Work-Life Balance

In this weeks article, "'We use it different, different'" by Araba Sey he discusses how communication technologies are incorporated in to different cultures and adapted to fit the needs of a certain population's lifestyle and communication goals.  What he finds is a strong caution to development workers today to constantly review their own assumptions and view points when beginning a development strategy.  I was amused to find that the fact that most Ghanaians found the mobile phone most useful to stay connected with family and friends (and not for use with business and work) would be surprising to development workers. Of course, if you are looking at the introduction of mobile phones as a way to increase economic development, it could be very easy to have your theories, your viewpoints and your assumptions revolve around this point to the obvious exclusion of other uses the mobile phone has. 

I found that Sey was uncovering a slight condescension, that this study group of low-income people would (or should) only be concerned/obsessed with work and business because of their socioeconomic status. Almost as if they didn't 'have time' for other aspects of their lives.  This is a very western, compartmentalized view of how to organize one's life.  "If you do not have enough money or are out of a job, you should spend all your time and energy focusing on fixing this situation."  I actually felt that the answers given by the study participants could have a direct impact on one's economic welfare.  Strong family and friend ties is the first 'safety net' in a state that does not provide welfare.  If you are down and out, who will you turn to?  Your family and close friends.  If you are closer to more of your family members because of use of a mobile phone, then your net is stronger.  Family and friends also have eyes and ears as well as your welfare in mind.  If an opportunity opens up, then they will be the first to contact you.  I think the very fact that study even separated family and work into different categories shows a difference in worldview.  Perhaps not everyone around the world has such a strong work/life separation as we do here in the west. I think the IC field has come a long way from the days in the 1950's when 'developed nation' meant 'white, protestant, western, industrialized nation' but the field must always work to be aware of how our own personal view of how the world fits together can affect how we view the rest of the world.


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