[Ietf-lac] On Techno-Colonialism

Fernando Gont fgont at si6networks.com
Tue May 16 13:46:42 BRT 2017

FYI: <https://psg.com/on-technocolonialism.html>

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On Techno-Colonialism

    ".. sometimes we visit your country and live in your home,
     sometimes we ride on your horses, sometimes we walk alone,
     sometimes the songs that we hear are just songs of our own."
     - Grateful Dead - Eyes of the World

Techno-colonialism is a term I coined back in the '90s to describe the
exploitation of poorer cultures by richer ones through technology. In
particular, this was focused on Internet technology, though it may apply
more widely. Like ice cream, techno-colonialism comes in many flavors.

Classic Capitalist Exploitation is when equipment, software, and
education companies from rich countries sell inferior, broken, and
out-dated technology to poorer cultures because they can not sell the
out-dated technology in their own. This leaves the colonized with poor
technology, and with education in the use of inferior technology, when
it is critical that they learn modern engineering.

The Vendor Territorialist attempts to lock significant segments of a
culture into using their hardware and/or software product. This is done
through low cost vendor-specific education, pressure on the government,
loss-leader initial entry cost, and making vendor-specific certification
important in the job market. A neat trick is to ignore piracy until the
colony is dependent on the sofware, see A Contribution to the
Understanding of Illegal Copying of Software. A new variant of this is
the social network with a do-gooder face and an embrace and devour body.

Aid Agencies in the 'business' of technology transfer are subject to the
same diseases as business in general. At first, they have technology
transfer goals and are happy to cooperate with others to achieve them.
If they become 'successful', money flows to them, they grow, and they
become focused on their own growth and survival, losing sight of the
original primary goals. They see themselves as doing good, and succumb
to the American (and others') fallacy that bigger is better, and they
can do more good if they are bigger. After all, the need for their
services is perceived as effectively infinite. Others with whom they
used to cooperate are now seen as competitors for the resources of
self-expansion. They become protective of territory which they never
owned in the first place. The colonies become caught in the crossfire of
the foreign aid agencies, just as they became caught in the wars between
the classic colonialists.

The Exploiting Hero brings, often inappropriate, technology in order to
gain leverage for personal power or money. They care little for the
locals or their needs. They have the righteous solution and will break
anything to insert it, take whatever they came for, and leave.

The Agent represents others as opposed to introducing them. From a 2002
talk at Rhodes University, "Jose [Soriano] made it very clear to me
that, if I went to the Northern expert and asked the questions and then
returned the answers to Peru, this was a form of patronization and
colonialism. Jose and other Peruvians were first class citizens capable
of representing themselves. I was to introduce them to the experts and
get out of the middle. Brokering and hoarding information are a
dangerous form of techno-colonialism."

Self-Exploitation is the saddest case, a person or group who is part of
the exploited and who starts to exploit their neighbors. This is
understandable as they are in a very resource scarce environment, and
see leadership as a path to general improvement, self-fulfillment, and
the power to improve things. Given the difficulty and complexity of
making any significant progress, they become controlling and defensive.
Though they speak of passing power to the next generations and to the
public, they soon cling to power with their claws, as does any
demagogue. Aside from the obvious damage, this breeds a public cultural
defense strategy of sabotaging anyone's success lest they become such
demagogues; thereby keeping everyone down.

The Do-Gooder flies in, sings their song, drops a bit of technology and
flies out again. Back home, they stand in front of the cameras and
accept the accolades for their good deeds. The problem is that this
upstages the in-country folk on the ground who actually did the work;
and without credit for their work, the local folk have a hard time
getting independent support to do more work which is desperately needed.

I speak from experience having been a do-gooder for 28 years, flying in
and back out, and accepting the accolades. I have donated used
equipment. I have helped to create organizations which became
self-perpetuating katamaris. Being a privileged brat from a rich
culture, I have yet to be a self-exploiter; but there is still time.

A simple solution to this seemingly difficult problem will be presented
in our next paper. [ There seems to be no emoji for dripping sarcasm. ]

Randy Bush <randy at psg.com>
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Fernando Gont
SI6 Networks
e-mail: fgont at si6networks.com
PGP Fingerprint: 6666 31C6 D484 63B2 8FB1 E3C4 AE25 0D55 1D4E 7492

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