The Role of Computer Networks in Development

Communications of the ACM, Vol. 39, No. 2, pp 23-29, February, 1996.

The good news is that the Internet has grown like a weed, and many welcome it as a tool for productivity and enlightenment; the bad news is that it is almost unknown in developing nations (see Table 1). This article offers the hypothesis that computer networks can improve life in developing nations at a relatively low cost. We begin with a brief discussion of development, followed by some of the ways computer networks might help, and conclude with a look at what can be done.

Dimensions of Development

"Development" is an imprecise concept. Economists once equated it with economic productivity -- GDP per capita -- but that is too simple a formulation [22]. Rising GDP might be accompanied by environmental damage, anger over growing disparity in income distribution, disappointment when expectations rise faster than they are fulfilled, displacement of traditional values and customs, crowded cities, and so forth.{footnote 1}. Furthermore, GDP counts many painful transactions as positive, for example, bypass surgery, buying a second home after a divorce, or the paycheck of a housewife who is forced into the labor market to make ends meet [3].

A broader conception of human development is used in the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) Reports on Human Development, published annually since 1992, e. g. [21]. Their concept of development includes human autonomy and breadth of choice, equity, sustainability, and empowerment as well as productivity. In an attempt to capture this multidimensional concept of development, UNDP computes a comprehensive Human Development Index (HDI) as a function of productivity, health, and education {footnote 2}. It is reassuring that this index shows less variance among nations than GDP per capita, still there are major disparities between nations, as shown in Table 2.

With the comprehensive, UNDP concept of development in mind, let us turn to some of contributions networks might make in economic productivity, health, education, democracy, and quality of life.

Economic Productivity

Communication pays. In recent telecommunication investments in developing nations, the World Bank expects rates of return between 13 and 20 percent, averaging about 20 percent. In addition to return on investment, they estimate 15-30 percent return to the general economy. They also find "very large economic returns" from the telecommunications components in other sectors such as railways, power, tourism, banking, and rural development. [19, pp 15-16].

Computer networks run over telephone infrastructure at relatively small marginal cost, providing increased economic benefit. Consider the success of the Relcom (RELiable COMmunications) network in the ex- Soviet Union [16]. Relcom was established in April, 1989, using a Microvax in Moscow and PC compatible (286 and 386) computers connected with dial-up lines and 2400 and 9600 bps modems. On August 22, 1990, they started international Internet connectivity with hourly phone calls from Helsinki to Moscow for batch transfer of email and Usenet news. By September, 1993, Relcom served nearly 7,000 organizations and an estimated 200,000 users connecting 162 regions and cities.

In spite of having begun under a communist regime, Relcom carried commercial traffic from the start, and was heavily commercial a year after it began (see Table 3). The network was used for markets and business communication within the nation, and for international transactions and coordination. In a 1994 Usenet News posting, Relcom co-founder Vadim Antonov said he believed the social and business impact of Relcom had been greater than that of the Internet in the US.

Relcom is unusual since networks in developing nations have usually started in the university and research community [7]. However it is not the only example. One of the newer networks, in Ghana, accepted commercial traffic from its inception, and 36 of its 89 customers were businesses 8 months after it began [18].

Networks enable international communication with suppliers, customers, and other stakeholders. Much of the economic success of the US is attributable to our lead in establishing a mass, tariff-free market supported by good communication and transportation [13]. Networks can help open mass, global markets to developing nations.

This of course raises the specter of reduced wages and environmental destruction in developed nations. The entrance of new competition will surely hurt certain industries and workers, but can this globalization be stopped? I do not think so. If that is the case, we in developed nations should console ourselves by noting the positive implications -- increased investment opportunity and trade, increased efficiency, lower-cost goods, service and distribution jobs, a more just, peaceful, humane world, and so forth. Economists since Ricardo have insisted that the economic pie is largest when every person (and nation) does what he or she does best. At the same time, we should work against the negative side effects, for example, by seeking international environmental and labor standards.


