Information and communication technologies for development

Information and communication technologies for development

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Information and Communication Technologies for Development (ICT4D) is a general term referring to the application of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) within the fields of socioeconomic development
Socioeconomic development
Socio-economic development is the process of social and economic development in a society.Socio-economic development is measured with indicators, such as GDP, life expectancy, literacy and levels of employment...

, international development
International development
International development or global development is a concept that lacks a universally accepted definition, but it is most used in a holistic and multi-disciplinary context of human development — the development of greater quality of life for humans...

 and human rights
Human rights
Human rights are "commonly understood as inalienable fundamental rights to which a person is inherently entitled simply because she or he is a human being." Human rights are thus conceived as universal and egalitarian . These rights may exist as natural rights or as legal rights, in both national...

. The basic hypothesis behind the approach is that more and better information and communication furthers the development of a society (be this to improve income, education, health, security, or any other aspect of human development
Human development (humanity)
Human development in the scope of humanity, specifically international development, is an international and economic development paradigm that is about much more than the rise or fall of national incomes. People are the real wealth of nations...

). In our times, the most tangible and effective way to improve information and communication flows in a society consists in fostering ICT, ergo ICT4D.

The dominant term used in this field is "ICT4D". Alternatives include ICTD ICT4Dev and development informatics
Development informatics
Development informatics is a field of both research and practice focusing on the application of information systems in socio-economic development.The "informatics" terminology is intended to be a translation of the French "informatique"...


ICTD (Information and Communication Technologies and Development) is the application of technological solutions to the problems of the developing world. In theory, it is differentiated from Information and Communication Technologies for Development
Information and Communication Technologies for Development
Information and Communication Technologies for Development is a general term referring to the application of Information and Communication Technologies within the fields of socioeconomic development, international development and human rights...

 (ICT4D). ICT4D focuses on using digital technology to deliver specific development goals (most notably the Millennium Development Goals
Millennium Development Goals
The Millennium Development Goals are eight international development goals that all 193 United Nations member states and at least 23 international organizations have agreed to achieve by the year 2015...

). ICTD looks much more broadly at use of ICTs in developing countries. This is a difference that is rarely understood or used in practice.

There is a - somewhat loose - community of researchers that has grown up around the annual ICT4D conferences, the latter of which took place in London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

, England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

. The main feature of this community is its integration of both technical and social science researchers working in the field.

The concept of ICT4D can be interpreted as dealing with disadvantaged populations anywhere in the world, but is more typically associated with applications in developing countries
Developing country
A developing country, also known as a less-developed country, is a nation with a low level of material well-being. Since no single definition of the term developing country is recognized internationally, the levels of development may vary widely within so-called developing countries...

. It concerns itself with directly applying information technology
Information technology
Information technology is the acquisition, processing, storage and dissemination of vocal, pictorial, textual and numerical information by a microelectronics-based combination of computing and telecommunications...

 approaches to poverty reduction
Poverty reduction
Poverty is the state of human beings who are poor. That is, they have little or no material means of surviving—little or no food, shelter, clothes, healthcare, education, and other physical means of living and improving one's life....

. ICTs can be applied either in the direct sense, wherein their use directly benefits the disadvantaged population, or in an indirect sense, wherein the ICTs assist aid organisations or non-governmental organizations or governments or businesses in order to improve general socio-economic conditions.

The field is becoming recognized as an interdisciplinary research area as can be noted by the growing number of conferences, workshops and publications. Such research has been spurred on in part by the need for scientifically validated benchmarks and results, which can be used to measure the efficacy of current projects.


ICT is central to today's most modern economies. Many international development agencies recognize the importance of ICT4D - for example, the World Bank
World Bank
The World Bank is an international financial institution that provides loans to developing countries for capital programmes.The World Bank's official goal is the reduction of poverty...

'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 while in North America and Europe 1 in every 2 people have access to the Internet. 90% of students in Africa have never touched a computer.

However, local networks can provide significant access to software and information even without utilizing an internet connection, for example through use of the Wikipedia CD Selection or the eGranary Digital Library
EGranary Digital Library
The eGranary Digital Library provides those who lack adequate Internet access an offline collection of approximately 14 million educational resources from more than 1,200 Web sites and hundreds of CD-ROMs...


