Information and Communication Technologies, Poverty and Development

Development Informatics Working Paper no. 5

21 Pages Posted: 9 Nov 2019

Date Written: October 30, 1999


Can information and communication technologies (ICTs) help to alleviate poverty in low-income countries? The paper investigates this question, focusing particularly on the role of ICTs in assisting the development of small and micro-enterprises. The investigation is based on a systemic understanding of both technology and enterprise. This suggests that ICTs will play a role mainly as a communication technology rather than as an information processing or production technology. Serious inequalities exist that constrain the use of ICT-based information by poor entrepreneurs. Information and communication technologies may therefore have a greater role to play in giving ‘voice’ to the poor; that is, in making the poor information providers more than information recipients. However, effective application must first overcome the ‘ICT fetish’ that dominates much development thinking at present, and which creates a series of identified opportunity costs. The paper concludes with a set of development priorities for information and for ICT use in poverty alleviation.

Suggested Citation

Heeks, Richard, Information and Communication Technologies, Poverty and Development (October 30, 1999). Development Informatics Working Paper no. 5, Available at SSRN: or

Richard Heeks (Contact Author)

University of Manchester ( email )

Oxford Road
Manchester, M13 9PL
United Kingdom

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