Information technologies have contributed to the increase in the concentration of access to information, decision-making and control. They have accelerated the crisis in employment through labour substitution and have intensified the competitivity processes in both economic and social spheres. Their development has sustained the belief that the urban crisis can be resolved through new information and communication infrastructures. Computer-based planning, monitoring and control systems are presented as the key to efficient development and management. Information technologies are presented as the key to future competitiveness of cities, nations and isolated regions. Communication technologies are promoted as the means through which truly participatory democracy may be achieved.
Many countries are rushing into computer without examining their needs. China, in 1984, imported $300 million worth of computer components to make 120,000 computers. By 1985 at least half of them were unused because of shortages of skilled users and software programmes. In some African francophone countries it is not unusual for government data-processing offices to close down due to a lack of paper.
The proliferation of computers reduces productivity. They enable people to create, use and store considerably more information. However much of this is unnecessary at best and counterproductive at worst. Much time is wasted creating it and then reacting to it once created. In the USA, for example, most computers are used in the service sector, where productivity has grown negligibly, not in the manufacturing sector where productivity has grown dramatically. For developing countries the computer makes it possible to leapfrog certain stages of development by slashing paper bureaucracy, streamlining production and improving health care. But the computer explosion in developing countries are in many cases not being effectively used. Computers don't clothe, cure, or feed the poor. Their power begins and ends with information.