The centrality of electricity to ICT use in low-income countries

Laura E. Armey, Laura Hosman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


A growing body of literature that extols the ability of information and communication technologies (ICTs) to enhance well-being in developing countries tends to focus on long run institutional and socio-economic changes as key to driving Internet uptake. The literature, however, too often ignores one factor in discussions of ICTs׳ importance and employment: electricity. Overlooking the centrality of electricity to any ICT for development (ICT4D) initiative has enormous consequences; countless initiatives have failed to consider the (in)ability to power the technology that is central to such development efforts. The present article seeks to address this gap by emphasizing the primacy of electricity in ICT4D initiatives. Utilizing a unique dataset that avoids issues associated with unreliably measured and inequitably distributed grid power, we examine the drivers of Internet adoption in low-income countries. We find robust evidence that increasing the distribution of electricity within under-served countries—and thereby making electricity available to a larger proportion of the population—significantly increases the number of Internet users. Arguably, improvements in infrastructure may bring about significant changes in Internet use, even in places where advancements in education and political representation remain elusive.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)617-627
Number of pages11
JournalTelecommunications Policy
Issue number7
StatePublished - 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Developing countries
  • Economic development
  • Energy
  • Environment
  • ICTs
  • Internet

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Human Factors and Ergonomics
  • Information Systems
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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