Chapter 3: The Global Information Infrastructure Revisited
INTRODUCTION In a recent article in Third World Quarterly Linda Main (2001) points to two opposing scenarios regarding the impact of the Internet on inequality between rich and poor countries. On the one hand, ‘The hope has arisen that this internet ... will ultimately evolve into a Global Information Infrastructure (GII). The vision is that the GII will enable a massive accelaration of economic and social development that will narrow the poverty gap and eliminate many of the geographic obstacles to prosperity and equality’ (ibid., 85). On the other hand, however, given the tendency of the Internet to concentrate activity in one particular group, ‘there is a real risk that we are moving towards a two-tier technology society that perpetuates the old distinctions between North and South’ (ibid., 83). Which of these scenarios is the more likely depends, as Main rightly points out, on the availability to developing countries of the technological infrastructure that the Internet requires. In this regard, however, she focuses almost exclusively on just two types of enabling technologies, namely, undersea cable systems and satellites. And in so doing, we argue, she neglects a wide range of other forms of IT that - on account of their low cost - may enable at least some developing countries to lessen the digital divide that separates them from the advanced countries. The purpose of this chapter, accordingly, is to describe these other technologies and on the basis thereof to suggest that there may, indeed, be more hope than Main allows...
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