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New books highlight diverse ways ICTs contribute to development


Two recently published open access books present the findings of IDRC-funded research exploring the impact of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in developing countries. These books provide important insights into the increasingly prominent role of technologies such as the Internet and mobile phones in everyday life. 

Impact of Information Society Research in the Global South, edited by Arul Chib, Julian May, and Roxana Barrantes, is based on findings from the Strengthening Information Society Research Capacity Alliance Phase II (SIRCA) project. SIRCA is an IDRC-funded capacity-building program that provided grants, mentorship, and training to emerging researchers in Asia, Africa, Asia, and Latin America. The book investigates the impact of ICTs on socio-economic development, going beyond issues of access and use. It also offers a unique look at how research is playing a role in creating an information society in developing countries, through policy formulation, media coverage, and implementation in practice. Research topics covered range from the impact of mobile banking in the Global South to the use of mobile communication in the marketing of foodstuffs in Côte d’Ivoire. 

Public Access ICT across Cultures: Diversifying Participation in the Network Society, edited by Francisco J. Proenza, was made possible by the Amy Mahan Research Fellowship Program, an IDRC-funded competitive research grant initiative.The book presents research on the impact of publicly shared access to computers and the Internet, such as in cybercafés, libraries, and telecentres, in developing countries. Ten multidisciplinary research teams from around the world examined the impact of public access on users, society, networks, and women.  

The research findings highlight the positive role of public access venues in developing countries, but also show that not everyone benefits from them equally. For example, using computers and the Internet at public access venues enhanced job prospects for white-collar and office workersin Rwanda. In Malaysia, rural users of public access venues were able to expand their social networks. However, the research found that while women and underprivileged groups can benefit significantly, their access to cybercafés is frequently limited. 

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