ICTs and Poverty Eradication: Comparing Economic, Livelihoods and Capabilities Models

ICTs and Poverty Eradication: Comparing Economic, Livelihoods and Capabilities Models

From the MDGs to the post-2015 development agenda, poverty eradication is arguably the single most important development goal. This paper asks how information and communication technologies can contribute to that goal. ICTs – mobile phones especially – have diffused rapidly in developing countries in recent years, and now reach increasingly into the lives of the world’s poor. 

Research assessing the poverty impacts of that diffusion has been relatively limited; in part because this change has been so recent. Research has also sometimes been constrained by its lack of conceptual foundation. The purpose of this paper is therefore to assess research evidence within a framework that conceptualises both poverty eradication and ICT application. 

It does this by identifying three categories of ICT application – other ICT uses, enterprise ICT use, and ICT sector use. And by identifying three perspectives on poverty eradication – economic, livelihoods, and capabilities. It suggests that moving across the categories of application may lead to deeper poverty impacts; but impacts which affect a smaller number of people. And that moving across the perspectives may provide a fuller understanding of poverty; particularly in developing the capabilities approach to understand the ladder of “roles” through which poor people can engage with ICTs. 

The paper ends by suggesting some implications for policy and practice.

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