Like any powerful tool, technology can be immensely positive, but can also have unintended outcomes that go far beyond the scope of the project. In earth defender work, awareness and transparency around technology introduction is key, and every effort should be made – both at the outset of a project and throughout a project’s lifespan – to use and in certain cases, introduce technology in a way that seeks to maximize the potential benefits of a tool and minimize the potential negative impacts.
A vital question to consider: will the introduction of tools and technology end up increasing tech sovereignty, and ownership of the data process, or further dependency on outside sources of support?
Positive impacts can include:
- The emergence of a powerful feeling of community solidarity.
- Increasing the participation and involvement of young people and strengthening relationships between youth and elders through collaboration.
- Community-building through collaborative learning, and shared tool adoption and tech literacy. 👩💻
Negative impacts can include:
- Unintended shifts in local power dynamics.
- In communities with limited exposure to technology, the introduction of tools can cause social tension, and inflate the status of participants with access to the tools.
- While social media apps such as Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instragram can be useful in connecting communities, they can also be harmful, and disrupt otherwise thriving community social practices.
- The devaluation of the role of community elders and their traditional knowledge.
When designing an earth defender project, it is important to be honest and transparent about these unexpected impacts, especially when discussing with the rest of the community. It should also be acknowledged that technology is often catching on or being introduced in communities with or without your project, so it may well be done in a beneficial, responsible way to counter threats.
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