1963-2018 - 55 years of Research for Social Change

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Back | Programme Area: Technology and Society (2000 - 2009)

Enjeux et rôle des nouvelles technologies de l'information et de la communication dans les mutations urbaines: Le cas de Touba (Sénégal)

The Mouride brotherhood, a migrant socio-religious movement, covers both rural and urban areas of Senegal. At the same time it is international, filling in the gaps of what is regarded as a globalizing and dominating world economy. The Mourides have adopted a participatory approach, riding the wave of globalization. However, within this approach is a tendency to shut away the symbols, out of a contradictory but valid concern for a recentring of spirituality and of the sacred, in order to disseminate it more effectively.

New information and communication technologies (ICT) are, on the one hand, an instrument for integrating the greater city of Touba with the rest of the country and, on the other, a means of gaining a broader international presence—one element in the quest for autonomy. The importance of ICT in the Mouride capital and within the brotherhood make these technologies a barometer of social change in Senegal. Moreover, the technologies facilitate understanding of a cultural project that is both endogenous and universalist.

The ICT revolution provides the opportunity, a priori, to break away from global inequality. This is particularly true in light of the steadily diminishing cost of ICT occurring precisely at a time when their strategic and social importance in Senegal is growing. The Mourides have taken on ICT in quite a remarkable way, integrating them in the functioning and promotion of their religious message. Photography, radio, television, telephone and the Internet convey a distinct Mouride iconography around the world and allow for the construction and dissemination of socio-religious codes, which have now resulted in an identity that cries out for recognition.

In this regard, two major Mouride sub-groups are gaining greatly from these developments. They are made up of a corps of merchants whose resources are partly responsible for supporting the marabout class and who have adopted ICT—particularly the telephone but, increasingly, computers and the Internet—to enhance their activities. The world of information and communications plays a role not only in making them aware of their strength, but also in diversifying their sources of revenue. The nouveaux riches of these groups are those who have profited from the boom in cellular telephones and in imported electronics and computer products.

The other sub-group that is gaining new life from internationalization and from the adoption of ICT consists of the religious associations (dahiras), which are now developing a transnational and universalist vision. They have grasped the challenge of disseminating Cheikh Ahmadou Bamba’s message in a world of deeply held beliefs. After conquests on the rural, urban and international fronts, the Internet has become the new, promising territory—one from which they can draw profit, while at the same time disseminating their ideology and practices. In this respect, scientific output is reinterpreted to provide content for websites aimed at developing links among the faithful.

The adoption of ICT by Mourides from every walk of life is helping to make Touba—their “ideal” city, their pilgrimage city-of-the-dead, their market city—a telecommunication pole that is increasingly influencing national and international forces.

Cheikh Gueye is Urban Policy Officer at the Executive Secretariat for Co-ordination, Enda (Environmental Development Action in the Third World), Dakar, Senegal.

  • Publication and ordering details
  • Pub. Date: 1 May 2003
    Pub. Place: Geneva
    ISSN: 1020-8216
    From: UNRISD