Information and communication technologies for development

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An OLPC class in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.
Inveneo Computing Station

Information and communication technologies for development (ICT4D) refers to the use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in the fields of socioeconomic development, international development and human rights. The theory behind this is that more and better information and communication furthers the development of a society.

Aside from its reliance on technology, ICT4D also requires an understanding of community development, poverty, agriculture, healthcare, and basic education. This makes ICT4D appropriate technology and if it is shared openly open source appropriate technology.[1] Richard Heeks suggests that the I in ICT4D is related with "library and information sciences", the C is associated with "communication studies", the T is linked with "information systems", and the D for "development studies".[2] It is aimed at bridging the digital divide and aid economic development by fostering equitable access to modern communications technologies. It is a powerful tool for economic and social development.[3] Other terms can also be used for "ICT4D" or "ICT4Dev" ("ICT for development") like ICTD ("ICT and development", which is used in a broader sense[4]) and development informatics.

ICT4D can refer to assisting disadvantaged populations anywhere in the world, but it is usually associated with applications in developing countries.[5] It is concerned with directly applying information technology approaches to poverty reduction. ICTs can be applied directly, wherein its use directly benefits the disadvantaged population, or indirectly, wherein it can assist aid organisations or non-governmental organizations or governments or businesses to improve socio-economic conditions.

The field is an interdisciplinary research area through the growing number of conferences, workshops and publications.[6][7][8] This is partly due to the need for scientifically validated benchmarks and results, that can measure the effectiveness of current projects.[9] This field has also produced an informal community of technical and social science researchers who rose out of the annual ICT4D conferences.[10]

Theoretical background[edit]

The ICT4D discussion falls into a broader school of thought that proposes to use technology for development. The theoretical foundation can be found in the Schumpeterian notion of socio-economic evolution,[11] which consists of an incessant process of creative destruction that modernizes the modus operandi of society as a whole, including its economic, social, cultural, and political organization.[12]

The motor of this incessant force of creative destruction is technological change.[13][14] While the key carrier technology of the first Industrial Revolution (1770–1850) was based on water-powered mechanization, the second Kondratiev wave (1850–1900) was enabled by steam-powered technology, the third (1900–1940) was characterized by the electrification of social and productive organization, the fourth by motorization and the automated mobilization of society (1940–1970), and the most recent one by the digitization of social systems.[11] Each one of those so-called long waves has been characterized by a sustained period of social modernization, most notably by sustained periods of increasing economic productivity. According to Carlota Perez: "this quantum jump in productivity can be seen as a technological revolution, which is made possible by the appearance in the general cost structure of a particular input that we could call the 'key factor', fulfilling the following conditions: (1) clearly perceived low-and descending-relative cost; (2) unlimited supply for all practical purposes; (3) potential all-pervasiveness; (4) a capacity to reduce the costs of capital, labour and products as well as to change them qualitatively".[14] Digital Information and Communication Technologies fulfill those requirements and therefore represent a general purpose technology that can transform an entire economy, leading to a modern, and more developed form of socio-economic and political organization often referred to as the post-industrial society, the fifth Kondratiev, Information society, digital age, and network society, among others.

ICT4D cube: an interplay between technology (horizontal: green), society (vertical: blue), policy (diagonal: yellow/red) Source

The declared goal of ICT-for-development is to make use of this ongoing transformation by actively using the enabling technology to improve the living conditions of societies and segments of society.[15] As in previous social transformations of this kind (industrial revolution, etc.), the resulting dynamic is an interplay between an enabling technology, normative guiding policies and strategies, and the resulting social transformation.[11][12][13] In the case of ICT4D, this three-dimensional interplay has been depicted as a cube.[16] In line with the Schumpeterian school of thought, the first enabling factor for the associated socio-economic transformations is the existence of technological infrastructure: hardware infrastructure and generic software services. Additionally, capacity and knowledge are the human requirements to make use of these technologies. These foundations (horizontal green dimension in Figure) are the basis for the digitization of information flows and communication mechanisms in different sectors of society. When part of the information flows and communication processes in these sectors are carried out in e-lectronic networks, the prefix "e-" is often added to the sector's name, resulting in e-government, e-business and e-commerce, e-health, and e-learning, etc. (vertical blue dimension in Figure). This process of transformation represent the basic requirements and building blocks, but they are not sufficient for development. The mere existence of technology is not enough to achieve positive outcomes (no technological determinism). ICT for Development policies and projects are aimed at the promotion of normatively desired outcomes of this transformation, the minimization of negative effects, and the removal of eventual bottlenecks. In essence, there are two kinds of interventions: positive feedback (incentives, projects, financing, subsidies, etc. that accentuate existing opportunities); and negative feedback (regulation and legislation, etc.) that limit and tame negative developments (diagonal yellow-red dimension in Figure).[16]


The intentional use of communication to foster development is not new. So-called development communication research during the 1960s and 1970s set the ground for most existing development programs and institutions in the field of ICT4D, with Wilbur Schramm, Nora C. Quebral and Everett Rogers being influential figures in this academic discipline. In modern times, ICT4D has been divided into three periods:[17]

  • ICT4D 0.0: mid-1950s to late-1990s. This was before the creation of the term "ICT4D". The focus was on broadcasting development communication, computing / data processing for back-office applications in large government and private sector organizations in developing countries. One of the earliest records of computer usage for development was back in 1956 in India. It was during this time that HEC-2M, the developing world's first computer, was installed to undertake numerical calculations in the Indian Institute of Statistics in Kolkata, including statistical analyses for India’s national plans such as the Second Five-Year Plan (1956–61). Prof. Dwijesh Dutta Majumder, one of the original members that worked with HEC-2M who is now Professor Emeritus at the ISI can be credited as the Godfather of ICT4D and the HEC-2M as ICT4D's first computer [18]
  • 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 the telecentre, used to bring information on development issues such as health, education, and agricultural extension into poor communities. 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. There is less concern with e-readiness and more interest in the impact of ICTs on development. Additionally, there is more focus on the poor as producers and innovators with ICTs (as opposed to being consumers of ICT-based information). ICT4D 2.0 is about reframing the poor. Where ICT4D 1.0 marginalised them, allowing a supply-driven focus, ICT4D 2.0 centralises them, creating a demand-driven focus. Where ICT4D 1.0 –- fortified by the "bottom of the pyramid" concept –- characterised them largely as passive consumers, ICT4D 2.0 sees the poor as active producers and active innovators.[19]

There is no sharp dividing line between ICT4D phases. On the ground, there is a sense of evolution, not discontinuity. Richard Heeks[19] presents the table below to summarize the ICT4D phases:

Issue // Phase ICT4D 0.0 ICT4D 1.0 ICT4D 2.0
Iconic technology PC database Telecentre Mobile phone
Key application Data processing Content (and iteration) Services and production
The poor Who? Consumers Innovators and producers
Key goal Organizational efficiency MDGs Growth and development
Key issue Technology's potential Readiness and availability Uptake and impact
Key actor Government Donors and NGOs All sectors
Attitude Ignore → Isolate Idolise → Integrate Integrate → innovate
Innovation model Northern Pro-poor → Para-poor Para-poor → per-poor
Dominant discipline Information Systems Informatics/Development Studies Tribrid of CS, IS, and DS
Development paradigm Modernisation Human development Development 2.0

As information and communication technologies evolve, so does ICT4D: more recently it has been suggested that big data can be used as an important ICT tool for development and that it represents a natural evolution of the ICT4D paradigm.[20]

Values framework[edit]

It is unusual for an objective endeavor, a research, to have corresponding values. However, since ICT4D is foremost an initiative as well as an advocacy, it can be that development itself opts for a certain ideal or state. As such, values in developmental research can be included. The Kuo Model of Informatization has three dimensions, namely: infrastructure, economy and people. These dimensions correspond to:[21]

  • Education and literacy levels
  • Economic indicators (GNP, GDP, etc.)
  • Telecommunications and media infrastructure

However, this may not be applicable to all countries. In the model, the three dimensions are correlated with each other, but Alexander Flor notes that in his country, the Philippines, the model is not be entirely suitable due to the following reasons:

  • The high education and literacy levels are not directly correlated with telecommunications infrastructure and degree of economic development.
  • The correlation between the degrees of telecommunications infrastructure and economic development cannot easily be established.

Flor proposes a new dimension be added to the Kuo Model - values dimension. This dimension can be operationalized through government priority indicators, subsidy levels and corruption levels among others. He proposes the following values for this dimension: equality, complementarity, integration, participation and inclusion, development from within and convergence.[22]

Access and use of ICT[edit]

The general perception is that people who have access to ICT will benefit from it, and those who don’t would not. Benefits include theoretically, boundless information sharing, connectivity, decentralisation, and globalisation. Those who don’t have access to technology run the risk of being marginalised and bypassed. In his blog, Richard Heek’s further categorise the users and non-users of ICTs into four: Non-Users, Indirect Users, Shared Users, and Owner-Users.[23]

Non-Users: those who have no access to either ICTs or ICT-based information and services. Indirect Users: those who do not get hands-on themselves, but gain access to digital information and services via those who are direct users. Shared Users: those who do not own the technology, but who directly use ICT owned by someone else (a friend, workplace, ICT business, community, etc.). Owner-Users: those who own and use the technology. Heeks says that non-users of technology can benefit from ICT4D in what he calls spillover benefits. Spillover benefits are "situations in which some category of user gains a benefit from ICT while non-users also gain a (lesser) benefit." [23]

ICT4D projects often employ low-cost, low-powered technology which are sustainable in a developing environment. The challenge is hard, since it is estimated that 40% of the world's population has less than US$20 per year available to spend on ICT. In Brazil, the poorest 20% of the population counts with merely US$9 per year to spend on ICT (US$0.75 per month).[24]

In Latin America it is estimated that the borderline between ICT as a necessity good and ICT as a luxury good is roughly US$10 per person per month, or US$120 per year.[24] This is the cost ICT people seem to strive for and therefore is generally accepted as a minimum. In light of this reality, telecentre, desktop virtualization and multiseat configurations currently seem the most simple and common paths to affordable computing.

ICT4D projects need to be properly monitored and implemented, as the system's design and user interface should be suitable to the target users. ICT4D projects installed without proper coordination with its beneficiary community have a tendency to fall short of the main objectives. For example, in the usage of ICT4D projects in those farming sectors where a majority of the population are considered to be technologically illiterate, projects lie idle and sometimes get damaged or allowed to become obsolete.

Further, 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 the problem properly will help encourage the user via interactivity and participation.

Peer to peer dialogs facilitated by Cisco’s Telepresence technology is now being used, connecting 10 centers around the world to discuss the best practices on the use of ICT in urban service delivery.

ICT4D is also given a new take in the introduction of Web 2.0. With the 5.2 billion internet users, the power generated by the internet should be noticed. With social networking at the frontier of the new web, ICT can have a new approach. Updates, news and ordinances are spread readily by these applications; feedback system can be more evident. In the Philippines, the administration now uses social media to converse more with its citizens for it makes people feel more in touch with the highest official in the land.[25] Also another innovation is a standard suite of city indicators that enabled mayors & citizens to monitor the performance of their city with others, this is important to have consistent & comparable city-level data.

