Look to the Internet to fight poverty

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[Commentary] In the past decade, information technology has begun to transform anti-poverty efforts and bring to the poverty world some of the increases in productivity that have been common in the private sector. If President-elect Obama can expand on this, the chances for him to make good on a broad social justice agenda will increase in spite of the other challenges he faces. In the past two decades, electronic database and Internet technologies have driven down the cost of government overhead while significantly elevating the productivity of the nation's anti-poverty programs. Fraud has been reduced while the needs of the economically distressed are addressed in a more timely manner. This has freed up money for other pressing anti-poverty needs. Internet innovation has transformed business, entertainment, and even government. In an Obama administration, it can transform approaches to poverty at home and abroad. The government's efforts should be focused on expanding access to Internet and other technologies for as many Americans as possible while continuing to develop our national broadband capacity. (Elaine Kamarck is a lecturer in public policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.)


Look to the Internet to fight poverty