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Leapfrogging and Development

April 9th, 2005 · No Comments

Atanu Dey writes:

Leapfrogging is possible but mostly it is restricted to technologies.

Unlike technology, you cannot leapfrog the various stages of development. A century ago, to be educated, one had to be literate and numerate. Same holds for today even though we have digital gizmos and computers. Indeed, to be able to effectively use the products of high-technology, literacy is an absolute necessity. Functional skills required for using high-tech all involve the ability to read and reason. I grant that illiterate idiots can use a cell phone, but that is not what I would call the effective use of high technology.

The so-called digital divide cannot be bridged by simply installing lots of PCs in areas where they dont exist and connecting them up to the internet. If the people are unable to use them, they serve no purpose other than to enrich the peddlers of hardware and software. Furthermore, there is the opportunity cost of spending limited resources on useless high-tech gizmos.

You cannot leapfrog development. It cannot be done at an individual level. And it cannot be done at a societal level. Although development paths may differ, the sequencing within a path cannot be radically altered because there are strict dependencies. Basic functional literacy is a pre-requisite to pretty much anything that one does. The use of high-tech depends on literacy and therefore if the population is illiterate, even gifting them with free hardware will not make a difference. The pre-condition for bridging the digital divide is therefore the bridging of the literacy divide.

Tags: Deeshaa (Rural Development)

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