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Vol. III No. 2

February 2005

The first monthly magazine on ICT4D

ICTs and the MDGs: On the wrong track? Perspective Information for development

Committee for Democracy in Information Technology

MDGs / Goal 1 (Eradicate poverty and hunger) ISSN 0972 - 804X

From computer donations to poverty alleviation

Think globally, act locally

ICT and poverty reduction

April 2004 |



Year 2004


Year 2004


Year 2004

Year 2004

Performance, without frills.


i4d Vol. III No. 2


February 2005


Mailbox Mail

upscaling pro-poor ICT policies 17 On and practices Chennai Statement

22 Insight

Saga of a rural Internet entrepreneur Dipanjan Banerjee

39 6 9

Introduction to MDGs Perspective ICTs and the MDGs: On the wrong track? Richard Heeks

Marketing Network for 19 Inter-city Women Micro-entrepreneurs using cell phones Social capital brings economic development Loyola Joseph

A livelihood approach to communication and Information to reduce poverty

41 Disaster feature

ICTs: Essence of early warning systems

for enhancing food 42 Tool security ICT and agriculture in Africa Glory Mushinge

44 Poverty Dossier

Understanding poverty Naveen Kaul

for Democracy in 45 What’s on 27 Committee Information Technology (CDI) 46 In fact From computer donations to poverty alleviation

31 ICT and poverty reduction Think globally, act locally

Anuradha Dhar and Sejuti Sarkar De


How is Asia progressing?

35 ICTD project newsletter

Salil Shetty Director, Millennium Campaign, UNDP News Search ICT4D news by date in the sectors of governance, health, education, agriculture and so on. E-mail Subscribe to daily, weekly, monthly newsletters online or send request to Research e-Learning projects from India.

Look out for disaster feature every month in i4d!

Levin Lawrence Businessgyan, India You can’t imagine the utility of the service that you are doing by sending me the weekly newsletter. And I do not have the right kind of words to thank you. I have tried formulating it but they all sound so cliched. But I thought I should let you know how I feel, though words are not good enough. By the way, the one that I received has a very interesting report: “In 2001, Poetry International established the ‘Poetry International Web’ (PIW) Foundation, which set out to give people access to poetry from many countries in the world by the hell of the Internet.” If Freud were alive, he would say that perhaps you have somebody there who dislikes Internet. K.P. Madhu


23 News

I was searching for WiFi enabling in India and stumbled upon your site. I have seen a lot of websites on voluntary sector and lot more on technology. But there is none that gives an outlook on both, truly yours is the most unique venture on the web.

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Tsunami MDG Intro/Poverty Reduction - MDG 1 Gender - MDG 3


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 Editorial Information for development

MDG: From stories to numbers

Advisory Board M P Narayanan, Chairman, i4d Amitabha Pande Department of Science and Technology, Government of India Chin Saik Yoon Southbound Publications, Malaysia Ichiro Tambo OECD, France Karl Harmsen Centre for Space Science and Technology Education in Asia and the Pacific, India Kenneth Keniston Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA Mohammed Yunus Grameen Bank, Bangladesh Nagy Hanna Information Solutions Group, World Bank, USA S. Ramani Research Director, H.P.Labs, India Walter Fust Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, Switzerland Wijayananda Jayaweera UNESCO, France Editorial Board Fredrick Noronha, Akhtar Badshah Editor Ravi Gupta Editorial Consultant Jayalakshmi Chittoor Programme Officers Anuradha Dhar, Gautam Navin Designers Deepak Kumar, Bishwajeet Kumar Singh Web Programmer Zia Salahuddin Group Directors Maneesh Prasad, Sanjay Kumar i4d G-4 Sector 39, NOIDA, UP, 201 301, India. Phone +91 120 250 2180-87 Fax +91 120 250 0060 Email Web Contact us in Singapore 25 International Business Park, #4-103F, German Centre, Singapore - 609916 Phone +65-65627983 Fax +65-656227984 Printed at Yashi Media Works Pvt. Ltd. New Delhi, India i4d is a monthly publication. It is intended for those interested and involved in the use of Information and CommnicationTechnologies for development of underserved communities. It is hoped that it will serve to foster a growing network by keeping the community up to date on many activities in this wide and exciting field.

