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In the last decade many developing country governments made efforts to improve service delivery and access to information through the use of new information and communication technologies (ICTs). The character of these efforts, however, varies widely both across and within countries, resulting in continued inequality to access. What incentives influenced the initiation of these projects? How might variation in these incentives have affected the projects themselves? To answer these questions I compare the efforts of sub-national governments in India and South Africa to implement ICT-enabled service centers. In particular I consider what factors led to the implementation of ICT initiatives in urban versus rural areas. I find that politicians use ICT projects to achieve specific electoral goals and thus electoral conditions, specifically the character of political competition and ruling party support bases, can help to explain decisions to implement service centers for rural or urban populations. I use the cases of Gujarat, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh in India and the Western Cape and Gauteng in South Africa to illustrate this argument.
Date of Conference: 15-16 Dec. 2007