The Impact of the Internet on Developing Countries

In 2000, Bill Clinton optimistically challenged members of the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC) forum to "turn the digital divide among and within our nations into digital opportunities." Clinton's views encapsulate many global leaders' perception of the Internet as both a growing problem and a growing opportunity for developing nations. Unfortunately, the diversity of these developing countries exacerbates the digital divide to which Clinton refers. Problems ranging from infrastructure costs to cultural and language barriers plague Internet development efforts. Likewise, while many see the Internet as a growing social and economic opportunity, its relative benefit is unclear to some local leaders whose more immediate concerns include vaccinations, food, and electricity.

Our report investigates how the Internet can benefit developing countries. We take into account the diverging needs of each region and the infrastructural, financial, political, and cultural feasibility of making the Internet accessible. We base our analysis on case studies of endeavors to make the Internet accessible in Peru, India, and Mozambique.

While the challenges faced by each developing country are largely determined by its local cultural, political, and economic conditions, we found common themes in the countries' successful development strategies. For instance, most of the strategies that have successfully combated the lack of rural communications infrastructure involve some form of public, community-based internet access rather than individual internet access. Likewise, none of the countries benefited from government monopolization of the Internet development process, largely because Internet protocols had been standardized by developed nations. Finally, foreign investment played a large part in successful technological ventures.

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