Leiberman, A. E. (2003). Taking ownership: Strengthening Indigenous Cultures and Languages through the Use of ICTs. Retrieved February 11, 2008 from Learnlink website: <http://learnlink.aed.org/Publications/Concept_Papers/taking_ownership.pdf>.


In “Taking Ownership: Strengthening Indigenous Cultures and Languages Through the Use of ICTs” Lieberman (2003) considers the dynamics of using information and communication technologies (ICTs) for the benefit of indigenous cultural causes. He develops this overview by starting from the broad perspective of the impact of globalization on indigenous cultures then narrowing his focus to the impact of ICTs. Though he acknowledges both actual and potentially negative consequences of ICTs on indigenous cultures, his aim in this article is to identify examples of positive initiatives and explore the potential for further use and benefits. He highlights indigenous culture ICT initiatives for community building, language revitalization, education, commerce and environmental protection and considers these initiatives with attention to policy, capacity building, usage and implementation. Throughout the article, Lieberman emphasizes the imperative of indigenous empowerment, self-determination and ideological sustainability in order to reach positive ends through ICTs.

Relevance to Cultural Studies in Instructional Technology

Though he does not only focus on the use of ICTs in education, his examples of political and economic uses still lie in a form of education- the dissemination of information.
By grounding his examples in the broader discussion of the impact of globalization and ICTs on indigenous cultures, Lieberman (2003) highlights some of the central questions about the socio-cultural implications of educational technology. Does widespread use of ICTs: Encourage homogenization of cultures? Replace indigenous forms of learning or the wisdom of tradition and elders? Reinforce detrimental economic hegemonies?

His answer to these questions seems to be, “Possibly”; however, he states, “it is preferable to take a pro-active and culturally sensitive approach to technology introduction.” The argument he makes in this article is that 1) the use of ICTs is already widespread and inevitable, and 2) policies towards productive and positive uses of ICTs may mediate the potential for negative consequences.


I found this article to be personally valuable because of my research interest in instructional technology solutions for cross-border collaboration between the US (big, bad Western influencer) and India (home of approx. 84.33 million members of “scheduled tribes”) and because of my sappy passion for the betterment of all people. Lieberman takes the optimistic view that ICTs are an empowering force if access continues to spread and if the technology is used towards the end of purposeful cultural engagement. I am inclined towards Lieberman’s view because the presence and spread of ICT is not a choice, but a reality.

At the Education for Innovation in India, China & America conference in 2007, one of the attendees raised the question: “How do we take advantage of the educational opportunities of mobile learning? I’ve been to villages in India where there are certainly more cell phones than latrines.” In this question about the number of latrines as compared to the number of cell phones, one of the central questions of the dynamics of ICTs and cultural impact is highlighted. As Damarin (1998) points out, when the basic needs of a population are lacking, ICT initiatives often become lower priorities. However, in this conference attendee’s question, he did not rely on the “either/or” fallacy of framing the question as “Why would we take advantage of the educational opportunities of mobile learning when there are villages in India where there are certainly more cell phones than latrines?” This argument has all too often been framed as an either/or proposition, when in fact there are compelling reasons why technology, especially in the arena of education, should be a top priority. Lieberman’s article provided several examples of positive uses of technology by indigenous cultures that may allow them access to more resources and, therefore, possibly more capability to take care of basic needs.
I appreciated not only the optimism, but the pragmatism of Lieberman’s article. It provides clear examples of how technological literacy may well be as empowering as language literacy. As in this course, now we can take up the questions of impact, cultural sensitivity, etc. just as is necessary in language policy. This equality of importance may help place the T in the old 3R’s (readin’, ‘ritin’, and rithmetic) educational paradigm, so that the question of “if” ICT should be embraced as an educational tool for all cultures of the upcoming generation, may be replaced with “how”?