The World Bank
World Bank
The World Bank is an international financial institution that provides loans to developing countries for capital programmes.The World Bank's official goal is the reduction of poverty...

 runs the Information for Development Program (infoDev
infoDev is a special program of the World Bank and many other international development agencies focusing on how the use of information and communication technologies can help to combat poverty and promote opportunity, empowerment and economic growth in developing countries, a field of activity...

), whose Rural ICT Toolkit analyses the costs and possible profits involved in such a venture and shows that there is more potential in developing areas than many might assume. The potential for profit arises from two sources- resource sharing across large numbers of users (specifically, the publication talks about line sharing, but the principle is the same for, e.g., telecentres at which computing/Internet are shared) and remittances
A remittance is a transfer of money by a foreign worker to his or her home country. Note that in 19th century usage a remittance man was someone exiled overseas and sent an allowance on condition that he not return home....

 (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
Market Information Systems
Market information systems are information systems used in gathering, analyzing and disseminating information about prices and other information relevant to farmers, animal rearers, traders, processors and others involved in...

 and thus boosting their income. Community ecenter in the Philippines developed a website to promote its local products worldwide. Another example is the use of mobile telecommunications and radio broadcasting to fight political corruption
Political corruption
Political corruption is the use of legislated powers by government officials for illegitimate private gain. Misuse of government power for other purposes, such as repression of political opponents and general police brutality, is not considered political corruption. Neither are illegal acts by...

 in Burundi
Burundi , officially the Republic of Burundi , is a landlocked country in the Great Lakes region of Eastern Africa bordered by Rwanda to the north, Tanzania to the east and south, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the west. Its capital is Bujumbura...

This is a short video that discusses the impact of ICT4D in our society:


The history of ICT4D can, roughly, be divided into three periods:
  • ICT4D 0.0: mid-1950s to late-1990s. During this period (before the creation of the term "ICT4D"), the focus was on computing / data processing for back-office applications in large government and private sector organizations in developing countries.
  • ICT4D 1.0: late-1990s to late-2000s. The combined advent of the Millennium Development Goals
    Millennium Development Goals
    The Millennium Development Goals are eight international development goals that all 193 United Nations member states and at least 23 international organizations have agreed to achieve by the year 2015...

     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
    A telecentre is a public place where people can access computers, the Internet, and other digital technologies that enable them to gather information, create, learn, and communicate with others while they develop essential digital skills...

    , 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
    Mobile phone
    A mobile phone is a device which can make and receive telephone calls over a radio link whilst moving around a wide geographic area. It does so by connecting to a cellular network provided by a mobile network operator...

     as the archetypal application; less concern with e-readiness
    E-Readiness is the ability to use information and communication technologies to develop one's economy and to foster one's welfare.There are several benchmarking indices at the macro level, e.g., those calculated by the UNPAN, World Bank, Economist Intelligence Unit etc.Because what appear on the...

     and more interest in the impact of ICTs on development; and more focus on the poor as producers and innovators with ICTs (as opposed to just consumers of ICT-based information).


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.), private companies (e.g., Intel's Classmate), non-governmental organizations (e.g., International Institute for Communication and Development
International Institute for Communication and Development
The International Institute for Communication and Development is a non-profit foundation established by the Ministry for Development Cooperation of the Netherlands in 1996...

), 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.

A 2010 research report from the Governance and Social Development Resource Centre 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)." 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:
  • Access and Infrastructure
    Infrastructure is basic physical and organizational structures needed for the operation of a society or enterprise, or the services and facilities necessary for an economy to function...

  • Capacity building and Education
  • e-Governance and e-Government
  • Environment and Agriculture
  • Free and Open Source Software
  • Gender
    Gender is a range of characteristics used to distinguish between males and females, particularly in the cases of men and women and the masculine and feminine attributes assigned to them. Depending on the context, the discriminating characteristics vary from sex to social role to gender identity...

     and ICT
    Information and communication technologies
    Information and communications technology or information and communication technology, usually abbreviated as ICT, is often used as an extended synonym for information technology , but is usually a more general term that stresses the role of unified communications and the integration of...

