Can Technology End Poverty

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Tomato (http://www. Observatories. Net/BRED. 6/tomato. PH) This is the lead article of a forum on the role of information and communication technology in global development. A ten-year-old boy named Dinnerware looked up for approval after carefully typing the word “Alaska” into a PC. “Baht cache! ” I cheered-?Nerdy good. ” It was April, 2004, and I was visiting a “telecaster” in the tiny village of Rearward, three hours from Iambi.

The small, dirt-floored room, lit only by an open aluminum doorway, was bare except for a desk, a chair, a PC, an inverter, and a large tractor eatery, which powered the PC when grid electricity was unavailable. Outside, a humped cow chewed on dry stalks, and a goat bleated feebly. As I encouraged the boy, I wondered about the tradeoff his parents had made in order to pay for a typing tutor.

Their son was learning to write words he’d never use, in a language he didn’t speak. According to the telemeter’s owner, Dinnerware’s parents paid a hundred rupees-?about $2. 20-?a month for a couple hours of lessons each week. That may not sound like much, but in Rearward, it’s twice as much as full-time tuition In a private school. Such was my introduction to the young field of CITED, or Information and Communication Technologies for Development.

The goal of CITED is to apply the power of recent technologies-?particularly the personal computer, the mobile phone, and the Internet-?to alleviate the problems of global poverty. CITED sprouted from two intersecting trends: the emergence of an International-development community eager for novel solutions to nearly Intractable socioeconomic challenges; and the expansion of a brashly successful technology Industry Into emerging markets and philanthropy.

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