African Geographical Review
Volume 28, December 2009
Examining Claims for Information and Communication Technology Led Development in Africa
Kefa M. Otiso (Bowling Green State University, USA) and William G. Moseley (Macalester College, USA)
Information and communication technology (ICT) is increasingly seen as the key to rapid development in lower-income regions, especially Africa. This reflection reviews the ICT-based development thesis, summarizes the major obstacles to widespread ICT use in Africa, and outlines the region’s most popular ICTs and their potential contributions to development. More specifically, this reflection examines claims that ICT is contributing to development in Africa by: improving communication, opening new investment opportunities, incorporating the African Diaspora in development, and integrating the continent into the global economy. This analysis also problematizes ICT use in Africa (including its tendency to reinforce existing power relations) and explores obstacles to wider use of these technologies, such as lack of reliable electric power and relevant content, as well as gross social inequalities in access to ICT. Because of their enormous practical value, cell phones and the internet have emerged as Africa’s most popular ICTs.
Key words: Africa, cell phones, development, ICT, internet.