Options for Funding ICT for Development
The 21st century is marked by the growing interdependence of people in a globalizing world. Itis a world where opportunities are opening up for millions of people through new technologies,expanding access to essential information and knowledge which could significantly improvepeople’s lives and help reduce poverty. But this is possible only if the growing interdependenceis accompanied by shared values, commitment and solidarity for inclusive and sustainabledevelopment, where progress is for all people.
In recent years, Asia and the Pacific has been ‘a region of superlatives’ when it comes to informationand communication technologies (ICTs). According to the International TelecommunicationUnion, the region is home to over two billion telephones and 1.4 billion mobile phone subscribers.China and India alone accounted for a quarter of all mobile phones in the world by mid-2008.The Asia Pacific region also represents 40 per cent of the world’s Internet users and the largestbroadband market in the world with a share of 39 per cent of the global total.
Against this background of rapid technological advancement, many have wondered if thedigital divide will disappear. Unfortunately, the response to this question is ‘not yet’. Evenfive years after the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) was held in Geneva in2003, and despite all the impressive technological breakthroughs and commitments of keyplayers in the region, access to basic communication is still beyond the vast majority of people,especially the poor.More than 25 countries in the region, mainly small island developing countries and land-lockeddeveloping countries, have less than 10 Internet users per 100 persons, and these users aremostly concentrated in big cities, while on the other hand, some developed countries in theregion have a ratio of more than 80 Internet users per 100. Broadband disparities between theadvanced and developing countries are even more striking.In order to bridge the digital divide and realize ICT potentials for inclusive socio-economicdevelopment in the region, policymakers in developing countries will need to set priorities, enactpolicies, formulate legal and regulatory frameworks, allocate funds, and facilitate partnershipsthat promote the ICT industry sector and develop ICT skills among their citizens.As the Plan of Action of the WSIS states, “… each person should have the opportunity toacquire the necessary skills and knowledge in order to understand, participate in, and benefitfrom the Information Society and Knowledge Economy.” To this end, the Plan of Action callsfor international and regional cooperation in the field of capacity building with an emphasis oncreating a critical mass of skilled ICT professionals and experts.It is in response to this call that APCICT has developed this comprehensive ICT for developmenttraining curriculum – the
Academy of ICT Essentials for Government Leaders
– consistingpresently of eight stand-alone but interlinked modules that aim to impart the essential knowledgeand expertise that will help policymakers plan and implement ICT initiatives more effectively.