Information and Communication Technologies for Development (ICT4D) is a general term referring to the application of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) within the field of socioeconomic development, international development and human rights. ICT4D concerns itself with directly applyinginformation technology approaches to poverty reduction (Dell XPS M1210 Battery) .
ICTs can be applied either in the direct sense, wherein their use directly benefits the disadvantaged population, or in an indirect sense, wherein the ICTs assist aid organisations or non-governmental organizations or governments or businesses in order to improve general socio-economic conditions. In many impoverished regions of the world, legislative and political measures are required to facilitate or enable application of ICTs, especially with respect to monopolistic communications structures and censorship laws (Dell Studio XPS 1340 Battery) .
The concept of ICT4D can be interpreted as dealing with disadvantaged populations anywhere in the world, but is more typically associated with applications in developing countries. The field is becoming recognized as an interdisciplinary research area as can be noted by the growing number of conferences, workshops and publications (Dell Studio XPS 1640 Battery) .
Such research have been spurred on in part by the need for scientifically validated benchmarks and results, which can be used to measure the efficacy of current projects. Many international development agencies recognize the importance of ICT4D. For example the World Bank's GICT section has a dedicated team of some 200 staff working on these issues (Dell Vostro 1710 Battery) .
A good example of the impact of ICTs on development are farmers getting better market price information and thus boosting their income. Community ecenter in the Philippines developed a website to promote its local products worldwide. Another example includes mobile telecommunications and radio broadcasting fighting political corruption in Burundi.
The dominant terminology used in this field is "ICT4D". Alternatives include ICTD and development informatics (ASUS EEE PC900 battery) .
A telecentre in Gambia
The history of ICT4D can, roughly, be divided into three periods:
- ICT4D 0.0: mid-1950s to late-1990s. During this period (before the creation of the term "ICT4D"), the focus was on computing / data processing for back office applications in large government and private sector organisations in developing countries (Dell RM791 battery) .
- ICT4D 1.0: late-1990s to late-2000s. The combined advent of the Millennium Development Goals and mainstream usage of the Internet in industrialised countries led to a rapid rise in investment in ICT infrastructure and ICT programmes / projects in developing countries. The most typical application was thetelecentre, used to bring information on development issues such as health, education, and agricultural extension into poor communities (Sony VGP-BPS13 battery) .
- More latterly, telecentres might also deliver online or partly online government services.
- ICT4D 2.0: late-2000s onwards. There is no clear boundary between phase 1.0 and 2.0 but suggestions of moving to a new phase include the change from the telecentre to the mobile phone as the archetypal application; less concern with e-readiness and more interest in the impact of ICTs on development; and more focus on the poor as producers and innovators with ICTs (as opposed to just consumers of ICT-based information) (Sony VGP-BPL9 battery) .
ICT4D initiatives and projects may be designed and implemented by international institutions, private companies (e.g. Intel's Classmate), governments (e.g. e-Mexico initiative), non-governmental organizations (e.g. International Institute for Communication and Development), or virtual organizations (e.g. One Laptop per Child). The projects can typically be evaluation research, matching a tool and a problem, exploratory research, or constructive research (Sony VGP-BPL11 battery) .
ICT4D projects address one or more of the following issues:
- Access and Infrastructure: providing suitable computer hardware, operating systems, software, and connectivity to the internet. These would include the affordability of software and hardware, the ability to share software (as echoed in the Free Software movement), and the ability to sustainably connect to the internet (Sony VGP-BPL15 battery) .
- Capacity building and training in ICT: installing, maintaining, and developing hardware and software, digital literacy (technological literacy and informational literacy) and e-Awareness.
- Digital content and services: e-services (e-learning, e-health, e-business/e-commerce, e-Governance/e-Government), including concerns related to local-language solutions in computing, and theOpen Access agenda (Dell Inspiron E1505 battery) .
- Regulation of the ICT Sector and digital rights: Universal Access vs. monopolistic structures, Intellectual Property Rights, privacy, security, and digital identity.
