Can IT Reach The Poor?
technologies really benefit the poor countries and their people?
I think, if we leave it to the forces of the free market, it is
very likely that IT will eventually get to the poor countries. Whether
it will be sooner or later, will depend largely on the actions of
the governments in those countries. My feeling is that governments
in poor countries will generally resist the entry and spread of
IT. Except for such resistance by the politicians and the bureaucracy,
I see no reason why IT cannot come to a poor country; however, I
suspect the market mechanism alone cannot ensure fast spread of
IT. I feel that new international organizations are needed with
a mandate to bring these technologies to the poor countries. I have
advocated the creation of an international center for information
technologies to end global poverty. NGOs, businesses, academic institutions,
UN agencies, foundations and civic societies can all be linked to
each other to find ways and means to bring IT to the poor countries.
I have no doubt
that IT can reach the poor. but this will happen only by creating
a new mode of business, one that will help the poor engage in entrepreneurship.
I have called this type of business social consciousness driven
enterprises that may or may not be for profit but, must have clearly
defined social goals.
of the Grameen enterprises i.e. Grameen Bank, Grameen Telecom, Grameen
Phone, Grameen Communications, Grameen Software Ltd., Grameen IT
Park, Grameen Securities and Management Company, Grameen Shakti
(Renewable Energy), Grameen Uddog (Enterprise), Grameen Fund (venture
capital fund), Grameen Agriculture, Grameen Fisheries, Grameen Kalyan,
and Grameen Education, fall into this category of business organizations.
Conventional economic theory ignored the poor because it conceptualized
the private economy as a wage employment-based economy. If you are
not looking for a job, you are not in the market. The idea of self
employment never crossed the mind of labor economists. If we bring
in self-employment as an option, the market immediately recognizes
the importance of the poor. Information technology is the greatest
technology the world has ever known that can promote self-employment.
Infact, generating more self-employment by itself is a good season
for bringing information technologies to the poor."
Yunus in Information Technology Can Be Bangladesh's Superhighway
to Prosperity, printed in the Journal of Bangladesh Studies,
Vol 2, No 2, 2000.