The Cyber Frontier and Digital Pitfalls in the Global South
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionThird World Quarterly. 2017, 1-17.
How does digitalisation lead to new kinds of global connections and disconnections in the Global South? And what are the pitfalls that accompany this development? Much of the policy literature on digitalisation and development has focused on the importance of connecting developing countries to digital networks. Good connection to digital networks may have a fundamental impact on societies, changing not only how individuals and businesses navigate, operate and seek opportunities, but also as regards relations between government and the citizenry. However, the rapid pace of this development implies that digital technologies are being put to use before good, functional regulatory mechanisms have been developed and installed. The resultant shortcomings – in state mechanisms, institutions, coordination mechanisms, private mechanisms, general awareness, public knowledge and skills – open the door to new kinds of vulnerabilities. Herein lie dangers, but also opportunities for donor/recipient country exchange. Instead of adding to the already substantial literature on the potential dividends, this article examines a less studied issue: the new societal vulnerabilities emerging from digitalisation in developing countries. While there is wide agreement about the need to bridge the gap between the connected and the disconnected, the pitfalls are many.