On Technology In Developing Nations

Greg Galitzine : Greg Galitzine's VoIP Authority Blog
Greg Galitzine

On Technology In Developing Nations

Those of us who report on high-tech in the developed world often take for granted the role technology can play in developing nations. I recently came across an interesting case study from UNRISD, a United Nations agency dedicated to studying the social aspects of developing nations; in this particular instance the report focused on information and communications technology and its role in the Western African nation of Senegal. While not directly related to my usual fare of VoIP and related next-gen telecom news, I thought I would share this case study in the hopes of generating some thinking on the function that technology in general, and communications technology specifically, might play in the development of third-world countries.

If you have any insight or story ideas or questions on this matter, feel free to post a comment (see below).

The United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD), a UN agency devoted to researching the social dimensions of contemporary problems affecting development, carried out an extensive overview of information and communication technology (ICT) in Senegal.

Senegal was chosen due to its position as a country struggling to recover from a serious economic crisis, yet has progressive policies aimed at promoting mass access to telephone and Internet technologies.

The goal of the research was to find out what recent changes in government control over the media mean for the development of independent radio and television, and to what extent can and does information and communication technology play in improving the climate for economic growth, social welfare and democracy in Senegal?

The studies commissioned by UNRISD focused on the main sectors of Senegalese society: government, media and business, and services such as health and education. The findings reveal that despite progressive policies surrounding the development of a telecommunication infrastructure, the use of ICT in these major sectors have proved to be problematic under both state and private ownership.

One reason for this is that the government itself is not a vanguard user of computers. ICT use in health and large businesses is also limited, possibly due to problems with electricity supply and cost of Internet connection. Even the newly independent media companies, considered pioneers in their dissemination of uncensored information and use of mobile phones, make surprisingly little use of Internet-connected computers in their daily operations. Further, a culture of information control and a fear of viruses and hacking discourage more widespread use of the Internet.

Despite the seemingly inefficient use of access to the Internet, research does reveal an encouraging picture of Senegalese society as a whole. There has been an explosion of telephone use, and to a lesser extent Internet use, as well as strong interest in interaction with independent media. All these factors allow for the development of microenterprises, local languages, and of transparency, accountability and democracy in the country.

Policy Implications and Conclusions
In terms of development policy and practice, UNRISD research indicates that the “big players” in Senegal are not capable of providing the impetus that will transform Senegalese economy and society, or their relative position in the world economy.

The research also concludes that there is not just one “information society,” Senegal has proved this by adapting to the information age and on its own unique way. These dynamics need to be well understood before development funding is directed toward attempts to steer emerging trends in particular social or economic directions. Failure to do this can lead to public investment unwittingly building barriers and closing opportunities, rather than the contrary.

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I need detail information on the role of information technology in developing nation

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