RFID-tagging of cattle in Botswana - abstract for a book chapter submitted

Cattle are not only central to traditional way of life for people in Botswana but constitute also the most important cash-generator for Botswana farmers. However, periodic outburst of Foot and mouth decease have posed a serious threat to the export of cattle, thus also to every faming household in Botswana. For this reason Botswana authorities  as early as 2001 started LINTS, a RFID-project tagging the country’s 3 million animals as a means for controlling the decease. This system required a massive introduction of various digital devices in order to survey cattle – apart from the RFID tags, readers and databases, the farmers need smart phones, tablets or computers are used to take part in the surveillance.

The regime has been a huge success. For the farmer the service in not only free, it is actually a precondition for getting free vaccines. Moreover, a very important side-effect of the implementation of RFID-surveillance is that cattle thefts have been reduced with more than 60%.

Read more about the LITS project here

In this coming publication Jo Helle-Valle & Ardis Storm-Mathisen will describe the development of this surveillance system, how it has been implemented in local communities, how the responses have been from Botswana farmers and how this success history have generated a massive growth in the acquiring and uses of various digital media. This is an instance of what in academia is termed mediatization, and our argument is that an understanding of mediatization requires specific cases as to see how it is spread and the effects it has. The technology, as a material fact, is important for understanding the societal changes but the dynamics and effects are not given in a general form and this chapter suggests that it is necessary to always anchor such innovations in their specific material, social and historical conditions in order to give a meaningful analysis of the development of mediatization.