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Chennai Statement
on Up-scaling Pro-Poor ICT Policies
and Practices

ICTs can make a difference in poverty re- Up-scaling to reach the MDGs requires ad-
duction. The lessons learned around the ditional investment. National ICT licensing
globe demonstrate the great potential of obligations should include funding mecha-
ICTs enhancing empowerment, opportunity nisms to mobilise finance for community ini-
and security. This potential contrasts with tiatives, and to address the financing gap for
the overall modest impact of ICTs on the small and medium ICT start-up businesses.
MDGs. Untapped opportunities exist for The deployment of ICTs increases the effec-
scaling up poverty reduction using ICTs. tiveness and efficiency to reach the MDGs
whatever the resources available – main-
At the grassroots level, the capacity of streaming ICTs pays off even when budgets
community structures should be built upon are stagnating or shrinking.
and enhanced. The basic requirements for
successful up-scaling of poverty reduction
through ICTs are (1) an enabling ICT policy
environment; (2) conducive conditions for
poverty reduction; (3) appropriate technol-
ogy choices; (4) mobilisation of additional
public and private resources.

An enabling ICT policy environment includes

respect for freedom of expression, diversity
and the free flow of information, competition
in ICT infrastructure provision, also in the
last mile, investment in service development School children using the infrastructure of a
including local content, and the adoption of knowledge centre in their breaks (Southern India)
open source solutions.
Those countries mainstreaming ICTs effec-
Mainstreaming ICTs in poverty reduction tively into their productive sectors
strategies (PRS) is a key issue. ICTs can be strengthen their competitiveness. It is a mat-
used to facilitate the PRS process, and ter of economic survival to make appropriate
should be mainstreamed into the implemen- use of ICTs. Therefore, the application or
tation of sectoral components, complement- non-application of ICTs in an economy af-
ing the poverty-reducing priorities of the na- fects people living in poverty both directly
tional ICT strategy. Targeted pro-poor regu- and indirectly.
lations and policies are key.
Recognising the complementary roles of
Technological progress reduces costs dra- governments, the private sector and civil so-
matically and lowers access barriers. ciety, building multi-stakeholder partner-
Choosing simple, context-related solutions ships (MSP) becomes a priority in imple-
that may not require high connectivity or menting an inclusive information society
high-level human capacity is key. Combina- based on the WSIS’s vision and inspired by
tions of complementary technologies, such the Millennium Declaration.
as radio and Internet, have often proved par-
ticularly appropriate.

Chennai Statement on Up-scaling Pro-Poor ICT Policies and Practices


1. Upon invitation of the MS Swamina- the private sector. The Chennai Statement
than Research Foundation (MSSRF) and is intended to serve as an input into the
the Swiss Agency for Development and on-going global debate on the role of ICTs
Cooperation (SDC), development practi- for development, particularly in view of the
tioners and policy makers met in Chennai, poverty reduction oriented agenda for the
India, from 17-19 November 2004, for a implementation of the WSIS Principles and
workshop to review experiences in Asia Action Plan in the context of the Millen-
and Africa in the use of information and nium Development Goals (MDGs).
communication technologies (ICTs) for
poverty reduction. The event was organ- 3. The participants share the declared
ised in coordination with and supported by WSIS’s vision of a people-centred, inclu-
the Global Knowledge Partnership (GKP), sive and development-oriented Information
OneWorld South Asia and the United Na- Society, where everyone can create, ac-
tions Development Programme (UNDP). cess, utilise and share information and
This meeting of experts provided valuable knowledge, enabling individuals, commu-
inputs into a more detailed draft Working nities and peoples to achieve their full po-
Paper that will be published by tential in promoting their sustainable de-
SDC/MSSRF in 2005. In order to provide a velopment and improving their quality of
more compact input into the processes of life; the main challenge is now to imple-
the World Summit of the Information Soci- ment the WSIS’s Declaration of Principles
ety (WSIS), Poverty Reduction Strategies and the Plan of Action. The need to trans-
and the Millennium+5 Summit, the partici- late the people-centred vision of ICTs for
pants decided to compile some key con- poverty reduction into action is intrinsically
clusions and recommendations in a state- linked to the challenge of reaching the
ment. The purpose of the Chennai State- MDGs.
ment is to stimulate the debate from a
clearly poverty-focused perspective. 4. ICTs can make a difference in poverty
reduction. The practical experience as well
as the lessons learned around the globe
demonstrate the great potential of ICTs to
support poverty reduction efforts by en-
hancing empowerment, opportunity and
security. This potential contrasts, however,
with the overall modest impact of ICTs on
the MDGs remaining well behind expecta-

