Accessing ICT Enabled Content in Low-Income Countries: Think Big, Start Small, and Scale Up

Accessing ICT Enabled Content in Low-Income Countries: Think Big, Start Small, and Scale Up

Solomon Negash (Kennesaw State University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/jicte.2010100105
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Abstract

While the digital revolution has transformed the way many of us work and live, more than half the world’s population lives in rural areas that have been shut-out of the digital transformation. Low-income countries have yet to realize the benefits from the digital revolution; therefore, a need exists for innovative and alternative models to overcome the lack of access to knowledge and learning. This paper examines the challenges faced by low-income countries in accessing ICT enabled content and proposes a Big-Small model where low-income countries can harness the ICT revolution. This paper concludes with a discussion on sustainability and future research directions.
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Introduction

Access to content is the right to knowledge access (Rossini, 2007). Prior research indicates that ICT investment increases growth dividend (Roller & Waverman, 2001), facilitates economic growth (Waverman, Meschi, & Fuss, 2005), combats poverty (Calderon & Serven, 2004), and promotes expansion in economic activities (World Bank, 1991). ICT is also touted as a means for low-income countries to leapfrog out of their economic predicament (Murthy, 2001). Much of the literature available about ICTs in a development context focuses on the digital divide. The emergence of the ‘digital divide’ (Brown, 2000) reflected the social and economic imbalance between high and low income countries.

In considering the digital divide, issues of access and connectivity are often the first level of focus. However, there are at least four dimensions of the digital divide – an information divide due to some people’s inability to gain access to online information due to demographic characteristics; a skills divide related to computer specific capabilities; an economic opportunity divide related to the inability to receive training, education or employment opportunities; and a demographic divide related to certain people’s inability to participate in electronic offerings (Molla & Al-jaghoub, 2007; Mossberger et al., 2003). This study focuses on skills and economic opportunity divide. Innovation in low-income countries can be hampered by the multi-prong challenges of the digital divide including access to the Internet, ICTs, and content (Rossini, 2007). These challenges are also highlighted by the World Bank Findings as the three pillars of the ICT revolution: connectivity, capacity, and content (Parakash, 2003).

The literature, when discussing low-income (developing) countries, includes countries like Brazil, China, India, and Mexico. Many of these countries have affordable Internet connectivity similar to high-income countries. Telephone rates are inversely correlated to content access, i.e., digital content is less accessible when telecommunication costs are high.

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