Geographic information systems (GIS) are also used in several ICT4D applications, such as the Open Risk Data Initiative (OpenRDI). OpenRDI aims to minimize the effect of disaster in developing countries by encouraging them to open their disaster risk data. GIS technologies such as satellite imagery, thematic maps, and geospatial data play a big part in disaster risk management. One example is the HaitiData, where maps of Haiti containing layers of geospatial data (earthquake intensity, flooding likelihood, landslide and tsunami hazards, overall damage, etc..) are made available which can then be used by decision makers and policy makers for rehabilitation and reconstruction of the country.[26][27] The areas which are receiving priority attention include natural resources information assessment, monitoring and management, water shed development, environmental planning, urban services and land use planning.[28]

Many of these initiatives are a mixture of donor agency support, international intervention and local community enterprise. For instance, the wireless Town Information Network implemented in the town of Slavutych (Ukraine) to address social-economic issues in the context of the closure of Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant was supported by international donors, development consultants, and importantly local stakeholders.[29] E-bario (Malaysia) is an example of a grassroots initiative which was also supported by a wider network and is an initiative which has endured and overcome many of the pitfalls of ICT4D projects.[30]

Application areas[edit]

Sectoral and thematic applications[edit]

Development work is categorised by sectors and themes by the international development assistance community. Sectors are made up of the following: infrastructure; industry; agriculture; natural resources; health; education; private; and public. Agriculture, education and rural livelihoods are the most extensively studied sectors.[31] The following developmental themes are common to these development sectors: environment; gender; participation; sustainable development; governance; sub-regionalisation; regionalisation; and globalisation. Thus, almost every development project proposed, funded and implemented contains an ICT component or element in the form of the design and development of information systems or the provision for public awareness employing digital tools.[31]

Civic engagement[edit]

New forms of technology, such as social media platforms, provide spaces where individuals can participate in expressions of civic engagement. Researchers are now realizing that activity such as Twitter use,"…that could easily be dismissed as leisure or mundane should be considered under a broader conceptualization of development research." [32]

Climate, weather and emergency response[edit]

The use of ICT in weather forecasting is broad. Weather forecasting offices use mass media to inform the public on weather updates. After tropical storm Ondoy in the Philippines, the Filipino people are more curious and aware about the weather hazards. Meteorological offices are also using advanced tools to monitor the weather and the weather systems that may affect a certain area.

Monitoring devices[33]

In Africa, were flood is one of the major concerns of farmers. The International Water Management Institute launched the mobile services for flood management, specifically in East Sudan. These mobile services are considered as a next generation ICT for weather and water information. The tool converts complex satellite sensor information to simple text messages which are sent to farmers informing them about the optimum use of flood water for crop production. The text messages would also warn the farmers about the flood events which would help them prepare their fields and advise on how to mitigate flood damage in estimating the risk of future flood events. [[34]]

Climate change is a global phenomenon affecting the lives of mankind. In time of calamities we need information and communication technology for disaster management. Various organisations, government agencies and small and large-scale research projects have been exploring the use of ICT for relief operations, providing early warnings and monitoring extreme weather events.[35] A review of new ICTs and climate change in developing countries highlighted that ICT can be used for (1) Monitoring: observing, detecting and predicting, and informing science and decision making; (2) Disaster management: supporting emergency response through communications and information sharing, and providing early warning systems; and (3) Adaptation: supporting environmental, health and resource management activities, up-scaling technologies and building resilience.[35] In the Philippines, institutions like the National Disaster and Risk Reduction and Management Council help the public in monitoring the weather and advisory for any possible risks due to hazardous weather. NetHope is another global organization which contributes disaster management and awareness through information technology. According to ICT companies can be victims, villains or heroes of climate change.

In 2014 when typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines, the CDAC network utilized different technologies to coordinate and communicate efforts between the affected communities and the different network's volunteer organizations. CDAC saw the value of communication in responding to the disaster. They emphasized getting accurate and timely information as being crucial to saving lives. One of the organizations and tools that they tapped was the Digital Humanitarian Network. The Digital Humanitarian Network is a group of organizations with various tools that contribute to crisis mapping. These tools were used to manage information that are received about the disaster. The tools they use allow them to monitor media - including social media, create live crisis maps, analyze the data they have, etc. [[36]]

People with disabilities[edit]

According to World Health Organization (WHO), 15% of the world's total population have disabilities. This is approximately 600 million people wherein three out of every four are living in developing countries, half are of working age, half are women and the highest incidence and prevalence of disabilities occurs in poor areas.[37] With ICT, lives of people with disabilities can be improved, allowing them to have a better interaction in society by widening their scope of activities.

Goals of ICT and disability work

  • Give disabled people a powerful tool in their battle to gain employment
  • Increase disabled people’s skills, confidence, and self-esteem
  • Integrate disabled people socially and economically into their communities;
  • Reduce physical or functional barriers and enlarge scope of activities available to disabled persons
  • Develop a web content that can be accessed by persons with disabilities especially the visually impaired and hearing impaired

At the international level, there are numerous guiding documents impacting on the education of people with disabilities such as Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), moving to the Convention against Discrimination in Education (1960), the Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989), the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions (2005). The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) includes policies about accessibility, non-discrimination, equal opportunity, full and effective participation and other issues. The key statement within the CRPD (2006) relevant for ICT and people with disabilities is within Article 9:

"To enable persons with disabilities to live independently and participate fully in all aspects of life, States Parties shall take appropriate measures to ensure to persons with disabilities access, on equal basis with others, to the physical environment, to transportation, to information and communications, including information and communications technologies and systems, and other facilities and services open or provided to the public, both in urban and rural areas. (p. 9)"

Another international policy that has indirect implications for the use of ICT by people with disabilities are the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Although these do not specifically mention the right to access ICT for people with disabilities, two key elements within the MDGs are to reduce the number of people in poverty and to reach out to the marginalised groups without access to ICT.[38]

ICT Programs:

  • Estonian e-Learning Development Centre and Primus- One activity of Primus is to develop and run a support system for students with special needs. This is done by: developing different support services (e.g. digitalising and recording teaching material for students with visual impairments, creating training courses); improving learning environments (assessing physical accessibility of buildings); running a scholarship scheme for students with special needs to support their full participation in studies.[38]
  • European Unified Approach for Assisted Lifelong Learning (EU4ALL)- The aim of this initiative is to create an accessible and adapted course addressed to students with different disabilities – cognitive, physical and sensory. The course was designed through an Instructional Learning Design. The learner is given access to a course with activities and resources personalised according to the student’s needs profile.[38]
  • Plan Ceibal- aims to promote digital inclusion in order to reduce the digital gap with other countries, as well as among the citizens of Uruguay. In order to support better access to education and culture, every pupil in the public education system is being given a laptop. Within Plan Ceibal an initiative began at the end of 2008 to provide tools to improve accessibility of the laptop for learners with special needs, using particular assistive technology aids in classes equipped with these machines.[38]
  • Leren en werken met autisme (Learning and working with autism)- is a DVD with several tools aimed at helping students with autism or autistic spectrum disorders in their transition from education to work, or workplace training settings. One of the tools is the wai-pass– specific e-portfolio software. This e-portfolio not only provides information about the skills and competences of a particular student, but also about his/her behaviour in particular settings and situations. This type of very relevant information is gathered by teachers throughout the student’s school career and often vanishes when a student leaves school. Through this e-portfolio tool, the information can be easily disclosed to (potential) employers. There is also a Toolkit for workplace learning and traineeship and Autiwerkt, a movie and a website with roadmaps, tips and tricks on traineeship and preparation for regular employment of students.[38]
  • Everyday Technologies for Children with Special Needs (EvTech)- is a collaborative initiative aiming to increase the possibilities of children with special needs to make choices and influence their environments in everyday life by developing individualised technical environments and tools for children and their families.[38]
  • Discapnet- website dealing with disability issues.[37]

In education[edit]

ICT for education (ICT4E) is a subset of the ICT4D thrust. Globalization and technological change are one of the main goals of ICT. One of its main sectors that should be changed and modified is education. ICTs greatly facilitate the acquisition and absorption of knowledge; offering developing countries unprecedented opportunities to enhance educational systems, improve policy formulation and execution, and widen the range of opportunities for business and the poor. One of the greatest hardships endured by the poor, and by many others who live in the poorest countries, is their sense of isolation. The new communications technologies promise to reduce that sense of isolation, and open access to knowledge in ways unimaginable not long ago.

Education is seen as a vital input to addressing issues of poverty, gender equality and health in the MDGs. This has led to an expansion of demand for education at all levels. Given limited education budgets, the opposing demand for increased investment in education against widespread scarcity of resources puts intolerable pressure on many countries’ educational systems. Meeting these opposing demands through the traditional expansion of education systems, such as building schools, hiring teachers and equipping schools with adequate educational resources will be impossible in a conventional system of education. ICTs offer alternate solutions for providing access and equity, and for collaborative practices to optimize costs and effectively use resources.[39]

Countries with national programs and good practice examples of ICT use in education include: [40]

  • Chile, the Chilean experience[41]
  • Costa Rica, The Ministry of Education and Fundación Omar Dengo’s partnership
  • India (Kerala), IT@school
  • Bangladesh, BRAC's Computer Aided Learning (CAL) Initiative,
  • Jordan Education Initiative
  • Macedonia's Primary Education Project (PEP)
  • Malaysia, Smart School
  • Namibia’s ICTs in Education Initiative, TECH/NA!
  • Russia E-Learning Support Project
  • Singapore's Masterplan for ICT in Education (now in its third edition)[42]
  • South Korea, first aid beneficiary now donor,[43] the Korea Education Research & Information Service (KERIS)
  • Uruguay, small South American country, Plan Ceibal

ICT has been employed in many education projects and research over the world. The Hole in the Wall (also known as minimally invasive education) is one of the projects which focuses on the development of computer literacy and the improvement of learning. Other projects included the utilization of mobile phone technology to improve educational outcomes.[44]

In the Philippines, there are key notes that have been forwarded to expand the definition of ICT4E from an exclusive high-end technology to include low-end technology; that is, both digital and analog.[45] As a leading mobile technology user, the Philippines can take advantage of this for student learning. One project that serves as an example is Project Mind,[46] a collaboration of the Molave Development Foundation, Inc, Health Sciences University of Mongolia, ESP Foundation and the University of the Philippines Open University (UPOU) which focuses on the viability of Short Message System (SMS) for distance learning. Pedagogy, Teacher Training, and Personnel Management are some of the subgroups of ICT4E. UPOU is one of the best examples of education transformation that empowers the potential of ICT in the Philippines' education system. By maximizing the use of technology to create a wide range of learning, UPOU promotes lifelong learning in a more convenient way.

