There are two ways of looking at ICTs: as an instrument, and as an industry. As an instrument, affordable and usable ICTs can indeed transform the way societies work, entertain, study, govern and live – at the individual, organizational, sector, vocational and national levels. As an industry, ICTs represent a major growing economic sector covering hardware, software, telecom/datacom and consulting services.
Through both lenses – industry and instrument – the performance of developing nations lags that of developed nations, but interesting patterns of variation and pockets of excellence are emerging. For instance, countries like India and the Philippines have ICT industries that are exporting software and attracting outsourcing contracts – but they also have looming digital divides where ICTs are not accessible or affordable as instruments for a majority of the population.
This paper charts the industry and instrument aspects of ICTs in developing nations, using a comparative framework developed over the years by the author called the “8 Cs” of the digital economy (words beginning with the letter C): connectivity, content, community, commerce, culture, capacity, cooperation and capital (see below).