The argumentative structure of spatial data infrastructure initiatives in America and Africa
Policy, including technology policy, is made of language. Politicians, bureaucrats, and consultants use language to shape action and ways of thinking by fabricating rules that enable individuals to deal with unresolvable contradictions of everyday life. The evolution of geospatial ICT policy can be best understood through the language of spatial data infrastructure (SDI) initiatives and the analysis of their argumentative structure. We focus on how SDI has been rhetorically crafted over almost two decades and how the rhetoric (“myth”) unfolds as SDI myths move from one context (North America) to the other (Africa). We conclude that despite apparent similarities, there are durable differences. In the American myth, there is a clamour for “metrics” which can demonstrate progress and knowledge generation through research. In the African context, a rhetorical move is made by aligning the SDI concept with overarching Information Society concepts as promoted by the African Information Society Initiative (AISI). We suggest further research directions to explore how ICT policy talk interacts with the context in which it takes shape as it travels in space and time.
Keywords: Spatial data infrastructure, rhetoric, ICTs in developing countries