Since the education sector plays a vital role in economic development, Education System in developing countries should align with the fast evolving technology because technological literacy is one of the required skills in our current era. ICT can enhance the quality of education by increasing learner motivation and engagement, by facilitating the acquisition of basic skills and by enhancing teacher training which will eventually improve communication and exchange of information that will strengthen and create economic and social development.

In rural livelihood[edit]

Agriculture is the most vital sector for ICT intervention most especially that majority of the population around the world rely on agriculture to live sustainably. Dr. Alexander G. Flor, author of the book ICT4D: Information and Communication Technology for Development, agriculture provides our most basic human needs that are food, clothing and shelter.

Ever since people have this natural way of thinking on how they can survive and make a living by harvesting crops used for food and fiber, raising livestock such as cow, sheep and poultry that produces animal products like wool, dairy and eggs, catching fish or any edible marine life for food or for sale, forestry and logging to grow and harvest timber to build shelter. With agriculture, people learned and acquired knowledge through sharing information with each other but of course this is not enough as there are also changes and developments in agriculture. Farmers should be able to take hold of updated information like prices, production techniques, services, storage, processing and the like. Evidently, updated information with the change and developments in agriculture can be addressed by the effective use of ICT (the Internet, mobile phone, and other digital technologies).

Poor families in the rural areas have limited or no access at all to information and communication technology. However, these people also needs access to ICT since this technology would help lessen their expenses on their resources like time, labor, energy, and physical resources, thus, would have a greater positive impact on their livelihoods and incomes.[47]

The lives of the rural poor could be alleviated through the application of information and communication technology through the following:

  1. By supplying information to inform the policies, institutions, and processes that affect their livelihood options.
  2. By providing access to information needed in order to pursue their livelihood strategies, including:
  • Financial capital – online and mobile banking will allow rural poor to have greater access to banking facilities and provide a secure place for cash deposits and remittances.
  • Human capital – using ICT will allow intermediaries or knowledge providers impart updated knowledge, techniques and new developments in technology to the locals.
  • Physical capital – service providers will be able to monitor access to local services.
  • Natural capital – access to information about availability and management of natural resources will be enhanced. Also, market access for agricultural products will be einforced. Lastly, ICT could provide early warning systems to reduce the hazard to natural disasters and food shortages.
  • Social capital – connectivity, social networking, and contact for geographically disparate households will be reinforced.

In the advent of ICT it offers new opportunities to support development of the rural livelihoods. It strengthens the production and increased market coordination which are the main processes that can contribute to the future opportunity of the sector and create income for the people that depend on it.

The empirical evidence for these expectations on ICT is mixed. Recent research has found that farmers in remote rural areas of developing countries tend to use ICTs mainly for communicating with familiar partners who, because of the farmers' limited mobility, tend to be collocated in geographical vicinity.[48][49]

In agriculture[edit]

Farmers who have better access to ICT have better lives because of the following:[50][51]

  1. access to price information – farmers will be informed of the accurate current prices and the demands of the products. Hence, they will be able to competitively negotiate in the agricultural economy and their incomes will be improved.
  2. access to agriculture information – according to the review of global and national agricultural information systems done by IICD with support from DFID in 2003, there is a need for coordination and streamlining of existing agriculture information sources, both internationally and within the developing countries. The information provided is usually too scientific that farmers cannot comprehend. Therefore, it is vital that the local information to be relayed to the farmers must be simplified.
  3. access to national and international markets – Increasing the level of access of farmers is very vital in order to simplify contact between the sellers and the buyers, to publicize agricultural exports, facilitate online trading, and increase the awareness of producers on potential market opportunities including consumer and price trends.
  4. increasing production efficiency – due to several environmental threats such as climate change, drought, poor soil, erosion and pests, the livelihood of farmers are unstable. Thus, the flow of information regarding new techniques in production would open up new opportunities to farmers by documenting and sharing their experiences.
  5. creating a conducive policy environment – through the flow of information from the farmers to policy makers, a favorable policy on development and sustainable growth of the agriculture sector will be achieved.

For example, the following ICT4D innovation have been found in Taiwan:[52]

  • A rice germination electronic cooker[53]
  • A robotic tubing-grafting system for fruit-bearing vegetable seedlings[54]
  • An air bubble machine and multi-functional, ultrasonic machine for fruit cleaning[55]

Another example

ICTs offer advantages over traditional forms of agricultural training, using extension agents. However, these forms of communication also pose limitations. For example, face-to-face farmer training often costs $50 per farmer per year, while training via radio may cost as little as $0.50 per farmer per year. However, the capacity of radio to transmit information and collect is more limited than face-to-face interactions.[56]

For an experimental assessment of the role of mobile phones for farmers' access to agricultural information from extension agents and from other farmers see a recent article.[57]

The agricultural sector will profit through ICT4D since we can think of better ways to grow and produce our resources efficiently and effectively. Fusing modern technology with agricultural sector will surely reap better results. We will be able to produce more and better products in a shorter amount of time than before. We will develop a better way of protecting our crops to make it more resistant to extreme weather changes and pests. Thru ICT, new information and updates on the agricultural sector can be easily disseminated. Farmers can easily received this information and they can implement them right away. Not only it saves time and effort, but provides us greater outcome.

The advances in agricultural technology created wonders the agricultural industry. One of the examples would be the use of tractors are able to drive by themselves through the field which eliminates the problem of overlapping and uneven distribution of crops in the field. This saves time and fuel. There are also smartphone apps that can show you information about the status of your crops and irrigation system remotely. In livestock farming, cattle-breeding now includes scientific crossbreeding techniques that produce cattle with greatly improved fertility. Having a local radio/TV show will be a great help in informing the community on updates from the agricultural sector.

These advances may not yet be available all over the world, however, the continued progress in the agricultural industry will be the witness of the revelation of ICT4D globally. ICT4D in agriculture will ensure stability for a larger and more diverse population. Its impact will prepare us for further agricultural development and bridge the gap of the traditional and modern practices.

In April 2015 was launched, a research journalism project funded by Journalism Grants and focused on the use of ICT in the primary sector in Africa.

in healthcare[edit]

According to WHO, the use of ICTs in healthcare is not only about technology (Dzenowagis,2005), but a means to reach a series of desired outcomes, such as:

  • health workers making better treatment decisions;
  • hospitals providing higher quality and safer care;
  • people making informed choices about their own health;
  • governments becoming more responsive to health needs;
  • national and local information systems supporting the development of effective, efficient, and equitable health systems;
  • policymakers and the public becoming more aware of health risks; and
  • people having better access to the information and knowledge they need for better health.

Key aspects of the WHO e-health strategy

  • Policy
    • Ensure public policies support effective and equitable e-health systems.
    • Facilitate a collaborative approach to e-health development.
    • Monitor internationally accepted goals and targets for e-health.
    • Represent the health perspective in international gatherings on major ICT issues.
    • Strengthen ICT in health education and training in countries, supporting a multilingual and multicultural approach.
  • Equitable access
    • Commitment by WHO, Member States, and partners to reaching health communities and all populations, including vulnerable groups, with e-health appropriate to their needs.
  • Best use
    • Analyze e-health evolution, impact on health; anticipate emerging challenges and opportunities.
    • Provide evidence, information and guidance to support policy, best practice, and management of e-health systems and services.
    • Identify and address needs for e-health norms and standards, innovation, and research.[58]

In other sectors[edit]

In 2003, the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) held in Geneva, Switzerland came up with concrete steps on how ICT can support sustainable development in the fields of public administration, business, education and training, health, employment, environment, agriculture and science.[59]

The WSIS Plan of Action identified the following as sectors that can benefit from the applications of ICT4D:

  • E-government

The e-government action plan involves applications aimed at promoting transparency to improve efficiency and strengthen citizen relations; needs-based initiatives and services to achieve a more efficient allocation of resources and public goods; and international cooperation initiatives to enhance transparency, accountability and efficiency at all levels of government.

Writing about ICT's for government use in 1954, W. Howard Gammon can be credited as writing the first e-government research paper. Though not mentioning the word "e-government", his article "The Automatic Handling of Office Paper Work" tackled tactics regarding government processes and information systems or electronic machinery.[60]

  • E-business

Governments, international organizations and the private sector are encouraged to promote the benefits of international trade and e-business; stimulate private sector investment, foster new applications, content development and public/private partnerships; and adapt policies that favor assistance to and growth of SMMEs in the ICT industry to stimulate economic growth and job creation.

A specific sector that has received some attention has been tourism. Roger Harris was perhaps one of the first to showcase the possible benefits. His work focused on a remote location in Malaysia[61][62] and highlighted some of the possibilities of small tourism operators using the internet. Others have shown the possibilities for small tourism operators in using the internet and ICT to improve business and local livelihoods.[63][64]

  • E-learning

Capacity building and ICT literacy are essential to benefit fully from the information society. ICT contributions to e-learning include the delivery of education and training of teachers, offering improved conditions for lifelong learning, and improving professional skills.

  • E-health

ICTs can aid in collaborative efforts to create a reliable, timely, high quality and affordable health care and health information systems [65] and to promote continuous medical training, education, and research. WSIS also promotes the use of ICTs to facilitate access to the world’s medical knowledge, improve common information systems, improve and extend health care and health information systems to remote and underserved areas, and provide medical and humanitarian assistance during disasters and emergencies.

  • E-employment

The e-employment action plan includes the development of best practices for e-workers and e-employers; raising productivity, growth and well-being by promoting new ways of organizing work and business; promotion of teleworking with focus on job creation and skilled worker retention; and increasing the number of women in ICT through early intervention programs in science and technology.

  • E-environment

The government, civil society and private sector are encouraged to use and promote ICTs as instruments for environmental protection and the sustainable use of natural resources; to implement green computing programs; and to establish monitoring systems to forecast and monitor the impact of natural and man-made disasters.

WSIS recognizes the role of ICT in the systematic dissemination of agricultural information to provide ready access to comprehensive, up-to-date and detailed knowledge and information, particularly in rural areas. It also encourages public-private partnerships to maximize the use of ICTs as an instrument to improve production.

  • E-science

The plan of action for e-science involves affordable and reliable high-speed Internet connection for all universities and research institutions; electronic publishing, differential pricing and open access initiatives; use of peer-to-peer technology for knowledge sharing; long-term systematic and efficient collection, dissemination and preservation of essential scientific digital data; and principles and metadata standards to facilitate cooperation and effective use of collected scientific information and data.

The number of prevalent crimes online and offline, local and international (terrorism and acts to it) has led to the increased development of arsenals (including ICT) to preempt and enforce proper security measures that lead to it and put public security, peace and order a number one priority.

Since the first edition of the WSIS Stocktaking Report was issued back in 2005, biannual reporting has been a key tool for monitoring the progress of ICT initiatives and projects worldwide. The 2012 report reflects more than 1 000 recent WSIS-related activities, undertaken between May 2010 and the present day, each emphasizing the efforts deployed by stakeholders involved in the WSIS process.

