The contradictory findings in studies investigating the impact of Information Communication Technologies on poverty in the developing world compose the primary puzzle I tackle in this dissertation. The argument presented here can be summarized as ‘guardedly optimistic’ about the impact of the Internet and mobile phones as I believe they can contributed to improving the lives of the poor, yet only when their limitations are addressed: primarily cost, education, and language. I posit that good governance is a forgotten, yet vital, missing link in the literature.
The following ten claims are put forth: (1) Internet and mobile phones have more potential than previous ICTs to lift the poor out of poverty. (2) There is a statistically significant interaction effect between the Internet and governance that influences poverty. (3) In a large-n analysis, my proposed interaction effect reveals statistically significant findings between measures of good governance and the Internet. (4) Structural analysis of Mexican states indicates that ‘bubbles’ and ‘black holes’ exist regarding Internet access and states with more access have better outcomes for poverty when other factors are controlled for. (5) In my survey across Mexico, respondents with more Internet access were better informed about politics, participated more in political activities, visited government websites more often and utilized services on them. (6) Respondents reported the Internet was effective in providing pressure for government reform. (7) Where the government devoted resources to ensuring access and training for digital literacy, users were better informed, more politically active, and reported using access for economic purposes. (8) However, when access was not provided, nor were education and language issues were not accounted for, the Internet proved difficult for the poor to utilize. (9) Despite challenges, the indigenous in Mexico expressed and displayed a high level of interest and use of the Internet. (10) Finally, I conclude by claiming that a ‘Right to Internet Access’ is an effective way to ensure access for the poor. In sum, all of these findings indicate a strong interaction effect between governance and Internet access that can create the necessary conditions for the poor to benefit economically.
Dissertation Copy Available in the POLS Director of Graduate Studies’ (DGS) office? Yes