Abstract

This article argues that a discourse which constructs the Internet as an inclusive development tool that can be deployed in strategies for modernizing Africa has become hegemonic among development donors and telecommunications organizations. Based on research carried out in and around three Internet cafes in Dar es Salaam, and one Multipurpose Community Telecentre (MCT) in Sengerema, this article takes issue with this discourse and suggests that the geographies of inclusion and exclusion created by the Internet are more complex. For Tanzania’s information and communication technologies (ICT) elites, the Internet will shape the population into knowledge- and market-seeking, productive citizens, stimulating national growth. For Internet cafe users and non-users, the Internet has become a marker of modernity, a way for people and places to indicate their relative level of development, and Internet use is currently dominated by leisure, communication and information relating to global popular culture. However, the article demonstrates that development interventions which turn the symptoms of poverty into technical problems to be solved with technological responses are inherently flawed, since the failure to deal with the causes of poverty means that the majority of Tanzanians continue to be excluded from the ‘information society’.

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