Mobile technologies[edit]

In recent years, development in mobile computing and communication led to the proliferation of mobile phones, tablet computers, smartphones, and netbooks. Some of these consumer electronic products, like netbooks and entry-level tablet computers are often priced lower as compared to notebooks/laptops and desktop computer since the target market for these products are those living in the emerging markets.[66] This made the Internet and computing more accessible to people, especially in emerging markets and developing countries where most of the world’s poor reside.

Furthermore, these consumer electronic products are equipped with basic mobile communication hardware like, WiFi and 2.5G/3G Internet USB sticks. These allowed users to connect to the Internet via mobile and wireless networks without having to secure a landline or an expensive broadband connection via DSL, cable Internet or fiber optics.

According to International Telecommunication Union, mobile communications and technology has emerged as the primary technology that will bridge in the least developed countries. This trend can be further supported by the rosy sales reports of technology companies selling these electronic devices in emerging markets which includes some of the least developed countries. In fact, some multinational computer manufacturers like Acer and Lenovo are focusing in bringing cheaper netbooks to emerging markets like China, Indonesia and India.[67]

Moreover, data from the ITU’s Measuring the Information Society 2011 report shows that mobile phones and other mobile devices are replacing computers and laptops in accessing the Internet. Countries in Africa have also recorded growth in using mobile phones to access the Internet. In Nigeria, for example, 77% of individuals aged 16 and above use their mobile phones to access the Internet as compared to a mere 13% who use computers to go online.[68] These developments and growth in mobile communication and its penetration in developing countries are expected to bridge the digital divide between least-developed countries and developed countries although there are still challenges in making these services affordable.[69]


The field of mobile learning is still in its infancy, and so it is still difficult for experts to come up with a single definition of the concept.[70] One definition of Mobile Learning or mLearning is provided by MoLeNet: "It is the exploitation of ubiquitous handheld technologies, together with wireless and mobile phone networks, to facilitate, support, enhance and extend the reach of teaching and learning".[71]

Advancements in hardware and networking technologies made it possible for mobile devices and applications to be used in the field of education.[72] Newer developments in mobile phone technology makes them more embedded, ubiquitous and networked, with enhanced capabilities for rich social interactions and internet connectivity. Such technologies can have a great impact on learning by providing a rich, collaborative and conversational experience to both teachers and students.[73] Mobile learning is adapted in classes since aside from the fact that it helps in the enhancement of students' learning, it also helps teachers to easily keep track of the students' progress. Communication when needed is possible at any given time. Discipline and responsibility must go though with the contents in mobile learning since whatever is posted is made available to those who are given access.[74]

Despite the challenges that it presently faces, both technical and pedagogical, experts still remain positive about the concept of mobile learning. The most commonly expected advantages from adopting mobile technology in education include their potential to be engaging for students, to enable interactive learning, and to support personalization of instruction to meet the needs of different students.[75]


Based on a February 2012 survey, the percentage of online shoppers in Asia Pacific are 80% in Thailand and China, 74% in Japan, 71% in Korea, 68% in Australia, 67% in Malaysia and New Zealand, 64% in Taiwan, 61% in Vietnam, 58% in Hong Kong, 57% in Indonesia and Singapore, 54% in India, and 41% in the Philippines. The most famous websites shopped on were 36% for clothing/accessories, 33% for coupons/vouchers and books/DVDs, and 31% for movie tickets. Mobile shopping has grown to be popular especially for the Asian shoppers of which 59% are from Thailand, 37% are from China, 32% are from Vietnam and India. Their reason for mobile shopping was either it was more convenient or more app-compatible. The top mobile buys were 31% on applications, 24% on music, 17% on coupons/vouchers and clothing/accessories, and 16% on movie tickets.[76]

In China, you can buy everything on the web, may it be a screw, clothing, discounted entertainment tickets, musical instrument, imported food, machines, or even vehicles. According to MasterCard online survey, Chinese consumers(59.4 percent) are highest in Asia Pacific for making purchases via their mobile devices. The survey was conducted across 25 markets between November and December 2013. The report for the Asia-Pacific region and included interviews with 7,010 respondents from 14 markets who were asked questions about their online shopping habits. Other top mobile shopping markets include Thailand (51.2 percent), Korea (47.6 percent), India (47.1 percent) and Indonesia (46.7 percent). However, other countries are catching up: Taiwan (up by 17 percent since 2012), the Philippines (up by 11.4 percent). On the other hand, consumers from New Zealand (15 percent, Japan (22.9 percent) and Australia (24.8 percent) show the lowest intent to purchase using their smartphones.[77]

Telephony and development opportunities[edit]

Mobile phone subscribers per 100 inhabitants growth in developed and developing world between 1997 and 2007

The use of mobile phones as part of ICT4D initiatives has proven to be a success as the rapid distribution of mobile telephony has made it possible for poor people to have easy access to useful and interactive information.[78] For instance, in India, the total number of mobile phone subscriptions reached 851.70 million in June 2011, among which 289.57 million came from rural areas, with a higher percentage of increase than that in urban areas.[79] The unexpected growth of affordability and coverage of mobile telephony services has increased its importance not just as a means of two way communication but that of ease-of-access to information as well.

Mobile phones are capable of much more than the exchange of information between two people through calling or text messaging. Advanced models of mobile phones can take photos, record video, receive local AM/FM stations radio frequencies, share and receive multimedia and even connect to the Internet: almost all the features that come with being connected to the World Wide Web. These features make an even better device to aid in ICT4D projects.

A study in Kenya identified innovation in mobile technologies for development,[80] in particular the success of M-PESA mobile banking. They looked at sectors like m-agriculture and m-health where best practice is still to be achieved and have high demand from Kenyan people.

The main lesson they learnt was exemplified by M-PESA where they found the presence of three factors required if mobile technology innovation is to be fostered in developing countries.[80]

  • A creative private sector seizing the initiative and acting upon a specific and wide demand for innovation
  • A process coordinated by a government that is supportive
  • Committed international donors supporting the innovation across all phases.

They found demand in Kenya present for health and agriculture and found case studies of best practice in these fields.[80] They learnt that best practice in m-health seems to depend on demand and on the government facilitating innovation. Alternatively, they found m-agriculture leaving more room for entrepreneurship.[80]

According to a study conducted in Tanzania,[81] the use of mobile phones has impacted rural living in ways which include:

  • Entrepreneurship and job search: Mobile phones reduce the cost of running a business and, in some cases, the technology could even enable a user to start one. A good example of this would be the case of the many women in Pakistan who have been able to start small businesses offering beauty and hairdressing services, without having to shell out money for setting up beauty salons. Clients can easily contact them via their mobile numbers to set up an appointment and enjoy their services.
  • Easy access to information: Mobile phones enables users to access valuable information such as prices, arbitrage and market or trade opportunities which could better prepare them for business transactions. Mobile telephony has empowered farmers and fishers to realize their potential as businesspeople as they directly engage in bargaining processes with their customers. Buyers can use their mobile phones to find out where the best quality and well-priced products are in the market.
  • Market inefficiencies: The use of mobile phones can correct market inefficiencies, therefore regaining the balance in the supply market. The information and services that could be available through mobile phones would prevent exploitation by middlemen or traders, provide employment opportunities (particularly for rural women), reduce information gaps, save cost and time, and strengthen access of service providers to rural people. Community-relevant information regarding education, emergency, situations, markets, weather, etc. could be shared to empower women economically.
  • Transport substitution: The improvement in the information flows between the buyers and sellers make for a more effective bartering of information without traveling. This is particularly significant in rural areas where traders need to travel to urban areas simply to check for demand and negotiate prices. Mobile phones eliminate the need for middlemen and journeys as traders could ensure that demand for their products exists before leaving their rural homes.
  • Disaster relief: In cases of severe drought, floods, wars or weak economies, mobile phones can be used to keep in touch with one's home community. Mobile operators have proven to be incredibly helpful in disaster relief efforts by providing emergency-related communications infrastructure.
  • Education and health: Mobile services are being used to spread locally generated and locally relevant educational and health information.
  • Social capital and social cohesion: Mobile services enable participants to act together more efficiently to pursue shared objectives by promoting cooperation among social networks.

In contrast, evidence from Ethiopia suggests that farmers may feel reluctant to call individuals whom they have never met personally, which limits the usability of mobile phones in regions with limited transportation options.[57]



Zidisha is an online peer-to-peer lending platform that allows individuals in developing countries to raise microfinance loans from individuals worldwide. Unlike earlier microfinancing websites such as Kiva (organization), Zidisha does not work through local intermediary organizations. Instead, the individual borrowers themselves use the Zidisha website to create Facebook-style profiles and negotiate loans with individuals in the US and Europe. The Zidisha website records each borrower's repayment performance and lender feedback rating, which become the basis of online reputations that are displayed in lieu of credit scores to prospective lenders. Zidisha lenders and borrowers dialogue with each other directly in the loan profile pages and Zidisha forum.[82]


Esoko[83] is a successful ICT4D initiative which uses mobile phones to give farmers and their businesses the opportunity to share and receive information quickly, affordably and efficiently. Founded in Accra, Ghana by a young and energetic team, the service provides information on prices, trades, transports, contacts, projects and real-time updates on stock, harvests, etc. Esoko believes that being better-informed is a key factor in how markets operate so they try to both push data out to the fields as well as pull data in from the field.

Esoko features a hosted application that is maintai ned and organized by their team. This means that farmers need not acquire special software or hardware to gain access to information. They simply need to log on to the Internet or request the information by SMS from any phone in any country. Over time, as the user develops a set of networks and contacts on the platform, it enables them to choose the applications that could help them the most; they receive these through simple SMS alerts.

Support and training to anyone who wants to better comprehend a sustainable and successful market information systems are available.

Scientific Animations Without Borders[edit]

Scientific Animations Without Borders (SAWBO) is an award winning program, based at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, focused on ICT4D.[84]

SAWBO creates two- and three-dimensional animations explaining concepts that can be used to improve agricultural production, reduce postharvest losses, prevent and treat diseases.[85] There are also videos useful for hospital systems both in the developing and developed world.

List of animations from SAWBO
Agricultural concept Link to explanatory video
Malaria prevention Link
Use of bednets to prevent vector borne diseases (specifically malaria) Link
Cholera prevention Link
Dengue prevention Link
Yellow fever prevention Link
West Nile virus prevention Link
Chagas disease prevention Link
Use of biocontrol agents in pest management Link
Treatment of cassava flour to prevent konzo Link
Tuberculosis prevention and treatment Link
How to make an oral rehydration solution Link
Handwashing Link
Use of neem seed extracts as an alternative to synthetic pesticides Link
Proper processing of shea seeds and shea butter Link
Hermetic storage of seeds to prevent insect attack Link
Solar treating of cowpeas to prevent insect attack Link
Proper transportation and storage of grain to prevent postharvest losses Link 1 Link 2 Link 3 Link 4
Micro-finance Link

Animations are translated into numerous languages[86] and are made freely available to any group interested in deploying these videos for educational purposes only. SAWBO is focused on delivering critical knowledge to low literate learners in their own languages using cell-phone ready animations which can be shared between video- and Bluetooth(R)- capable cell phones. SAWBO also has a longstanding interest in developing videos to share indigenous knowledge that has been verified in the scientific literature.[87] SAWBO partners with local NGOs, government organizations, and other academic institutions to create and deploy these videos in the field.[88] SAWBO videos can be viewed and downloaded from one of several online SAWBO[89][90] websites, YouTube,[91] or from the Sustainable Development Virtual Knowledge Interface (SusDeViKI),[92] an online journal for materials appropriate for educational programs focused on low literate learners.[93]


Graph of ICT penetration per 100 inhabitants by International Telecommunication Union

ICT is central to today's most modern economies. Many international development agencies recognize the importance of ICT4D – for example, the World Bank's GICT section has a dedicated team of approximately 200 staff members working on ICT issues. A global network hub is also promoting innovation and advancement in ICT4D. Global Knowledge Partnership (GKP) is the world's first multi-stakeholder network, bringing together public sector, private sector and civil society organizations with the goal of sharing knowledge and building partnerships in ICT4D.

