During a visit to India in March President Clinton watched a woman enter a village health centre, call up a web page on the computer, and get information on how to care for her baby.1 It is possible that this baby will have better health because of the availability of information on the internet. However, this possibility is underpinned by several assumptions, and the potential of information and communication technologies still has not been harnessed systematically to bring about important improvements in the health of populations, particularly among those who are poor and isolated in developing countries.
This article explores the potential of advances in information and communication technologies to disseminate information and describes the availability of access to technology in developing countries. It also discusses issues of accuracy and the relevance of content.
- Information and communication technologies have not been harnessed systematically to improve the health of populations in developing countries
- These technologies empower those who use information by providing them with a choice of information to be accessed in their own time and by allowing them to put their own information on the web
- The current digital divide is more dramatic than any other inequity in health or income
- The quality of health information available on the web is inconsistent, and the visibility of research from developing countries is limited
- The way forward is to exploit the full interactivity of the internet, which allows rapid feedback and change to continuously mould information into useful knowledge