Information And Co...

Information And Communication Technologies, Poverty And Development

Learning From Experience
This report was prepared for the December 2003 infoDev Symposium in the context of the Geneva phase of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS.) Its purpose is to provide a framework for thinking about ICTs, poverty, and development that could guide further analysis and future projects

The particular focus of this report is on our current understanding of the nature of poverty and the challenges of development, an analysis of how ICTs might address those challenges, and some tentative lessons drawn from our experience thus far. Therefore, this report includes information and analysis on a number of ICT-for-development initiatives, but its goal is to provide not a detailed checklist of what works but a roadmap for understanding what might work and why in specific circumstances, informed by the successes, and failures, of a variety of projects in recent years. Its focus, therefore, is on ICTs as means, not ends, as tools that enable desired changes — in the performance of institutions and markets, in the livelihoods of poor people and the vulnerabilities they face, in the capacity of individuals and governments — since it is these changes, not ICTs, that lead to poverty reduction and sustainable development. These outcomes — fewer people in poverty, more vibrant developing-country economies, more responsive government institutions, reduced disease and illiteracy, greater gender equality — are the ultimate measure of the value and impact of ICTs in development. ICT-focused measures such as the increase or decrease of the “digital divide” are at best proxies of these deeper changes, and at worst distractions from them.

The report concludes with general principles and priorities for action in harnessing ICTs as tools of development and poverty reduction. In general, the report is written not solely for ICT-for-development specialists, but for a broader audience of those working in development and interested in the role of ICTs. This reflects the overall message of the report: that the proper approach to harnessing ICTs for development and poverty reduction is to mainstream them as tools of, and subordinate them to, broader strategies and programs for building opportunity and empowering the poor.

Contents:

  • ICTs for Development: Time for a Sober Reassessment?
    • What Is a Digital Divide and How Do You Close It?
  • ICTs, Poverty and Development: Defining the Issues
    • Poverty Traps and Digital Divides
  • Learning from Experience
    • Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and ICTs
    • Networks, Thresholds, and ICTs
    • ICTs as Tools of Inequality? Power, Technology Rents, and Poverty
    • Information is Power, Sometimes. ICTs, Prices and Markets
    • Information Intermediaries and the Poor
    • Remittances, Labor Mobility and ICTs
    • e-Government: Some Caveats
    • ICTs and Information-rich Societies: The Role of the Media
    • Rural Access to ICTs – Combining Policy Pull and Technology Push
    • Telecenters: Learning from Failure
    • Getting Unwired: Are Wireless Networks the Answer for Developing Countries?
  • The Way Forward

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