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 5: Low-cost Computing and Related Ways of Overcoming the Global Digital Divide

Jeffrey James

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


INTRODUCTION ‘The single pervasive theme of the 21st century’, according to one observer: has already been decided. It is the Digital Divide and whether it can be bridged. Seldom has a potential social malaise engaged so many minds everywhere at the same time. It is as if concerned people around the world have simultaneously decided not only that the problem should be solved but that it actually can be. Everyone is getting in on the act, from the United Nations and the Group of Eight at the top, to university departments and community groups at the other end of the scale (Keegan, 2000). Our purpose in this chapter is not to add yet another opinion to the debate on whether the digital divide between rich and poor countries can or cannot be bridged. Our goal is rather to focus on the role that low-cost information technology (IT) can play in helping to bridge this gap. We do not attempt, however, to encompass all forms of IT, partly because one of them, telecommunications, has already been extensively debated from this point of view under the headings, for example, of low-earth-orbiting (LEOs) satellites, wireless local loop (WLL) technologies, mobile phones and undersea cables.1 What have received much less systematic attention, by contrast, are the various ways in which low-cost computers and other related devices can help to bridge the digital divide by enabling developing countries to gain greater access to the Internet and the World Wide Web. In seeking to describe these...

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