Conceptualising Information Culture in Developing Countries

R. Heeks, Y. Zheng

Research output: Working paper


To date, both strategies and perspectives for informatisation in many developing countries have tended to be very techno-centric. The purpose of this paper is to conceptualise a more holistic framework for understanding the "information society" in development. This seeks to move not only beyond techno-centrism but also beyond the determinisms and other limitations of earlier informational and cultural responses. The framework is built around the idea of an "information culture" in developing countries, using Giddens' structuration theory as a point of departure. This is subjected to an exploratory application based around a single developing country – China – including a particular focus on its healthcare sector.The paper concludes that information culture can be conceived at multiple levels in terms of three interlinked dimensions – information literacy, information openness, and information norms. These provide the basis for a broader understanding of positioning vis-à-vis informatisation than earlier frameworks. Field data shows how actions can be seen to reproduce and reinforce a country's information culture. However, it also identifies broader tensions that affect many developing countries: marketisation/state-collectivism, globalism/nationalism, technology/manual, and other potential contradictions. These create a reflexive space for agency that helps to explain the dynamism and evolution of information culture.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationManchester
Publication statusPublished - 2008

Publication series

NameIDPM Development Informatics Working Papers
PublisherCentre for Development Informatics

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Global Development Institute


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