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Issue No. 007
Papers 1-15: African Information Ethics in the context of the global Information Society

(1-15)   16-31   32-40

Information Ethics for and from Africa
by Rafael Capurro
Language: English
abstract:   This paper deals in the first part with some initiatives concerning the role of information ethics for Africa such as NEPAD, UN ICT and AISI particularly since the World Summit on the Information Society. Information Ethics from Africa is a young academic field. Not much has been published so far on the impact of ICT on African societies and cultures from a philosophical perspective. The second part of the paper analyses some recent research on this matter particularly with regard to the concept of ubuntu. Finally the paper addresses some issues of the African Conference on Information Ethics held in Pretoria, 3-5 February 2007.
pdf-fulltext (207 KB)

The joy of sharing knowledge: But what if there is no knowledge to share? A critical reflection on human capacity building in Africa
by Johannes J. Britz
Language: English
abstract:   This article focuses on the current trends and initiatives in human capacity building in Africa. It takes as it starting point that human capacity development is essential for Africa to become an information and knowledge society and therefore an equal partner in the global sharing of knowledge. Four knowledge areas are identified and discussed. These are education, research and development, brain drain and information and documentation drain. The paper concludes that there is a clear understanding in Africa that its future lies with education and that most African leaders have a strong political will to invest in human capacity building on the continent. It is also clear that much has been done, particularly primary education. Africa will most definitely benefit from this in the long run. Problem areas remain however. These are in the needed growth of research and development and how to address the brain and information drain phenomena.
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The feasibility of ICT diffusion amongst African rural women: a case study of South Africa and Kenya
by A.K. Wafula-Kwake and Dennis N. Ocholla
Language: English
abstract:   This study explores whether ICT use is feasible in the rural areas of South Africa and Kenya by using largely survey research method. The survey involved interviewing 400 women aged between 16-60 from both Kenya and South Africa. The multistage sampling data was obtained from Census household data of the magisterial districts of Umlalazi i.e. Eshowe, Amatikulu, Gigindlovu and Mtunzini (South Africa), and from the sub-divisions of the Kaplamai Division in Trans-Nzoia district, i.e. Kimoson, Sinyerere, Sitatunga and Makutano (Kenya). The survey results signify that problems of access and exclusion are still predominant. For instance, while a meagre average of 11(5.4%) of the respondents in South Africa use modern technologies such as the computer/internet, more than half (115: 57.5%) of the respondents faced problems ranging from affordability to distance and time. Additionally, there is a marked correlation between educational level, type of ICTs accessed on one hand and information need and purposes on the other. It is observed that alone, ICTs are insufficient for significant benefits to emerge. Information ethical challenges are identified and recommendations made.
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The Third World and the paradox of the digital revolution
by Mohamed Mesbahi
Language: English
abstract:   We, the people of the Third World, greeted the revolution in information technology with great enthusiasm, perceiving it as the harbinger of an equalitarian and democratic society and the encapsulation of a new humanism. The question is whether or not this new utopia has effectively brought an end to the great divide regarding access to information and knowledge.
pdf-fulltext (57 KB)

Cultural Diversity and Globalisation: An Intercultural Hermeneutical (African) Perspective
by Chibueze C. Udeani
Language: English
abstract:  In our today's global age one of the central challenges facing Africa is that of coming to terms positively with her cultural diversity. Furthermore Africa is confronted with the challenge of global cultural diversity that has been characteristic of our global age. One of the questions raised here is how can the intrinsic African cultural diversity be made comprehensible not only to non-Africans but also to Africans themselves? Talking of understanding makes the issue a hermeneutical one. Hence the following questions, how can this hermeneutical challenge be mastered? What tools are required in order to accomplish this mission?
pdf-fulltext (55 KB)

Globalization, Knowledge Economy and the implication for Indigenous Knowledge
by Kgomotso H. Moahi
Language: English
abstract:  This paper considers the impact that globalization and the knowledge economy have on the protection and promotion of indigenous knowledge. It is asserted that globalization and the knowledge economy have opened up the world and facilitated the flow of information and knowledge. However, the flow of knowledge has been governed by uneven economic and political power between the developed countries and the developing countries. This has a number of ramifications for IK. The dilemma faced is that whichever method is taken to protect IK (IPR regimes, documenting IK etc) exposes IK to some misappropriation. Protecting it through IPR is also fraught with problems. Documenting IK exposes IK to the public domain and makes it that much easier to be misused. However, not protecting IK runs the danger of having it disappear as the custodians holding it die off, or as communities become swamped by the effects of globalization. The conclusion therefore is that governments have to take more interest in protecting, promoting and using IK than they have been doing.
pdf-fulltext (55 KB)

The Information Gap, the Digital Divide, and the Obligations of Affluent Nations
by Kenneth Einar Himma
Language: English
abstract:   In this essay, I would like to do three things. First, I would like to provide a broad and brief overview of the effects of absolute poverty in creating an information gap and a digital divide and the effects of these gaps in perpetuating absolute poverty. Second, I would like to show that ordinary case intuitions, normative ethical theories, and theological considerations converge in entailing a moral obligation to help those in poverty. Third, I would like to argue, all too briefly, that although this surely involves making donations of both cash and food - free of the sorts of conditions that are frequently imposed by organizations like the IMF and World Bank - it also involves donations of a sort that are specifically targeted to close the information and digital divides.
pdf-fulltext (213 KB)