5. In view of the massive up-scaling and

replication of the use of ICTs for poverty
Antennae bringing TV signals to small villages reduction that is needed, the participants
(Southern India) of the Chennai workshop on ’Up-scaling
Poverty Reduction through ICTs‘ hereby
2. The Chennai Statement reflects the endorse the design, adoption, and imple-
shared concerns of the undersigned par- mentation of ICT policies and practices at
ticipants from ten countries mainly in Asia all levels. ICTs are a tool and should be
and a number from Africa, Australia, North understood in a broader perspective that
America and Europe. Among the partici- includes the following elements:
pants were representatives from multilat-
eral organisations, bilateral development
agencies, civil society organisations and

Chennai Statement on Up-scaling Pro-Poor ICT Policies and Practices


6. Building on the lessons learned, un- economic survival to make appropriate use
tapped opportunities exist for scaling up of ICTs. Therefore, the application or non-
poverty reduction using ICTs, by harness- application of ICTs in an economy affects
ing their potential for dynamic knowledge people living in poverty both directly and
sharing and networking, building on indirectly.
economies of scale and drawing on a broad
range of approaches that can be used as a 9. The basic requirements for successful
catalyst for local adaptation. The positive up-scaling of poverty reduction through
experience of using ICTs for poverty reduc- ICTs are (1) an enabling policy environ-
tion is often linked to use of the new options ment; (2) prioritising and creating condu-
by organised self-help groups and collec- cive conditions for poverty reduction; (3)
tive organisations. Up-scaling poverty re- appropriate technology choices; (4) mobili-
duction with ICTs means increasing out- sation of additional public and private re-
reach and deepening impact. sources. The Chennai Statement reflects
these requirements.
7. ICTs can be used as a strategic tool
for development. They also merit and re-
ceive growing attention for their instrumen-
tal value in implementing pro-poor policies.
The deployment of ICTs increases the ef-
fectiveness and efficiency of all endeavours
to reach the MDGs whatever the resources
available. Mainstreaming ICTs pays off
even when budgets are stagnating or

8. Those countries mainstreaming ICTs

effectively into their productive sectors gain Radio moderators play a key role in adapting con-
dramatically in competitiveness, often to tent to local needs (South Africa)
the disadvantage of others. It is a matter of

Enabling Environment
10. A clear and enforced legal framework development including local content to
should include respect for freedom of ex- drive the demand for infrastructure.
pression, diversity and the free flow of in-
formation. A conducive environment for up- 12. Enhancing the adoption of open
scaling includes supporting infrastructure source solutions and strengthening user
such as electricity, internet connectivity, groups are key. Application of open source
and a reasonable level of basic education. software/products in the public sector and
To meet pro-poor outcomes, such meas- encouraging its/their application in the pri-
ures have to be combined with targeted vate sector and by civil society is cost effi-
pro-poor policies. cient, does not restrict adaptation to local
needs – such as translation into local lan-
11. The acceleration of the introduction of guages – reduces dependence on foreign
competition in ICT infrastructure provision, firms, and does not create new barriers for
including in the last mile, is key. It should local ICT experts, but instead strengthens
be associated with investment in service their training and keeps the jobs in-country.

