Leapfrogging the Digital Divide: Myth or Reality for Emerging Regions?

Leapfrogging the Digital Divide: Myth or Reality for Emerging Regions?

Kavitha Ranganathan (Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, India)
DOI: 10.4018/jicthd.2011100102
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The leapfrogging theory claims that instead of following the conventional digital trajectory set by the west, emerging regions can straightaway use cutting-edge technology to “leapfrog” the digital-divide. To explore the possibility of digital leapfrogging by an emerging region, this study looks at the three domains of hardware, software and connectivity. In each domain the default technology and its potential is evaluated as a digital inclusion tool while being juxtaposed with the latest “cutting-edge” alternative that could be used instead for “leapfrogging”. Three specific scenarios are developed in telephony, banking and the World Wide Web, which illustrate how a combination of these different technologies help emerging regions ‘leapfrog the digital divide.’ Finally, the paper suggests certain leapfrogging trajectories that ICT4D projects should explore.
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Hardware: The First Spoke

Traditional hardware used for computing has been the ubiquitous desktop. Many ‘ICT4D’ projects revolve around creating a “tele-center” which typically houses one or more desktops connected to the Internet. An entire village or multiple villages might share one such center. The government of India has embarked on a mammoth digital-inclusion project where more than 100,000 Common Services Centers (CSCs) (a typical tele-center,) are being established across the country, especially targeting rural areas (http://www.csc-india.org).

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