I have only recently subscribed, so I hope I'm not treading over old ground:
A large opportunity I see for 'leap-frogging' is in the broad area of
The reasons are that it is brain-intensive (ie people-intensive) and a huge
growth-area. On the other hand how can developing countries compete with the
likes of Western countries? - the answer is partly through collaboration and
the cost savings of cheaper brains. The software industry is now booming in
India ( - I read recently. Western companies are investing alongside local
companies.) For other countries to emulate India they need to invest
in computer-science education now.
So where is the 'leap-frogging'? The power of PCs is limited by hardware
and software. The limits of hardware will become less pertinent in the
next 10-20 years and the huge growth will be in software (or so I believe -
although, needless to say, this idea is not original on my part ;).
Developing countries can leap-frog over the hard-ware revolution and contribute
to the software industry in the future.
This may seem a fairly limited angle to take on development (and indeed it is,
as it does nothing immediately to improve sanitation or reduce infant
mortality), however the potential should not be underestimated. The huge growth
in the Irish software industry is having a significant effect on the economy
and derives from a well-educated workforce that is more 'available' (due to
higher unemployment and also due to the high level of computer-literacy) and
slightly cheaper to employ than in many of its competitors.
So should IT investment in Africa be geared towards education with the
expectation that an increasingly computer-literate population will sort out
their own networking problems etc., with less assistance? Perhaps.
International Development Centre
University of Oxford
formerly of Oxford University Programming Research Group