Chapter 4: Low-cost Information Technology in Developing Countries: Current Opportunities and Emerging Possibilities
* INTRODUCTION There is general agreement in the international development community about the need to lessen the strikingly differential extent to which rich and poor countries are enjoying the benefits of information technology (IT), a differential that is often referred to as the digital divide. (Some authors argue, moreover, that this already deep divide is growing rather than diminishing over time; an assertion which, if correct, would have disturbing implications for the trend of income inequality between rich and poor countries).1 There is also considerable support for the view that if the digital divide is to be diminished to any significant degree, the countervailing policy package will need to incorporate low-cost versions of IT, rather than products designed for the higher average incomes prevailing in the developed countries (although, of course, there are many other requirements that will also have to be met). This policy requirement was clearly recognized, for example, in the summary report of the International Millennium Conference on IT and development held in India in 2000.2 In particular, the report recognizes that: While there have been very significant advances in telecom-related science in recent decades, most of these in developed countries have focussed on providing better services and greater bandwidth to the user at a constant cost which is affordable to most in these countries. The requirement in developing countries is, however, significantly different: to provide lower-cost basic access with a reasonable basket of important services such as Internet and voice communication. All the known techniques need...
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