The Social and Economic Impact of Information and Communication Technology on Developing Countries: An Analysis

Article excerpt

The international development community is beginning to stress the role of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) as an enabler of broad-based social and economic development. This has given rise to efforts to utilize ICT to achieve a variety of development objectives, including poverty reduction, extension of health services, expansion of education opportunities, and access to government services. More specifically, ICT is a key to economic development on the national and individual level, by improving developing countries' positions in the global economy and raising individual levels of income. This analysis indicates that ICT has a positive impact on growth in developing countries, both socially and economically. Furthermore this analysis concluded that in order for such benefits to follow from ICT, developing countries must invest in both education and infrastructure; that without such investment ICT will not have the benefits it has the potential to deliver to such countries.

Introduction

Information and communication technologies (ICT) offer major opportunities to developing countries. New technologies can play an important role in accelerating economic growth, promoting sustainable local development and reducing poverty.

The objective of this paper is to document how information and communication technology is increasing the participation of developing nations in global e-commerce and in turn offering an optimistic outlook of economic growth and societal improvements.

The influence of technological modernization and its subsequent social and economic effect in the following areas will be reviewed:

- Workforce Participation and Education

- Healthcare

- Agriculture

- Mobile Communications

- Government

We will focus on the opportunities, challenges and recent impact that information technology has had on developing countries in three separate world regions: South America, Sub-Sahara Africa and South/East Asia.

Economic status of developing countries

Developing countries are in general countries which have not achieved a significant degree of industrialization relative to their populations. In most cases, a developing country will have a medium to low standard of living.

Statistics from the CIA World Factbook database show a strong correlation between low GDP per capita, Unemployment and high population growth (Table 1).

There are many reasons why developing countries are in their position. These reasons could include political corruption, civil unrest and famine or disease. The lack of education, infrastructure and proper medical care combined with rapid growth in population are the main negative drivers. However, ICT offers a glimpse of hope for these countries to improve their social and economic conditions. Given that these countries have an insufficient capital base for needed investment, and through increasing population or deteriorating environmental conditions, the pace of growth and improvement will be very smlow on a per capita basis.

Implementation Issues

Before developing countries can gain from the technology boom some substantial issues must be addressed. These issues can be categorized as follows:

Social Institutions - Language, Cultures and Customs

In the global economy the goal of business is to sell or service customers over the largest area possible. To perform in this environment, the type of language spoken will have an impact on what types of programs canbe implemented, what target market will be chosen and how business is transacted. If a country does not have a language that is globally prominent, such as English, decisions on how product training should be performed or what translations should be used in user manuals will have to be well thought out. Within some countries, the development of business relationships outside the family, tribal community or ethnic class could determine what direction to proceed. …