Graduate Alumni Update: Jack Barry

Jack J. Barry, Ph.D. (UConn Human Rights Graduate Certificate alumni) published a book Information Communication Technology and Poverty Alleviation: Promoting Good Governance in the Developing World (Routledge 2018) on the impact of Information Communication Technologies (ICTs) on poverty outcomes in the developing world and concludes with a call for internet access to be conceptualized jointly as an intrinsic and instrumental human right. Despite global economic disparities, recent years have seen rapid technological changes in developing countries, as it is now common to see people across all levels of society with smartphones in their hands and computers in their homes. However, does access to ICTs actually improve the day-to-day lives of low-income citizens?

This book posits that good governance is essential to the realization of inclusive pro-poor development goals, and puts forward policy recommendations that aim to mitigate the complex digital divide by employing governance as the primary actor. In making his argument, Jack provides a quantitative analysis of developing countries, conjoined with a targeted in-depth study of Mexico. He interviewed both elites and general populace respondents in the Mexican cities of Puebla and Guadalajara—Mexico's so-called Silicon Valley (Gallagher & Zarsky 2007). Jack also worked in indigenous mountainous villages in the rural state of Oaxaca where Mixe was the dominant language, rather than Spanish, producing difficult barriers to using an internet rather bereft of Mixe. This mixed method approach provides an intriguing case for how improvements in the quality of governance impacts both ICT penetration, and poverty alleviation. Overall, the book challenges the neoliberal deterministic perspective that the open market will "solve" technology diffusion, and argues instead that good governance is the lynchpin that creates conducive conditions for ICTs to make an impact on poverty alleviation. In fact, the digital divide should not be considered binary, rather it is a multifaceted problem where income, education, and language all need to be considered to address it effectively.

Here is a review about the book: "Jack Barry’s keen and thorough assessment of the impact of access to the Internet on the poor in the developing world more generally, and in Mexico [in particular], is indeed a novel and fascinating blend of theoretical and empirical approaches to tackling modern-day issues of democratizing information. This timely and thoughtful contribution opens up a window to the study of the policies that aim to provide Internet access to the poor, both as an effective human rights approach and an appropriate governance approach." -- Mahmood Monshipouri, Professor, San Francisco State University/UC-Berkeley, USA

More recently, Jack has published an article on The Conversation about the results from the case study of Mexico in the book, namely its 2013 Constitutional Amendment claiming internet access is a human right “Mexico wants internet access for all. Getting everyone online could reduce poverty, too.” This article has been picked up by over 25 news outlets, including Public Radio International, Latino USA, and the San Francisco Chronicle. Jack is continuing his work in this area, namely exploring why the UN did not include a government provision for access to the internet in its Resolution declaring internet access a human right, and the feasibility of a “public good” policy approach to providing it in the future.