Chennai Statement on Up-scaling Pro-Poor ICT Policies and Practices


Poverty Reduction
13. Mainstreaming ICTs in poverty reduc- - Transforming the policy environment
tion strategies (PRS) is a key issue. The through more deregulation in favour of
implementation of PRS can play an impor- local communities: (a) Licensing of air
tant role in achieving the MDGs and em- waves to grass-roots level institutions;
powering people living in poverty. ICTs (b) Representation of grass-roots level
can be used to facilitate the PRS process. institutions on regulatory bodies.
ICTs should be mainstreamed into the im- - Fast-track licensing for innovative solu-
plementation of sectoral components, tions such as Voice over Internet Pro-
complementing the poverty-reducing priori- tocol (VoIP), Wireless Fidelity (WiFi)
ties of the national ICT strategy. and Very Small Aperture Terminal
(VSAT), and licensing of community-
based electronic media, in particular
broadcast radio.

15. Meaningful poverty reduction must be

based on a participatory needs assessment
related to empowerment, opportunity and
security of people living in poverty. ICT-
applications embedded in poverty reduction
strategies should support demand-driven,
solution-focused initiatives for, and with,
Satellite like for a local area network and solar disadvantaged people, characterised by ap-
cells providing uninterrupted power for the network
(Southern India) plications and content that are highly con-
textualized. A pro-poor emphasis in infra-
14. In a conducive environment favouring structure provision and content development
poverty reduction, targeted pro-poor regu- applications is a priority. This should include
lations and policies are key elements. the introduction of lowest-cost and transpar-
They may include: ent demand- and supply-side subsidies to
- Building up strong independent regu- ensure that access costs are affordable. The
lators through capacity-building meas- use of voucher systems could be an appro-
ures and the provision of resources to priate option for promoting private partner-
finance any resultant legal cases; ships in subsidised public access provision
supporting research and awareness- to address the needs of those in poverty.
raising throughout civil society.

Technology Choices
16. Technological progress reduces costs 17. Financial, ecological and social sus-
dramatically and lowers access barriers, tainability is the triple bottom line for suc-
which is of particular importance to people cessful ICT-supported projects. Sustainabil-
in poverty. When making a technology ity is contextual and dynamic. In a poverty-
choice, information about the latest techno- stricken rural context, appropriate technol-
logical developments is useful in order to ogy choices favouring social sustainability
choose simple, context-related solutions are as important as financial sustainability
that may not require high connectivity or and require a focus on local content crea-
high-level human capacity. Flexible plat- tion. The question of profitability should be
forms combining the strengths of comple- embedded right from the start when design-
mentary technologies, such as radio and ing and planning poverty reducing projects
internet, have often proved particularly ap- with ICT-use. The drive for up-scaling and
propriate. sustainability can itself become a challenge
as it may cause a drift away from a focus
on the poorest.

Chennai Statement on Up-scaling Pro-Poor ICT Policies and Practices


Resource Mobilisation
18. Up-scaling to reach the MDGs requires 20. Resulting in a hybrid form of private-
additional investment. Public resources are public sources, national ICT licensing obli-
severely limited at the national as well as gations should include funding mecha-
the international level. Despite the Monter- nisms to mobilise finance for appropriate
rey Consensus, it is unlikely that official de- community initiatives, and to address the
velopment assistance (ODA) will be in- financing gap for small and medium enter-
creased substantially . The search for new prises (SMEs) interested in starting ICT
sources of development financing (NSDF) businesses. Regulators must have the po-
is still in its initial stages. The options dis- litical backing and capacity to enforce com-
cussed include a byte tax and other ICT- pliance with universal service obligations
related sources, which are not likely to ma- (USOs) and to evaluate the effectiveness of
terialise in the foreseeable future. the use of funds.

