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 10: The Human Development Report 2001 and Information Technology for Developing Countries: An Evaluation

Jeffrey James

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

Extract

______________________________________________________________ INTRODUCTION The major theme of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) (2001) version of the Human Development Report is that new technologies can and should be enlisted in the pursuit of growth and poverty alleviation in the Third World. Since innovations in information technology (IT) comprise one of the most important of these new technologies, the contents of the report fit in well with and make a valuable contribution to the ongoing debate on how the digital divide between rich and poor countries can best be overcome. One major prerequisite, which is rightly emphasized in various parts of the report, is that many of the new technologies (in microelectronics as, indeed, in other areas of innovation) will need to be adapted specifically to the needs of the latter rather than the former countries. For example, we find the general argument that: Tapping the potential of these new technologies will depend on adaptations to the conditions in developing countries, especially for poor users. Much will depend on innovations - technological, institutional and entrepreneurial - to create low-cost, easy to use devices and to set up access through public or market centres with affordable products (ibid., 2001, p. 33). And with specific regard to the cost of Internet access via ITs, the same point is emphasized in the report’s view that: The World Wide Web is too expensive for millions of people in developing countries, partly because of the cost of computers that are the standard entry point to the Web: in...

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