Nets in an Archipelago of Information Provinces

This is an abstract of a paper in progress which was presented at the forthcoming symposium 'Development Intervention — Methodological Approaches and Debates', which was held March 15th — 16th, 2002 at the Viikki Infocenter of the University of Helsinki

During the recent economic boom the middle and northern parts of Finland have suffered from expansion of growth centers in the south. Kuhmo situated in the Kainuu region is typical with its high rate of emigration, underemployment and elderly population. The stagnant regional economy is supported by the Finnish state and the European Union.

New communication infrastructures are often seen as a possibility to provide equality in social services and education. Unfortunately the establishment of networks have proved to be expensive outside metropoles. Availability of reliable electricity and access to digital telephone lines are often restricted in areas where they are needed.

The paper presents aspects of a research project which aims at using net education for the benefit of music students and information society in Kainuu. The participatory study is based on assumptions on the positive nature of the development context: Regional authorities are supposed to promote the well-being of the population; Local officials are assumed to support educational and social facilities.

The on-going research indicates that aid has transformed the region into a provincial economy of underdevelopment. Crucial interaction takes place between power structures, which divide the external input. In this way the function of official social institutions easily deviates from what their form implies. Rather than concentrating on development, attention is given to activities maximizing economical benefit.

In this environment, development interventions of the new technology promoter represent an element of risk: Innovatory action produces turbulence which may disturb existing local power patterns. It is met by a barrier of resistance, which blocks, counteracts and transforms the initiatives. The end product of the research is not development, but a better understanding of the nature of the underlying provincial power structures.

— Philip Donner