Technology a pathway out of poverty
Tuesday, October 23, 2012
It will take a century for a poor household to tweet its way out of poverty. That’s a very long time for anyone wondering where their next meal is coming from. But it’s a significant new finding because it proves once and for all that social media and access to information and communication technology (ICT) is a pathway out of poverty.
This is one of the central findings of economist Prof Julian May, director of the Institute for Social Development at the University of the Western Cape, who released his study at the Towards Carnegie 3 conference in Cape Town recently. Based in the poorest 20 areas in four East African countries, the study found that access to ICT contributed about 0,5% to annual household income and had a measurable transformative role.
“The finding is significant because it shows that a mobile phone on its own leads to an increase in income,” May told the conference which brought together the country’s top academics, government officials and NGOs to focus on strategies to overcome poverty and inequality. “There aren’t many things that cost so little and yet have this result. In the face of many other huge plans like land reform that lead to little measurable change, this study shows that a mobile phone can change lives — we can say now that here is a resource that shows a difference.”
He warned against becoming evangelical about ICT, but said “the availability of mobile phones is a potentially valuable tool to improve the livelihood of the very poor over the medium term (six to 10 years) and contribute towards their escape from poverty traps”.