In 1992, Pedro Hepp and his colleagues at the Catholic University in Chile began a five-year project to develop and evaluate an elementary school network called Enlaces (links). Their goals were to enhance efficiency, quality and equity in education and to "integrate the children into the culture." They began with a pilot in six locations, and today there are 144 networked schools. Initially, each school had two computers and a 2400 bps modem. Today, there are between 3 and 10 computers and an Ethernet in each school. They began with batch transfer, making interactive access impossible, but a dozen schools are now getting IP connectivity to the Internet on a pilot basis. [8,]

Enlaces provides a variety of services -- student and teacher newsletters, educational software, curriculum notes, computer conferences, email, and database access. It has been formally evaluated, for example, they have have shown a statistically significant effect on student creativity, and the government has decided to expand nationwide. With World Bank funding, the goal is to reach 100% of the secondary schools and 50% of the primary schools by 2000.

The support structure has been decentralized through the (long) country with 15 universities participating. One of their strong beliefs is that the teachers are at the center of the network, and their training and support budget is 25% of the total project. From the beginning, Hepp understood the importance of supporting low income, rural and outlying areas. A project like this not only benefits Chile, we can all learn from it. (What proportion of the schools in your community have Ethernets)?

One might argue that Chile is a prosperous developing nation, and therefore atypical.{footnote 3} That is so, but even poor nations can make progress. The Cuban economy was dealt a debilitating blow by the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe, but has continued allocating resources to a small education network.{footnote 4}

Cuba's networking project is based in the Cuban Youth Computing Clubs (YCCs). Begun in 1987, the YCCs are typically Cuban in their stress on grass roots participation. The centers are reminiscent of Bob Albrecht's People's Computer Company (PCC) and similar experiments dating back to the 1960s in the United States. Like the PCC, they have computers running games, drawing programs, and other software, which the children may use in a relatively unstructured manner. Additionally, the YCCs offer classes on using application packages and programming. There are now 150 YCCs spread throughout the nation [17]. Eighty of these have 2,400 bps modems which are used to dial into shell accounts on a PC running Unix in Havana. That computer makes UUCP transfers to Canada twice daily, connecting rural Cuba to the world.

It is not coincidental that Cuba and Chile provide examples of education networks in developing nations. Both have strong records of investment in human capital -- education and health care. (Cuban and Chilean adult literacy and infant mortality are both above the averages for the UNDP "highly-developed" nations).

These examples have stressed primary and secondary schools, but networks in developing nations generally begin in the university and research community. The advantages of networks to academia are obvious -- databases are shared, conferences organized, papers circulated and discussed, collaborative research and writing undertaken, and so forth. It should be noted that this is not a one- way street. Scientists in developing nations, for example, Cuban biotechnologists have much to contribute to the rest of the world [5].

Universities and research in developing nations will be strengthened, and the "brain drain" diminished as the Net reduces pressure on professionals to move abroad. Early in the century, physics research was concentrated in a few centers. Increased international communication -- journals and conferences -- led to worldwide dispersion of physics research. International meetings and journals grew, but not as rapidly as domestic activity [4]. The Net will accelerate the spread of excellence.

Health Care

We are also seeing early application of networks to health care in developing nations. For example, HealthNet{footnote 5} links health care workers in 16 African nations and 4 Asian nations with each other and with colleagues and databases in developed nations using a variety of communication protocols over leased and switched land lines and terrestrial and satellite packet radio. It provides email, a listserver, electronic publications, database access, distance learning, Internet consulting and support, and facilitates cooperation between libraries (

As an example application, consider the use of the ProMED (Program for Monitoring Emerging Diseases) mailing list during the recent Ebola virus outbreak in Zaire. ProMED was established by 60 researchers in September 1993, and now has over 1,600 members in 80 countries. The list first heard of the outbreak from member Dr. Karl Johnson, the man who discovered and named the Ebola virus in Zaire in 1976. They circulated information from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, The World Health Organization, The Canadian Health Department, Health Canada, The Swiss Tropical Medicine Institute, The South African National Institute of Virology, and other organizations and Web sites. Subscribers provided sources and bibliographies for information about the Ebola virus and disease and reports of local reaction in Cameroon, Uganda and other countries neighboring Zaire. They got information to and from effected nations, helping control the spread of the virus and treat the disease, and they provided objective news to the general public.