Developing countries far lag developed nations in computer use and internet access/usage. For example, on average only 1 in 130 people in Africa has a computer[94] while in North America and Europe 1 in every 2 people have access to the Internet.[95] 90% of students in Africa have never touched a computer.[96]

However, local networks can provide significant access to software and information even without utilizing an internet connection, for example through use of Wikipedia for Schools or the eGranary Digital Library.

The World Bank runs the 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.[97] 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).

A good example of the impact of ICTs is that of farmers getting better market price information and thus boosting their income.[98][99] The Community e-Center in the Philippines developed a website to promote its local products worldwide.[100] Another example is the use of mobile telecommunications and radio broadcasting to fight political corruption in Burundi.[101] This is a short video that discusses the impact of ICT4D in our society:


In recent years there has been a major thrust in the effort to fight longstanding gender discrimination through ICT and to empower women. In May 29 at the "International Girls in ICT Day 2012" held in Geneva, Switzerland, the ITU's Secretary General Dr. Hamadoun Touré said that "Technology needs girls for all sorts of reasons – but perhaps the most important one is that women drive social and economic growth.[102] A study made by ITU shows that narrowing the gap between men and women in the workplace increases economic growth, while fighting to maintain the gap costs billions of dollars a year. Plus, a more diverse gender pool in the workplace makes for a more robust and healthy business environment.[103] As of today, it is a fact that --on average-- women have less access to ICT than men, that they use ICT less intensively and that they are vastly outnumbered in high-level ICT positions worldwide. Few of the ICT4D initiatives in any field involve women. According to WomenWatch, the United Nations’ Internet gateway for advancement and empowerment of women, women in ICTs are rare and few. ICTs benefits across all countries should be available to women and men on a fair and equal basis. This infographic by the Council of European Professional Informatics Societies (CEPIS) shows the gender gap in ICT profession.[104]

There is disagreement for reasons of this gap. On the one hand, one often cited argument are that women are somehow technophobic and that they perceive ICT to be a male-dominated terrain, making it less appealing to approach them, and as a career choice (see for example at Insight's study or[105] Changes are currently underway in the Americas, Europe, Asia and the Pacific, and Russia to change the perspective of girls at the primary educational level regarding the feasibility of ICT as a long-term and fruitful career.[106] On the other hand, a carefully controlled study[107] has shown that women actually embrace digital technology even more than men, disproving the stereotype of "technophobic women". The reason for the negative correlation of ICT with women is confounded by a spurious correlation. The confounding variables are income, education and employment. In other words, the reason why fewer women access and use ICT is a direct result of their unfavorable conditions with respect to employment, education and income. When controlling for these variables, women turn out to be more active users of digital tools than men. This turns the alleged digital gender divide into an opportunity: given that digital ICT have the potential to provide access to employment, education, income, as well as health services, participation, protection, and safety, among others (ICT4D), the natural affinity of women with these new communication tools provide women with a tangible bootstrapping opportunity to tackle social discrimination. This shows that if woman are provided with modern information and communication technologies, these digital tools represent an opportunity for women to fight longstanding inequalities in the workplace and at home.

Examples of women's empowerment through ICT include:[108]

  • Training in the use and design of computer applications, such as e-mail, word-processing and design applications, builds marketable skills
  • Marketable skills create alternative possibilities for income generation and the possibility of upward mobility
  • An independent income is the basis for individual autonomy, increased agency and control and, frequently, increased self-esteem and self-confidence
  • Increased agency and self-confidence allow women to travel more and develop a wider network of contacts. Such travel and networking expose them to the availability of more economic opportunities
  • ICTs open new avenues for education, communication and information sharing
  • ICTs can be a valuable tool for the organization and mobilization of women’s advocacy and interest groups
  • Education and information increase knowledge about the world and the political, economic, social and cultural factors that shape women’s lives.

ITU, in cooperation with Sookmyung Women's University of Korea and the Asia Pacific Information Network Center, recently funded an ICT pilot program in the Philippines and Bhutan that specifically targets rural women. Its results show that women tend to adapt much quicker to the use of ICT once exposed to it, and participants, though initially averse to the idea of using ICT for information gathering and marketing, found the application of ICT in their local setting beneficial.[109]

Artificial Intelligence[edit]

Insightful applications of machine learning, reasoning, planning, and perception have the potential to bring great value to disadvantaged populations in a wide array of areas, including healthcare, education, transportation, agriculture, and commerce. As an example, learning and reasoning can extend medical care to remote regions through automated diagnosis and effective triaging of limited medical expertise and transportation resources. Machine intelligence may one day assist with detecting, monitoring, and responding to natural, epidemiological, or political disruptions. Methods developed within the artificial intelligence community may even help to unearth causal influences within large-scale programs, allowing a better understanding on how to design more effective health and education systems. Ideas and tools created at the intersection of artificial intelligence and electronic commerce may provide new directions for enhancing and extending novel economic concepts, such as micro-finance and micro-work.

Machine learning holds particular promise for helping populations in developing regions. Unprecedented quantities of data are being generated in the developing world on human health, commerce, communications, and migration. Automated learning methods developed within the AI community can help to tease out insights from this data on the nature and dynamics of social relationships, financial connections and transactions, patterns of human mobility, the dissemination of disease, and such urgent challenges as the needs of populations in the face of crises. Models and systems that leverage such data might one day guide public policy, shape the construction of responses to crises, and help to formulate effective long-term interventions.

Machine intelligence has been pursued before in projects within the broader information and communication technologies for development community. These and other ICT4D efforts have already led to valuable ideas, insights, and systems. AI-D[110] stimulates a larger focus on opportunities to harness machine learning, reasoning, and perception to enhance the quality of life within disadvantaged populations.


Heeks’ argues that more traditional ICT4D work was driven by money from a relatively small number of international development agencies. Modern ICT4D projects tend to be funded by a much more eclectic range of sources:

  • Private sector. Private firms are increasingly investing in ICT4D for reasons which appear to lie at the rather murky interface between CSR (corporate social responsibility) and BOP (seeing the poor as bottom of the pyramid consumers).[111]
  • Southern governments. Previously – and still somewhat – reliant on donor funding in this area, some governments in the South are starting to invest their own funds in ICT4D, drawn by the push of community demand and the pull of perceived benefits.[111]
  • New donors. The 21st century is seeing a new wave of Southern aid donors emerging. Newly industrialized and transitional nations such as China, India and South Korea are now active in development aid because of their own economies and expertise and they have been particularly keen on funding ICT4D; arguably more so than some Northern donors.[112] Korea, for example, had already spent more than US$120m on ICT4D aid (over 10% of its total aid budget).[113]
  • Revived old donors. Funding for ICT4D from Northern and international (i.e. Northern-dominated) donors has followed a cycle. It ramped up massively from the late 1990s; fell away after the 2005 Tunis World Summit on the Information Society; and showed signs of reviving from 2008 with, for example, the UK's Department for International Development placing ICTs back onto its agenda and the World Bank doubling its funding for African ICT initiatives.[111]

One of the main challenges is to widen the influence of the respective policies from those carried out by just the telecommunications authority to the entire public sector (be this on the international-, national-, or local level). While most of the national digital agendas are led by national telecommunications authorities (such as ITU or the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (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 government departments), such as those carried out by the national health department, the education ministry or the finance department.[114] 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 often make an effort to track these resources. Since ICT for development is about more than providing mere access to technologies, the logical conclusion should be to coordinate the funds and projects implemented by telecommunications and technologies authorities with those managed by the health, education, finance and defense authorities. The first task in coordinating usually 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 being done. Double efforts/lack of synergies are the common result.[114]

The Korean Trust Fund on ICT4D[edit]

In 2008, the Republic of Korea established the Korean Trust Fund on ICT4D. The US$15 million trust fund has supported World Bank projects that demonstrate cutting edge approaches to development problems, with a focus on information and communications technology. The Korean Trust Fund is integral to the World Bank work, and helps the World Bank remain a force for transformative development outcomes worldwide.

The Korean Trust Fund on ICT4D is administered jointly by the ICT Sector Unit and infoDev. The Trust Fund supports activities that serve as input in the development of lending operations in three key domains of ICT for Development:

  • e-Transformation Across Sectors: Using ICT - with a focus on mobile applications - to transform the efficiency and/or accountability of service delivery in various sectors and to track results (with an emphasis on food security, social services, and IT industry development);
  • Green IT: Implementing "Green IT" solutions that either (i) improve energy efficiency of electricity networks and/or of urban infrastructure including transport networks, or (ii) improve climate resilience of agriculture and water resource management systems;
  • Broadband Connectivity Infrastructure: Increasing access to affordable broadband infrastructure services through policy and regulatory interventions, and where needed, through catalytic public-private partnership investment, with a focus on mobile broadband.[115]

EU funding[edit]

The European Commission is investing in research and development projects to encourage the increased use of information and communication technologies for sustainable growth. The European Commission recognizes that ICTs could play a greater role in supporting sustainable growth. Significant EU funds have, therefore, been dedicated to driving research and development in this area. The main funding instruments are the Seventh Research Framework Programme (FP7) and the Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme (CIP).[116]

The total budget for FP7 is €51 bn. and split along thematic priorities. The EU has earmarked over €9.1 billion for funding ICT over the duration of FP7 and part of this for Environmental Management and Energy Efficiency in particular. The CIP on the other hand runs from 2007-2013 in parallel to FP7. It has an overall budget of €3621 million.

Swedish program[edit]

The Sweding Program for ICT in Developing Regions (Spider) is offering catalytic funding to innovative projects focused on ICT4D.

Following are the thematic areas and their crosscutting issues under this grant opportunity:

Thematic areas:

  • democracy: e-government, e-governance and ICT for empowerment
  • education: education management, e-learning and digital literacy
  • health: healthcare management, e-health and public health

Crosscutting ICT issues:

  • low cost and high quality technology free and open source software (FOSS)
  • mobile technology for development (M4D)

Crosscutting development issues:

  • youth empowerment
  • cultural creativity
  • capacity development

Spider will provide support to projects implemented in any one of the twelve priority countries for Swedish development cooperation: Bangladesh, Bolivia, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mali, Mozambique, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia.[117]


Schoolkids with laptops in Cambodia.


