The World Science Project was started in 1992 with a grant from the Dutch government through an organization called RAWOO, the Advisory Committee for Scientific Research for Development Problems. They were interested in applying a social network approach (originally developed in the US in 1980) to learn something systematic about researchers (educators, scientists) in low income countries in Africa and Asia. Specifically, we were curious as to whether scientists in developing countries were ‘isolated’ as most had assumed. In retrospect, the answer should have been obvious: to be poorly or sporadically connected to others in the US, Europe, and developed areas does not mean you are isolated! The scientists in our 1994 study were well connected–but to their own local networks.
The reds and greens indicating teledensity on world maps are poor indicators of what is really happening in the diffusion of technology. One objective of our project is to assist research and educational institutions to build local area networks. Our second objective is to understand what’s happening “on the ground” in terms of the diffusion and use of modern information and communication technologies. We use a variety of methods– including ethnography, film, interviews, and surveys–to follow the diffusion of the Internet. Since 1993 we have followed this process in Ghana, Kenya, and the State of Kerala in India. In 2003 South Africa was added, followed by Chile and the Phillipines in 2004.