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Can ICT Enable Growth & Reduce Violence?

This Is a Very Tough Idea to Prove

I listened to remarks on CSPAN from the very controversial Avigdor Lieberman, Israel's current Foreign Minister, during his recent appearance at a forum in Washington, DC.

He said he believed that if people focused on economic development in the Palestinian Territories enough to give it a per capita income (PCI) of US$10,000 then the peace process would, in essence, take care of itself.

The territories have a current PCI of $1,820, according to the United Nations. This ranks in the bottom third of the world, next to Sudan and the new country of South Sudan. Compare it to Israel at $29,300.

Or compare it to Lebanon ($9,200), Jordan ($4,400), Syria ($2,900), and Egypt ($2,650).

Research we've been conducting for the past two years shows that Jordan and Egypt have strong potential for development on the basis of ICT infrastructures that are relatively advanced, given their income levels. Syria also does well by regional standards. We haven't covered Lebanon or the Palestinian Territories yet.

But would this magical - and given regional incomes, mythical - PCI number for the Palestinian Territories really bring peace? Countries throughout the world that have achieved this income level include Turkey, Mexico, Brazil, and Venezuela.

If we look not only at violence, but at the economic volatility that has at times almost paralyzed the developed world, we see Ireland, Portugal, and Greece far, far above that income level - as is the United States, of course.

ICT in general improves communications and access to the Worldwide Web, social media, and cloud computing. Strong ICT infrastructures, characterized by widespread, fast connections, can be a disruptive force, as we've seen with the Arab Spring, as well as with Chinese and American government efforts to limit or chill the Web's frightening power.

We believe that the developing countries we've identified as having the most potential will, in fact, develop economically more quickly than the laggards in our research. We believe this will occur as political turmoil and ugly violence continue.

But at what point does economic development guarantee peace? Does it ever? Is the phrase "peace and prosperity" a dated concept.

It would be nice to think that things calm down and violence decreases at a certain income level, but that looks like a very tough idea to prove. That said, anyone who wishes an honest conversation on the topic would be welcome, in our view.

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More Stories By Roger Strukhoff

Roger Strukhoff (@IoT2040) is Executive Director of the Tau Institute for Global ICT Research, with offices in Illinois and Manila. He is Conference Chair of @CloudExpo & @ThingsExpo, and Editor of SYS-CON Media's CloudComputing BigData & IoT Journals. He holds a BA from Knox College & conducted MBA studies at CSU-East Bay.

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