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 4: Low-cost Information Technology in Developing Countries: Current Opportunities and Emerging Possibilities

Jeffrey James

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


* INTRODUCTION There is general agreement in the international development community about the need to lessen the strikingly differential extent to which rich and poor countries are enjoying the benefits of information technology (IT), a differential that is often referred to as the digital divide. (Some authors argue, moreover, that this already deep divide is growing rather than diminishing over time; an assertion which, if correct, would have disturbing implications for the trend of income inequality between rich and poor countries).1 There is also considerable support for the view that if the digital divide is to be diminished to any significant degree, the countervailing policy package will need to incorporate low-cost versions of IT, rather than products designed for the higher average incomes prevailing in the developed countries (although, of course, there are many other requirements that will also have to be met). This policy requirement was clearly recognized, for example, in the summary report of the International Millennium Conference on IT and development held in India in 2000.2 In particular, the report recognizes that: While there have been very significant advances in telecom-related science in recent decades, most of these in developed countries have focussed on providing better services and greater bandwidth to the user at a constant cost which is affordable to most in these countries. The requirement in developing countries is, however, significantly different: to provide lower-cost basic access with a reasonable basket of important services such as Internet and voice communication. All the known techniques need...

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