The wonders of the Internet
From my hotel room in London, I read this SMH report, headlined “NBN benefits ‘grossly overstated’” which in turn refers to a report by “British telecommunications consultant Robert Kenny and Charles Kenny from the US Centre for Global Development” released (in London, as it happens) a couple of days ago.
Five minutes with Google is enough to determine that
* the Centre for Global Development is a genuine and reputable thinktank, with no particular axe to grind
* Charles Kenny is not what you might call an Internet enthusiast, having written, in 2002, a piece entitled Should we Try to Bridge the Global Digital Divide.
Kenny’s answer is “No”, which doesn’t seem to be the view of people in poor countries. According to this graph from Wikipedia’s article on the topic, the proportion of developing country people with Internet access in 2007 was the same as that of the developed world in 1998, which suggests that by now, developing countries must have already reached the 2002 developed-world access rates Kenny said they didn’t need.
That’s not to say that Kenny might not be right this time. But, so far, betting against the idea that people will want faster and more powerful communications and computers has not had a good track record.