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Visions of the Information Society:
A developing world perspective

C O N T E N T S   



There are two ways of looking at ICTs: as an instrument, and as an industry. As an instrument, affordable and usable ICTs can indeed transform the way societies work, entertain, study, govern and live - at the individual, organizational, sector, vocational and national levels. As an industry, ICTs represent a major growing economic sector covering hardware, software, telecom/datacom and consulting services.

Through both lenses - industry and instrument - the performance of developing nations lags that of developed nations, but interesting patterns of variation and pockets of excellence are emerging. For instance, countries like India and the Philippines have ICT industries that are exporting software and attracting outsourcing contracts - but they also have looming digital divides where ICTs are not accessible or affordable as instruments for a majority of the population.

This paper charts the industry and instrument aspects of ICTs in developing nations, using a comparative framework developed over the years by the author called the "8 Cs" of the digital economy (words beginning with the letter C): connectivity, content, community, commerce, culture, capacity, cooperation and capital (see below).


Table 1. The 8 Cs of the Information Society


ICTs as an instrument

ICTs as an industry


How affordable and widespread are ICTs (eg. PCs, Internet access, software) for the common citizen?

Does the country have ICT manufacturing industries for hardware, software, data communication solutions and services?


Is there useful content (foreign and local) for citizens to use in their daily lives?

Is content being generated in local languages and localised interfaces? Is this being accessed/used abroad?


Are there online/offline forums where citizens can discuss ICT and other issues of concern?

Is the country a hub of discussion and forums for the worldwide ICT industry?


Is there infrastructure (tech, legal) for e-commerce for citizens, businesses and government? How much commerce is transacted electronically?

Does the country have indigenous e-commerce technology and services? Are these being exported?


Do citizens and organisations have the human resources capacity (tech, managerial, policy, legal) to effectively harness ICTs for daily use?

Does the country have the human resources capacity (tech, managerial, policy, legal) to create and export ICTs?


Is there a forward-looking, open, progressive culture at the level of policymakers, businesses, educators, citizens and the media in opening up access to ICTs and harnessing them? Or is there nervousness and phobia about the cultural and political impacts of ICTs?

Are there techies, entrepreneurs and managers pro-active and savvy enough to create local companies and take them global?


Is there adequate cooperation between citizens, businesses, academics, NGOs and policymakers to create a favourable climate for using ICTs?

Is there a favourable regulatory environment in the country for creating ICT companies, M&A activity, and links with the diaspora population?


Are there enough financial resources to invest in ICT infrastructure and education? What is the level of FDI?


Is there a domestic venture capital industry; are they investing abroad as well? How many international players are active in the local private equity market? Are there stock markets for public listing?

For each of the above "8 Cs," the paper will identify trends, issues, potential, and examples in developing nations. Recommendations will be made for policymakers, ICT players, businesses, academics, civil society organizations, and individuals. A literature review will be provided (which will also cover the recent reports published by UNCTAD, ITU, UNDP, ITAA, Markle Foundation, and Digital Opportunity Task Force), and notable organizations addressing and acting on these issues will be identified.



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Updated : 2011-04-04