اینترنت و فقر در کشورهای در حال توسعه: اقتصاد رفاه در مقابل یک رویکرد مبتنی بر کارکرد
|کد مقاله||سال انتشار||تعداد صفحات مقاله انگلیسی||ترجمه فارسی|
|7261||2006||13 صفحه PDF||سفارش دهید|
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Publisher : Elsevier - Science Direct (الزویر - ساینس دایرکت)
Journal : Futures, Volume 38, Issue 3, April 2006, Pages 337–349
There are many reasons why the impact of the Internet on poverty in developing countries is poorly understood. Not the least of these reasons has to do with alternative modes of thinking about the issue. In this paper, we examine the theories of consumption underlying two important evaluative frameworks, namely, traditional welfare economics on the one hand and Sen's notion of functionings on the other. Using a number of actual examples, we find that in at least two major respects, the former approach is far too limiting and needs to be replaced by the latter (which, in particular, focuses on the actual use that is made of the Internet and embraces, rather than excludes, disciplines other than economics). The functionings approach has a close affinity with ethnographic research, which, as we tried to show, reveals much about the less visible impact of the Internet on poverty.
As information and communications technologies (ICTs) become ever more prevalent in developing countries, so too does it become increasingly necessary to understand how these technologies bear on the well-being of those living in poverty, mainly, but not entirely, in the rural areas of those countries. (Because there are so many new ICTs, it would be impossible within the scope of a single paper, to deal with all of them. Accordingly, we have chosen to focus our attention on just one of them, namely, the Internet). Yet, despite this growing necessity for improving our understanding of whether and to what extent the Internet alleviates poverty, one can point to remarkably little progress in the area. And while it is not difficult to find plausible reasons for this state of affairs, surely one of the most fundamental is the absence in the literature of a realistic analytical framework for mapping the connections between the Internet and poverty at the micro level. Our goal below is to make the case for using Sen's functionings approach  to fill part of this analytical void. Part of the case is made in the following section, which argues that the theory of consumption embodied in this approach is infinitely more realistic than the theory underlying traditional welfare economics. Then, in the sections thereafter, the case for the former approach is further advanced by drawing on selected case studies where the Internet has been introduced in poor, rural areas.1 For, what will hopefully become apparent is that Sen's approach provides a framework within which such cases can fruitfully be explained and understood. The one essential point that we try to make is that the benefits (or what Sen calls ‘functionings’) of the Internet are not only broad-based, but also vary dramatically with the way in which this technology is actually used. The other is that the denotation of the relevant functionings demands much more than the mono-disciplinarity of traditional welfare economics.
نتیجه گیری انگلیسی
Traditional welfare economics and Sen's notion of functionings are two alternative modes of thinking about the influence of the Internet on poverty in developing countries. And underlying these alternatives are strikingly different theories of consumer behaviour, one being the familiar utility maximizing model found in most textbooks on micro-economics, and the other diverging from that approach on almost all dimensions of the subject (as shown in Table 1 above). It follows, therefore, that one's preference between the welfare economics and the functionings approach will heavily depend on how the elements contained in the Table are evaluated. Our argument in favour of the latter is made in two (distinct but related) stages. In the first, the case is argued in a general context, unrelated to the role of information technology in general and the Internet in particular. The second stage is then concerned to advance the argument in the specific context of the impact of the Internet on the poor in developing countries. At each of these stages, we focus on two specific assumptions that are not only important in themselves, but which also divide the two approaches to consumption as starkly as possible. One such assumption concerns the point at which the benefits of consumption are thought to occur. In particular, whereas traditional welfare economics assumes that this occurs at the point of purchase or use, the functionings approach is concerned precisely with what occurs after that point. In making a case in favour of the latter view, we showed just how large the differences in benefits derived from the Internet can be, depending on the context in which it is applied (as was shown to be no less true of another product area, namely, medicinal drugs). For this purpose, a comparison was made between foreign-aid telecentres on the one hand and a well-known example of blending radio with the Internet in Kothmale, Sri Lanka, on the other. The second assumption concerns the difference in methodologies used by the two approaches in evaluating the impact of the Internet (and other ICTs) on poor (typically rural) communities. In particular, the mono-disciplinarity of traditional welfare is contrasted with the wide range of disciplines that a functionings approach might require. Just as medical information is required to assess the impact of medicinal drugs on the health functionings of different individuals (as shown in Table 2), so too, we argued, is an ethnographic approach needed to identify the often subtle changes in functionings that accompany the introduction of the Internet in a local community. These changes, as illustrated in the Kothmale project, would be all but invisible to someone conducting a standard welfare economics assessment based on changes in income (which is not to say that the economics model has no value in such a context; the point is rather that other disciplines are also needed).