Today, most HealthNet communication is international, since intranational connectivity is still very sparse in developing nations. But, one can imagine many networking applications in healthcare in a nation like Cuba or China where "barefoot doctors" and other paramedical people serve poor communities and rural areas.

Note that HealthNet uses satellite technology, which may have great promise for developing nations. They do not use the heavy, geostationary satellites that carry television or long distance telephony, but small, low-earth-orbit (LEO) satellites [2].{footnote 6} The current HealthNet satellite is capable of full-duplex, 9,600 bps communication. Several users may request messages at the same time, but only two can be sending. The satellite is in polar orbit, so it covers the globe, with locations near the equator getting 4 daily passes of about 13 minutes. The ground stations are PC- compatibles with a controller, radio and antenna. Messages may go to any HealthNet user, satellite station, or the Internet, with Internet routing through a gateway at the Memorial University of Newfoundland. Users see the system as typical off-line email with file attachments.

Thirteen-minute uplinks at 9,600 bps will not solve the world's health communication problems, but this is an experiment which hopefully scales up. Several consortia are raising capital and beginning work on LEO satellite networks. Most ambitious is Teledesic, a venture financed by Bill Gates and cellular entrepreneur Craig McCaw. They plan a network of 840 LEO satellites in 21, 435-mile high orbital planes, optimized for digital communication -- routers in space. They are targeting two million simultaneous connections and T1 speeds, which would enable connectivity in rural clinics and villages.{footnote 7} While many feel this is overly ambitious, they are counting on mass-produced components and technological progress for success (Table 4).

HealthNet also uses terrestrial radio links, running IP over paths up to 1,000 km. Again, they are operating at a very small scale, but entrepreneurs are investing in terrestrial wireless infrastructure in developing nations. For example, the International Telecommunication Union has established WorldTel, an ambitious organization that is raising capital and beginning pilot installations for wireless telephone links to rural communities in developing nations.

Democracy and Human Rights

One might expect networks to encourage democracy by providing people living under dictatorship with outside information and ideas, and by enabling them to share ideas and coordinate political activity within their nations. For example, the Net was used for both inter and intranational communication during the failed Soviet Coup attempt [14], and it carried news and discussion of events in Tian An Men Square, Chiapas, and so forth. Indeed, we have a dictator's dilemma - - the Net is good for economic development, but may undermine control [6].{footnote 8}

Going beyond anecdote, Kedzie [9] presents multivariate statistical analysis showing that interconnectivity is a better predictor of democracy than schooling, GDP, life expectancy, ethnic homogeneity, or population, particularly in regions of newly emerging democracy. He also analyzed the data looking for causality, finding stronger evidence for networks leading to democracy than democracy leading to networks or a spurious correlation of the two with development. Still, he concludes that "the most plausible relationship between democracy and networked communication (and perhaps economic development) may be a virtuous circle with positive feedbacks in both directions" [9].

Many organizations supporting human rights and democracy in developing nations use the Net. The Association for Progressive Communication (APC) has been a leader in this effort since 1989, coordinating the operation and development of networks devoted to peace, ecology, human rights, and other "progressive" causes. By August 1995, there were 18 member networks, serving over 31,000 activists, educators, nonprofits and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in over 133 countries. APC also exchanges email and selected conferences with 40 partner networks. In September, 1995, APC was granted Consultative Status, Category 1, with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations. This means they can have a permanent representative at the UN, and are entitled to submit written statements to the Council, to be granted hearings, and to propose agenda items for consideration by the Council and its subsidiary bodies.

Quality of Life

The environment is under stress everywhere. We have pollution, and energy and other resources are limited. To the extent that networks enable us to substitute communication for transportation, they will have helped. We normally think of this effect with telecommuters in developed nations, but it may also save a rural farmer, laborer or craftsman a trip to town.

