Academic journal article International Journal of Education and Development using Information and Communication Technology

Beyond Access to ICTs: Measuring Capabilities in the Information Society

Academic journal article International Journal of Education and Development using Information and Communication Technology

Beyond Access to ICTs: Measuring Capabilities in the Information Society

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

This article discusses some development paradigms linked to the idea of an information society and explains how information and communication technologies (ICTs) are seen as a means to development. The article also looks at the concept of a 'digital divide' and the universal access to ICT policies that are meant to address the problem. It elaborates on the limitations of how current policies address issues related to how people gain access to and use ICTs. Finally, the article proposes a model for applying Sen's capability approach to analyze access to ICTs impact on development.

Keywords: Sen's capability approach; information society; universal service; universal access;

INTRODUCTION

The world is said to have entered the age when information is central to technology, economy, work, space, and culture. Thus, with the advent of the information age, people argue that an information society is at hand (Webster 2002). One concern regarding this development is how to make it more inclusive.

In the World Summit on the Information Society, representatives of governments and civil society organizations coming from 175 countries declared their:

"... common desire and commitment to build a people-centred, inclusive and development-oriented Information Society, where everyone can create, access, utilize, and share information and knowledge, enabling individuals, communities and peoples to achieve their full potential in promoting their sustainable development and improving their quality of life" (WSIS 2003, p. 1).

It is understandable, therefore, that governments want to make sure that they are not left out of the opportunities associated with the information society (Lallana 2004). However, before governments proceed to developing plans and strategies for the information society, it is important to investigate the underlying development theories behind it.

This article sets out to discuss: first, some development paradigms linked to the idea of an information society; second, the concept of information and communication technologies as a means to development; third, the concept of a 'digital divide' that focuses on the lack of access to information and communication technologies (ICTs) among segments of society; fourth, policies on bridging this divide through universal access to ICTs; and finally, the limitations of how these policies address issues related to how people gain access to and use ICTs.

The second part of the article then discusses how Sen's capability approach, which addresses some of the limitations of these other paradigms, can be used to analyze universal access to ICTs and its impact on development.

Modernization, globalization, and the information society

The idea of the 'information society' can be linked to the ideas of modernization and globalization. The ideology of modernization explains how societal development must go through a series of stages, with each phase having a different technological base of production. In an information society that base would be information technology. Furthermore, in the process of increased globalization, economies of the world have become more integrated whereby information technology plays a major role in it (Odedra-Straub & Straub 1995).

As such, in both perspectives, information technologies play a part in development: with modernization, it can be seen as a potential means to close the gap among nations (Goldstein & O'Connor 2000); with globalization, it is viewed as an important component for nations to participate in the economic process (Odedra-Straub & Straub 1995, UNDP 2001).

However, these development perspectives have been questioned. The dependency paradigm, in particular, holds the view that development in one country implies underdevelopment in another, and that this is implicit in the nature of capitalism (Nulens 2000). This has also led others to question the type of 'development' governments aspire for, especially since modernization is a Western concept. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.