What is e-Inclusion? E-Inclusion refers to a social movement aimed at minimizing the global digital divide as well as at providing a digital dividend for corporations. This symbiotic relationship fosters “…entrepreneurship among the poor-which, according to Prahalad, is a solution to global poverty” (Schwittay, 2012, p. 45). C. K. Prahalad, was a professor at the Stephen M. Ross School of Business and the University of Michigan and was a corporate strategy expert.
The question is who benefits the most from e-Inclusion programs- the poor in emerging markets such as India, Asia, Africa, Latin America and Central Europe or high-tech multinational corporations? One could argue that this relationship benefits both parties, but I feel that multinational corporations usually prevail. Corporations, such as HP (Hewlett-Packard) use e-inclusion to showcase global citizenship initiatives. “Digital corporate citizenship” is an example of global corporate citizenship and refers to the social movement that the high-tech industry is involved in where rural poor are given access to ICTs in the hope of closing the global digital divide (Smith, 2002). This allows corporations to “…present themselves to governments of developing companies as responsible and trustworthy partners” (Kirkpatrick, 2001, p. 25).
Matten and Crane (2005) argue that this type of citizenship is motivated by corporations because they need to ensure operating platforms for themselves in emerging markets. The majority of these countries do not provide citizenship rights to the poor, so in most cases, corporations offer necessary social rights such as employment and welfare services but only if they feel that the profits they make are worth the expenditures. What happens when these corporations feel that providing public services are not in the company’s best interest?
This week’s readings have had a strong moral impact on me-as an educator and as a global citizen. I feel that the poor in emerging markets are vulnerable to both their governments and to multinational corporations. The entrepreneurial opportunities that e-Inclusion offers can benefit the poor in many countries, but Karnani, a scholar and Prahalad’s colleague, has been critical of statements that poverty can be eradicated through profits (Jenkins, 2005; Landrum, 2007). I agree with Karnani. I don’t believe that eradicating poverty is as simple as offering employment opportunities to disadvantaged individuals. There are many other issues in these countries that need to be addressed such as women’s rights, dependable employment, political stability, etc. Also, even though many multinational corporations are ethically responsible and believe strongly in global corporate citizenship, many other corporations use this platform to primarily gain profits in emerging markets. Therefore, I believe that e-Inclusion does lead to marketization of the world’s poor.
I may be more sensitive to these issues because I teach New Canadians, and many of my students have worked for multinational corporations in Mexico, India and China, etc. I have heard both positive and negative stories of how they were treated while working for such corporations. Because of my experiences, I am more aware of my consumption patterns. I will not purchase products from corporations if they are rumored to engage in unethical and immoral business practices. The knowledge I have obtained this week will not greatly affect my teaching practices, but it will affect my consumption behaviors.
Jenkins, R. (2005). Globalization, corporate social responsibility and poverty. International Affairs, 81(3), 525-540.
Kirkpatrick, D. (2001, May 2). Great leap forward: Looking for profits in poverty. Fortune, 25.
Landrum, N. (2007). Advancing the “Base of the pyramid” debate. Strategic Management Review, 1(1), 1-12.
Matten, D., & Crane, A. (2005). Corporate citizenship: Towards an extended theoretical view. California Management Review, 40(2), 8-17.
Schwittay, A. (2012). Incorporated citizens: multinational high-tech companies and the bop. Information technologies & international development, 8(1), 43-56.
Smith, C. W. (2002). Digital corporate citizenship: The business response to the digital divide. Indianapolis, IN: The Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University.