Monday, January 05, 2004


I recently (12/31/03) wrote recommending the e-Transition metaphor being used by the e-Development group of the World Bank. I want to extend the thoughts on that metaphor.

Nations receiving development assistance are in the process of many transitions. These transitions differ from country to country. Some of the more critical are likely to be:
· From poverty to affluence;
· From low economic productivity to higher economic productivity;
· From agricultural to industrial to information economies;
· From exchange or planned economies to market economies;
· From rural to more urban living;
· From Communism to free-market, democratic political systems;
· From economic, political or environmental crises to stability;
· From coercive or repressive government to freedom;
· From emphasis on domestic to emphasis on export production;
· From relatively closed to relatively open societies;
· From traditional culture to participation in global culture.

Nations are seeking to transform their primary, secondary and tertiary industrial sectors, their political systems, and other social and cultural systems.

The e-Transition does not stand alone – it takes place within the context of all these other transitions. Indeed, many of these other transitions are almost certainly more likely to influence the nature and speed of the e-Transition, than the e-Transition is to influence them. Nations which are not making economic, social and political progress are not likely to be making the e-Transition that the World Bank seeks to promote! Moreover, we know that the economic development and openness of a society are strong predictors of its ICT infrastructure, and we can infer that they are strong predictors of the stage that society has reached in its e-transition.

Thus the e-Transition metaphor leads naturally to planning and evaluating ICT for Development efforts within the context of the larger social and economic transitions taking place within and among nations. This seems a very productive direction for thought! It is a direction that complements, but goes beyond the growing literature on e-readiness. It is also a direction that will require considerable wisdom and energy to master and carry into effective development efforts.

It seems that one might well focus on the overall situation of a country and the directions its development efforts are taking in planning ICT for Development programs. A first decision is whether that development situation justifies ICT4D investments at all. Then one might think about the key areas for ICT4D investments to contribute to overall social and economic development – which sectors, which economic, political and social systems; which institutions? Where are ICT4D interventions likely to be most effective in overcoming constraints and enabling efforts to social and economic development. And what kinds of policies and strategic initiatives are likely to promote ICT4D interventions of these kinds?

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