Developing Country Perspective on Women's ICT Adoption

Developing Country Perspective on Women's ICT Adoption

Annemijn van Gorp (The Pennsylvania State University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59904-939-7.ch009
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The explosive growth of information and communication technologies has become a worldwide phenomenon. However, merely countries in the West as well as a growing number of countries in Southeast Asia have become largely connected, whereas the majority of people in the developing world have not yet been able to take advantage of the new opportunities ICTs provide. Especially in developing countries, Internet access remains a luxury of small groups of elites, and even the use of old-fashioned telephone lines remains a luxury for a minority of the people. While the lack of availability of technological infrastructure looms large, the basic lack of education and technical skills impedes further potential for the large-scale adoption of ICTs (e.g., Cawkell, 2001). The opportunities of ICTs are commonly discussed in terms of business opportunities—as a means to enhance economic competitive position at either the level of the firm, region, or nation. This entails a narrow scope. ICTs have the ability to enhance the quality of life in a broader sense as they have the potential to improve interpersonal communication, and moreover could allow for the social and political empowerment of ordinary people (e.g., Hafkin & Taggart, 2001). This implies a direct downside as well: Those people with significant access to ICTs and thus information resources are in a position to increase their control over social, political, and economic arenas, making nonusers further marginalized and excluded from not only economic life, but social and political life as well (e.g., Cawkell, 2001; Morales-Gomez & Melesse, 1998). In this regard, Forestier, Grace, and Kenny (2002) have found that, historically, telecommunications rollout has actually increased inequality because only the wealthy can afford implementation and use. Nevertheless, the authors also find that both telephony and Internet access could be a force for the convergence of incomes and widespread improvements in quality of life in the future, as costs of ICTs are decreasing and hence access becomes a possibility for the poor as well. Nevertheless, in the case of the Internet, the absence of policy initiatives with regard to access coverage, training, and content development aimed specifically at the poor make it likely that this new technology will also be a force for further income divergence like telecommunications rollout has traditionally been (Forestier et al., 2002).

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