Policy Papers

Journal of Digital Information Management

Volume 2 Issue 2 June 2004 PP. 105-108


Mapping Human Potential in Developing Countries – Can the ICT pave the way?


A policy paper by



Journal of Digital Information Management


June 2004


The primary goal of this policy paper is to explore potential interactions between populations, with emphasis on exploiting human potential so that everybody co-exist and evolve more productively. Developing nations can optimize human potential through Information and Communication Technology (ICT) only if the reality is perceived.


Modern world is the land of opportunities. If we were able to track the opportunities we would scale the world. Deploying mechanisms to track and integrate the priorities locally will help the countries to achieve success.

New ICTs have irrevocably altered the world we live in. They accelerate the pace and volume of innovation and fundamentally change the way we transmit, receive, adapt and use knowledge and information and contribute to changes in markets, production methods, governance, and social relations. It is well known that access to information and knowledge has the potential to improve the livelihoods of poor people; however we do not understand how the ICT can reach a large number of people in developing countries. ICT should be optimized to focus more opportunities for humanity, more emphasis for practically driven projects and less bureaucracy in governance and functioning.

'It was as if I looked into a crystal ball, saw what was coming and prepared us for it. Growth is now visualizing,' say optimists in third world.  So does reality? The answer is no. The reality is the balance between optimism and other way.

The ICT Programmes targeting the poor are undermined by many factors and the benefits reach only the richer households in developing nations thus increase a digital gap within a country.

Reality in developing nations:

In reality, a large number of people face digital exclusion as they are either denied ICT access or ICT fails to reach them. Even Internet use and access have been increasing as per the data available, the question of ‘reach’ remains unanswered. In many developing countries it is hardly one can find the users of Internet among rural population.  Even when available, effective use of the Internet is impeded by low literacy rates, low education levels, linguistic barriers and a general lack of relevant and contextualized content for improving rural livelihoods.

We are mindful that there is millions of scientific and technical workers work in developing countries, and the degree of their contribution is far from the capability and there is a gap between potential and actual performance.

Model versus Reality:

The first myth is that innovation is a linear process and so a linear model applies. This is based on a simplistic assumption that investing in developmental activities will automatically lead to innovations and products. What we have to keep in mind is that this process is based on a model and not reality. Participation, involvement, commitment and cooperation must become more symmetrical.

By and large, intellectuals, science managers, and organizations have seen the ICTs as a valuable opportunity to transcend the local level and achieve a regional, national and international balance. Digital technology has rapidly and efficiently been appropriated and has the potential to strengthen their political, organizational and communication processes, as well as those of cultural revitalization. Also, other sectors have estimated the ICTs as a new form of interface where the national society can attempt to add the communities in order to serve the interests of others.

However, the causes of the increase in local exclusion and their current marginalization from the global information world are not primarily due to the inequality exists between the mainstream and the periphery. The focus is required on the internal dynamics of the societies and their entire components. There are crucial issues such as the gender equations, the migratory processes, the educational level, and on the acceptance or rejection of the digital means of communication.

Human potential exploitation

In many developing nations, a large number of people invest the time and focus their interests in the well-woven grooves. This human potential wastage that no preventive policy has been able to halt, could actually be more than might initially have been thought. Organisations and people from different quarters are also concerned about this movement, as they know that economic, social and cultural development largely depends on the availability of trained human potential.

The ability of the developing nations to support human resources for progress activities is very poorly developed. This is evident and could be realized at all levels. Many developing nations are experiencing a significant and a protracted period of brain drain of professional, semi-professional, and technical personnel.

This ‘brain drain’ actively depletes some of the developing nations’ human resources, The vacuum of trained manpower will  grow even wider as the developed nations  continue to master the tools of science and invention, vastly outspend the developing nations in research and development, and even divert some of the developing nations’ most precious human resources for their own use. The magnitude to the problem is clearly understandable by the fact the job seekers from developing nations is continuously increasing unabated. The developing nations merely remain the consumers rather than the participants of the technology making.

The world is moving towards a knowledge-based economy, where two thirds of humanity are deprived of the opportunity to contribute to knowledge and instead are relegated to consumption of the resulting knowledge. Furthermore, many new technologies will not be consumable in developing nations without a powerful local capacity in the science and engineering that underlie them.  The industrialized nations have an interest in supporting the expansion of human potential of developing nations. The question is how to set priorities?

Thus, the urgency is to promote worldwide human capacity evenly which is currently skewed. The cultivation and deployment of human capital in building and maintaining the infrastructures that assure a nation’s education, skills, and connectedness with the rest of the world will be the primary key to the ability of developing nations not only to improve their situation but to contribute to the welfare of everyone else. Certainly the two thirds of humanity living in these countries should have a greater input into the creation of new knowledge, not only for the right to shape their own life, but for the insight and skill that they can bring to the whole of the world.

How to optimize the human potential?

Collective human intelligence is a powerful tool that can able to increase the capacity of human potential of developing nations. Sharing of know-how among humanity and transfer from developed nations through ICT are the potential means one can think. The vast indigenous knowledge can be codified when rigorous scientific method for which technology from industrialized countries are required so that ‘development’ in developing nations can be harnessed.

The effective solution is not the reversal of brain drain which never happens; rather it lies on discussing the other avenues. There seems to be place for an original, progressive public policy. Diasporas are a promising vector for various cooperative measures; today they are under used which needs immediate attention. The training to developing nations' human power at industrialized countries is one option. The recent progress in ICT removed the geographical boundaries between nations. A large quantity of information transfer is being done through powerful ICT. Sharing expertise through ICT is more effective which would increase the human potential of the developing nations. Migrated man power from developing nations can serve as knowledge gatekeepers to their home countries. Human collaboration can be induced between developing and industrialized nations for which ICT promise effective knowledge transfer.

Developing nations continue to face the constant tension and pressures to solve immediate problems with “quick fixes”. However the human potential exploitation needs sustainable, long-term open systems frameworks.