  • Health
    Health is the level of functional or metabolic efficiency of a living being. In humans, it is the general condition of a person's mind, body and spirit, usually meaning to be free from illness, injury or pain...

     and Medicine
    Medicine is the science and art of healing. It encompasses a variety of health care practices evolved to maintain and restore health by the prevention and treatment of illness....

  • Policy and Social Analyses
  • Technical Innovation for Development


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.

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
A monopoly exists when a specific person or enterprise is the only supplier of a particular commodity...

 communications structures and censorship laws.

More research and planning are critical to minimize problems and maximize outcomes in implementation of ICT4D projects. User-centric research for learner-centric design of technology is especially important in rural areas of developing countries, where the major challenge for education of children may be literacy.

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 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
Bottom of the pyramid
In economics, the bottom of the pyramid is the largest, but poorest socio-economic group. In global terms, this is the 2.5 billion people who live on less than $2.50 per day. The phrase “bottom of the pyramid” is used in particular by people developing new models of doing business that deliberately...

, development efforts should make the most difference in this sector. ICTs have the potential to multiply development effects and are thus also meaningful in the rural arena.

However, introducing ICTs in these areas is also most costly, as the following barriers exist:
  • 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.
  • 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.

Another significant problem can be the selection of software installed on technology - instructors trained in one set of software (for example Ubuntu
Ubuntu (operating system)
Ubuntu is a computer operating system based on the Debian Linux distribution and distributed as free and open source software. It is named after the Southern African philosophy of Ubuntu...

) can be expected to have difficulty in navigating computers donated with different software (for example Windows XP
Windows XP
Windows XP is an operating system produced by Microsoft for use on personal computers, including home and business desktops, laptops and media centers. First released to computer manufacturers on August 24, 2001, it is the second most popular version of Windows, based on installed user base...


A pressing problem is also the misuse of Electronic waste
Electronic waste
Electronic waste, e-waste, e-scrap, or Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment describes discarded electrical or electronic devices. There is a lack of consensus as to whether the term should apply to resale, reuse, and refurbishing industries, or only to product that cannot be used for its...

 in dangerous ways. Burning technology to obtain the metals inside will release toxic fumes into the air. (Certification of recyclers to e-Stewards
The e-Stewards programs are initiatives of the Basel Action Network , a Seattle based non-profit watchdog organization that works to prevent trade of hazardous waste from rich to poor countries in accordance with the international Basel Treaty and the Basel Ban Amendment...

 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."

Jurisdictional issues

One of the main challenges in overcoming the digital divide is to widen the influence of the respective policies from those carried out by just the telecommunications authority to the entire public sector. While most of the national digital agendas are led by national telecommunications authorities, such as the U.S. Federal Communications Commission
Federal Communications Commission
The Federal Communications Commission is an independent agency of the United States government, created, Congressional statute , and with the majority of its commissioners appointed by the current President. The FCC works towards six goals in the areas of broadband, competition, the spectrum, the...

 (FCC) and NTIA, the case of Chile shows that the funds managed by the telecom authority represent less than 5% of the total funds spent by the overall government on ICT
Information and communication technologies
Information and communications technology or information and communication technology, usually abbreviated as ICT, is often used as an extended synonym for information technology , but is usually a more general term that stresses the role of unified communications and the integration of...

-related policies and projects (spread out over 22 governmental departments), such as carried out the national health department, the education ministry or the finance department. 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 done. Double efforts / lack of synergies are the common result.

Lessons learned

Crucial in making any ICT4D effort successful is effective partnership between four key stakeholders:
  • Public sector (governments - from developed nations, developing nations, international bodies, and local governments)
  • Private sector (companies belonging to members of the target audience, multi-national organizations wishing to expand their markets to the 4 billion people under US$
    United States dollar
    The United States dollar , also referred to as the American dollar, is the official currency of the United States of America. It is divided into 100 smaller units called cents or pennies....

    2/day, pro-poor or social companies)
  • Informal sector (NGOs, advocacy groups, think tanks)
  • Representation from the target audience

InfoDev has published 6 lessons from an analysis of 17 their pilot programmes (see below). These lessons are backed by a variety of examples as well as a list of recommendations:
  • 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

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.

