Confronting the scarcity of digital skills among the poor in developing countries

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

Abstract

Purpose
To describe and compare the components of a package of policies to address the scarcity of digital skills in poor countries. The package comprises an increase in the supply of these skills, a choice of technologies that make few demands on them and to find substitutes who can indirectly supply Internet information to those who need it.

Approach and methods
The approach is based on Hirshman’s distinction between trait‐making, which seeks to increase the supply of resources in short supply, and trait‐taking, which accepts those resources as temporarily given in the making of policy. The complementary approaches are explained and compared in detail with the use of numerous examples.

Findings
The brief answer of how best to respond to the lack of digital skills in poor countries is that all components of the policy package are needed, because they make different demands, deal with different aspects of the problem, use different methods and operate in different time periods. Especially with respect to the trait‐taking alternatives, I show the need to make much use of local resources, institutions and cultures, because these are what is available in poor countries.

Policy implications
Though most policies to deal with the scarcity of digital skills in poor countries seek directly to increase their supply in schools and other places, this will often be a long and difficult process. For this and other reasons, supplemental policies are also needed to bypass the shortage and yield the benefits of information technology to the poor, within a relatively short period of time.
Original languageEnglish
JournalDevelopment Policy Review
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - Oct 2019

Fingerprint

developing world
developing country
supply
resources
resource
shortage
information technology
bypass
Internet
policy
lack
school
time
demand

Keywords

  • information technologies
  • internet
  • rural areas
  • second digital divide

Cite this

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title = "Confronting the scarcity of digital skills among the poor in developing countries",
abstract = "PurposeTo describe and compare the components of a package of policies to address the scarcity of digital skills in poor countries. The package comprises an increase in the supply of these skills, a choice of technologies that make few demands on them and to find substitutes who can indirectly supply Internet information to those who need it. Approach and methodsThe approach is based on Hirshman’s distinction between trait‐making, which seeks to increase the supply of resources in short supply, and trait‐taking, which accepts those resources as temporarily given in the making of policy. The complementary approaches are explained and compared in detail with the use of numerous examples.FindingsThe brief answer of how best to respond to the lack of digital skills in poor countries is that all components of the policy package are needed, because they make different demands, deal with different aspects of the problem, use different methods and operate in different time periods. Especially with respect to the trait‐taking alternatives, I show the need to make much use of local resources, institutions and cultures, because these are what is available in poor countries. Policy implicationsThough most policies to deal with the scarcity of digital skills in poor countries seek directly to increase their supply in schools and other places, this will often be a long and difficult process. For this and other reasons, supplemental policies are also needed to bypass the shortage and yield the benefits of information technology to the poor, within a relatively short period of time.",
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author = "Michael James",
year = "2019",
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publisher = "John Wiley & Sons Ltd",

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Confronting the scarcity of digital skills among the poor in developing countries. / James, Michael.

In: Development Policy Review, 10.2019.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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AB - PurposeTo describe and compare the components of a package of policies to address the scarcity of digital skills in poor countries. The package comprises an increase in the supply of these skills, a choice of technologies that make few demands on them and to find substitutes who can indirectly supply Internet information to those who need it. Approach and methodsThe approach is based on Hirshman’s distinction between trait‐making, which seeks to increase the supply of resources in short supply, and trait‐taking, which accepts those resources as temporarily given in the making of policy. The complementary approaches are explained and compared in detail with the use of numerous examples.FindingsThe brief answer of how best to respond to the lack of digital skills in poor countries is that all components of the policy package are needed, because they make different demands, deal with different aspects of the problem, use different methods and operate in different time periods. Especially with respect to the trait‐taking alternatives, I show the need to make much use of local resources, institutions and cultures, because these are what is available in poor countries. Policy implicationsThough most policies to deal with the scarcity of digital skills in poor countries seek directly to increase their supply in schools and other places, this will often be a long and difficult process. For this and other reasons, supplemental policies are also needed to bypass the shortage and yield the benefits of information technology to the poor, within a relatively short period of time.

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