Sunday, August 21, 2005

"Information and Communication Technology, Poverty, and Development in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia"

The full Working Paper

Abstract: "The objectives of the paper are: to examine patterns of utilization, ownership and affordability of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) and South Asia; to discuss applications of ICTs to the poor by the private sector, the Government and external donors; and to suggest ways in which ICTs can best be used in poverty alleviation strategies. The paper finds that SSA and South Asia have the lowest access to ICTs resources. There are two critical access gaps, between urban and rural areas, and between the poorest and the richest 20% of the population. For their infornation needs, the poor rely mostly on the informal networks that they trust, such as family, friends and local leaders. By contrast, formal sources of infonnation, such as NGOs, newspapers or politicians, are less trusted and used. The new forms of ICTs, including Internet, fax and computers, have touched only some 2% of low-income households, mostly in urban areas. Evidence indicate that in a sufficiently competitive and liberalized market the private sector is most effective in providing commercially viable communications services, even in rural or less viable areas; Government-led initiatives have mixed results; externally funded initiatives have potential benefits but also several drawbacks in terms of financial as well as technological sustainability. The paper proposes the following principles for using ICTs in poverty alleviation strategies: i) information is a dynamic process of acquisition and use; ii) the effective use of information by the poor may be constrained by lack of skills, financial resources and the existence of urban/rural, gender and other inequities; iii) the effectiveness of ICTs must be assessed along with existing information systems; iv) ICTs must focus on areas where complementary investment has already been built and encourage the participation of the communities and of the poor; v) long term strategies for ICT diffusion must be centered around integrating ICTs into wider educational programs." Miria Pigato, World Bank Africa Region Working Paper Series No. 20, August 2001. (PDF, 82 pages.)

No comments: