In contemplating and planning for this volume, a major influence was the ever increasing awareness of the digital divide—the yawning gap between the information and communication technology (ICT) haves and have-nots. Despite this awareness, and despite a number of notable success stories, much of the developing world was still lagging far behind the developed world five years ago. To be sure there were barrels of rhetoric, oceans of urgent commentary and even a modicum of good will. But what real difference was it going to make to the lives and futures of those, through accident of birth or fate, who were born in the less developed countries of the world? A major objective of this volume is to raise awareness further, indeed to raise the consciousness of those in power, those with money to spend (or not to spend) altruistically or for profit, to the ICT plight of the majority of the world's population. Allied to this objective is the desire to raise an equal awareness of what can be done, often for surprisingly little outlay of funds, though the demands on time and energy may be considerable. In this respect, many of the chapters in this volume document cases of ICT projects in developing countries that are achieving remarkable success despite constricting circumstances.
A primary source of material for this book comes from what we consider to be "best papers" published over the last five years in the Electronic Journal of Information Systems in Developing Countries (EJISDC)—http://www.ejisdc.org. We selected these best papers for their power to convey a message appropriate to the book's overall theme, in addition inviting complementary chapters from established authors in the field. The resulting compilation is organized in four sections of roughly equal weight. Each chapter can be read as a separate entity, but readers will find that there is considerable commonality of purpose across the fifteen chapters in the book.
Our intention is that readers should be both informed and challenged by these chapters. Much of the material will be intuitive to those who are already working in this domain, though the precise details of the cases may be new. For others, this may be the first time that they have come across such material—and it may be something of a shock. A culture shock no less that may threaten the validity of much that they have held to be true until now. To these readers, we seek your open-mindedness and willingness to reflect on the realities of life in societies that are relatively impoverished with respect to ICT availability and use. We hope that all readers will be inspired by the possibilities and opportunities that these chapters describe, and that they will be encouraged to go out and make a difference, however small, in their own societies and lives.
A preface serves not only as a place to write a rationale, but also as a place to write acknowledgements. We are indebted first to our authors for their endeavours in promoting the cause of ICTs in developing countries. We also gratefully acknowledge the support of the university-based sponsors who have funded the EJISDC from which many of the chapters in this book were drawn. These include the City University of Hong Kong, the University of Malaysia Sarawak, Erasmus University, Delft University of Technology, and the University of Nebraska at Omaha.
Robert Davison, Doug Vogel, Roger Harris, Hong Kong
Gert-Jan de Vreede, Sajda Qureshi, Omaha, Nebraska, USA