ICT4D initiatives and projects may be designed and implemented by international institutions, governments (e.g., e-Mexico initiative), consultants (e.g., Non-Profit Computing, Inc.[118]), private companies (e.g., Intel's Classmate), 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.[8]

A 2010 research report from the Governance and Social Development Resource Centre[119] found "Very few ICT4D activities have proved sustainable... Recent research has stressed the need to shift from a technology-led approach, where the emphasis is on technical innovation towards an approach that emphasises innovative use of already established technology (mobiles, radio, television)."[120] However, of 27 applications of ICTs for development, E-government, E-learnings and E-health were found to be possible of great success, as well as the strengthening of social networks and boosting of security (particularly of women).

The United Nations Development Center in Bangkok issued a list of over 100 case studies addressing one or more of the following issues:[121]

  • Access and infrastructure
  • Capacity building and education
  • e-governance and e-government
  • Environment and agriculture
  • Free and open source software
  • Gender and ICT
  • Health and medicine
  • Policy and social analyses
  • Technical innovation for development

ICT- and WSIS-related projects are available in the public database of WSIS stocktaking


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. While a link between poverty reduction and ICT exists, the connection is yet to be fully understood. In fact, the relationship between infrastructure investment and increased output commonly encounter problems with reverse causality and false correlations.

The expansion of ICT can have direct negative outcomes. Expenditure on ICT has been known to cause intra-household conflict, foster male dominance over resources and divert household resources away from food and other essentials. Human right concerns such as child labor have also been raised over the use of conflict materials in the production of ICT devices.[122]

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.

The literacy issue is one of the key factors why projects fail in rural areas; as education in literacy sets the foundation for digital and information literacy, proper education and training are needed to make the user at least understand how to manipulate the applications to get the information they need. Constant follow-up with the community is needed to monitor if the project has been successfully implemented and is being used meaningfully.

In the case of India, technological advancement has been more of leapfrogging in nature: the affordability of mobile phones allowed more people to acquire mobile phones before learning to use personal computers and desktops. This unfamiliarity with computers could be seen as problematic as it creates digital divide if technological devices provided are computers; a disconnect between computing technology and people causes difficulty for some of the ICT4D project initiatives to take effect. For instance, in rural parts of India, the Ministry of Education rejected OLPC initiative[123] due to lack of facilities and trained professionals for computer teaching and maintenance. While closing the gap of digital divide through training teachers so that technology may be used for teaching process is challenging, there is yet another problem of failing to recognize technology as a tool for learning process. Studying how learners and/or students interact with technology is vital for developing and designing technologies for them.

Projects in marginalised rural areas face the most significant hurdles – but 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[124] and are thus also meaningful in the rural arena.[125]

However, introducing ICTs in these areas is also most costly, as the following barriers exist:[126]

  • Lack of infrastructure: no electrical power, no running water, bad roads, etc.
  • 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.
  • 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 maintenance is sporadic and if a component breaks it is costly to obtain skilled people and parts to make a repair..
  • Lack of means to maintain the project due to short-terms grants
  • Lack of support from the local government
  • 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.[127]
  • Corruption is one of the factors that hampers the implementation of ICT projects in rural areas.
  • 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 and not relevant to local context.[127]

Another significant problem can be the selection of software installed on technology[128] – instructors trained in one set of software (for example Ubuntu[129]) can be expected to have difficulty in navigating computers donated with different software (for example Windows XP).

A pressing problem is also the misuse of electronic waste in dangerous ways. Burning technology to obtain the metals inside will release toxic fumes into the air.[130] Plastics, chips and circuit boards are destroyed to gather their raw and sellable materials. These practices cost the health of communities, affecting the respiratory and immune system. Presence of harmful chemicals are stuck on soils like lead, mercury and cadmium.[131] Sadly electronic wastes are profound in developing countries where they are dumped due to large recycling costs. Developing countries are forced to labor on these waste to get money. (Certification of recyclers to e-stewards or R2 Solutions standards is intended to preclude environmental pollution.)

Finally, while the training, support, hardware and software may all be donated, it is rare for another vital component of technology, Internet access, to be made available at a discounted rate. "In about half the countries in Africa, one year of [dial-up] Internet supply will cost more than the average annual income."[132][133]

TechChange, The Social Impact Lab and the World Bank have highlighted many of the above issues and complexities around implementing ICT4D projects through an animation short.[134]

Lessons learned[edit]

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, multinational organizations wishing to expand their markets to the 4 billion people under US$2/day, pro-poor or social companies)
  • Informal sector (NGOs, advocacy groups, think tanks)
  • Representation from the target audience
International Institute for Communication and Development video

InfoDev has published six lessons from an analysis of 17 of their pilot programmes (see below). These lessons are backed by a variety of examples as well as a list of recommendations:[135]

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Sustainability and scalability[edit]

A Geekcorps volunteer setting up a Wi-Fi antenna in Mali

Currently, the main two perspectives coming out of this sector are to emphasize the need for external aid to build infrastructure so that projects can reach viability, and the need to develop and build on local talent.

Establishing a clear and effective initial design serves as a foundation of any development projects. Starting on existing community assets and knowledge promotes collaboration and cooperation among participants resulting to collective decision-making. Thus, involvement of potential participants in the design, implementation, and monitoring and evaluation is valuable. Adding a substantial effect on a project's long-term sustainability is the implementation. The success of project implementation is reflected in a comprehensive evaluation of the expected net benefits. The interdependence between these project components based on a holistic consideration of livelihood systems, needs and opportunities, provides significant contribution to the overall impact of the project on the community.[136]

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. ICT4D is not a one-shot implementation but rather it is a complex process to be undertaken continuously, and the progress of each project evolves around the local education for, and adaptability of, the technology

Also, a number of developing countries have proven their skills in IT (information technology). Using these skills to build on ICT4D projects will tap local potential and a key indigenous partner in the growth of this sector will be gained. The balance of trade for these nations due to imports in both hardware and software might be an additional consideration.

Different countries have variety on these strengths some are better in hardware production, both high end and low end. There are some who are good in production of programs and other content. ICT is a US$3 trillion industry (2010)[137] and is growing every year. Communication, media and IT present opportunities for further growth and expansion.

Inclusive innovation[edit]

Inclusive innovation defines the characteristic of new goods and services that are created for those who are denied access from the development mainstream—most especially lowest incomes and/or the poverty line. These new technologies are for the lowest ladder in the social hierarchy – which includes: Information and Communication (like mobile phones, mobile services and telecentres); Agriculture (better seed varieties); Healthcare (vaccines); etc. In this, one can diagram the swift rise of interest and attention for inclusive innovation in various sectors and/or fields. Since in the past years, many organizations and agencies like World Bank, IDRC, GIZ, OECD and many more are still launching inclusive actions—which many countries are increasingly using inclusive innovation in various sectors and fields, like China, India, Indonesia, South Africa, Thailand, and other national governments.

We can chart the rapid rise of interest in inclusive innovation in various spheres. In the past few years, the World Bank, IDRC, GIZ, OECD and other development agencies have all launched inclusive innovation actions. India, Thailand, China, South Africa, Indonesia and other national governments have added inclusive innovation elements into their policies.

Here we can view the two key aspects of how inclusive innovation plays: first, who are affected or included? And second, what way they are included? First, the first part who are affected or included? The first part of key aspect is defined as someone is being affected or included in marginalized or poverty line. How these people are being included in some way, which can be redirected to the second key aspect, what way they are included? The most beneficial way to answer that is to comprehend the different perspectives in the "ladder of inclusive innovation," in a group of steps, which in every succeeding step illustrates a higher idea of inclusivity as related to how innovation works. Below are the detailing of the steps:[138]

Level 1 (intention): when this innovation is inclusive, it has the intention of specific innovation that corresponds to the address of the necessities, wants or problems of the excluded group. However, this does not meant to report in any definite activity, but solely in the abstraction of motivation behind that innovation.

Level 2 (consumption): when this innovation is inclusive, it has to be adopted and to be utilized by the excluded group. However, it requires the innovation to be developed into definite goods or services; in which case, these can be accessed and payable by the excluded group; for that effect the group have the motivation and capabilities to integrate the innovation. All of those levels, they could be viewed as sub-elements for this level in the inclusive innovation ladder; in spite of, all shall be needed for consumption, as consequently they are not part of the hierarchical sub-steps (which will appear in later levels).

Level 3 (impact): when this innovation is inclusive, it has the favourable impact on the livelihoods of the excluded group. That specific favourable impact may be comprehended in different views. It could be more quantitative, where the economic perspectives could be defined in the terms of higher productivity and/or higher welfare/utility (e.g. greater ability to consume). Beyond than that, many perspectives could be defined in the impact of innovation of well-being, livelihood assets, personal capabilities, or other foundational theories of what development is.

Level 4 (process): when this innovation is inclusive, it has the case of excluded group that is involved in the innovation development. It is almost rare for the whole group to be involved, somehow the effect of this could immediately diminish into "members of the excluded group". This level must be de-synthesized as stated by the sub-processes of innovation: invention, design, development, production, and distribution. These could construct a set of sub-steps within, e.g., the speculation of lower value of inclusion downstream elements than the upstream elements. Furthermore, the scope of participation is being identified with the different levels of inclusion. Repeatedly, there could be sub-steps similar to those which are viewed when analysing involvement in the development, with greater sub-steps depicting extensive involvement. Borrowing additional ideas from Arnstein’s [139] in his ladder of participation, the sub-steps can be included as follows: being informed, being consulted, collaborating, being empowered, and controlling.

Level 5 (structure): when this innovation is inclusive, it is produced in enclosed structure that is in itself inclusively done. The justification that can be found here in the inclusive processes that may be for short-term or shallow in what they attain. Extensive inclusion needs the proper fundamental institutions, organizations and relations that constitute the innovation system that are inclusive.[140] However, this might need the selection of serious structural improvement of existing innovation systems, or the establishment of alternative innovation systems.

Level 6 (post-structure): when this innovation is inclusive, it is generated in enclosed by the frame of knowledge and discourse, which is in itself inclusively done. Any post-structuralists would assert the idea that human’s underlying frames of knowledge, as well as the language, are the basis of power to which control the societal outcomes. However, if the framings of main actors are included in the innovation which allow for inclusion of the excluded; by then, the outcome of innovation be truly inclusive.

Impact assessment[edit]

There are many initiatives and projects being done in line with information, communication and technology for development. Government, NGOs, public and private sectors have different projects lined up to promote development in different communities. But these projects, although have the objectives to help people in their everyday life, there are little study on whether the technology applied is effective or not. Impact assessment is one way to determine the effectiveness of one technology.