More important, rural people may not move. As Table 5, shows, humanity is flocking to cities in search of better education, health care, and employment. They joke that the national bird of China is now the "crane" because so many high rise buildings are under construction, but can the environment stand the strain of 100 new high-rise Hong Kong's? And, what of congestion, traffic, crime and other side-effects of urbanization? This is not a simple defense of the noble rural life. When allowed, rural people move to the city because it provides a better life.{footnote 9} If rural or town life can be improved, fewer may feel compelled to move.

I recently reviewed a networking plan for Vietnam in the year 2000 [15]. It emphasized Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, as opposed to, say, networking regional capitals and fanning out from there. Implicitly or explicitly, infrastructure planning is social planning. Could a Vietnamese Net help curb urbanization while providing urban advantages in towns and rural areas? This issue is tied to productivity -- prosperous nations involve a high percentage of the population in intellectual and economic life.

Perhaps breadth of choice is at the heart of quality of life. A simpler, rural life may be desirable if it is freely chosen, rather than imposed by necessity. Choice implies awareness, and communication technology expands horizons, making us aware of vocational, political, and value issues and alternatives.

What is needed?

Looking at some of the tables in this article, one could give up in desperation over the enormity of global gaps, but there are reasons to be hopeful.

Technical progress is a leveler. If we take a 100-year perspective, all nations are "developing," particularly in a fast-changing area like telecommunication. The fiber-coax plant a US phone company installs today will be as out of date in 50 years as the African infrastructure is now. Telecommunication is an accelerating game of leap frog. More encouraging, our 100-year perspective shows rapid improvement in the human condition (Table 6).

If we believe networks are achievable by and valuable for developing nations, we should ask what is needed to develop them [16]. Networks require complementary resources (see Table 7), trained people, and political cooperation. Let us briefly consider the outlook for needed resources.

Domestic telephone infrastructure. Computer networks need telephone infrastructure, and, paradoxically, the worse the infrastructure is, the greater the marginal value of the Net. While they are far behind, the rate of telephone investment in developing nations is higher than developed nations. For example, China plans to spend more than $40 billion, installing the equivalent of a Bell Canada every year until 2000 [1]. Investment is being encouraged by several factors, including a wave of privatization (there are 26 scheduled privatizations the next 3 years), deregulation (for example Chile has intense local and long-distance competition), and improving technology which means better returns.

International links. These follow from increased domestic demand, and are made more affordable by rapid advances in optical amplification and transmission and satellite technology.

User hardware and software. Users in developing nations typically have or share Intel-based PCs, and improving technology makes them increasingly affordable. More powerful PCs allow easily learned software, cutting training costs.

Networking hardware and software. PCs and public domain software are sufficient to begin a network. An "obsolete" 486-based PC might provide Shell accounts for hundreds of users, serve as a router, or as the international store-and-forward link to the Internet.

Network technicians. While still in short supply, technical knowledge spreads rapidly, and network technicians are being trained in universities, at workshops, and on the Net. Local technicians have established international network links in 173 nations, 96 of which have IP Internet connectivity{footnote 10} [11].

Trained, demanding users. This is the toughest nut to crack. The most important networking resource in the US may be the millions of students and office workers who are familiar with the functional components and capabilities of a computer and applications like word processing. They can easily make the technical and conceptual shift to the Net, but we have had 20 years since the introduction of commercial personal computers to achieve this level of awareness. Improved technology, making better user interfaces possible, will help, but shortening that cycle will be difficult. (Recall that 25% of the Enlaces budget is for user training).

Government support. A government frozen by the dictator's dilemma or a bureaucracy seeking to milk telecommunication as a revenue source, will stop networking in its tracks. The government should also plan networks with broad national policy (for instance, regarding urbanization) in mind.

Local cooperation. Networks can benefit from cooperation among local networking organizations, for example, by sharing international links or formulating national plans, even if they compete in some areas. The relationship between academic and commercial networks is evolving and complex, and, again, national priorities should be considered in setting policy.

The bulk of the investment for networks in developing nations private and for profit, and the bulk of the work will be done by local people. Still, professional organizations like ACM, foundations, corporations, international organizations, and governments of developed nations can assist them with the resources listed above. We will all gain from improving their lot. Scientific discoveries help us all; a free, democratic nation is unlikely to wage war; there are few refugees from productive nations; and we share one environment. It is not that computer networks will solve all the world's problems, but that they may help with some.