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
Balance of trade
The balance of trade is the difference between the monetary value of exports and imports of output in an economy over a certain period. It is the relationship between a nation's imports and exports...

 for these nations due to imports in both hardware
Computer hardware
Personal computer hardware are component devices which are typically installed into or peripheral to a computer case to create a personal computer upon which system software is installed including a firmware interface such as a BIOS and an operating system which supports application software that...

 and software
Computer software
Computer software, or just software, is a collection of computer programs and related data that provide the instructions for telling a computer what to do and how to do it....

 might be an additional consideration.

Criticisms and Challenges

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. For example, in Sri Lanka journalist Nalaka Gunawardene
Nalaka Gunawardene
Nalaka Gunawardene was born in Colombo, Sri Lanka, in February 1966. Trained as a science writer, he has worked as a journalist, broadcaster and development communicator since 1987....

 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. This sentiment echoes a 2003 report by the World Bank.

Further criticism of ICT4D concerns the impact of ICTs on traditional cultures and the so-called cultural imperialism
Cultural imperialism
Cultural imperialism is the domination of one culture over another. Cultural imperialism can take the form of a general attitude or an active, formal and deliberate policy, including military action. Economic or technological factors may also play a role...

 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.

Many fear of the potential of ICT to seriously widen the Digital Divide
Digital divide
The Digital Divide refers to inequalities between individuals, households, business, and geographic areas at different socioeconomic levels in access to information and communication technologies and Internet connectivity and in the knowledge and skills needed to effectively use the information...

 and the gap between people with access to the information economy and those without such access. This issue was brought to the forefront of the international agenda and was heavily discussed in some major international political meetings such as the G8 meeting in Okinawa, Japan last July, 2000. Anriette Esterhuysen, an advocate for ICT4D and human rights in South Africa, pointed out that some ICT4D projects often give more emphasis to how ICT can help its beneficiaries economically rather than helping them create a society where social justice and equal rights prevail. She believes that sustainable development can only be achieved if there are human rights and people can speak freely.

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.

Elements of Successful ICT4D Projects in Africa

These are elements that P. Clint Rogers PhD had observed in successful ICT4D Projects in Africa:

• 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 can an African community has to offer to others, and not what others can offer to an African community.

Ulwazi: Sharing Digital Knowledge

Ulwazi is an example of a successful ICT4D Project in Africa that is run by the eThekwini Public Library in Durban, South Africa. The project uses Web 2.0 technology to enable collaborative building of a database of indigenous knowledge from local communities in the greater Durban area. In this project English is used alongside Zulu, the local vernacular, in an attempt to preserve and disseminate local history, culture and language. The ultimate goal of the Ulwazi project is that a "sustainable people-centred, Afro-centric library service will be established using modern ICT technologies". This is an example of an ICT4D project that facilitates knowledge sharing, collaboration and the preservation of cultural heritage. In their article "Content development in an indigenous digital library: A case study in community participation" Elizabeth Greyling and Sipho Zulu noted some of the benefits of the Ulwazi project to the community :

• Digital content with relevance to local communities becomes available on the internet.

• ICT skills are transferred to local communities.

• Local communities re-connect with their cultural heritage.

• African public libraries gain a foothold in the international information society of the 21st century.


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

From Latin America it is known that the borderline between ICT as a necessity good
Necessity good
In economics a necessity good is a type of normal good. Like any other normal good, when income rises, demand increases. But the increase for a necessity good is less than proportional to the rise in income, so the proportion of expenditure on these goods falls as income rises. This observation...

 and ICT as a luxury good
Luxury good
Luxury goods are products and services that are not considered essential and associated with affluence.The concept of luxury has been present in various forms since the beginning of civilization. Its role was just as important in ancient western and eastern empires as it is in modern societies...

 is roughly around the “magical number” of US$10 per person per month, or US$120 per year. This is the cost ICT people seem to strive for and therefore is generally accepted as a minimum. In light of this reality, telecentre
A telecentre is a public place where people can access computers, the Internet, and other digital technologies that enable them to gather information, create, learn, and communicate with others while they develop essential digital skills...

, desktop virtualization
Desktop virtualization
Desktop virtualization , as a concept, separates a personal computer desktop environment from a physical machine using the client–server model of computing....