For ICT4D, impact assessment can be based on these questions:[141]

  • Why? - this can include both the externally stated rationale, and the internal purpose for the organisation(s) driving the impact assessment. In most cases, the external rationale will be one or more of: a) retrospective achievement – post-hoc assessment of what has been achieved from investments to date; b) prospective priorities – pre-hoc assessment of future development project investments; c) accountability – enabling agencies to be held to account for their ICT4D spending.
  • For whom? - typical audiences are a) ICT4D investment decision-makers; b) ICT4D policy decision-makers; c) ICT4D project decision-makers; d) ICT4D project users/beneficiaries; e) other ICT4D stakeholders
  • What? - a mixture of the indicators the key audience will best consume, the indicators it is most feasible to measure, and the indicators the assessment team is most familiar with. This may also include identifying the conceptual framework guiding the impact assessment;
  • How 1? - alongside the specific measurement issues, a key element here will be the extent of participation of project users in measurement (and in more upstream processes such as selection of indicators).
  • When? - the classic impact assessment failure has been to assess ICT4D pilots rather than fully scaled-up projects; and to assess too early in the project's history.
  • How 2? - probably the most important and the most overlooked element in the whole process, with some impact assessments being conducted but having little impact. Includes questions on whether indicators are reported "as is", or communicated via causal models, case sketches, stories, etc.

Heeks and Molla described two different ways in categorizing impact assessment of ICT4D projects. One is based on the attainment of the ICT4D goals and the other is based on how to undertake such assessment.

Here is the classification of the impact of ICT4D based on the attainment of goals:

  1. Total failure: the initiative was never implemented, was implemented but immediately abandoned, or was implemented but achieved none of its goals.
  2. Largely unsuccessful: some goals were attained but most stakeholder groups did not attain their major goals and/or experienced significant undesirable outcomes.
  3. Partial success/partial failure: some major goals for the initiative were attained but some were not and/or there were some significant undesirable outcomes
  4. Largely successful: most stakeholder groups attained their major goals and did not experience significant undesirable outcomes.
  5. Total success: all stakeholder groups attained their major goals and did not experience significant undesirable outcomes.

Another categorization of assessing the impacts of ICT4D projects based on "frameworks" (understanding ICT4D projects and organizing knowledge about them) are: Generic: general frameworks usable in assessment of any development project.

  1. Discipline-specific: assessment drawing from a particular academic discipline.
  2. Issue-specific: assessment focused on a particular development goal or issue.
  3. Application-specific: assessment focused on one particular ICT4D technology.
  4. Method-specific: assessment centred on a particular approach to data-gathering.
  5. Sector-specific: assessment centred on an individual development sector.

Criticisms and challenges[edit]

Satellite Internet access via VSAT is a common form of connectivity in developing countries (Ghana, Ecamic project pictured)[142]

As it has grown in popularity, especially in the international development sector, ICT4D has also come under criticism.

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.[143][144] For example, in Sri Lanka, journalist Nalaka Gunawardene argued that thousands of pilot projects had 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.[145] This sentiment echoes a 2003 report by the World Bank.[9]

Further criticism of ICT4D concerns the impact of ICTs on traditional cultures and the so-called cultural imperialism which might be spread with ICTs. It is emphasised that local language content and software seem to be good ways to help soften the impact of ICTs in developing areas.[146]

Many fear of the potential of ICT to seriously widen the Digital Divide and the gap between people with access to the information economy and those without such access.[144] 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 in July 2000.[147] Anriette Esterhuysen, an advocate for ICT4D and human rights in South Africa,[148] 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.[149]

Another point of criticism against ICT4D is that its projects are in the long term 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.

More often than not, ICT programs are expected to be the solution for all socioeconomic problems. However, disorganized implementation that disregards factors such as cultural realities make ICT for development efforts ineffective.[150]

It is therefore important to pursue regionalized ICT programs first before globalization. There’s a need for ICT4D practitioners to seek out ways in which to enable programs make their impact.[31] Establishing regional and national ICT strategies that commit to action is the first step towards creating effective solutions.[150]

Neoliberalization of education[edit]

Proponents of ICT have always highlighted the benefits of technology when applied in the different sectors of society especially in education. There is a belief that using ICT will make the lives of the people better. According to Flor (n.d.), education has benefited immensely from ICT for it "offered an entire new range of possibilities to enhance teaching-learning situation."[31] In the Philippines, pedagogic as well as social and economic benefits are cited as reasons for the government’s ICT for education policies and programs.[151] The Philippine government believes that an ICT education will prepare the youth to be able to meet the challenges and demands of the economic market once they graduate. In short, the government wants to "produce a critical mass of ICT professionals and ICT-literate manpower."[151]

The need to supply an ICT literate workforce is anchored on the Information Age wherein the global economy’s primary commodity is now information. Labor-intensive production has become knowledge-intensive, thus, the ever growing need for information workers. Corporate businesses who need information workers thrive on ICT. They do not only own the technology, but they also exert power through it.[152] This results in a parasitic and predatory relationship between those who own the technology and their labor and consumer market. ICT, in the context of global capitalism, is therefore being used to advance private corporate interests towards what Schiller (as cited in Waller, 2007) calls a "corporate controlled information society."[152]

This restructuring of the global economy through ICT has implications that affect us immensely, even more so with the inclusion of ICT in education. It reinforces the exploitative nature of capitalism for it allows business interests to enter into and control our educational system.

To exert its economic power in the global economy and "justify the more aggressive drive of the Transnational Corporations in the global order," capitalist-led WB and the World Trade Organization has put forth the theories of the "global village" and the globalization of market.[153] This global village, according to Lelliot et al. (as cited in Zemblyas and Vrasidas, 2005), is where "the educational and political significance and desirability of ICT" is based on. ICT therefore becomes a symbol and an aspect of globalization because globalization builds on and drives from it.[154]

Consequently, ICT as a symbol and aspect of globalization makes it a central component in the neoliberalist agenda in education of privatizing, deregulating and marketizing education and producing a surplus of skilled information workers for transnational corporations.

Neoliberalism dictates that universities and colleges must look for their own funding in order to operate. This leads to increasing private and corporate influence on schools through study and project grants and the state abandonment of the education system. In line with market capitalism, neoliberalism seeks to restructure the public orientation of education by steering it away from state control towards the private sphere. With corporate interests being allowed to gain control of schools, the capitalist-led international development assistance agencies have been actively pushing for ICT in the education system.

Furthermore, neoliberalism seeks to transform education into a commodity that can be bought at a price. This new kind of set-up, Petten explains, "stands in opposition to education as a social right" where everyone has a right to education regardless of economic status.[155] With the introduction of ICT in education, education now comes with a price tag. Thus, the democratic character of education is threatened.

Three key challenges[edit]

In the 2007 Manila Workshop, the three key challenges of ICT4D (also referred to as the three problem trees) were clustered. These are the result of clustering the core problems that are seen in the field of ICT4D. The participants of the workshop grouped the core problems or challenges into lack of rigour problem tree, interdisciplinary research problem tree and lack of collaboration problem tree.[2] The problem trees investigates the cause and effect of the problem.

  1. Lack of rigour problem tree: Data gathering is the identified root cause of this problem tree. This leads to an ineffective policy decision. Another negative effect of this problem tree is the information wastage wherein the generated information is not utilized properly.[2][156]
  2. Interdisciplinary research problem tree: The research environment, frameworks and methods, and terminologies are the identified roots of this problem tree. Among the effects of this problem tree are the quality of research output, and the rigour or precision and accuracy of the information.[2]
  3. Lack of collaboration problem tree: Research collaboration among researchers, institutions, government and the academe must be pursued. The differences are the identified root cause of this challenge and thus, results to limitations like lack of openness to failure and perception that academic research is not useful.[2]
Lack of Rigor Interdisciplinary Research Lack of Collaboration
Bad Policy
Wastage of Resources
Empathy/ Understanding
Lack of Openness to Failure
Perception that Academic Research is not Useful
Core Problem Lack of Rigor Interdisciplinary Research Lack of Collaboration
Paucity of Data
Integrate old models into new lines of research
Lack of institutional commitment
Fear of independent research
Shifting political agenda
Disciplinary provinciality
Shaping priorities
Propriety of Data
Divergent needs, audiences and language
Journals have small audiences
Logistics of Data Collection
Poor Training/ Education of Researchers
Politics of Research Use
Research Environment (political, structural, institutional)
Terminology (language use, jargon, assumptions)
Frameworks/ methods
Different Incentives
Different Goals
Different Processes

Country and region case studies[edit]


The Philippines, one of newly industrialized countries (NICs) in Asia, is continuously boosting ICT4D in sectors like education, agriculture, livelihood and even disaster preparedness. Directed by the Philippine Digital Strategy 2011-2016,[157] the government and the private sector have been harnessing ICT to achieve development agenda.

The Philippine’s Commission of Information and Communications Technology (CICT) drafted a Philippine ICT-Roadmap in 2006 to "establish new policy directions for CICT as the lead government agency for ICT development in the country." This roadmap is governed by seven guiding principles that centers on the role of government in ICT development as an enabling policy, legal and regulatory environment. CICT also advocates for a "multi-stakeholder approach" which involves the private sector, civil society, civic organizations, international organizations and other partners to have an important role and responsibility in the development of Philippine Information Society.[158]


Over the last decade, the ICT access in Africa has increased immensely. As access increases, opportunities arise to leverage ICT to extend timely information and services to previously underserved populations, and to increase productivity and innovation in the public and private sectors. Examples of this are the increase in the number of people who are able to acquire mobile phone service, improved disease monitoring and vaccination planning and m-banking services using the mobile to extend access financial services to populations that never before had a bank account. But despite of the dramatic ICT improvements made, significant access gaps are still there.[159]

infoDev, a global multi-donor program in the World Bank Group that supports growth-oriented entrepreneurs through business incubators and innovation hubs,[160] aims to help African countries leverage ICT to reach their development goals by building local capacity. Along with the Global Information and Communications Technology Department of the World Bank (GICT) as a co-sponsor, a study entitled "Broadband for Africa: Policy for Promoting the Development of Backbone Networks" was made to review the current of backbone network infrastructure in Sub-Saharan Africa and investigate the significance of this for the development of mass-market broadband ICT services in the region. Through this study, the underlying reasons for the current pattern of infrastructure development were examined. Options for policy-makers to promote further development and use of these networks were also set out.[159]

Furthermore, infoDev has helped with innovation and entrepreneurship as well as education. Small enterprises serve as one of the biggest contributors of production and employment in Sub-Saharan Africa but these enterprises are not able to reach their full potential due to three reasons:[159]

  • capacity constraints
  • limited market linkages
  • lack of access to finance and unconducive regulations

Entrepreneurs who wishes to start and grow their businesses can seek support from business incubators who provide shared facilities that reduce the cost of setting up a business, business development services and mentoring that strengthen the management capacity of the entrepreneur, market linkages that result in more cost-effective supplies and a larger customer base, and financial services that cater to start-up enterprises. infoDev’s Incubator Initiative, launched in 2002 with support from the Government of Japan, supports the incubation and growth of competitive entrepreneurs and SMEs through a global network of over 150 business incubators spanning 70 developing countries.[159]

When it comes to education, a series of ICT initiatives serves as a representation of the enormous potential of ICTs in the region. Just like small enterprises, education has an important role in the development of the region. infoDev aids by sponsoring a series of substantive cutting-edge research and analytical studies as well as capacity-building activities designed to enhance policy-relevant knowledge about what works, and what does not, in using ICT in education in developing countries, especially as it relates to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and to make this knowledge more accessible to developing country policymakers and their colleagues in the donor community.[159]

These are elements that P. Clint Rogers observed in successful ICT4D projects in Africa:[161]

  • Augment existing economic activity, focus on the strong point and make it even better.
  • Increase relevance by involving the end user from the very beginning of the project.
  • Build on existing infrastructure (e.g., radio, TV, mobile phones), and/or let the end user see how simple the infrastructure is.
  • Think what an African community has to offer to others and not what others can offer to an African community.

