Technology everywhere…but will it reach the poor?








As dawn breaks in 2012 we enter the season of technology forecasting.   What will new technologies bring us in 2012 and beyond?  Most of these forecasts seem to dwell on the fortunes of the developed world.   What about the majority of humanity (4 billion people live on less than US$5 per day)?

IBM put forward five forecasts for 2016, ( one of these is that the digital divide will end.   Whilst it is likely that more people in Asia and Africa will be able to own a cell phone or connect to the Internet it would be stretching credulity to suggest that these same people will have a similar level of affordability of digital technologies as those living in the developed world.   Currently, in India there are 1.2 billion people who are not connected to the Internet.   Most of these people live in rural areas where there may be a lack of ability to pay and a lack of access to electricity.   So the digital divide in terms of affordable, accessible and appropriate devices is unlikely to be at an end by 2016.   More needs to be done on energy access and on education to build the capabilities needed to use the technology.

In remote rural areas of developing countries few people have access to electricity.   So ownership of a mobile phone might be a measure of “connectedness” or even of “progress” but if the phone can only be charged after a walk of 10 kilometres we may argue that there is a lack of appropriate accessible technology.   A second important prediction relates to bio fuel cells ( reported by the BBC as “power from the people”.   Perhaps that could be re-phrased as “power to the people”.   Yet, in all likelyhood the applications of this new technology will be in medical appliances in developed countries.   What if resources were put into developing this technology as an alternative, local power supply for rural communities in developing countries?

Technology will likely bring much that is new and exciting in 2012 and beyond.   What can we do to increase the probability that these technologies will be applied to real need in developing countries?   We need to work together with scientists to ensure that technologies are accessible, affordable and appropriate to the needs of people.   Only then can we approach a state of technology justice in the world.


One response to “Technology everywhere…but will it reach the poor?”

  1. William Thompson Says:

    Very interesting op-ed. The problem behind being poor anywhere in the world is the same for all: corporate greed and profits. Technology is not important. The release from money slavery is..

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