Ofwona Adera, et al. (eds.) ICT Pathways to Poverty Reduction: Empirical Evidence from East and Southern Africa. (Shorter Notice)

Publication Year : 2015

Ofwona Adera, et al. (eds.) ICT Pathways to Poverty Reduction: Empirical Evidence from East and Southern Africa. Rugby, U.K.: Practical Action Publishing, IDRC. 2014. 271 pages. Paperback. U.K. £ 17.96. This book discusses the innovative usage of mobile phones and internet in resource—limited situations in eastern and southern Africa. It addresses questions such as how does information communication technologies (lCTs) usage help in eradicating poverty in eastern and southern Africa and what are the challenges still faced by the countries in formalising the process of ICT so that it helps in eradication of poverty by using innovative techniques. The book is a collection of studies done on various countries in eastern and southern Africa, including Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, South Africa, and Namibia. The book also includes an introductory chapter, which gives an overall situation of lCTs and poverty in Africa as well as a summary of the analysis done in the entire book. Recommendations and conclusions are presented in the last chapter. The book calls lCTs a developmental process, which could be used as a powerful tool for empowerment and income generation in developing countries as well as for increasing access to education and other social services. One of the interesting aspects of the book is that it comprehensively reviews the important topic of political economy of the lCTs, which is the subject of second chapter. The qualitative analysis shows the advantages and disadvantages of ICTs usage, such as saving in travel time, costs reduction, information about the latest news, socialisation, jobs, running individual businesses, and security in emergencies. The chapter on the ICTs usage in Kenya shows that people are reluctant to use modem lCTs tools, such as intemet and mobile phones; instead, they rely on old lCTs, such as TV and radio. lCTs improves the livelihood of the people of Kenya by enhancing human capital in terms of gain in valuable knowledge and skills, increase in income, reduction in vulnerability, and having a voice in how they are governed. On the other hand, in Tanzania, increase in usage of internet and mobile phone has resulted in decline in income poverty. The South African case shows that the impact of use of lCTs, especially the use of computers, enhances quality of life. More importantly, there is not a single case that shows that quality of life declines after using ICT tools. Nevertheless, the author believes that intensity of ICT intervention is necessary to eradicate the extent of poverty. In Namibia, the gap between internet accessibility has narrowed due to availability of internet on mobile phones. However,

it is not clear if it increases the quality of life. The analysis is done by taking age and gender into consideration but it cannot be said unambiguously that lCTs are strongly associated with poverty reduction. Although, the book does not come up with conclusive evidence whether the lCTs affect poverty or nOt, one conclusion is straight forward that lCTs build capabilities to reduce poverty rather than reducing poverty directly. (M. Ali Kemal)