Bridging the Global Digital Divide

Bridging the Global Digital Divide

Jeffrey James

Employing a rigorous analytical framework, the author bases his analysis on the concept of international technological dualism. He argues that one possible solution to the problem is the availability of affordable technologies, such as low-cost computers, which are specifically designed for the income levels and socio-economic conditions of developing countries. He also emphasises that the most important aim of any policy measure should be to provide universal access to information technologies, rather than individual ownership. Depending on whether or not this divide can be bridged will, to a large degree, determine whether developing countries are able to attain higher levels of productivity, prosperity and global integration.

Chapter 2: The Digital Divide between Nations as International Technological Dualism

Jeffrey James

Subjects: development studies, development economics, economics and finance, development economics, innovation and technology, technology and ict


INTRODUCTION More than 30 years ago, Hans Singer (1970) introduced the concept of international technology dualism, by which he meant essentially unequal developments in the area of science and technology, between rich and poor countries. In this chapter we suggest, first, that Singer’s analysis remains highly relevant to our understanding of the technological relationships between these countries and we suggest, furthermore, that the so-called digital divide in the global economy is a reflection of the same basic forces that give rise to international technological dualism.1 Indeed, it appears that in certain key areas IT may even strengthen these forces and thereby accentuate still further the problems described originally by Singer. First, however, let us examine in some detail precisely what he meant by the concept. INTERNATIONAL TECHNOLOGICAL DUALISM In essence, what Singer (1970) identified was a ‘process of scientific and techno-logical advance’ that ‘in all its stages - basic research, applied research and blueprinting - has been heavily concentrated in the richer countries’ (p. 62). Indeed, according to Singer: The best estimate we can make at the present time is that measuring the distribution of advance by the distribution of inputs in the form of research and development expenditures, we find that 70 per cent of world expenditure is in the U.S., 25 per cent in Europe, and 2 per cent in the less developed countries (ibid., p. 62). The acute inequality of global research and development (R&D) expenditures thus identified: would not matter if the direction of advance,...

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