- Ethics and Social Contexts
- Environment and Agriculture
- Free and Open Source Software (Dell Latitude E6400 battery)
- Gender and ICT
- Health and Medicine
- Policy and Social Analyses
- Technical Innovation for Development
- India Development Gateway Project (Agriculture, Primary Education, Social Welfare, Rural Energy, e-Governance and Health (HP Pavilion dv6000 Battery) )
Bad access roads and lack of power hamper ICT4D Projects in rural areas
Projects which deploy technologies in underdeveloped areas face well-known problems concerning crime, problems of adjustment to the social context, and also possibly infrastructural problems (Sony Vaio VGN-FZ31S battery) .
The literacy issue is one of the factors why projects fail in rural areas; proper education and training is needed to make the user at least understand how to manipulate the application to get the information they need. Constant follow up with the community is needed to monitor if the project is being used or implemented (Sony Vaio VGN-FZ31S battery) .
Projects in marginalised rural areas face the most significant hurdles. Since people in marginalised rural areas are at the very bottom of the pyramid, development efforts should make the most difference in this sector. ICTs have the potential to multiply development effects and are thus also meaningful in the rural arena. However introducing ICTs in these areas is also most costly, as the following barriers exist (Hp pavilion dv6000 battery) :
- Lack of Infrastructure: no power, no running water, bad roads
- Lack of Health Services: diseases like HIV, TB, malaria are more common.
- Lack of Employment: there are practically no jobs in marginalised rural areas.
- Hunger: hungry users have problems concentrating (Sony VGN-FW11S Battery) .
- Illiteracy: Text user interfaces do not work very well, innovative Human Computer Interfaces (see Human Computer Interaction) are required.
- Lack of means to maintain the project: some projects may be left to deteriorate in time because if a component gets broken they are costly to repair and maintain.
- Lack of support from the local government (Sony VGP-BPS13A/B Battery)
- Social Contexts: the potential users living in rural marginalised areas often cannot easily see the point of ICTs, because of social context and also because of the impediments of hunger, disease and illiteracy.
- Possibility of encouraging brain-drain.
- Corruption is one of the factors that hampers the implementation of ICT projects in rural areas (Toshiba Satellite P10 Battery) .
- Training and seminars must be conducted according to a suitable time for farmers, to make sure that their daily routine is not affected.
- Many applications are not user friendly.
- Projects are sometimes not being needs-driven (SONY VAIO VGN-FZ210CE Battery) .
The World Bank runs Information for Development Program (infoDev), whose Rural ICT Toolkit analyses the costs and possible profits involved in such a venture and shows that there is more potential in developing areas than many might assume. The potential for profit arises from two sources- resource sharing across large numbers of users (specifically, the publication talks about line sharing, but the principle is the same for, e.g. telecentres at which computing / Internet are shared) and remittances (specifically the publication talks about carriers making money from incoming calls, i.e. from urban to rural areas (Hp Pavilion dv3-1000 battery) .
Remittances are estimated to have a volume of upward of 250 billion USD and websites have been established to take advantage of this fact (e.g. Aryty, Philippines; Mukuru.com, Zimbabwe.
One of the main challenge in overcoming the digital divide is to widen the influence of the respective policies from those carried out by telecommunications authority, to the entire public sector (Dell Precision M70 Battery) .
While most of the national digital agendas are led by national telecommunications authorities, such as the FCC and NTIA, the case of Chile shows that the funds managed by the telecom authority represent less than 5 % of the total funds spent by the overall government on ICT-related policies and projects (spread out over 22 governmental departments), such as carried out the national health department, the education ministry or the finance department (Acer Aspire One battery) .
The funds available for ICT4D throughout the public sector are a large multiple of those spent by technology and infrastructure authorities alone. Countries and international organizations usually do not know which agency manages which kinds of ICT-funds, and do not even make an effort to track these resources. Since ICT for development is about more than providing mere access to technologies (Toshiba Satellite L305 Battery) ,
the logical conclusion is to coordinate the funds and projects implemented by telecommunications and technologies authorities, with those managed by health, education, finance and defense authorities. The first task consists of taking inventory of the funds available to the entire public sector. This is generally not done and not even the actors and decision makers have a coherent picture about what is done. Double efforts and lack of synergies are the common result (Toshiba Satellite Pro M15 Battery) .
