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A strategy for sustainable and equitable ICT deployment

After consideration of existing digital divides and the potential risks of ICT,
LKYSPP recommends six intervention points aimed to spreading benefits of ICT. This pushes a holistic picture of ICT that includes policies, tech infrastructure, and tech literacy. Small and medium enterprises and civil society groups have shown the way.

The Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy writes,

First, the governments of developing countries need to be educated about how ICT and technology investments can be disproportionately captured by specific economic groups and how this can create parallel economies and maldevelopment.

Second, investment into appropriate ICT technologies with the potential for mass uptake and affordable to the rural and urban poor needs to be encouraged.

Third, small- and medium-size private sector interests have shown the way forward in terms of calibrating the appropriate ICT technologies with mass-market utilisation. Helping policymakers develop the appropriate investment and regulatory modalities to encourage more of this investment is essential if Asia’s poor are to enjoy the economic opportunities provided by ICT.

Fourth, regulations on foreign direct investment should be liberalised to create incentives for providers to supply rural areas with affordable ICT solutions.

Fifth, mobile phones are the most commonly used ICT tool in developing countries — especially in rural areas. Investments in mobile telephony and universal coverage is critical...

Sixth, education on how to use ICT is crucial. Intervention points designed around basic capacity building at the local level remain important for effective knowledge transfer and ICT utilisation.

Implications

This approach can help clear some misconceptions about ICT that so far have skewed development strategies.

LKYSPP writes,

"Ironically, most developing countries have opted for higherend ICT technologies, believing this will help to close the digital divide with developed countries. In the process, however, the relatively higher access and usage costs of this technology make it unaffordable to most rural populations, contributing to deepening domestic digital divides. Overcoming these domestic digital divides by calibrating the technology with affordability issues will prove the key for empowering rural communities and ensuring the externalities associated with ICT and widely and equitably distributed. Figure 4 suggests a means of calibrating ICT with specific modalities and usage that involve poor communities and where ICT applications can have their greatest positive impact."

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Sources:

LKYSPP Asian Trends Monitoring Bulletin, December 2010, pg 8-10:
http://newsletters.clearsignals.org/LKYSPP_Dec2010.pdf

The World Bank. 2010. Employment in agriculture (% of total employment). Retrieved from UNCTAD. 2005. ICT and e-business: what developing countries stand to gain. Issues in Brief, 11, 1-2.

Internet World Stats. 2010. Internet Usage in Asia. Retrieved 20 December 2010 from http://www.internetworldstats.com/stats3.htm

Jakarta Globe (2010a) SBY inaugurates ‘Blackout-Free’ Era. July 28. http://www.thejakartaglobe.com/business/sby-inaugurates-blackout-free-era/388131