Inequalities keep shifting as knowledge enters market

Published: Monday 31 March 2008

-- Down to Earth Information and communication technology (ict) determines growth. This includes cell phone, Internet and broadband service that aids rapid communication and trade

Down to Earth ict boosts productivity and efficiency in business. For example, Thailand had a 10 per cent rise in employees using computers which brought in 3.5 per cent higher productivity. Higher rate of access to ict is key to such growth, poor countries lag far behind the rich in access

Down to Earth The number of cell phone subscribers in developing countries has tripled in the past five years (mostly in China and India), forming 58 per cent of the subscribers worldwide. It is double the number of subscribers in rich economies. There is a wide gap in mobile phone penetration as well

Internet users Fast development;for whom?  
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Down to Earth In 2006, Internet availability in rich countries was six times higher than that in developing countries. Seven of the top 10 countries in terms of broadband penetration were in Europe. Only two, South Korea and Hong Kong, were from the developing world

Down to Earth Developed world might reach an average broadband penetration rate of 28 per cent in 2008 but developing countries are lagging at around 3 per cent

Down to Earth Several developing countries are expanding Internet use through policies to improve ict access and skills. This will increase competition and the availability of services at competitive prices and investments in ict infrastructure

Down to Earth ict is a fast changing market. It plays an important role in a competitive information economy. In 2004, exports between developing countries (south to south) exceeded those from developing to developed countries

Down to Earth Developing nations' share in export of services in ict is growing. China is the world's largest exporter of ict goods and India leads global sales of ict services. Foreign investment in the sector is growing in developing countries

The access,use and penetration of ICT is low in the developing world  
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Source 'Science and technology for development the new paradigm of ICT', United Nations Conference on Trade and Development's information economy report-2007-2008  
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Down to Earth ict is promoted to decrease inequalities in society due to its capacity to generate, assimilate, disseminate and use knowledge for sustainable growth. This hardly happens today since the information market has imperfections--social and private gains from knowledge can widely differ. Several governments are introducing measures like intellectual property rights (ipr) to check this but they must strike a balance between the social and individual benefits

Down to Earth However, measures like ipr restricts access to knowledge. This necessitates open access to ict, aiding effective transfer of knowledge and technology to developing countries. This gains importance when the developed world is privatizing, monopolizing and commercializing the knowledge industry

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