What's crucial in making any ICT4D effort successful is effective partnership between four key stakeholders:
- Public sector (governments - from developed nations, developing nations, international bodies, and local governments)
- Private sector (companies belonging to members of the target audience, multi-national organizations wishing to expand their markets to the 4 billion people under US$2/day, pro-poor or social companies (Toshiba Satellite M65 battery) )
- Informal sector (NGOs, advocacy groups, think tanks)
- Representation from the target audience
InfoDev have published 6 lessons from an analysis of 17 their pilot programmes (see below). These lessons are backed by a variety of examples as well as a list of recommendations (Toshiba Satellite T4900 Battery) :
- Lesson 1: Involve target groups in project design and monitoring.
- Lesson 2: When choosing the technology for a poverty intervention project, pay particular attention to infrastructure requirements, local availability, training requirements, and technical challenges. Simpler technology often produces better results (Toshiba PA3399U-2BRS battery) .
- Lesson 3: Existing technologies—particularly the telephone, radio, and television—can often convey information less expensively, in local languages, and to larger numbers of people than can newer technologies. In some cases, the former can enhance the capacity of the latter (Toshiba Satellite A200 Battery) .
- Lesson 4: ICT projects that reach out to rural areas might contribute more to the MDGs than projects based in urban areas.
- Lesson 5: Financial sustainability is a challenge for ICT-for-development initiatives.
- Lesson 6: Projects that focus on ICT training should include a job placement component (Toshiba Satellite 1200 Battery) .
Sustainability and scalability
A Geekcorps volunteer setting up a Wi-Fiantenna in Mali
A growing perspective in the field is also the need to build projects that are sustainable and scalable, rather than focusing on those which must be propped up by huge amounts of external funding and cannot survive for long without it. Sustaining the project's scalability is a huge challenge of ICT for development; how the target user will continue using the platform (Toshiba NB100 Battery) .
ICT4D is not one shot implementation but rather it is a complex process to be undertaken continuously, and the progress of each project evolves around the pervasive education for, and adaptability of, the technology
Also, many so-called "developing" countries, such as India (or other South Asian countries like Sri Lanka, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, as also nations likeMalaysia, China, Indonesia, Brazil, South Africa and many others) have proved their skills in IT (information technology) (Toshiba Satellite M300 Battery) .
In this context, unless these skills are tapped adequately to build on ICT4D projects, not only will a lot of potential be wasted, but a key indigenous partner in the growth of this sector would be lost. Also there would be unnecessary negative impact on the balance of payments due to imports in both hardware and software (Dell INSPIRON 1525 battery) .
Currently, the main two perspectives coming out of this sector either emphasize the need for external aid to build infrastructure before projects can touch viability, or the need to develop and build on local talent. Both approaches are, of course, not mutually exclusive (Dell Latitude D830 Battery) .
Satellite Internet access via VSAT is a common form of connectivity in developing countries ([[Ghana, Ecamic project]] pictured)
As it has grown in popularity, especially in the international development sector, ICT4D has also increasingly come under criticism. For instance, questions have been raised about whether projects that have been implemented at enormous cost are actually designed to be scalable, or whether these projects make enough of an impact to produce noticeable change (Dell Studio 1735 Battery) .
In Sri Lankan journalist Nalaka Gunawardene argues that thousands of pilot projects have been seeded without regard to generalisability, scalability, and sustainability, implying that these projects will always require external funding to continue running and that their impact is limited. This sentiment echoes a 2003 report by the World Bank (Dell Latitude D620 Battery) .
Further criticism on ICT4D concerns the impact of ICTs on traditional cultures and the so-called cultural imperialism which may be spread with ICTs. For example, young males are tempted to spend their recreational time playing violent computer games. It is emphasised that local language content and software seem to be good ways to help soften the impact of ICTs in developing areas (SONY VAIO VGN-FZ150E Battery) .
