Bringing development into the information age

As part of my effort to slowly but surely get an Master’s degree, I am taking some interesting courses in Development Theories. One of the papers I got the opportunity to write for one of the courses focused on how the information technology revolution is breaking some of the key principles that international development has been based upon.

In the paper I argued that there is a need for an information age enlightenment on how development countries should embrace technology advances to make better use of the information age.

I came up with the following eleven principles:

1. Fiscal openness — the easiest way to earn citizen’s trust in what the government is doing is through the transparency tools which the information age has brought. Governments are increasingly opening up the information about their inner workings (Bertot, Jaeger, & Grimes, 2010). A partnership to drive openness in government was launched in 2011 and in early 2014, 63 countries were participating in the Open Government Partnership (Open Government Partnership, 2014).

2. Crowdsourced anti-corrupt — the best way to combat corruption is by exposing it. Mobile enabled reporting by citizens is an easy tool to bring this to the surface in developing countries and there are already examples of this being done in countries like Kenya (Petursdottir, 2011).

3. Improved connectivity — the critical infrastructure in the information age is telecommunication connectivity. Governments must foster competition and availability of connectivity, especially in rural and remote areas.

4. Improved education — the most important form of capital and the most important resource in the information age is human capital. Even simple things like improving basic education in English are crucial for operating in the global economy (Chew, Ilavarasan, & Levy, 2010).

5. Embrace skills drainage — Availability of secondary and university education in developing countries creates opportunities for people from these countries to seek work outside of their home countries. These oversees workers normally will send remittances to their home countries to support their family (Alcid, 2005). For many middle-income countries this has become a crucial part of their economy and has hindered them from effects of global economic crisis (Ang & Jha, 2009).

6. Enable micro workers — organizations like Samasource have set up computer centers in a number of countries so that people can be employed through microtasking — performing simple human tasks that a computer can’t perform. While online microtasking platform pay, at best, $2-$3 per hour, then that wage is a competitive income for many people in regions of the world with low costs of living (Munro, 2010).

7. Enabling outsourcing — economies like India have flourished by taking on tasks which can be performed in remote locations due to improved communication technologies (Kshetri, 2009). While large outsourcing centers in urban areas in India get most of the attention, others, such as iMerit focus on bringing these opportunities to rural areas (Thorpe, 2013).

8. Enable remote workers — due to technological advances, people no longer need to work within the confines of their corporate headquarters (Fried & Hansson, 2013). Countries with low cost of living should therefore attract these remote workers. Their relatively high income will in large part be spent locally, causing an influx of foreign currency.

9. Simplify domestic financial transactions — people at the bottom of the pyramid, which are mainly part of the informal economy need simple ways of managing and saving money. The success of mobile technology based financial platforms for this segment of the population has been proven in countries like Kenya (Jack & Suri, 2011).

10. Foster use of information and communication technology in microenterprises — Studies have shown that microenterprises, especially those in the trade sector of the informal economy are likely to experience economic growth from the combination of ICT access and owner motivation to use ICTs for business (Chew, Ilavarasan, & Levy, 2010).

11. Foster entrepreneurship — The next big idea may not come from the West, but may be born in the slums of Africa or Asia. It is essential to help innovators in these countries blossom through establishment of innovation hubs and through venture capital availability.


The technological frontier used to be in the West and looking back 10-20 years countries like China were far behind the technological frontier. However now, China is catching up with the adoption of improved technologies, substantially narrowing the gaps with the developed world.

As (Sachs, 2013) has pointed out a lot of the technological change is true innovation which is largely cantered on the digital revolution which is the most fundamental driver of change in the world, together with the economic convergence.

It is therefore crucial for development organizations, economists, and practitioners to start revising their models and approaches to take into account the radical transformation that the information age has brought. Just like the industrial age brought enlightenment amongst economists, the information age is bound to do so as well.

References:

Alcid, M. L. (2005). Migrant Labour in Southeast Asia — Country Study: Philippines. Friedrich Ebert Stiftung: University of the Philippines-Diliman.

Ang, A. P., & Jha, S. (2009). Remittances and Household Behavior in the Philippines. Manila: Asian Development Bank.

Bertot, J. C., Jaeger, P. T., & Grimes, J. M. (2010). Using ICTs to create a culture of transparency: E-government and social media as opnness and anti-corruption tools for societies. Government Information Quarterly , 264-271.

Chew, H. E., Ilavarasan, P., & Levy, M. R. (2010). THE ECONOMIC IMPACT OF INFORMATION AND COMMUNICATION TECHNOLOGIES (ICT) ON MICROENTERPRISES IN THE CONTEXT OF DEVELOPMENT. Electronic Journal of Information Systems in Developing Countries , 44 (4), 1-19.

Fried, J., & Hansson, D. H. (2013). Remote: Office Not Required. New York: Crown Business.

Jack, W., & Suri, T. (2011). Mobile money: The economics of M-PESA. National Bureau of Economic Research .

Kshetri, N. (2009). Developing economies’ shift from supplying low- to high-value added IT-enabled services: a case study of the Indian healthcare offshoring industry. Proceedings of the 2009 Southern Managment Association (SMA) Conference. Asheville, North Carolina: SMA.

Munro, R. (2010). Crowdsourced translation for emergency response in Haiti: the global collaboration of local knowledge. AMTA Workshop on Collaborative Crowdsourcing for Translation. AMTA.

Open Government Partnership. (2014, 02 17). Home Page. Retrieved from Open Government Partnership: http://www.opengovpartnership.org/

Petursdottir, S. D. (2011). Technology Enabled Citizen Participation in Nairobi Slum Upgrades. M.Sc. Thesis, University of Reykjavik, Department of Engineering, Reykjavik.

Sachs, J. D. (2013). The Price of the Current Civilization. (G. Musa, & S. Moghavvemi, Eds.) Asian Journal of Business and Accounting , 6 (1).

Thorpe, D. (2013, 2 14). Training For Base Of The Pyramid Population Proving effective In India. Forbes Magazine .

Published February 24th 2014 at Medium