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Desire for Progress: the Kelabit Experience with Information Communication Technologies (ICTs) for Rural Development in Sarawak, East Malaysia.

Since the early 1990s anthropological analysis of"development" has cast a serious doubt on the feasibility and the desirability of "development" itself. Considered as a failed industry, it therefore needs to be rejected. The Kelabit experiences with Information Communication Technologies (ICTs) as a tool for rural development in the Kelabit Highlands of Sarawak, East Malaysia, however, do not fit this argument. For the Kelabit, engaging with "development" is largely about a desire for it, but within a framework of shifting economic and political terrains and changing cultural values. It is from this perspective that this dissertation highlights how the impact and effects of the introduction of Information Communication Technologies (ICTs) in the form of Internet, telephone, computer, Very Small Aperture Terminals (VSATs) in Bario have been mediated and reconfigured by webs of social relations and the intricate interplay of social, political and cultural conditions specific to the Highlands and also beyond it.

My findings are based on two different periods of research activities. The first of these involved personal experiences as a native anthropologist engaged in setting up and implementing the e-Bario project, which aimed to demonstrate the many ways in which ICTs could be used to improve the lives of "marginalized" groups in remote areas in Sarawak. The second period involved thirteen months of field research, from August 2004 to September 2005. The purpose of this was to analyze the outcomes and consequences of e-Bario in the Highlands, and the broader Kelabit community.

Drawing on insights afforded by these two different periods of engagement, this dissertation considers the ways in which the Kelabit's own desire for, and expectations of, 'development' and 'progress' have conditioned the social and economic effects of e-Bario. It is a quest which ties in closely with two fundamental Kelabit concepts: doo-ness (goodness) as a social ideal and iyuk or movement in social status among the Kelabit. I argue that it is the images and ideais of doo-ness, and the interweaving processes between doo-ness and iyuk that have generated and sustained Kelabit modes of engagement and interaction with ideas, people, institutions and objects from the "outside world." This includes their on-going engagement with "development" and their recent responses to participative development, the Internet, telephone and computers introduced through e-Bario [author].

Ph.D. Dissertation, Christ's College, Cambridge University.
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Title Annotation:ABSTRACTS
Author:Bala, Poline
Publication:Borneo Research Bulletin
Date:Jan 1, 2008
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