Recently featured in the news was a 35 USD version of Apple’s iPad that the Indian government hopes to mass produce by 2011. India also hopes to bring the unit price down to around 10 USD. If successful, this initiative could bring an affordable, mobile, multiple application device within reach of lower income families in poor countries. CNN’s Fareed Zakaria expressed the opinion that a fully-functioning 10 USD computer “could change the world” similar to the way in which satellite dishes and mobile phones have in the past. I think implicit in Zakaria’s point is the belief that information and communication revolutions have the potential to increase productivity and enhance human development. But this potential rarely leads to an actual breakthrough. Due to a host of factors in addition to price (see, for instance, Michael Trucano's post), what might perhaps be called “socio-technological epidemics” tend to be few and far between, especially in poor countries. There is a difference, of course, between a predominantly commercial success and one that really contributes to development results.
For those who are in despair over the future of journalism and other forms of information intermediation in the new digital age, it is worth reading what Eric Schmidt, the Chairman and CEO of Google , said to Fareed Zakaria of CNN on November 29, 2009:
"ZAKARIA: When you look forward, do you think -- when you look forward, what are the great moral issues that you think we will face with all this information, all this access? What should we be thinking about in terms of the conflicts, the tradeoffs?