Myth: Developing Countries Don’t Have Access to Digital Technology

he above map shows the densities of Internet connectivity around the world. Photo via Symmetry Magazine.

The above map shows the densities of Internet connectivity around the world. Photo via Symmetry Magazine.

It’s a commonly held perception that developing countries lack access to technology. For many parts of the world, it’s still an accurate statement. But having said that, it’s simply not true for all developing nations. Use of the internet and cell phones in particular, has not only increased in the developing world, but access to such technology has helped improve millions of lives.

Here are some facts about digital technology in developing countries:

  • Technology has spread faster in emerging economies than in rich, developed nations
  • Technological progress has contributed to a rise in incomes in developing countries and has helped reduced the amount of people living in absolute poverty from 29 percent in 1990 to 18 percent in 2004
  • Technology has also spurred the growth of call centers where the majority of phones for a particular business can be answered. This has created thousands of new jobs.
  • And such technology has helped bridge together traditionally isolated nations with the rest of the world, especially during instances of human rights abuse. This has improved communication between news subjects and the media, resulting in better news coverage

Readers might be surprised by the first fact stated above. How is it that digital technology has spread so quickly in emerging economies?

Here’s a brief breakdown in regards to the main drivers for the rapid adoption of mobile phones in developing nations:

  • A growing middle class (especially in BRIC nations) has created a greater demand for cell phones, especially in heavily populated countries such as India and China
  • The adoption of wireless technology has made it more affordable for emerging economies to build the necessary infrastructure to accommodate mobile phones. It is less expensive to build a cell phone tower than it is to install land line connections to each and every home
  • The cost of labor in many developing countries is significantly lower compared to the United States. To put this into perspective: “The average American makes over 40,000 per year, the average Chinese citizen is closer to $1,200.”

So what amazing things are being accomplished in developing nations because of greater access to such technology? Here’s just a sample. I’m sure this list could be added to and expanded by readers who have had experience using digital technology in development work:

Closing the Global Digital Divide: Technology for Developing Countries

Can the Cellphone Help End Global Poverty?

One Laptop Per Child Project

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