Acknowledgment -- I have often discussed this topic with my friend and colleague Sy Goodman.


1. See Simon [20] for an essay on the impact of computers in which he suggests that people's floating aspiration levels render economic fluctuations relatively unimportant. However, in times of rapid change, that is not the case.

2. The HDI is an evenly weighted average of three indices, life expectancy, educational attainment and real GDP/capita. Life expectancy is a percent of 85 years, educational attainment is a linear function of adult literacy rate and school enrollment rate, and real GDP/capita is adjusted for purchasing power parity. GDP/capita is also non-linear -- amounts above the world average ($5,120 in 1992) are deemed to have decreasing utility, up to a maximum of $40,000. While limited, and surely not worthy of the 3-digit significance reported by the UNDP, the HDI is more reasonable than simple GDP/capita.

3. Using 1992 data, Chile's HDI is .880, and their real, per capita GDP is $8,410 [21]. For purposes of comparison, the UNDP high development nations have an average HDI of .888, and real per capita GDP of $13,605. World averages are .759 and $5,410.

4. Using 1992 data, Cuba's HDI is .769 and their real, per capita GDP is $3,412 [21]. Unfortunately, the fall of Eastern Europe has doubtless lowered these figures. With the Soviet collapse, Cuba lost around $4-5 billion in aid and subsidies, and their key trading partners. Foreign trade is approximately 25% of the 1989 level, and GDP 50%.

5. HealthNet is administered by SateLife, a non-profit initiative of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, recipient of the 1985 Nobel Peace Prize. They have support from NEC Corporation and BBN Planet.

6. For instance, INTELSAT-6 weighs 4,600 kg at launch, generates 2,600 Watts, and can carry up to 120,000 2-way telephone calls and 3 TV channels. A typical micro satellite weighs 50 kg and generates 30 Watts. (

7. Today's geostationary satellites are geared toward large customers like phone companies, truck and boat fleets, or oil companies, and communication is bundled with relatively expensive vertical service. It is hoped that LEO networks will provide unbundled communication to individuals and small businesses, and be directly marketed. They have relatively short design times and life cycles, and use mass-market parts. It is a "PC" vision, not a "mainframe" vision.

8. The democrat's dilemma is that we would like to influence human rights and other practices within dictatorships, but are reluctant to forego trade with them.

9. For a study of the modernization of a Turkish village between 1950 and 1954, see Lerner [12]. He observed, for example, that the number of radios in the village grew from 1 to over 100, and many people moved from farming to cash-paying jobs. The people welcomed modernization, referring to a grocer who anticipated it in 1950 (and ironically had died by 1954) as a "prophet."

10. Virtually all of the networked nations are experimenting internally with IP networks, in anticipation of international IP links.


1. Arnst, Catherine, Jackson, Susan, and Shari, Michael, "The Last Frontier," Business Week, pp 98-111, September 18, 1995.

2. Bird, Jane, "Small is Beautiful for University Space Outfit," Science, Vol 253, pp 848-849, August 23, 1991.

3. Cobb, Clifford, Halstead, Ted, and Rowe, Jonathan, "If the GDP is up, why is America Down?" The Atlantic Monthly, Vol 276 No 4, pp 59- 78, October, 1995.

4. Deutsch, Karl W., "Shifts in the Balance of Communication Flows," Public Opinion Quarterly, 20 (1956), pp 143-160.

5. Feinsilver, Julie M., "Cuban Biotechnology, A First World Approach to Development," in Perez-Lopez, Jorge F., ed., "Cuba at a Crossroads," pp 167-189, University of Florida Press, Gainsville, FL, 1994.

6. Goodman, S., and Green, J. D., "Computing in the Middle East," Communications of the ACM, Vol 35, No 8, pp 21-25, August, 1992.

