>> Roads provide essential goods and services to African villages;
>> computer networks don't.
> I wonder, if we installed a telephone in an African village, would
> that be better? Judging from Dr. Heeks' implicit definition of
> "goods and services", I gather that a telephone would not be any
> better. Yet people seem to like telephones.
Analogies can be a useful tools but become dangerous when
used too literally. For me, the analogous term to a road for
transportation is a telephone link for communication. I trust
few will argue in this forum that telephone links are less essential
than roads. Once there is a telephone link, it can be used in
different ways, for voice phone, email, internet access, similar to
a road which can be used by people, cars, donkeys, ...
> I recall a village leader in Sierra Leone arguing forcefully for my
> assistance in acquiring a public telephone for his town. He
> couldn't be bothered with email, however.
The analogy breaks down however, when you deal with a single
public telephone at a village - this is like a narrow, single lane road
which allows only one vehicle on it at a time. Whether internet
access is an appropriate use of this scarce resource is a very
different question. It is true however that properly batched email
allows very efficient and economical use of single telephone line
Worcester Polytechnic Institute