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The Coconut Tree and the Computer Tiger: Information Technology in Traditional Pacific Societies

This literature review explores the extent to which Information Technology (IT) has affected the cultures of small traditional Pacific societies, with the South Pacific region as the point of focus. The assumption is that the educational systems of Pacific nations are in the developmental stage with the associated sophisticated technological applications. The thesis asks what if any, cultural challenges of adopting information technology have arisen? The review finds that traditional culture and information technology are in competition in the power stakes of human consideration, reflected in South Pacific indigenous academics seeking independence as researchers and acceptance in their own right. The realisation that culture and technology need to function together requires attaining academic freedom in the aftermath of post-colonial restrictions placed on the indigenous sociological and anthropological imagination. The first part examines the history of information technology generally, and the significance of work already done, providing a perspective of how the subject has developed and become established, assisting in the development and acquisition of the appropriate vocabulary. The review explains and describes the occurrence of information technology in the South Pacific, the effect of globalisation and shared knowledge through ethno-methodology, every day culture in action, describing the ways in which people make the sense they do and through the ways they communicate. In the second part the focus is on the detail of the commonsense character of everyday life and the practices by which they make their actions understandable by others. Scrutiny of how people do what they do provides an explanation of what those people do and why they do it in the way they do. Western form of governance is a reality, with nation building based on Western models of development. National independence and sovereignty with a wave of neo-colonialism and aid dependency led to economic globalisation, with resentment against value systems that erode indigenous values, producing a wave of re-indigenisation facilitated by the revolution known as information technology . There is a coherent body of Pacific thought, with a shared philosophy and ethic on the public agenda. In the material covered, elements standing out are the awareness among growing numbers of Pacific academics of the need for a genuine and far-reaching contextualisation, acknowledging the relevance and applicability of indigenous cultural values in contemporary settings. Second is the success of communities whose initiatives have followed familiar traditional ways they know and understand, reaping rewards. The region has development and governance failures in Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Fiji to name a few; the national state of affairs in some countries is not encouraging. Where good development and governance are occurring, it is usually through the direct initiative of local communities using their knowledge base. The information upheaval is creating new opportunities in the lives of people from small traditional societies. Information Technology expands throughout the social structure of the Pacific in direct proportion to personal computer access literally at one's finger tips.
Type of thesis
Philp, R. (2009). The Coconut Tree and the Computer Tiger: Information Technology in Traditional Pacific Societies (Thesis, Master of Social Sciences (MSocSc)). The University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/3591
The University of Waikato
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