Media and Communication Ph.D. Dissertations


Reclaiming the “C” in ICT4D: A Critical Examination of the Discursive (Un)Freedoms in Digital State Policy and News Media of Bangladesh and Norway

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Communication Studies

First Advisor

Srinivas Melkote (Advisor)

Second Advisor

Lara Lengel (Committee Member)

Third Advisor

Kei Nomaguchi (Other)

Fourth Advisor

Clayton Rosati (Committee Member)

Fifth Advisor

Syed Shahin (Committee Member)


Digitalization becomes aggressively integrated into the policy agenda of modern nation-states arguably to accelerate their progress and impact democratization. Concurrently, digital surveillance is also growing worldwide. What happens to democracy when nation-states engage in such a paradoxical exercise of digitalization? This dissertation takes a fresh look at this problem in a transnational context and investigates the democratic implications of such digitalization practices. I examine the (un)changing development discourses within digital policy documents (N=41) and news articles (N=3,739) covering digitization in Bangladesh and Norway over 15 years (2003-2017). I specifically investigate the conceptual framing of three overarching elements of ICT4D — communication, technology, and development— using a new theoretical lens communication as critical freedom (CCF) that I propose uniting relevant works of Jurgen Habermas, Michell Foucault, and Amartya Sen. This inquiry explores how digital policy and news media discursively expand or limit democratization. An innovative mixed-method, computational-critical discourse analysis (C-CDA) is proposed and employed in doing the analysis, combining qualitative methods (i.e., critical discourse analysis) with computational techniques (i.e., LDA topic modeling). As the analyses suggest, Bangladesh and Norway advance a technocapital determinist logic of social change, which instrumentalizes “communication,” renders excessive agency to “technology,” and ultimately posits “development” as mere material progress. These nations’ digital policy and news reports scrutinized in this study seem to have been shaped mainly by a transnational discourse of neoliberal globalization, making Bangladesh a digital proletariat and Norway a digital bourgeoisie in the spectrum of global development. Moreover, both nations are forging cybersecurity discourse as a new technique of power that legitimizes digital surveillance and control. Hence, this study argues that digital policy and news media in Bangladesh and Norway are complicit in expanding a global digital empire through an ideology of technocapital determinism that limits democratic capabilities expansion. Aside from the contribution of a novel mixed-method and a critical theoretical lens, the findings of this research offer significant implications in reconfiguring the contemporary global digital agenda. Though the combination of qualitative and computational approaches provides in-depth insights, the inquiry is limited to textual evidence from policy documents and news reports in two nations. Future research might use social media data and other research methods (e.g., interviewing) to investigate how the public makes sense of digitalization and democracy in the 21st century.