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 9: Universal Access to Information Technology in Developing Countries

Jeffrey James

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


______________________________________________________________ INTRODUCTION There is now widespread recognition of the fact that in order to spread the benefits of information and communications technologies (ICTs) to the majority of those living in developing countries, other mechanisms need to be found than providing such technologies to each and every household. For, although average income levels in the developed countries are generally such as to make the household a realistic target of policy, this is certainly not the case in the vast majority of developing countries where household income levels are substantially lower and far below the cost of acquiring most of the new technologies. From a policy perspective, this recognition suggests that the developed country goal of serving all potential demand should shift to the more modest objective of bringing these technologies within reach of the population at the community level.1 And among the new technologies, telecommunications have received perhaps the most attention in this regard and the following quotation well illustrates the shift in focus in this sector from the level of the individual household to the level of the community as a whole. Thus: For telecommunications to aid the wider development of poorer countries, special concern must be given to providing general access, issues which are quite different from the developed world where a majority have access to telephones. While universal service (a telephone in every home) will not be achievable in most countries soon, a realistic goal is to work for universal access, where a useable telephone is within reach of...

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