pp.