An ethical perspective on information poverty and proposed solutions


Johannes J. Britz and J.N. Blignaut


There is general agreement that there is a widening gap between the information rich and information poor countries in today’s world. It can also be argued that the largest portion of the world’s population is information poor. This may predict a bleak feature for the information society – a concept, which has become synonymous with the first world – unless this problem of information poverty is solved.

The aim of this paper is therefore to investigate what is meant by the concepts information wealth – information poverty identify the main reasons for information poverty discuss an ethical perspective on possible solutions to information poverty propose a possible solution, based on an economic model within the framework of social justice, to the problem of information poverty.

Definitions and interpretations of the concepts information poverty and wealth. The first aim of this paper is to find a proper definition of the concepts information rich and information poor. This is due to the fact that there is little agreement on what exactly the terms refer to. A short overview of existing definitions of information poverty and information wealth are provided followed by an interpretation of these concepts. A working definition is formulated which are based on four common features namely: information, the human being, technology and economics.

The main reasons for information poverty The second part of the paper concentrates on the main causes for information poverty. The identification of these causes are important for the proper understanding and formulation of possible solutions to the problem of information poverty. These causes areas follows: advanced capitalism; the specific information environment; the lack of an effective information infostructure; and the exploitation of indigenous knowledge.

In the next part of the paper an ethical perspective is given on the problem of information poverty which can act as a framework for the formulation of possible solutions. The ethical framework is based on social justice.

The paper concludes with possible solutions to the problem of information poverty. It is indicated that the solution to information poverty lies on different levels and that the approach to finding solutions must be multi-disciplinary and based on the norm of justice. The proposed solutions are based on John Rawls’ model of social justice and an economic model which are known as the Economic Systems Approach (ESA). The ESA is aimed at capacity building and therefore facilitates the integration of a multitude of processes and the diversity of human behaviour and also recognises the complexity of the structure of society. It is argued and demonstrated that the application of this economic model will contribute, in a fair and just manner, to the reduction of information poverty and the possible creation of information wealth.