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Information and Communication Technologies for Development and Poverty Reduction: The Potential of Telecommunications

Information and Communication Technologies for Development and Poverty Reduction: The Potential of Telecommunications

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The IT revolution made some glorious promises to the world's poor: instant access to information and far-flung markets, political empowerment, greater growth, even the possibility that countries could leapfrog entire stages of development. But when none of that happened in a hurry, the hoopla gave way to concern that rather than closing the wealth gap, IT was exacerbating it.

Yet for all the international debate and millions of words written about the digital divide, very little systematic empirical research or studies over time have been done to confirm claims and counterclaims and to guide policymakers on how this technology actually affects the development of low-income countries.

In this volume, Maximo Torero and Joachim von Braun seek to address this omission with a collection of case studies exploring the relationship between information and communication technologies (ICTs) and development in Bangladesh, China, India, Ghana, Laos, Peru, and East Africa.

Their conclusion is that yes, ICTs do have potential to serve and empower the poor by linking them to commercial and social networks, cutting transaction costs, and making the delivery of public goods like education and healthcare more efficient. But these benefits can accrue only when the supporting infrastructure is in place and when ICT policies take into account not only questions of connectivity but also of capability (how to help poor people use the new tools) and of content (what is relevant and in what form). All three c's are critical. Without coherent strategies and the right regulatory policies there is the very real likelihood that scarce resources will be misallocated and that ICT-induced growth will remain elusive.

Contributors: Abdul Bayes, Arjun Bedi, Romeo Bertolini, Shyamal K. Chowdhury, Virgilio Galdo, K. Lal, Francis A.S.T. Matambalya, Maja Micevska, Dietrich Mueller-Falcke, Gi-Soon Song, Maximo Torero, Joachim von Braun, Wensheng Wang, and Susanna Wolfe, Gi-Soon Song, Maximo Torero, Joachim von Braun, Wensheng Wang, Susanna Wolf.