Information Technology for Poverty Reduction – Does It Really Works for the Poor? A Reality Check from Africa
The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) launched the
African Information Society Initiative (AISI) in May 1996, which serves
as a guiding framework for using information and communication
technologies (ICT) in Africa. Thus far over 30 countries in the
continent have embarked on the development of national ICT strategies
supported by ECA. One specific element of the ICT policy development
process is to use of ICT for poverty alleviation. The major question
arises is whether we are developing ICT for improving the lives of the
poor or developing ICT as another creamy layer in the society. In other
words whether we are creating another 'economic divide' in our rush to
bridge the 'digital divide'?
The SCAN-ICT programme of the ECA tries to look into this dimension of the emerging information technology driven society today in poor nations of Africa. It developed indicators and benchmarks for measuring the progress made through implementation of the ICT policies and the impact of the ICT applications in socio-economic development especially on poverty eradication.
This case study presents the results of the first phase of the SCAN-ICT (Ethiopia, Ghana, Morocco, Mozambique, Senegal, and Uganda) and tries to inform the ongoing debate on whether super specialized technologies really leap-frogs economic upliftment of the poor or delays their progress further by creating another barrier.