ABSTRACT

This chapter explores the impact of ICT on rural life in the Global South.

ICT applications support agricultural production processes, trade, and the efficient use of rural people’s time and assets. ICT also facilitates transactions, savings, and insurance. It supports people with disabilities, increases government accessibility, and potentially reduces bureaucracy and corruption.

ICT innovation is fast and varied, and some ICT hardware (radios, smartphones) and applications (weather forecasts, online banking) have reached deep into remote rural lands. However, access is unequal, and a 50-year-old illiterate rural woman in the Global South is on the wrong side of several ‘digital divides’. These divides increase inequalities, if the least-connected people (who are often the poorest people) lose their market share to better-connected competitors who are more quickly and fully informed about market needs and opportunities and thus better able to respond to them.

Healthy competition among providers of ICT products and networks reduces this divide by lowering prices, and so do investments in rural ICT infrastructure. In some parts of the world, public-private partnerships and conditionalised contracting (“you can connect region X but only if you connect region Y as well”) have worked well.