Page 4 of 13Globalization and Migration
It is well known that ICTs not only increase the flow of materials, products, and information through communications networks, but also facilitate greater human mobility. This human movement creates challenges for regional economic development, as it is not always clear how the benefits of ICT will remain in a local area or even a nation when they enhance the flow of talented humans away from communities. In some ways, our conception of ICTD is bound in this tension around a future that is "global", enticing people to become more mobile, and at the same time attempting to be an impetus for benefits in local communities. This tension leads to confused planning about the actual results of ICTD initiatives.
Jeb Brugmann (2002) notes that most cities remain victims to four 'strategic flaws" that reduce the capability for sustainable development and these are particularly noticeable when looking at ICTD compared to other development initiatives. First, we tend to focus on the future rather than on strengthening existing capability.
Second, we usually attempt to avoid, rather than to address, our conspicuous institutional and political issues. Third, we tend to forget that our strategic position is also a product of routine practices and incremental decisions rather than somewhere we "choose" to be. And fourth, as a combination of the other three, we tend to treat the market as a measure of development rather than as a tool to enhance well-being.
These suggestions encourage us to look closer at the context of development, particularly in underdeveloped regions, and to unlock the potential for sustainable development in less revolutionary but more effective measures based on existing capacity and capability. In most regions, the rural poor are the most targeted in development programs, and addressing the social and economic issues they face will require interventions in the agricultural economy. The potential for ICT interventions is not so much to allow entry into a new economy, but to enable families to have access to health information and capital and to take better advantage of remittance economies (Richardson 2006, p. 8). As Richardson notes, the end goal of these ICT interventions is not improved agricultural production, but "poverty reduction in the context of improved livelihoods, recognising the clear importance of the rural family as the hub of agricultural production in areas of poverty, and within national economies" (Richardson 2006, p. 9).
Ironically, by focusing on the rural family in underdeveloped areas, the degree to which local development involves global issues becomes clear. For example, remittance economies are crucial throughout the Asia Pacific region, and are radically underestimated by analyses that account only for official channels of economic trade. As Seddon et al. (2002) note, the majority of remittances are "informal or illegal" and between 13 and 25 percent of Nepal's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is attributable to remittances from abroad. As the bulk of the work undertaken by families abroad is service work, the remittance economy relies to a large extent on ICT skills, whether such skills are used directly in employment or as a means of connecting to a wider economic infrastructure in a host community where a migrant worker will travel.
Remittances are a very specific way in which underdeveloped communities make use of global networks, and their often informal nature should not prevent ICTD initiatives from supporting these inward flows of resources. However, supporting such family-led redistribution of resources involves less work on high-level global economy issues such as free-trade agreements that support capital mobility, and more attention to difficult political questions such as labour force mobility within and between countries.