A cross-cutting study of Regional Trade and Integration was carried out by ICT Development Associates, and includes case studies of Botswana, Kenya and Senegal. Africa's trade performance is weak compared with other world regions, particularly in trade within the continent, and is undermined by inefficiencies and poor coordination between national agencies along the supply chain. The study describes experience and opportunities for using ICTs in trade facilitation –- especially in improving the efficiency and coordination of trade and transport logistics; port, customs and border management; and the availability to trading businesses of information about markets and trade requirements. Data sharing through national and regional "single windows" can reduce costs and delays, improve reliability and enhance the profitability of trade. ICTs should, however, form part of a broad approach to trade promotion, and implementation needs careful planning and resources. Regional integration through Regional Economic Communities (RECs) can play a crucial role. The RECs and International Financial Institutions (IFIs) should work with other stakeholders to advance ICT-enabled trade facilitation.

A second cross-cutting study on ICT Competitiveness was carried out by Excelsior with TNO, with country case studies of Kenya, Morocco and Nigeria. These countries are embracing the use of ICTs in novel ways to improve the social and economic opportunities available to firms and citizens. Provided the African ICT market continues its impressive double-digit growth, the market could be worth more than US$150 billion by 2016. The study highlights the need to build a competitive ICT industry to promote innovation, job creation and the export potential of African companies.

Of course, challenges remain. The continent largely lags behind the rest of the world in terms of ICT readiness and Africa has made slower progress in the past two years when compared to other regions. The Arab Spring has caused a short-term decline in inward FDI in the north of the continent. Pricing of ICT services, especially broadband, continues to be higher than other regions. Furthermore, the growing trend towards taxing incoming international calls suggests a worrying reversion to the former view of the ICT sector as a cash cow. The challenge for the next decade is to build on the mobile success story and complete the transformation. This will require reducing the cost of access for mobile broadband, supporting government private-sector collaboration, improving the e-commerce environment, enhancing ICT labour market skills, encouraging innovative business models that drive employment, such as microwork and business process outsourcing, and creating spaces that support ICT entrepreneurship, such as ICT incubators, and local ICT development clusters.[162]


The structure of the telecommunication sector in Bolivia is different from most other countries. Local service is provided by 16 telephone cooperatives, long distance service by one private company and mobile cellular by two private companies (a third license was issued late last year and expected to start operations in the 4th quarter of 2000). Fixed telephone operators have a monopoly until November 2001 when the market is to be fully opened to competition.

The Internet market is experiencing fairly rapid growth but is nonetheless constrained by a number of factors. The most notable are legal restrictions that forbid Internet Service Providers (ISPs) from directly providing their own outgoing international connectivity or domestic leased lines. The ISPs claim that this results in higher costs, poor service and unfair competition from the traditional telecom operators that provide Internet access. Other factors such as low incomes (after Haiti, Bolivia is the second poorest country in the Latin American and Caribbean region), lack of awareness and shortages of and antiquated communication equipment also affect Internet take-up.

An ITU team consisting of Michael Minges, Ben Petrazzini and a consultant, Sonia Jorge, visited La Paz from 15–19 May to carry out research for the Bolivia Internet Case Study. The country's telecom regulator, Superintendencia de Telecomunicaciones (SITTEL), hosted the team. To date, there has been no comprehensive document produced on the state of the Internet in Bolivia. SITTEL is looking forward to the ITU report as it will assist their plans to become more involved in Internet policy issues. The nation makes an interesting addition to the Internet case study series since there are a number of factors that are different from other countries studied. These include a unique telecom structure, dispersed Internet usage (for example there are more Internet users in the tropical city of Santa Cruz than the Andean capital of La Paz), growing Spanish content and a mix of Internet providers ranging from incumbent telecom operators to pan-regional ISPs.[163]

International programs and strategies[edit]


eLAC is an intergovernmental strategy that conceives of information and communications technologies as instruments for economic development and social inclusion in Latin America and the Caribbean.[164] eLAC is based on a public-private sector partnership[165] and is part of a long-term vision (until 2015) in line with the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and those of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS). The inter-governmental strategy contributes to the implementation of these long-term goals by pursuing a consecutive series of frequently adjusted short-term action plans with concrete qualitative and quantitative goals to be achieved. Three plans have already been worked on to implement this vision:

2005-2007: eLAC2007 with 30 goals and 70 activities for the years 2005-2007[166]

2008-2010: eLAC2010 with 83 goals to be achieved during the 2008-2010 period[167]

2010-2015: eLAC2015 with 24 goals to be achieved during the period 2010-2015[168]

The monitoring of eLAC through United Nations ECLAC has produced a wealth of important statistics of the most diverse aspects of ICT4D in Latin America and the Caribbean.[164][169][170]


Strengthening Capacity Research in Asia (SIRCA) is a pioneer capacity-building programme that intends to develop social science research skills of emerging researchers in Asia Pacific region in the information and communication technologies for development (ICTD) space by supporting research that was scientific, replicable, generalisable, collaborative, and actionable (i.e. applied research).[2] It is conceptualized by the Singapore Internet Research Centre (SiRC) and the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and was initiated in August 2008.[2]

SIRCA has the following objectives:

  1. Promote high-quality inter-disciplinary social science research in Internet development, e-services, new media use and social impact, and policy for the benefit and advancement of individuals, organisations, nation and society;
  2. Support networks and linkages among researchers through a mentorship programme, as well as workshops and conferences to share knowledge and conduct training activities; and
  3. Disseminate the research findings through such venues as academic journals, conferences and other relevant online and print media outlets.

The SIRCA programme facilitated 15 research projects (12 grant recipients, and three graduate student awardees) of emerging ICTD from eight Asian countries from 2008 to 2011. The topics covered on these studies address key development goals in agriculture, education, health, migration, livelihoods, and disaster-preparedness for the benefit and advancement of individuals, organizations, nations, and societies in Asia. The program mentors ensured that projects had not only an applied practical context but were grounded in theory, a necessity for publication in the best peer reviewed journals, and for contribution to the scientific community.[2]


Charging mobile phone from car battery in Uganda

2000 Okinawa Summit of G8 Nations[edit]

ICT4D was first conceptualized during the 2000 Okinawa Summit of G8 Nations with the social promise of poverty alleviation.[2] ICT was defined by the summit of nations as "one of the most potent forces in shaping the twenty-first century"[171] making it a powerful tool in poverty reduction. The G8 Kyushu Okinawa Summit was held in July 21 to 23, 2000 in Nago, City, Okinawa[172] with three paramount themes: 1.) international cooperation aimed at enabling all people in the world to enjoy prosperity, 2.) achieve deeper peace of mind, and 3.) live in a more stable world.

One of its fundamental goals is to attain a "globalization for all people" by bridging the widening gap between developed and developing nations, dealing with detrimental aspects of economic globalization and promoting cooperation for development in developing nations.

World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS)[edit]

A major event for ICT4D was the twin World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS); the 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 took place in Tunis, Tunisia, in November 2005. One of the 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.

The 2003 Geneva summit had set out ten targets along with several action lines, with the intention of having those targets to be achieved by 2015. The first part of the summit in Geneva agreed on a Declaration of Principles and a Plan of Action promoting the utilization of ICTs in all development goals and targets, all in accordance with the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). While the second part of the summit (held in Tunis, Tunisia in 2005) had paved the way for the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) to be established.[173]

WSIS Targets[edit]

  • connect villages with ICTs and establish community access points;
  • connect universities, colleges, secondary schools and primary schools with ICTs;
  • connect scientific and research centres with ICTs;
  • connect public libraries, cultural centres, museums, post offices and archives with ICTs;
  • connect health centres and hospitals with ICTs;
  • connect all local and central government departments and establish websites and email addresses;
  • adapt all primary and secondary school curricula to meet the challenges of the Information Society, taking into account national circumstances;
  • ensure that all of the world's population have access to television and radio services;
  • encourage the development of content and to put in place technical conditions in order to facilitate the presence and use of all world languages on the Internet;
  • ensure that more than half the world’s inhabitants have access to ICTs within their reach;

WSIS Action Lines[edit]

  • The role of public governance authorities and all stakeholders in the promotion of ICTs for development
  • Information and communication infrastructure
  • Access to information and knowledge
  • Capacity building
  • Building confidence and security in the use of ICTs
  • Enabling environment
  • ICT applications:
  • Cultural diversity and identity, linguistic diversity and local content
  • Media
  • Ethical dimensions of the information society
  • International and regional cooperation

It is said that the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) will be replaced by the Post-2015 Development Agenda (PTDA) in 2016. In 2014, R. Heeks, a professor of Development Informatics and one of the founding academics in developing the field of "ICT4D", made a comparative analysis between WSIS+10's Review with respect to ICT4D's current and future content (i.e., policy and practice), and Post-2015 Development Agenda (PTDA), identifying post-2015 priorities within ICT4D's current and future concerns in terms of international development providing policymakers and other ICT4D practitioners a significant data to consider in planning their ICT4D activities. (Heeks 2014)[174]

World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) Stocktaking[edit]

WSIS Stocktaking is a publicly accessible database of ICT-related implementation activities, initiated during the Tunis phase of WSIS.


A yearly gathering of delegates from different sectors of society to make known the innovations of IT initiatives and foster creative collaborations to form new ideas. The event is not exclusive as it acquires students, academics, innovators, government and IT novices to join in to help address pressing issues in our digital age.

CRS ICT4D Conference[edit]

Catholic Relief Services (CRS), organizes annual conferences on ICT4D, each year with a different theme. So far the following conferences have been conducted:

  • Solutions for Development - Washington, DC (September 2010)
  • Empowering the Poor through Sustainable Technology Solutions - Lusaka, Zambia (March 2011)
  • Creating Value through ICT4D Partnerships - Kigali, Rwanda (March 2012)

Information and Communication Technologies in Horizon 2020[edit]

Planned to run from 2014 to 2020 with an €80 billion budget, the EU’s new programme for research and innovation will bring together all funding currently provided through the Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development (FP), the Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme (CIP) and the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT).

See also[edit]


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see also

see also

Arul Chib • Roger Harris, Linking Research to Practice, Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 2012

Further reading[edit]

Wireless Networking in the Developing World (PDF book)

External links[edit]