Information Technologies Can Create Social and Economic Progress in Developing Countries, Says Report
NEW YORK, NY—The Digital Opportunity Initiative—a collaboration between Accenture, the Markle Foundation and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)—today released a report demonstrating the critical role that information and communication technologies (ICT) can play in helping developing countries to enhance the lives of their citizens.
"Creating a Development Dynamic" lays out a strategy for developing nations to work with developed countries, and the private and non-profit sectors, to generate sustainable development and achieve a range of social goals. These include improvements to education, healthcare, and increased economic opportunity.
At their summit later this week in Genoa, leaders of the G8 nations will focus on how to work with developing countries to meet vital human goals. The report draws on extensive case studies from a range of countries to demonstrate the critical role ICT can play in meeting these development needs. It recommends the adoption of a strategy that addresses the inter-related elements of infrastructure, human skill development, entrepreneurship, sound government policies and the development of local content and applications.
The report encourages the G-8 leaders to continue their commitment last year to harness the unique potential of ICT to meet developing countries' needs, tapping the power of collaboration between the public and private sectors. Developing countries do not face an "either/or choice" between ICT and other development priorities like health and education, it says, citing examples where the two go hand in hand.
"Creating a Development Dynamic" examines the experiences of countries from Tanzania to Estonia, and India to Costa Rica. It sets out a strategic framework that developing countries can use to create a cycle of sustainable development. However, it stresses that such strategies will be effective only if they involve the full range of stakeholders in international development—governments, both industrialised and developing, the business and non-profit sectors, multilateral agencies, and community organisations on the ground. Strategically deployed, ICT can trigger a "development dynamic" that gains momentum as targeted steps are taken in key areas like technology training, policy reform and enterprise building.
For example, in the decade since regaining its independence, Estonia has pursued a concerted strategy to produce a modern telecommunications network, low connectivity costs, high rates of computer literacy and a highly educated and skilled workforce.
Similarly, South Africa's IT Strategy Project is harnessing the power of ICT to create new economic opportunities while meeting its commitment to social equity, political empowerment and improved government services. "The experiences of Estonia, South Africa, Brazil and other developing countries presented in this report demonstrate the critical role that ICT can play in achieving development goals," said Mark Malloch Brown, UNDP Administrator. "These experiences also provide the guidance and tools governments and other stakeholders need to work in tandem and harness the new opportunities presented by the ICT revolution."
Zoë Baird, President of the Markle Foundation, commented: "The lesson of this report is clear: information and communication technologies have enormous potential to meet development challenges if government, business and the non-profit sectors work together in strategic partnership. The sharing of knowledge and risk is critical if major gains are to be made."
"This is not about technology for technology's sake," said Vernon Ellis, International Chairman of Accenture. "We need to encourage local entrepreneurs to use information technology to generate the wealth that can fund a whole range of social needs. Neither is there a trade-off between ICT and development. Used in the right way, such technology can enable networks of local learning, increase access to government services, and improve the delivery of health care."
The Digital Opportunity Initiative was launched in July 2000 in response to last year's G8 Summit, which adopted the Okinawa Charter on the Global Information Society and created the G8 Digital Opportunity Task Force (Dot Force). Accenture, the Markle Foundation and UNDP are all members of the Dot Force, which includes members of G8 and developing country governments, multilateral organizations, and members from the private and non-profit sectors.
The Digital Opportunity Initiative has informed the work of the Dot Force, created in response to calls from world leaders to bridge the digital divide. The Dot Force will report back to this year's G8 meeting on July 20-22 in Genoa with a recommended plan of action.
In further support of the G8 and the Dot Force, the Digital Opportunity Initiative intends to launch pilot applications of its new strategic framework. And just as importantly, the framework is being made available to all developing nations as a tool for their own development of national ICT strategies.
A copy of "Creating a Development Dynamic" is available at: www.opt-int.org. A global conference call is being held Monday, July 16, at 8 a.m. (East Coast U.S. time), involving UNDP Administrator Mark Malloch Brown, Markle Foundation President Zoë Baird and Accenture International Chairman Vernon Ellis. Reporters are invited to attend.
Markle Foundation works to improve health and national security through the use of information and technology. Markle collaborates with innovators and thought leaders from the public and private sectors whose expertise lies in the areas of information technology, privacy, civil liberties, health, and national security. Learn more about Markle at www.markle.org.
UNDP as part of the United Nations is committed to the principle that development is inseparable from the quest for peace and human security and that the United Nations must be a strong force for development as well as peace. With offices in 132 countries, UNDP's mission is to help countries in their efforts to achieve sustainable human development by assisting them to build their capacity to design and carry out development programs in poverty eradication, employment creation and sustainable livelihoods, the empowerment of women and the protection and regeneration of the environment, giving first priority to poverty eradication.
Accenture is the world's leading provider of management and technology consulting services and solutions, with more than 75,000 people in 46 countries delivering a wide range of specialized capabilities and solutions to clients across all industries. Accenture operates globally with one common brand and business model designed to enable the company to serve its clients on a consistent basis around the world. Under its strategy, Accenture is building a network of businesses to meet the full range of any organization's consulting, technology, outsourcing, alliances and venture capital. The company generated revenues of $9.75 billion for the fiscal year ended August 31, 2000 and $5.71 billion for the six months ended February 28, 2001.