 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 properly the problem will help encourage the user via interactivity and participation. ICT-Enabled Innovations for Sustainable Development and Transformation

Peer to peer dialogs facilitated by Cisco’s groundbreaking 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.

Also another innovation is a 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.

The Open Risk Data Initiative (OpenRDI) aims to encourage and facilitate countries to open their climate and disaster risk data to enable more effective decision-making by providing the rationale, technical assistance, and tools for data sharing.

Artificial Intelligence for Development

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, so we can better understand how to design more effective health and education systems. And ideas and tools created at the intersection of artificial intelligence and electronic commerce may provide new directions for enhancing and extending novel economic concepts like 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 (ICT-D) community. These and other ICT-D efforts have already led to valuable ideas, insights, and systems. AI-D stimulates a larger focus on opportunities to harness machine learning, reasoning, and perception to enhance the quality of life within disadvantaged populations.

Mobile Telephony

The use of mobile phones as part of ICT4D initiatives has proven to be a success as the rapid distribution of mobile telephony
Mobile telephony
Mobile telephony is the provision of telephone services to phones which may move around freely rather than stay fixed in one location. Mobile phones connect to a terrestrial cellular network of base stations , whereas satellite phones connect to orbiting satellites...

 has made it possible for poor people to have easy access to useful and interactive information. 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 higher percentage of increase than urban. 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 now also capable of so much more than the exchange of information between two people through calling or text messaging. Advanced models of mobile phones could also take photos, record video, receive radio frequencies to tune in to local AM/FM stations, share and receive multimedia and even connect to the Internet and almost all of the features that come with being connected onto the World Wide Web. All these features makes up for an even better device to aid in ICT4D projects.

According to a study conducted in Tanzania, the use of mobile phones has impacted rural living in various 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 a beauty salons. Clients could 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 future business transactions. Mobile telephony has empowered farmers and fishermen to realize their potential as businesspeople as they directly engage in bargaining processes with their customers. On the buyer's side of the spectrum, buyers could also use their mobile phones to find out where the best quality and well-price products are in the market.
  • Market Inefficiencies
The use of mobile phones can also 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 also 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 middle men and journeys as traders could make sure that demand for their products exists even before leaving their rural homes.
  • Disaster Relief
In cases of severe drought, floods, wars or weak economies, mobile phones could be used not just for enhancing business opportunities but also in keeping in touch with one's home community. Mobile operators have also 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.


Esoko 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 maintained and organized by their own team. This means that farmers need not acquire special software or hardware to gain access to information. They simply need to log onto the Internet or request for the information via SMS from any phone in any country. Over time, as the user sets their own set of networks and contacts on the platform, enabling them to choose the specific applications that could help them the most which they would receive via simple SMS alerts.

Support and training to anyone who wants to better comprehend a sustainable and successful Market Information System are also available.

Notable events

World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS)

A major event for ICT4D was the twin World Summit on the Information Society
World Summit on the Information Society
The World Summit on the Information Society was a pair of United Nations-sponsored conferences about information, communication and, in broad terms, the information society that took place in 2003 in Geneva and in 2005 in Tunis...

 (WSIS) - lead organisation was the International Telecommunications Union (ITU). The first part of WSIS took place in Geneva, Switzerland in December 2003 (with a large ICT4D exhibition and an ICT4D symposium co-ordinated by infoDev
infoDev is a special program of the World Bank and many other international development agencies focusing on how the use of information and communication technologies can help to combat poverty and promote opportunity, empowerment and economic growth in developing countries, a field of activity...

). The second part of WSIS took place in Tunis, Tunisia, in November 2005. One of its chief aims of the WSIS process was to seek solutions to help bridge the so-called "digital divide
Digital divide
The Digital Divide refers to inequalities between individuals, households, business, and geographic areas at different socioeconomic levels in access to information and communication technologies and Internet connectivity and in the knowledge and skills needed to effectively use the information...

" 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.

