Geographic Insights: Information Technology to 2015

Over the next 15 years, a wide range of developments will lead to many new IT-enabled devices and services. Rapid diffusion is likely because equipment costs will decrease at the same time that demand is increasing. Local-to-global Internet access holds the prospect of universal wireless connectivity via hand-held devices and large numbers of low-cost, low-altitude satellites. Satellite systems and services will develop in ways that increase performance and reduce costs.

By 2015, information technology will make major inroads in rural as well as urban areas around the globe. Moreover, information technology need not be widespread to produce important effects. The first information technology "pioneers" in each society will be the local economic and political elites, multiplying the initial impact.

Some countries and populations, however, will fail to benefit much from the information revolution.

Among developing countries, India will remain in the forefront in developing information technology, led by the growing class of high-tech workers and entrepreneurs.

China will lead the developing world in utilizing information technology, with urban areas leading the countryside. Beijing's capacity to control or shape the content of information, however, is likely to be sharply reduced.

Although most Russian urban-dwellers will adopt information technologies well before 2015, the adoption of such technologies will be slow in the broader population.

Latin America's Internet market will grow exponentially. Argentina, Mexico, and Brazil will accrue the greatest benefits because of larger telecommunications companies, bigger markets, and more international investment.

In Sub-Saharan Africa, South Africa is best positioned to make relatively rapid progress in IT.

Societies with advanced communications generally will worry about threats to individual privacy. Others will worry about the spread of "cultural contamination." Governments everywhere will be simultaneously asked to foster the diffusion of IT while controlling its "harmful" effects.