Information Divide, Information Flow and Global Justice
by Soraj Hongladarom
Language: English
abstract:  There is a significant information divide between the countries in the North and those in the South. This is detrimental to economic growth as information feeds into knowledge production. The divide is exacerbated by a series of uneven and unjust flows of information between the North and the South. Two related patterns of the unjust flow are explored, namely the flow of biological resources and information and the flow of rare manuscripts and published materials. I argue that the concept of global justice is an appropriate tool to comprehend the situation; this is an addition to those offered in Britz and Lor (2003). Furthermore I discuss the need for increasing intra-South information flow. This will strengthen the Southern countries as a whole, since the flow will link the countries together so they have a stronger voice and chances to learn from one another directly.
pdf-fulltext (87 KB)

Cultural Centrisms and Intercultural Polylogues in Philosophy
by Franz Martin Wimmer
Language: English
abstract:  A "dilemma of culturality" for philosophy, tending to universality, is given with the fact that there is not one and the definitely adequate language or tradition of philosophy. There are many, each of them being cultural, not natural. The question is about the possibility of systematic philosophy with the presupposition that there are different cultural coinages in every philosophical thinking which can be influential on every level of reflection and argumentation. Intercultural philosophy is bound to reflect on this problem. In the following text, I propose to distinguish four different types of centrism being influential in intercultural encounters: expansive, integrative, separative, and tentative centrism. Then some examples are given for certain types of centrism in the fields of history and philosophy. Finally, I shall argue for dialogical or rather: polylogical interactions, in the field of philosophy.
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Towards an Information Democracy: A Research Agenda
by Albert K. Boekhorst
Language: English
abstract:  People, organisations and societies need knowledge to satisfy their needs so they can survive and develop themselves and move forward in time and space. Knowledge on themselves, their social and their physical surrounding. Those who are better than others capable to satisfy their information needs in an effective and efficient way, and participate in the relevant information networks are more capable to survive and develop themselves than those with less advantageous traits. However, there are barriers that complicate or can even block the successful access to needed information and to the information economy. Four types of potential barriers that are based on interdependencies between people: economic, political, affective and cognitive are described.
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Cybernetic Pluralism in an Emerging Global Information and Computing Ethics
by Charles Ess
Language: English
abstract:  I trace the development of an emerging global Information and Computing Ethics (ICE), arguing that ethical pluralism - as found in both Western and Asian traditions - is crucial to such an ICE. In particular, ethical pluralism - as affiliated with notions of judgment (phronesis in Aristotle and the cybernetes in Plato), resonance, and harmony - holds together shared ethical norms (as required for a shared global ethic) alongside the irreducible differences that define individual and cultural identities. I demonstrate how such pluralism is already at work in both contemporary theory and praxis, including in development projects in diverse cultures. I conclude with a number of resonances between this global pluralism and African thought and traditions that thus suggest that such a pluralism may also succeed in the African context, as diverse African cultures and countries seek to benefit from ICTs while maintaining their cultural identities.
pdf-fulltext (536 KB)

The Public Sphere's Metamorphosis - The Triangular Relation Between the NGO, the State, and Globalization
by Azelarabe Lahkim Bennani
Language: English
abstract:  The issue we will discuss is related to the use of the Internet by the non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to improve the social development in the African and international context. We will also discuss the philosophical background of the notion of 'public sphere' by the German philosopher Jürgen Habermas. Departing from the situation in Morocco, we observe that the lasting democratization process aims to improve the participation of the public sphere in the agency of social life. Taking for granted that society is not homogeneous as expected, we observe that it is divided into the political establishment, including the state, parliament, and the political institutions; in the social, religious and cultural institutions and the civil society. The state aims to enhance the participation of the other social spheres in the programme set by the government. The task is to engage the public sphere in the so called 'partnership' in the realization of its social programmes.
pdf-fulltext (88 KB)

Artificial moral agents: an intercultural perspective
by Michael Nagenborg
Language: English
abstract:  In this paper I will argue that artificial moral agents (AMAs) are a fitting subject of intercultural information ethics because of the impact they may have on the relationship between information rich and information poor countries. I will give a limiting definition of AMAs first, and discuss two different types of AMAs with different implications from an intercultural perspective. While AMAs following preset rules might raise concerns about digital imperialism, AMAs being able to adjust to their user's behavior will lead us to the question what makes an AMA "moral"? I will argue that this question does present a good starting point for an intercultural dialogue which might be helpful to overcome the notion of Africa as a mere victim.
pdf-fulltext (106 KB)

Assembling an African Information Ethics
by Bernd Frohmann
Language: English
abstract:  The Tshwane Conference on African Information Ethics of 5-7 February 2007 forces the question, What is an African information ethics? This question is addressed with reference to the complexities of a distinctly African information ethics, taking into account the distinction between ethics and morality, and the assumptions of the language of the Tshwane Declaration on Information Ethics in Africa. Gilles Deleuze's concept of assemblage, analyzed from the perspectives of Bruno Latour's concept of "reassembling the social" and recent anthropological approaches to global assemblages are put to work to investigate possibilities of an African information ethics, with special attention to the concepts of universality and African identity. The task of assembling an African information ethics is then analyzed in terms of Latour's call for building "livable collectives".
pdf-fulltext (167 KB)

On the ambivalence of information and communication technologies
by Peter Fleissner
Language: English
abstract:  The diffusion of digital information and communication technologies (DICT) is strongly supported by many countries of the world. Today, as well as in the past, new technologies are charged with high expectations, but at a closer look one can see that these expectations then are very different from now. Today they depend on the various interests of different groups of people. Globally acting enterprises see DICT as essential strategic instruments in gaining competitive power; some governments hope to reach military hegemony, others to control terrorism and crime, while grass root movements expect to become more influential on some aspects of society. The paper identifies and analyses basic tendencies which promote the various hopes: the effects of DICT on reducing production and transaction costs, and the possibility to transform information goods into marketable services or commodities. The final part of the paper is devoted to a few examples of how the potential of DICT can be used for social improvements.
pdf-fulltext (251 KB)


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