Is social inclusion the same for all? Critical Internet use as a tool to attend individual needs in Brazil

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


Economic development indexes, such as the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), show growth in Latin American and Caribbean countries, placing these apparently in a better position than other developing countries. However, the internal distribution of these benefits is unfair and unjust, making them some of the most unequal societies in the world. This is reflected not only on the distribution of income and access to social services, but also in the lack of access to information and knowledge, especially through new Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs). Authors, such as Wacjman (2004), state that “[t]echnology is an intimate presence in our lives and increasingly defines who we are and how we live.” (p.102) While this may be true, how much do ICTs, in particular the internet, represent to the lives to those considered digital excluded? What can the Internet do in encourage social inclusion? The following paper is divided in three sections. The first one sets a theoretical framework to discuss digital inclusion from a Capability Approach perspective. Considering development as the individual’s freedom to achieve the kind of live she values and has reason to value (Sen 1999), the use of the Internet may be deem important only if it can support the individual to attain her values. In this context, the individual’s agency becomes crucial, because considering that the Internet can be used in many ways and for different purposes, is the individual’s choices, which will determine if the use of the Internet will help her, or not, to achieve what she values. As described by Kleine, while using the internet, an individual’s sense of choice - what she imagines her choices are-, is as important as her achievement of choice - “whether the outcome matches the choice expressed” (Kleine 2010, p.680). If the individual does not knows what the Internet can be used for, how is she going to take advantage of its potentialities? A mistaken sense of choice about the Internet potentialities may be caused for many reasons. One reason may be lack of knowledge. However, another reason, more challenging, may be that the individual has adapted her preferences to her depraved life situation, which makes her believe some possibilities are not available to her (Sen 1999, Nussbaum 2000). For this reason in particular, Paulo Freire’s ideas about pedagogy, emancipation and collective action, have been also incorporated in the discussions about digital inclusion. Freire (1970) believed that the individual should liberate herself. In his words, people must “fight for their own emancipation” (p.86). Freire’s ideas about awareness and praxis, will help define how a tool, such as the Internet, should be used in order to work in the individual’s favour, and not otherwise. The second part presents the initial results of empirical work done in Brazil, showing two different case studies of digital inclusion projects, one of them using Freire’s problem-posing education (PPE) as fundamental basis for their methodology. While differing on their practices, both projects aim to raise the awareness of the population about the Internet potentialities for social inclusion. This section will present successes and failures of both programs. Adaptive preferences, also understood by Freire as oppression (Freire 1970), seems to be one of the main challenges for both teachers and students. Individuals who have limited view of their lives, have difficulty defining what their values are. How to increase an individual’s development, if on the first place, she does not know what she values? If several individuals suffer from this lack, how to provide support to improve their social inclusion? Is for this reason that Freire’s pedagogy seems to be a necessary added value while teaching how to use the Internet, because the individual receives, not only a technical training, but also she will benefit from Freire’s PPE, which intends to raise her from her oppression, meaning, from her adaptive preferences, empowering each individual to help themselves, instead of being passive receptors of aid (Sen 1999). Finally, the last section will conclude with a debate about the need of a change of paradigm on how we see the Internet and how it is thought. Various Brazilian experts interviews’ are presented to support the idea that the Internet can support the individual, in both defining what she values and has reason to value, and, in how to achieve her values, however, only if she appropriates it. Flexibility of this tool may help the individual to achieve his own emancipation, as Freire preaches. Nevertheless, this will only be possible if the individual understands the technology as a tool to be used as part of a process, instead of an end in itself. Only then, the Internet may help promote social inclusion, with the advantage of attending each individual needs. Bibliography FREIRE, P., 1970. Pedagogy of the oppressed. London: Penguin. KLEINE, D., 2010. ICT4WHAT? - Using the choice framework to operationalise the capability approach to development. Journal of International Development, 22(5), pp. 674-692. NUSSBAUM, M.C., 2000. Women and human development. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. SEN, A., 1999. Development as freedom. Oxford: Oxford University Press. WAJCMAN, J., 2004. TechnoFeminism. Malden, Mass: Polity.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationIs social inclusion the same for all? Critical Internet use as a tool to attend individual needs in Brazil
PublisherHuman Development and Capability Association (HDCA)
Publication statusUnpublished - 2013
EventHDCA Annual International Conference - Managua, Nicaragua
Duration: 3 Sept 2013 → …


ConferenceHDCA Annual International Conference
Period3/09/13 → …

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