Abstract - The Information Society 5(2)

A Contextual View of Development Information Technology

Ed Downs

The knowledge that is made manifest in any technology may lead to both beneficial and adverse effects. Three overlapping application areas of information technology (IT) -- communications, expert systems, and manufacturing -- are identified to illustrate its possibilities and their possible effects, both beneficial and adverse. The implications of the terms "beneficial" and "adverse" are examined as used with IT and "development." "Development" is seen as meeting directly the basic needs of most of a -- usually rural -- population. The main target areas are education, agriculture, and health; the technologies are microcomputers and satellites. There is no shortage of technologies, but there are major constraints on achieving the goals of IT. These are political will, money, and skill. This analysis is an attempt to improve the effectiveness of action in promoting the beneficial and limiting the adverse effects of IT. In leading to action, the general and theoretical must be balanced with the specific richness of the real situation.

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