The Internet and Socio-economic development

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					The Internet and Socio-economic
          development

                          By
                     Kelly Kabiru
    16th – 17th June 2005, UNEP, Nairobi, Kenya
         Project on the development of National Legal Databases on Environmental Low information in Africa
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                                                                                                                           Agenda

• Development and the role of information.
• The Internet as a tool for socio-economic development.
• Key policy implications of Internet diffusion and usage.




                       Project on the development of National Legal Databases on Environmental Low information in Africa
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                                                                                                                       Introduction

The importance of expanding access to the Internet has been recognised by
governments and ICT should be regarded as strategic national
infrastructure.

Improved communication infrastructure and network can lead to improved
economic productivity, governance, and education, health and quality of
life.




                   Project on the development of National Legal Databases on Environmental Low information in Africa
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                                                                                                                           Challenges

• Internet density in most African countries is very dismal.

• The value of ICT to one grappling with day-to-day problems of poverty
  and hunger is obviously not at the top of their list.

• Poor financial, technical and human resources in developing countries can
  perpetuate dependency to developed countries for equipment and
  expertise.




                       Project on the development of National Legal Databases on Environmental Low information in Africa
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                                                        Trends in development
                                                                       thinking
  Behind every policy intervention lies some theoretical assumptions, either
  overt or covert, about the nature of development.
• Development as an evolutionary process – that developing countries will
  follow the path of developed countries.
   – Countries unable to realise growth due to increased poverty, growing
       debt, environmental damage, etc.
   – Causes of underdevelopment include:
        • Ability of developing society to make decisions within the prevailing
          international power structure.
        • Empowering the poor with basic needs for human development.
• The neo-populist approach – Countries will follow their own development
  path. Case in point Tanzania – African Socialism.

                       Project on the development of National Legal Databases on Environmental Low information in Africa
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                                 Internet as a challenge for
                                       developing countries

• “Information” is being projected as the “engine” of development and as
  such policies that govern information sharing should be promoted.

• The achievement of more sustainable, equitable forms of human
  development does not depend on the existence of Internet connection alone
  but the acquisition and usage of information and knowledge i.e. the role of
  knowledge in promoting socio-economic development.




                      Project on the development of National Legal Databases on Environmental Low information in Africa
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                      Internet usage in developing
                              countries – key issues
• Economic productivity & infrastructure development – Though commercial
  connections are the fastest growing compound of the Internet today, there is
  evidence to suggest that the return on investment (ROI) in ICT in developing
  countries is poor.
• Health – The increase in the number of sites concerned with health matters in
  Africa is a step in the right direction for long-term socio-economic
  development.
• Education – Though e-learning has been earmarked as especially relevant
  in developing countries, the process is capital intensive and may lead to the
  exclusion of the mass of the population.
• Poverty alleviation – What is of importance goes beyond connectivity or
  access to knowledge, but whether relevant knowledge is disseminated.

                      Project on the development of National Legal Databases on Environmental Low information in Africa
                                                                                                                          7
                     Internet usage in developing
                             countries – key issues

• Empowerment of marginalised groups – The Internet provides a channel
  for the marginalised groups to express themselves.

• Democracy – The prevalence of democratic institution in a country is
  considered a key criterion for socio-economic development. However the
  freedom of expression via the Internet poses a serious dilemma for
  authoritarian regimes.




                     Project on the development of National Legal Databases on Environmental Low information in Africa
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                                                  The Role of the Internet

• Creating knowledge – Includes the development of networks for indigenous
  knowledge in vernacular language.
• Dissemination of knowledge – Government policy for the dissemination of
  externally and internally generated knowledge needs to be reviewed
  continuously. Attention should be given to:
   – Openness of global knowledge flow
   – ICT standards
• Human resource development – Capacity building in ICT in developing
  countries should be of national importance.



                     Project on the development of National Legal Databases on Environmental Low information in Africa
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                                                                                                                           Conclusion
Governments in developing nations need to make special effort in addressing these
issues through policies that give the poor better access to knowledge on the Internet,
and the skills to make use of it.

The success of the Internet should be measured less in terms of sheer numbers of
connected individuals and more in terms of accessibility and contribution to social
progress.

The beneficial use of the Internet demand investment in underlying technical
infrastructure and also in social infrastructure and skills to use the technology n a
way that is compatible with local culture and abilities.




                       Project on the development of National Legal Databases on Environmental Low information in Africa
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