“No chip history” in Mexican telecommunication reform: historiography-ethnography intersections


From 1999 until 2002 I was engaged as a consultant in the telecommunication industry in Mexico. Part of the appeal, I was told by my Mexican colleagues, was that I was a trusted third-party consultant who, because I was Australian, did not carry the American “chip,” even though I was employed by an American consulting firm. It is striking that the history of communication industries is rarely told from the first-person perspective of knowledge experts, acting as consultants, who can be benignly characterized as problem identifiers and public policy advisors, visiting from outside the developing nations to which they are offering solutions. In such an untold history, consultants like me are drawn from the first world, engaged in business negotiations with one objective – the deployment of rent seeking, profit maximizing US networked technologies. The indigenous response is not always to fall into line with US priorities. Rarely is the story told of how globalization has been enacted through digital technologies from “the inside,” nor the points of resistance therein. Given such a silence, an ethnography of telecommunications and its contribution to global transformation within neo-liberal reforms, could add to the critical history of communication. In proposing an ethnography of telecommunication consulting, answers to how specific actions are taken by “clients” can be more effectively elaborated for use in critical interventions. Questions about how consultants’ actions expand or impede human capabilities due to the application of advanced telecommunications are important to ask, in order that the historiography be elaborated within a model that acknowledges subjective considerations. Such questions inform and enhance critical Science and Technology Studies for democratic public policy making. The theme of the paper reflects the IAMCR China 2020 theme: it is relevant in offering an ethnography of consulting that foregrounds elements of respect for “The South” and development in consulting.