Saturday, February 09, 2008

The limits of leapfrogging

A very insightful article from The Economist about why only a few new technologies are able to diffuse in developing countries. New technologies not only rely on the existence of appropriate infrastructure and prior technologies, but also on the ability of people to "absorb" the technology.

This can help explain the mixed success of ICTs, especially kiosks, in rural areas. For example, one of the most successful example of ICT is that of the ITC e-Choupals, which succeeded not only because ITC provided VSAT connections in villages to get real-time mandi prices, but also because the infrastructure for commodity exchange points was set up in the villages. This is missing in other projects such as the e-marketplace being pushed by aAqua. Selling wheat or cows or goats online is not that simple, because an entire team of field staff is required to ensure that the transactions are actually carried out in practice, and appropriate infrastructure needs to be available so that these commodities can be shipped across.

Related World Bank report.

And the one single figure that captures the essence of the arguments.