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Global Development Institute

Nation States, Networks of Flows and ICT-Enabled Development: Learning from Jordan

Chris Westrup and Saheer Al-Jaghoub


This paper argues that information and communication technology (ICT)-enabled development needs to be conceptualised within a dialectic process of globalisation where, on the one hand, the flows of capital, commodities and information are expanding and accelerating while, on the other, nation states are essential components in providing the infrastructures for production, regulation and consumption of these flows.  For countries with developmental strategies, this has led to the emergence of developmental network states where a networked polity of private/public agencies are central to glocal processes linking the global movement of capital, commodities and information with local circuits of capital, labour and infrastructure.

Institutions of a developmental network state have to negotiate a series of dilemmas centred on over-autonomy vs. over-embeddedness on the one hand and the capability to sustain and develop through time and space.  These concepts enable an analysis of the role of states engaged in ICT-enabled developments and require a network-based approach based on multi-scalar analysis.

Jordan and REACH, its programme of ICT-enabled change, are analysed.  Jordan is shown to be a recent developmental network state with REACH being paradoxically over-embedded and over-autonomous – indicative of the difficulties for a post-colonial country in creating a network polity.  The mediation of glocal processes in REACH shows how important a variety of non-market mechanisms are to the working of ICT-enabled development and their absence can help explain early problems with REACH failing to achieve its targets for ICT foreign direct investment.

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Educator's guide

Synopsis questions

  1. What roles for the nation state are proposed in the literature?  [Part A].
  2. What research methods were used here, and why are they particularly appropriate for study of national ICT policies and initiatives?  [Part B].
  3. What key features have shaped the Jordanian polity in the late 20th and early 21st centuries?  [Part C].
  4. What are the key features of Jordan's REACH initiative?  [Part D].
  5. What key issues are raised in analysing Jordan's attempts at ICT-enabled development?  [Parts E & F].

Development questions

  1. If you were the government minister in charge of a small developing state's ICT-enabled development policy, what lessons would you draw?
  2. Would you advise Jordan to have kept on with REACH or to have abandoned it and looked for non-ICT-based development priorities?
  3. Would there be either a possibility or a benefit of a more "autarchic" ICT-enabled development path that sought to focus on local actors, and to break away from global flows and global actors?
  4. How can you create ICT-related state institutions with "embedded autonomy"?
  5. Analyse the role of the US and US organisations in the outcomes of REACH.  What conclusions would you draw for other developing countries?