7. Goodman, S., Press, L., Ruth, S., and Rutkowski, A., "The Global Diffusion of the Internet: Patterns and Problems," Communications of the ACM, Vol 37, No 8, pp 27-31, August, 1994.

8. Hepp, Pedro, Interviews in 1992 and 1995.

9. ITU, "World Telecommunication Development Report," International Telecommunications Union, Geneva, 1995.

10. Kedzie, Christopher R., "Coincident Revolutions," OnTheInternet, in press.

11. Landweber, Larry, International Connectivity Table,, connectivity-table directory, June 15, 1995.

12. Lerner, Daniel, "The Passing of Traditional Society," The Free Press, New York, 1958.

13. Madrick, Jeff, "The End of Affluence," New York Review of Books, pp 13-17, September 21, 1995.

14. Press, L., "Relcom, An Appropriate Technology Network," Proceedings of INET '92, International Networking Conference, Kobe, Japan, June, 1992, Internet Society, Reston, VA.

15. Press, L., "Comments on the Informatics 2000 Plan,"

16. Press, L., "Developing Networks in Less Industrialized Nations," IEEE Computer, vol 28 No 6, June, 1995, pp 66-71.

17. Press, L., and Aramas, C., "Cuban Networking Update," OnTheInternet, in press.

18. Quaynor, Nii, "Networking in Ghana," OnTheInternet, in press.

19. Saunders, Robert J, Warford, Jeremy J., and Wellenius, Bjorn, Telecommunications and Economic Development," The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, 1994.

20. Simon, Herbert, "A Computer for Everyman," The American Scholar, pp 258-264, 1966.

21. UNDP, United Nations Development Programme Report on Human Development, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1995.

22. Wallman, Sandra, "Perceptions of Development," Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1977.


Table 1                               Numbers of Internet Hosts by Region

    Region                 Jan 94    Jul 94    Oct 94    Jan 95   July 95

    North America       1,685,715 2,177,396 2,685,929 3,372,551 4,515,871
    Western Europe        550,933   730,429   850,993 1,039,192 1,530,057
    Pacific               113,482   142,353   154,473   192,390   252,014
    Asia                   81,355   111,278   127,569   151,773   233,343
    Eastern Europe & CIS   19,867    27,800    32,951    46,125    67,648
    Africa                 10,951    15,595    21,041    27,130    42,108
    Car, Cent, & S Amer     7,392    11,455    14,894       n/a    28,493
    Middle East             6,946     8,871    10,383    13,776    21,179

    Total               2,476,641 3,225,177 3,898,233 4,842,937 6,690,713

Title: Numbers of Internet Hosts by Region

Caption: Over 90% of hosts are in North America and Western Europe, and this understates global disparity since those are generally the largest machines with highest speed connectivity.

Source: Mark Lottor,

Table 2

region                            HDI

Least Developed Countries        0.34 
All Developing Countries         0.57
Industrial Countries             0.92

Sub-Saharan Africa               0.39
Arab States                      0.64
South Asia (SA)                  0.46
SA excluding India               0.49
East Asia (EA)                   0.62
EA excluding China               0.87
S. E. Asia and Pacific           0.65
Latin America and Caribbean      0.82

The World                        0.76

Title: UNDP Human Development Index

Caption: There are large discrepancies among nations and regions.

Source: [21]

Table 3

   11  government agencies, including the USSR and Russian Finance 

   15  foreign and domestic publications and news services including 
       AP, UPI, the German Press Agency, and Financial Times

   20  commodity, raw material and stock exchanges  

   26  universities and university departments, including several 
       machines at Moscow State and Saint Petersburg Universities

   96  limiteds, corporations, enterprises, companies, firms or banks, 
       joint ventures or small ventures

   117 scientific and research institutes, nearly all in technical 
       fields such as mathematics and physics.

   85  unable to classify.

Title: Relcom Diversity

Caption: While I was unable to categorize 85 of the organizations, it is clear that many were commercial enterprises.

Source: Relcom UUCP site list, August, 1991.

