Technology, Globalization and Poverty
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Technology, Globalization and Poverty

Jeffrey James

This significant book presents an original examination of the theoretical and empirical interactions between globalization, technology and poverty. Jeffrey James studies the effect of information technology on patterns of globalization and explores how such patterns can be altered to reduce the growing global divide between rich and poor nations.
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Chapter 5: Bridging the Digital Divide by Means of Low-Cost Information Technologies

Jeffrey James


INTRODUCTION Although there are many requirements that need to be met if the digital divide between rich and poor countries is to be narrowed, this chapter focuses on just one aspect of the problem, namely, the need for low-cost information technologies that are suitable to the conditions prevailing in the latter rather than the former. I argue that there are in fact already many more such technologies than most people realize, mainly because what information about them that does exist tends to be highly fragmented. What is needed, accordingly, is an institution charged with the function of registering and disseminating all the fragmentary information about low-cost information that is currently available. Few subjects nowadays are raised more frequently or with more urgency by leading international policy-making bodies than the ‘digital divide’ between rich and poor countries (that is, the strikingly differential extent to which various forms of information technology are being exploited by developed as opposed to developing countries, as illustrated for example in Table 5.1). And though they differ with regard to how best to undertake the task, all these bodies agree that the divide needs to be bridged. In his Millennium Report, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, for example, refers to the need for ‘Building digital bridges’ and he even goes so far as to suggest that ‘New technology offers an unprecedented chance for developing countries to Table 5.1 The digital divide (1998) Internet hosts per 10 000 people Low-income countries Middle-income countries High-income countries 0.1 4.0...

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