Many fear of the potential of ICT to seriously widen the Digital Divide and the gap between people with access to information economy and those without. This issue was brought to the forefront of the international agenda and was heavily discussed in some major international political meetings such as the G8 meeting in Okinawa, Japan last July, 2000 (Sony VGN-FZ31Z Battery) .
Anriette Esterhuysen, an advocate for ICT4D and human rights in South Africa , pointed out that some ICT4D projects often give more emphasis to how ICT can help its beneficiaries economically rather than helping them create a society where social justice and equal rights prevail. She believes that sustainable development can only be achieved if there are human rights and people can speak freely (SONY VAIO VGN-FZ38M Battery) .
Another point of criticism against ICT4D is that its projects are seldom environmentally friendly. Beneficiary communities are often given the responsibility to dispose of the toxic electronic scrap when an equipment breaks down beyond repair. Since transporting the equipment to a recycling facility is costly; the equipment is often disposed of improperly, thus contributing to the pollution of the environment (SONY VAIO VGN-FZ21m Battery) .
Graph of Internet users per 100 inhabitants between 1997 and 2007 by International Telecommunication Union
Mobile phone subscribers per 100 inhabitants growth in developed and developing world between 1997 and 2007
ICT4D projects typically try to employ low-cost, low-powered technology that can be sustainable in developing environment. The challenge is large, since it is estimated that 40 % of the world's population has less than US$ 20 per year available to spend on ICT (SONY VAIO VGN-FZ18m Battery) .
In Brazil, the poorest 20% of the population counts with merely US$ 9 per year to spend on ICT (US$ 0.75 per month) . This is the economic reality of these income segments in developing countries and the magnitude of the challenge to provide one laptop per child. From Latin America it is known that the borderline between ICT as a necessity good and ICT as a luxury good is roughly around the “magical number” of US$ 10 per person per month, or US$ 120 per year (SONY VAIO VGN-FZ11m Battery) .
This is how much ICT people seem to strive for and this is therefore how much ICT everybody would like to have as a minimum. In light of this reality, telecentre, desktop virtualization and multiseat configurations are probably the most simple and common way to affordable computing as of today (Dell Studio 1555 Battery) .
ICT4D projects need to be properly monitored and implemented; the system's design and user interface should be suitable to the target users. ICT4D projects installed without proper coordination with its beneficiary community has a tendency to fall short of its main objectives. For example, the usage of ICT4D projects in the farming sector in third world countries, where a majority of the population are considered to be technologically illiterate; projects lie idle and sometimes get damaged or become obsolete (Dell Latitude D610 Battery) .
Furthermore, there should be a line of communication between the project coordinator and the user for immediate response to the query of, or the difficulty encountered by, the user. Addressing properly the problem will help encourage the user via interactivity and participation (Dell Vostro 1500 Battery) .
World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS)
A major event for ICT4D was the twin WSIS (WSIS) - lead organisation was the International Telecommunications Union (ITU). The first part of WSIS took place in Geneva, Switzerland in December 2003 (with a large ICT4D exhibition and an ICT4D symposium co-ordinated by infoDev). The second part of WSIS took place in Tunis, Tunisia, in November 2005 (Dell Latitude D610 Battery) .
One of its chief aims of the WSIS process was to seek solutions to help bridge the so-called "digital divide" separating rich countries from poor countries by spreading access to the Internet in the developing world.
Perspectives on the WSIS are available elsewhere on Wikipedia, and this covers links to civil society, Tunis 2005, US priorities at WSIS, media responses, Tunis conference developments, roles for business and government, digital divide issues, the digital divide and the digital dilemma,common ground, a civil society study on WSIS, and external links (Toshiba Satellite M60 battery) .
World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS)Stocktaking
WSIS Stocktaking is a publicly accessible database of ICT-related implementation activities, initiated during the Tunis phase of WSIS. WSIS Stocktaking Database has become an effective tool for the exchange of information on the projects in relation to the implementation of the 11 Action Lines. It is worth mentioning that many of entries reflect more than one flagship initiative and project carried out by the WSIS Stakeholders (SONY VAIO VGN-FZ11S Battery) .
Read more. All Stakeholders are welcomed: Governments, International Organizations, Private Sector, Civil Society, Others.