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The promises of virtual prosperity



ID: <10670/1.50sc8m>


Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) have become central to discourse on collective well-being. The promise of intangible abundance — in information, leisure and knowledge — structures the debates on development and gives rise to new concepts such as the digital divide, e-readiness and e-development. These new opportunities are a success story for international cooperation. ‘Good life for all’ is once again possible, provided that poor countries adopt and integrate ICT in all traditional areas of development: economy, health, education, policy, environmental management, etc. These hopes go hand in hand with threats to progress: not to connect must condemn to stay at the margin of this promised “global information society”, which is thriving and democratic. The internet, which was only a communication tool, is becoming a new basic need that is urgently needed. The inclusion of ICT in development narratives is proving to be a great vehicle for recycling evolutionary and technicist visions that were believed to be obsolete. Increasing ICT in the history of cooperation helps to shed light on what is new and what is less. It is forgotten that technology transfer, as a vehicle for the development of southern countries, is part of old history. But this does not mean that history is beegged. Why have ICTs become so important for development cooperation? What influence does this cooperation have on the geography, content and use of electronic networks? What are the values and interests conveyed by activities undertaken in the name of the “fight against the digital divide” and how do these activities relate to the wider phenomenon of globalisation? Finally, should we still be concerned about development when we are all called upon to come together in the information society? The information society seems first of all to be an opportunity for international organisations which find new enthusiasm and legitimacy to act there. But this renewal is likely to be of short duration. If there is a digital divide, there is also — and above all — a gap between the rhetoric that focuses on the extraordinary effects of ICT on as many people as possible and the reality of these technologies, which continue to be shaped along very mercantile and unequal lines. International cooperation is both a spectator and an actor of these trends. Without real network capture and under cover of altruistic discourse, it often turns into promoting the interests of private companies. In addition to public-private partnerships and the opening up of telecommunications markets in the southern countries, a salvage point. Bankruptcies of the new economy and stock market failures are denied to keep the myth of a community of interests between inforicts and infopauvres around shared prosperity.

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