World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) Stocktaking

WSIS Stocktaking is a publicly accessible database of ICT-related implementation activities, initiated during the Tunis phase of WSIS. WSIS Stocktaking Database has become an effective tool for the exchange of information on the projects in relation to the implementation of the 11 Action Lines. Many of entries reflect more than one flagship initiative and project carried out by the WSIS stakeholders.
ECOSOC Resolution 2010/2 on “Assessment of the progress made in the implementation of and follow-up to the outcomes of the World Summit on the Information Society” reiterated the importance of maintaining a process for coordinating the multi-stakeholder implementation of WSIS outcomes through effective tools, with the goal of exchanging of information among WSIS Action Line Facilitators; identification of issues that need improvements; and discussion of the modalities of reporting the overall implementation process. The resolution encourages all WSIS stakeholders to continue to contribute information to the WSIS Stocktaking database (

See also

  • List of ICT4D organizations
  • Low cost computer guide
  • Asia Source II
    Asia Source II
    In January 2007, an event called Asia Source II has taken place in Sukabumi in west Java with over than 130 participants from 27 countries. It was a nine days camp style event to promote the use of Free and Open Source Software instead of using proprietary software...

     Software for NGO technical camp
  • Community film
    Community film
    Community Film is a variety of practices and approaches which emerged in the 1970s that claim to interrogate and challenge the dominant use of "film" and "cinema" in association with a global, big budget "industry". DeeDee Halleck noted in her 2002 book "It's one thing to critique the mass media...

  • Development Communication
    Development communication
    Development Communication, has been alternatively defined as a type of marketing and public opinion research that is used specifically to develop effective communication or as the use of communication to promote social development...

  • Drishtee
    Drishtee is an India based business that provides information technology goods and services to rural India through village kiosks that are run and managed by local entrepreneurs...

     - a significant project, bringing ICTs to thousands of rural Indians.
  • e-Readiness
    E-Readiness is the ability to use information and communication technologies to develop one's economy and to foster one's welfare.There are several benchmarking indices at the macro level, e.g., those calculated by the UNPAN, World Bank, Economist Intelligence Unit etc.Because what appear on the...

  • Free and Open Source Software
    Free and open source software
    Free and open-source software or free/libre/open-source software is software that is liberally licensed to grant users the right to use, study, change, and improve its design through the availability of its source code...

     projects, which dramatically reduce the cost of getting access to software, and extend skills in software across the globe
  • Global digital divide
    Global digital divide
    The global digital divide is a term used to describe “great disparities in opportunity to access the Internet and the information and educational/business opportunities tied to this access … between developed and developing countries”...

  • ICT in agriculture
    ICT in agriculture
    The application of Information and Communication Technology in agriculture is increasingly important.E-Agriculture is an emerging field focusing on the enhancement of agricultural and rural development through improved information and communication processes...

     - a sectoral application of ICT4D
  • Information and communication technologies in education
  • mHealth
    mHealth is a term used for the practice of medicine and public health, supported by mobile devices. The term is most commonly used in reference to using mobile communication devices, such as mobile phones and PDAs, for health services and information...

  • mLearning
  • OneWorld South Asia
  • OpenBTS
    OpenBTS is a software-based GSM access point, allowing standard GSM-compatible mobile phones to make telephone calls without using existing telecommunication providers' networks...


ICT4D (Information and Communications Technologies for Development) is an initiative aimed at bridging the digital divide (the disparity between technological "have" and "have not" geographic locations or demographic groups) and aiding economic development by ensuring equitable access to up-to-date communications technologies. Information and communication technologies (ICTs) include any communication device—encompassing radio, television, cellular phones, computer and network hardware and software, satellite systems and so on, as well as the various services and applications associated with them, such as videoconferencing and distance learning.

Further reading

Key findings here
  • Inveneo Solar Power Deployment Guide by Inveneo
    Inveneo is a 501 non-profit organization based in San Francisco with focus on Information and Communication Technologies for organizations supporting underserved communities in the developing world, mostly in Africa...

External links



  • Low-Cost, Low-Power Computing - Mary Lou Jepsen
    Mary Lou Jepsen
    Mary Lou Jepsen is founder and CEO of Pixel Qi, a manufacturer of low-cost, low-power LCD screens for laptops. She was the first chief technology officer of One Laptop per Child .- Early life and education :...

    at ETech 2009
  • Hello Africa - a documentary about mobile phone culture in Africa