Joseph Stiglitz, Knowledge as a Global Public Good (1999)

Abstract:  This chapter examines the worldwide trend toward increased privatization of both information and information and communications technologies, as well as the shrinking role of states and the effects on peoples’ access to adequate information goods and services. Publicness cannot be guaranteed unless users have low?cost access to the opportunities afforded by the new information technologies. Privatization of telecommunications carriers will not guarantee low?cost access and may actually impede it. In absolute terms, the prices of knowledge goods and services are higher in Africa than in high?income countries. In addition, even though information and communications technologies have public good attributes, they are embedded in power relationships. In particular, they are crucial for access to developing country markets, for intelligence purposes and for the transmission of ideas and ideologies. Most of all, they have the potential to widen the gap between haves and have?nots. Accordingly, the chapter calls for a renewed commitment to a public service agenda and, to that end, for increased cooperation between states on a regional basis.