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Has the Global South become a playground for Western scholars in information and communication technologies for development? Evidence from a three-journal analysis

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This study analyzes the role of the Global South countries and the representation of scholars from the Global South in three top-level journals in the area of information and communication technology for development (ICT4D). All the peer-reviewed articles published from 2015 to 2017 in the journals were examined for (a) the country and regional affiliations of the authors, (b) the distribution of countries which were studied, (c) the role of Global South scholars played in the studies, and (d) the research methods adopted in the studies. Besides using the conventional bibliometric indicators, this study also explored several important but often-ignored dimensions such as a country-by-country quantification of the severity of underrepresentation of scholars from the Global South in the publications and the relationship between the role of the scholars from the Global South and the research methods used in the published studies. The analysis shows a complicated picture of the status of low- and middle-income countries and scholars from the Global South in the ICT4D scholarship. Although some indicators suggest that scholars from the Global South play an important role, in general, they are underrepresented.

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Fig. 1

Note: Underrepresentation = actual number of authors–expected number of authors. A negative number indicates that the country is underrepresented

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  1. In this study, the Global North, the North, the West, Western countries and developed countries refer to the high-income countries. The Global South, the South and less-developed countries refer to low- and middle-income countries. This study uses the World Bank classification of countries by income.

  2. In this study, unless specified otherwise, developed countries and high-income countries are used interchangeably, and developing countries refer to the low- and middle-income countries.

  3. The \({\text{HHI index }} = \sum\nolimits_{i = 1}^{N} {{\text{share}}\;{\text{of}}\;{\text{authors}}\;{\text{from}}\;{\text{each}}\;{\text{country}}}\) is a widely used indicator of market concentration. In general, an HHI index below 1500 is considered a sign to show that the market is not concentrated (The U.S. Department of Justice 2015). In this study, the academic ICT4D publication can be treated as a market where scholars from all around the globe can enter. Thus, a high HHI index (> 1500) means a few players, in this context, scholars from a small number of countries, have dominated the market, or the ICT4D academic publication sphere. See more detailed discussion on the meaning and application of HHI index in Hirschmann (1964). The paternity of an index. American Economic Review, 54 (5), 761.

  4. Expected number of authors for country \(i = \frac{{\# \;{\text{of}}\;{\text{article focused on country }}i}}{\text{Total number of articles}} \times {\text{Total number of}}\;{\text{authors}}\).


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Bai, Y. Has the Global South become a playground for Western scholars in information and communication technologies for development? Evidence from a three-journal analysis. Scientometrics 116, 2139–2153 (2018).

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