Table 4

            Launch Storage    Speed
Satellite    Year  (bytes)    (bps)

UoSAT-2      1984    128 k    1,200
UoSAT-3      1990     16 m    9,600
FASat-Alfa   1995    300 m   76,800

Title: Satellite Generations

Caption: Semiconductor progress, use of standard parts, and short design cycles improve performance of small, store-and-forward satellites.


Table 5

                                       Est. annual
Region/                                    growth
Group                    1960     1992  1992-2000

High development          45%      69%       0.2%
Medium development        22%      35%       0.6%
Medium excluding China    27%      46%       0.4%
Low development           15%      26%       0.5%
Low excluding India       12%      26%       0.6%
All developing            22%      36%       0.5%
Least developed            9%      21%       0.7%
Sub-Saharan Africa        15%      30%       0.6%
Industrial                61%      73%       0.1%
World                     34%      44%       0.3%

Title: Population in Urban Areas

Caption: People are drawn to cities, and the UNDP estimates migration rates will be highest for least developed nations during 1992-2000.

Source: [21]

Table 6

Year     Low   Medium     High
         HDI      HDI      HDI
1960      73%      11%      16%
1992      31%      39%      30%

Title: Global Improvement

Caption: Quality of life has improved markedly since 1960.

High: HDI >= .8, Medium: HDI .5-.799, Low: HDI < .5

Source: [21], page 19

Table 7

Income/       Pop.    GDP/ Phone  CATV   PCs Leased  Cell.    Fax    TV
region      (mil.)    cap. lines subs.  /100 circs. phones machs.  sets
                            /100  /100        /100k   /100  /100k  /100

Low          3,147     415   1.5   1.3  0.14      1   0.05     11  11.8
Lower-Middle 1,111   1,529   8.4   0.4  0.72      8   0.14     65  19.8
Upper-Middle   508   4,515  14.4   2.2  2.68    122   0.83    332  24.1
High           839  22,621  51.9  14.0 18.26  2,341   5.65  3,331  59.7

Africa         701     630   1.7   0.0  0.84     11   0.06     22     4
Americas       765  11,277  27.9  10.0  14.3  1,873   3.67  2,054  42.3
Asia         3,323   2,120   4.8   1.7  1.07     50    0.3    238  16.3
Europe         788  10,254  32.0   4.9  7.24    441   1.89    812  38.9
Oceana          28  12,469  38.7   0.0  21.6  2,993   5.31  1,823  40.9

World        5,605   4,390  11.6   3.1  4.14    364   0.99    548  21.7

Title: Telecommunication Indicators

Caption: Phone lines, leased circuits, PCs, and CATV are all technologies that complement computer networks.

Economies are grouped by 1993 GDP/capita in $US:

   low:  less than $695 (59 nations)
   lower-middle:  $696-2,785 (68 nations)
   upper-middle:  $2,786-8,625 (39 nations)
   high:  greater than $8,625 (39 nations)
Source: [9]


Three important organizations working for development are the International Telecommunications Union, World Bank, and United Nations Development Programme. Each has a Web site:

UNDP, ITU, and World Bank also publish many books and reports on development, and I will recommend one from each organization. UNDP publishes an annual Human Development Report (e. g., [21]). The first half of the report is a set of articles on a development-related theme, the second half statistical tables. It sounds like this might be dry reading, but it is not. The articles are interesting and insightful, with excellent tables and figures, and the statistics of great value. ITU publishes an annual World Telecommunication Development Report in the same format as the UNDP reports, and, again, it is fascinating reading. From the World Bank, I recommend, [19], an update of an edition written in the mid 1980s. All these books inspire global concern and awareness -- much as a whole-earth satellite photos does.

For background on ITU plans for raising capital for telephone infrastructure in developing nations, see "Closing the Global Communication Gap," McKinsey and Company, Sydney New South Wales, Australia, 1995.

For an overview of commercial LEO satellite projects, see ComputerLetter, Vol 10, Number 10, March 28, 1994, Technologic Partners, New York.

For information on space research and small satellites, see It is maintained by the Centre for Satellite Engineering Research at the University of Surrey, U.K, a leader in LEO research and development.

Network sites dealing with networks in developing nations are:

   gopher:// (in the global_net directory)

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