World Bank, Alcatel point of view....

infoDev and Alcatel have issued a joint report on Promoting Private Sector Investment and Innovation: Addressing the Communication Needs of the Poor which is also available

here. These are billion-dollar players; they can change the face of telecom and computing, if they so choose. So, what are we all waiting for?

infoDev and Alcatel have issued a joint report on Promoting Private Sector Investment and Innovation: Addressing the Communication Needs of the Poor which is also available


infodev says in a post that the report “highlights opportunities for achieving core development objectives by bridging the gap between demand and supply of ICT services to meet the information and communication needs of rural and underserved communities in Sub-Saharan Africa”.

infoDev is a partnership of “major public donor agencies including the World Bank”, and Alcatel, a “worldwide leader in telecommunications solutions”.

They say their joint report offers “details the ways in which a combination of innovative technologies and creative business and financing models can create information and communication services that address the needs of the world’s poorest communities.”

This report includes five case studies of “creative and entrepreneurial small businesses focused” on healthcare, mobile banking and market price information services that have found ways to meet the strong demand for affordable added value information and communication services.

infoDev‘s program manager Mostafa Terrab concedes that “despite the proliferation of mobile phones in developing countries and all the recent enthusiasm about the internet, several billion people continue to lack access to services that address their basic communication needs”.

Terrab goes on to argue: “We wanted to understand how these services can be provided, even to the poorest communities, in affordable and sustainable ways. Studying this issue in cooperation with a major and reputable private sector partner seemed the ideal way to balance development goals with private sector realities.”

Alcatel‘s vice president for

href=“”>Digital Bridges

Thierry Albrand, says, “Since the global economy is increasingly linked to information and communication, reducing the growing inequalities in access in technologies is a priority. Yet in order to meet the developing countries needs for telecommunications services in appropriate and affordable ways, we have to be creative both technologically and financially. Alcatel is already playing an active role in bridging the digital divide and was eager to work with this unique partnership of international development agencies to help develop some answers to these tough questions.”

infoDev (The Information for Development Program) describes itself as “a multi-donor partnership with close ties to the global operational capacity of the World Bank, and equally strong relationships with a number of key donors”. It says it helps the donor community and “developing” countries address the opportunities and challenges of ICT for development.

Since its creation in 1995, infoDev says it has been a pioneer in promoting the innovative use of ICT as a tool for poverty reduction and sustainable development. See

Alcatel describes itself as a provider of “communications solutions to telecommunication carriers, internet service providers and enterprises for delivery of voice, data and video applications to their customers or employees”. Alcatel also says it brings its “leading position in fixed and mobile broadband networks; applications and services, to help its partners

and customers build a user-centric broadband world”. With sales of EURO 12.3 billion and 56,000 employees in 2004, Alcatel operates in more than 130 countries.

As the ICT4D debate is taken up by interest groups the World Bank multinationals, one can’t help wondering whether the nature of the debate will change in an unrecognisable manner. The entry of non-profits and global funders has also brought about its own changes…. sometimes positive, sometimes not.

Spare a thought meanwhile for the guys (yes, mainly of the male gender… it does tend to get gender-biased in the programmers’ world) who started this all off by placing people above profits and demonstrating how exactly shareable software and sustainable (rather than planned-for-obsolence) computing can indeed make a difference to the non-influential, disempowered and communication-deprived sections of our planet.

Private Sector Investment and Innovation….

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