ICT for development
Frederick Noronha, of APC member organisation BytesforAll, was crowned Outstanding Participant at the recent Information and Communication Technology for Development (ICTD) Community workshop in Auroville, India.
The third Global Knowledge Conference, or GK3, has officially started today. The words “emerging people, emerging markets and emerging technologies”, the three main topics that structure this conference, were repeated many times by the speakers (which included the deputy prime minister of Malaysia). The words “human rights” or “freedom”, however, weren not mentioned not even once. This seemed weird, given what is happening in the streets of Kuala Lumpur, a few minutes away from fancy conference centre: people are being arrested for protesting peacefully against the government.
On March 10, 2005, The Economist featured reports and an editorial on the digital divide in which it derided the Digital Solidarity Fund (DSF), which had been welcomed by governments at the WSIS Prepcom 2 in Geneva in February and was due to be launched on 14 March 2005. In its editorial on “the real digital divide”, The Economist made the following claims about the Digital Solidarity Fund (DSF):
- That on March 14th the United Nations will launch a Digital Solidarity Fund.
- That waving a magic wand to cause a computer to appear in every household on earth is just the sort of thing for which the UN’s new fund is intended.
- Technology firms operating in poor countries will be encouraged to donate 1% of their profits to the fund.
None of these claims is true.
The information revolution is not about technology, it is about people. This is increasingly recognised and has led to the convergence of major global development initiatives. Today, there is a strong correlation in the quest for an inclusive and equitable information society and the effort to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). This book argues that Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) can play a decisive role in both. Drawing on current research, learning and experience from concrete projects, the authors show that ICT provide an overarching enabling platform for development processes. Because of their generic and transformative power, ICT can not only contribute to the achievement of specific development objectives in areas such as health or education, but are also key enablers of sustainable human development in a more general sense.
“Participation in development processes: Can ICT make a difference?” in Access, Empowerment & Governance Creating a World of Equal Opportunities with ICT, Anriette Esterhuysen, for GKP.
This report is the work of the World Bank’s Rural Development and Natural Resources Sector Unit of the East Asia and Pacific Region. The core team responsible for the preparation of this report was led by Shobha Shetty (sr. economist, EASRD) and comprised Francisco Proenza (economist, FAO Investment Centre), Robert Schware (lead informatics specialist, CITPO), Wati Hermawati (gender and ICT Consultant), Sonia Jorge (gender and ICT consultant), and Chat Garcia Ramilo (gender and ICT consultant).
This paper sets out to look at the question of financing the provision of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in the South, within the context of the United Nations’ World Summit on the Information Society, and advocates adopting a “global public goods” perspective on the issue. The paper first examines how the question of ICT financing has been debated during the WSIS preparatory process and the first phase summit (Geneva, December 2003). Particular attention is paid to Senegal’s proposal for the creation of a “Digital Solidarity Fund”, and the reactions to it of the different stakeholders – governments, from both North and South, the private sector and civil society – participating in WSIS. The following section explores the potential for addressing the issue of financing ICT expansion from a global public goods (GPG) perspective. First the authors provide an overview of what such an approach means in conceptual terms, looking both at general definitions of GPGs and the applicability of the concept to ICTs. They then review the debate that has been taking place around the specific issue of which existing or alternative innovative financing mechanisms might be used for GPG provision, linking the proposed strategies whenever possible to the ICT sector. Finally, in the conclusions the authors offer a concrete proposal with respect to what we consider to be the most appropriate financing mechanism for funding expanded ICT access in the South.
The term ‘e-strategies’ has gained widespread use over the last few years in the debates on the role of information and communications technologies (ICTs) for development, following the United Nations Millennium Declaration in 2000. E-strategies have been defined as “plans based on the selection of scenarios and options for applying ICTs to national development” . A similar definition sees “an e-strategy as a shorthand for policies and strategies intended to exploit ICTs to promote national development. Other terms used to capture the phenomenon include ICT policy and IT policy”. APC gratefully acknowledges the support of CIDA.
The book, Mainstreaming ICTs: Africa lives the information society, is a contribution towards efforts to bridge the “policy-practice” divide. It is aimed at development practitioners and ICT innovators interested in inventive technology applications for social justice and development. APC contributed to the section “Building community wireless connectivity in developing countries”.
The book contains ten case studies reflecting on the innovative and creative ways information and communication technologies (ICTs) have been used to promote people-centred development in a number of Sub-Saharan African countries. The ICTs for development handbook is a practical user guide, covering case studies of projects in the areas of ICTs in education, gender, environment, health and e-democracy. The book is a useful guide for positioning non-profit organisations to contribute effectively in meeting select MDGs and other development imperatives, through the use of ICTs.
The collection also features five toolkits which offer useful resources for civil society groups wanting to utilise ICTs for developmental initiatives. The toolkits centre on technology planning, open source migration, information security and privacy, gender evaluation methodology, and community wireless networking.
The book was compiled and edited by Women’sNet with the assistance of a Southern African editorial group including Toni Eliasz, Ria Greyling, Benter Okello, Muroro Dziruni, Ashraf Patel, and Natasha Primo. The project was supported by the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA)”.
Many of us question the use of the term Information Society. It has the tendency to de-emphasize more fundamental inequalities. Nevertheless, the term is here to stay, and the recent United Nations World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), held in Geneva in December 2003, popularized its use by governments and the media. Participating governments adopted a Declaration of Principles and Plan of Action which outline policy for global coordination of information and communications technologies (ICTs), and propose actions to “bridge the digital divide.” Civil society organizations adopted their own declaration, which expresses an alternative vision and plan.