Tecnologías de la Información y Comunicación para el Desarrollo (ICT4 development)

The beneficial results from the digital revolution are not evenly spread across the globe, with developed countries being far ahead in respect to the use of computers, Internet, mobile phone adoption, and telecommunications diffusion. This phenomenon is known as digital divide (Wijers, 2011).

To account for these discrepancies, the ITU (International Technology Union) has introduced the ICT (Information and Communication Technology) development Index (IDI)[1]. In spite of the divide, but still at a slower pace, developing countries (and specially emerging countries) are experiencing increased internet access, deeper penetration of telecommunications infrastructure (mobile and fixed lines, fiber optics, etc) and decreasing prices for computers and other technologies.

Deeply connected to this issue is the debate concerning the role of ICT in the development of low and medium income countries. Are these technologies any relevant for development? If so, why and to which extent? What are the impediments for such countries to reap the purported benefits?

Relevance

The discussion on what is meant by “development” is beyond the scope of this post, therefore it will adopt the approach proposed by (Ray, 1998), which sees development directly related to economic growth with other welfare indicators showing a strong correlation to this variable.

Taking into account this view, (GIZ, 2010) provides us with data published by (Qiang, 2009) on behalf of the World Bank relating the level of increase in the diffusion of selected technologies to the corresponding increase in GDP (Figure 1).

The figure clearly shows that 1) enhanced ICT infrastructure can be positively related to economic growth and 2) these technologies have a deeper impact for low and income as compared to high-income countries.

The difference of the relative ICT impact for the two different groups of countries lies on the fact that the productivity gains, better functioning of the markets, reduced transaction costs made possible by these technologies are more noticeable where there is much room for improvement, the case for developing countries (Qiang, 2009).

ICT also has macroeconomic impacts related to the level of employment and job creation, attraction of FDI (Foreign Direct investment), tax revenue, and improved export gains[2].

References

Wijers, G. (2011). The ICT Development Index and the digital divide: How are they related? Technological Forecasting & Social Change
Ray, D. (1998). Development Economics. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press
GIZ. (2010). The Impact of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) on Economic Growth and Development. Eschborn: Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit
Qiang, C. Z. (2009). Telecommunications and Economic Growth. World Bank

Notes

[1] The interested reader can refer to (GIZ, 2010) for detailed statistics on how ICT impacts these factors.

[2] IDI is composed of 11 indicators, related to ICT access, use and skills, such as households with a computer the number of Internet users and literacy levels.

ICT4 DevelopmentEsta publicación es una contribución de mi compañero de estudios, colega y gran amigo:

Harry Cruz da Freitas

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