How ICTs are accelerating the SDGs

30Oct 2018
Correspondent
The Guardian
How ICTs are accelerating the SDGs

The advent of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) combined with the rise and spread of the internet in industrialized countries led to a rapid increase in investments in ICTs infrastructure and 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.

 

Later, telecentres were also used to deliver government services or military activities etc. in ICT late-2000s onwards.

 

There is no clear boundary between phases. The focus in phase 2 increasingly shifts toward technologies in use, such as the mobile phone and SMS and technologies. 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 is about reframing the poor. Where ICT4D 1 marginalized them, allowing a supply-driven focus, ICT4D 2 centralizes them, creating a demand-driven focus.

 

Where ICT4D 1 being fortified by the "bottom of the pyramid" concept – characterized them largely as passive consumers, ICT4D 2 sees the poor as active producers and active innovators.

 

Information and communication technologies for development (ICT4D) refer to the application of information and communication technologies (ICT toward social, economic, and political development, with a particular emphasis on helping poor and marginalized people and communities.

It aims to help in international development by bridging the digital divide and providing equitable access to technologies.

ICT is grounded in the notions of "development", "growth", "progress" and "globalization" and is often interpreted as the use of technology to deliver a greater good.

Another similar term used in the literature is "digital development". ICT draws on theories and frameworks from many disciplines, including sociology, economics, development studies, and library, information science, and communication studies.

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

The major goal of ICT for Development is to utilize the benefits of technology for social transformation for good.

Previously when such social transformations took place (e.g. industrial revolution), the result was derived from a combined effect of a powerful technology and effective policy and strategy.

In the case of ICT4D, this three-dimensional interplay has been depicted as a cube. In line with the technical 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 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. .

This process of transformation represents 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).

ICT4D strategies and policies focus on accelerating development works, minimizing drawbacks and removing bottlenecks with the use of technology to meet goals.

Generally, interventions are of two kinds: Positive Assessment (e.g. incentives, projects, financing etc.) that make existing opportunities more prominent and Negative Assessment (e.g. regulation and legislation, etc.) that controls and suppress negative developments.

One of the most positive trends has been observed in voice communications. Thus, the proportion of mobile phone subscriptions in developing countries increased from about “30 percent of the world total in 2000 to more than 50 percent in 2004 and to almost 70 percent in 2007”.

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.

Only about “35 percent of the population in developing countries has access to the Internet (versus about 80 percent in advanced economies).”

Access to ICTs in the developing world has been framed through the concepts of digital divide and use / non-use.

Market liberalization and competition as well as various regulatory and technical solutions are believed to be useful in closing the digital divide and ensuring the universal access to ICTs.

 The general perception is that people who have access to ICT will benefit from it, and those who don't would not. Benefits include boundless information sharing, connectivity, participation in the global economy.

The use of mobile phones as part of ICT4D initiatives shows some positive effects in improving access to information and services.

For example, a study in Kenya identified innovation in mobile technologies for development, in particular the success of M-PESA mobile banking through the partnerships between private and public sectors.

Another analysis of mobile phone use in developing countries shows that the use of mobile phones improves access to information, helps to address market inefficiencies, and can be used in disaster relief.

One of the goals of ICT4D is to employ robust low-cost technologies that can be available for poor and low income communities around the world.

Agriculture is considered to be the most vital sector for ICT intervention. It is considered as the primary economic sector. It produces the most basic of human needs - food, clothing, shelter.

Farmers in the developing countries use ICTs to access price information from national and international markets as well as connect to policy makers and other farmers.

There are also ‘smartphone apps’ that can show the user information about the status of their 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. ICTs can also be used for training purposes.

For an experimental assessment of the role of mobile phones for farmers' access to agricultural information from extension agents and from other farmers too.

ICT4D initiatives in agriculture can be generally classified into direct interventions, when farmers are connected to information and opportunities that can directly improve their income or well-being, and indirect interventions – supportive, long-term programs that can improve established agricultural services over time through capacity building, research, and training.

ICT4D not only strengthens agricultural production but also helps in market development. Thus it supports creating future opportunities for agricultural sector and the development of rural livelihoods.

The Open Agriculture project by MIT is an ICT-enabled project with an Agriculture development focus.

In this project, users have a controlled environment agriculture device where "every time users grow and harvest, they will contribute to a library of Climate Recipes that can be borrowed and scaled so that users around the world can gain access to the best and freshest foods.

Climate change is a global phenomenon affecting the lives of mankind. In times of calamities, information and communication technology is needed for disaster management.

As we had experienced lately with submerge of MV Nyerere at Ukara in Ukerewe Island in the Lake Victoria where more than 200 lives were lost.

A review of new ICTs and climate change in developing countries highlight 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.

According to ICT companies can be victims, villains or heroes of climate change. The use of ICTs in the educational system.

That would not be able to solve the current problems in the educational system, but rather provide alternative solutions to the obstacles encountered in the conventional educational system.

ICTs would be able to provide education and knowledge in a wider reach, even with a limited amount of resources, unlike conventional systems of education.

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 focus on the development of computer literacy and the improvement of learning.

Other projects included the utilization of mobile phone technology to improve educational outcomes. Furthermore, ICTs allow learning to become student-centered rather than teacher-dominated, such as in the case of distance-learning programs.

It has multiple impacts on student achievements and motivations, including but not limited to: confidence in computer usage, increased autonomy when learning, improved development in language and communication skills.

However, it is not without its flaws – ICTs can easily become the focus of a program, in which the technology is given and provided before much thought is given to the application of it.

As education is a key factor of socio-economic development, the education system of developing countries must be aligned with modern technology.

ICT can improve the quality of education and bring better outcomes by making information easily accessible to students, helping to gain knowledge and skill easily and making trainings more available for teachers.

ICTs can be a supportive tool to develop and serve with reliable, timely, high-quality and affordable health care and health information systems and to provide health education, training and improve health research.

According to 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.”

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.

Tourism industry takes advantage of the beneficial use of information and communication technology to cater their market through e-commerce.

Enumerating several ways on how e-commerce is expected to benefit economic development in tourism industry; these are:

  1. Through allowing local business access to global markets.
  2. By providing new opportunities to export a wider range of goods and services.
  3. By improving the internal efficiency within the firms

The ICTs can "fast forward progress on the SDGs" which would fundamentally improve the lives of the people.