The current digital revolution, the fourth information revolution in history after the invention of writing, the book and printing, has serious potential to exacerbate the gulf between the North and the South. As has been observed in the USA, even within an affluent country, with inadequate policy interventions, information technology not only widens the digital divide but also deepens the racial ravine. The implications of the new information and communication technologies (ICTs) for science and scholarship and for development are examined. The maldistribution of access to ICTs - telephones, computers, networks, Internet, bandwidth and electronic journals - is bound to make it even more difficult for the developing countries to contribute to, and take advantage of, knowledge in the sciences. These countries will get further marginalized.
As suggested by Bruce Alberts, President of the National Academy of Sciences, USA, knowledge dissemination structures need to be put in place which are not entirely based on commerce. Innovative models, such as the community access model of the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation, which attempts to transform the otherwise divisive information technologies into allies in the equity movement, can make a difference to the life of the rural poor. The Swaminathan model emphasizes delivering locale-specific knowledge that the people actually need and can use to improve their lot. The model follows a bottom-up approach, involving the user community as partners right from the beginning, emphasizes knowledge delivery and uses technology - a hybrid wired and wireless network - only when it is necessary to achieve its major goal of knowledge delivery.
Journal of Information Science, December 1999 vol. 25 no. 6 465-476