19. In order to ensure the best use of

scarce public resources, maximum mobili-
sation of private investment is vital. De-
pending on the enabling regulatory frame-
work, the existing infrastructure and the de-
velopment potential, private investment can
be mobilised, to a certain extent even in
remote regions. The micro finance move-
ment demonstrates that banking for people
in poverty is feasible. Similarly, there is an
untapped market for the private sector in
general and for social entrepreneurs in par-
Increasing national revenues:
ticular, to bring connectivity, services and value added tax office in Maputo (Mozambique)
content to those in poverty.

The Way Forward

21. There are significant challenges in the cation, health and democracy, are an effec-
transition to scaling up poverty reduction tive and efficient channel for taking up-
through the use of ICTs in national strate- scaling concerns forward. In particular, in-
gies, in terms of retaining local ownership, tensifying South-South networking and dia-
capacity building in local communities, de- logue should be pursued systematically.
veloping sustainable business models and
defining the level of institutional and public
sector support.

22. National level advocacy is key for up-

scaling poverty reduction through ICTs.
The added value of global declarations, in-
cluding this Chennai Statement, depends
on the extent to which they are heard by
governments, civil society and the private
sector regionally, nationally and locally. In
particular, the younger generation should
be reached.
Woman selling phone calls (Botswana)
23. Global coalitions advancing empow-
erment, opportunity and security of people 24. Recognising the complementary roles
in poverty, including gender equality, edu- of governments, the private sector and civil

Chennai Statement on Up-scaling Pro-Poor ICT Policies and Practices

society, building multi-stakeholder partner- roots level, the capacity of community
ships (MSP) becomes a priority in imple- structures, such as self-help groups and
menting an inclusive information society other intermediaries, should be tapped and
based on the WSIS’s vision and inspired by enhanced.
the Millennium Declaration. At the grass-

25. This statement is timed to inform the - Present the main ongoing and planned
preparations for the second phase of WSIS ICT4PR up-scaling programmes;
2005 in Tunis. The declaration will be - Discuss the key challenges met in
backed by a joint MSSRF/SDC discussion ICT4PR up-scaling efforts;
paper to be published early in 2005. The - Exchange information on lessons
participants will use their networks to influ- learned and good practices in ICT4PR.
ence the WSIS process accordingly.
MSSRF, SDC and GKP will host a side
event during the PrepCom II in Geneva in
February 2005.

26. In light of the outcomes of the WSIS,

MSSRF/SDC intend to convene a follow-up
meeting on opportunities and challenges
for up-scaling MDG implementation through
ICTs, involving stakeholders from the public
and private sectors as well as civil society,
not later than 2007. The objectives will be
The community watching TV (India)
- Review the added value of the WSIS
outcomes for ICT for poverty reduction
(ICT4PR) and MDG implementation;

List of participants and signatories (alphabetical order)

Subbiah Arunachalam, MS Swaminathan Research Foundation, India

Namrata Bali, SEWA, India
Indrajit Banerjee, Asian Media Information and Communication Centre (AMIC), Singapore
Robert Chapman, Overseas Development Institute (ODI), UK
Tenzin Chhoeda, Department of Information and Technology, Bhutan
Jayalakshmi P. Chittoor, i4d, India
Celeste Cinco, Association for Progressive Communications (APC), Philippines
Richard Gerster, Gerster Consulting, Switzerland
Ravi Gupta, i4d, India
Michael Jensen, Consultant, South Africa
Senthil Kumaran, MS Swaminathan Research Foundation, India
Radhika Lal, UNDP, New York
Stuart Mathison, The Foundation for Development Cooperation (FDC), Australia
Basheerhamad Shadrach, OneWorld South Asia, India
Pavan S. Shakya, WorldLink Communications, Nepal
Randall Spence, International Development Research Centre (IDRC), UK
Nazneen Sultana, Grameen Communications, Bangladesh
Swarna Vepa, MS Swaminathan Research Foundation, India
Gerolf Weigel, Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, Switzerland
Sonja Zimmermann, Gerster Consulting, Switzerland
January 2005

Chennai Statement on Up-scaling Pro-Poor ICT Policies and Practices