The United Nations formulated the Millennium Development Goals in 2000. The eight Goals and the Declaration form the basis for national governments to set targets and adapt strategies to fulfill the Goals by 2015. For more than 70 of the poorest countries, the main strategic tool is a nationally owned poverty reduction strategy, which relates to national budgets, development activities and other assistance frameworks. 2005 will be a stocktaking year for MDG Goals in September. We will be examining particularly the role of ICTs in achieving the Millennium Development Goals that have been accepted by 187 countries around the world. This issue focuses on Poverty Reduction. Understanding poverty is a complex issue. The definition itself would vary from country to country and the concepts that we find in international development literature reveals the multi-dimensional nature of poverty. According to an excellent publication produced by UNDP entitled, “Review of Poverty Concepts and Indicators” by Renata Lok-Dessallien, poverty can be conceived as absolute or relative, as lack of income or failure to attain capabilities. It can be chronic or temporary, is sometimes closely associated with inequity, and is often correlated with vulnerabilities and social exclusion. The concepts used to define poverty determine the methods employed to measure it and the subsequent policy and programme packages to address it. The paper reviews the main types and families of indicators that have emerged over time, highlighting their strengths and weaknesses. It concludes with practical guidance to inform the choice of poverty indicators at country level. Starting with this issue i4d will try to examine if ICTs play a role in achieving the MDG targets. The perspective will be to bring lessons from local efforts to make a difference in the lives of the poor people and the advocacy efforts to upscale successful models through new partnerships and alliances and making the governments in each country to fulfill the pledges made at various international meetings. The task is far from complete. We hope to have readers’ inputs and experience sharing on how to measure success, upscale them and help nations fulfill their promises.

i4d does not necessarily subscribe to the views expressed in this publication. All views expressed in this magazine are those of the contributors. i4d is not responsible or accountable for any loss incurred directly or indirectly as a result of the information provided.

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November 2004 |

Ravi Gupta


Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) “We will spare no effort to free our fellow men, women and children from the abject and dehumanizing conditions of extreme poverty, to which a more than a billion of them are currently subjected” This explicit declaration was made by the United Nations in September 2000-the maiden year of new millennium. What a fabulous way to address the problems that are plaguing the society!

Evolution of MDGs

Image courtesy:


At the World Summit for Social Development, held in March 1995 in Copenhagen, Governments reached a new consensus on the need to put people at the centre of development. The Social Summit was the largest gathering ever of world leaders at that time. It pledged to make the conquest of poverty, the goal of full employment and the fostering of social integration overriding objectives of development. Five years on, they reconvened in Geneva in June 2000, to review what has been achieved, and to commit themselves to new initiatives. So, we can say that it was World Summit for Social Development that set the ball rolling and paved the way for Millennium Development Goals. On 17 December 1998, the General Assembly adopted a resolution by which it decided to convene the Millennium Summit of the United Nations as an integral part of the Millennium Assembly of the United Nations. The Summit opened at United Nations Headquarters in New York on 6 September 2000. The Millennium Declaration was adopted in September 2000 by 189 world leaders who committed to “free all men, women and children from the abject and dehumanizing conditions of extreme poverty” by the year 2015. For that purpose, eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were set up to cope with a variety of issues such as the promotion of education, maternity health care, gender equality, poverty reduc-

tion policies, child mortality, AIDS and other fatal diseases. These goals were set for the year 2015 with reference to the international situation prevalent in 1990. Upon undertaking to eradicate poverty, government leaders around the world clearly stated that for the first time in the history of humanity it was possible to achieve such a goal using the resources, knowledge and technologies now available to humankind. The Declaration contains numerous commitments to enhance the future of humanity in the new century. The United Nations Secretariat subsequently drafted the list of eight objectives, each with a set of targets and specific indicators. The eight goals are as under: • Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger • Achieve universal primary education • Promote gender equality and empower women • Reduce child mortality • Improve maternal health • Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases • Ensure environmental sustainability • Develop a global partnership for development These goals are currently being discussed both internationally and nationally, with many organisations deliberating how to include them in the various global or national strategies.

Importance of MDGs MDGs were set to make this world a better living place. To put it in the words of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan: “for the first time, the world has agreed on a measurable set of human development benchmarks to evaluate poverty-reduction efforts, with deadlines for achieving them”. Many developing countries, donors and non-governmental organisations have made reaching the MDGs their top priority, he noted, and “for every goal there are encouraging signs of progress in some areas.” In short, we can say i4d | February 2005

How can ICTs play a role? that MDGs have given a direction to countries to set their priorities for development. This is vital, as all the goals have been devised taking into consideration the most pressing problems that need immediate attention.

Role of ICTs in achieving MDGs Technology plays a vital role in development. It is through the advances in science and technology that the world has attained heights in progress. But unfortunately, the benefits of technology never reach to poor. Rich people enjoy all the benefits that technology brings along with it. However, ICTs have emerged as a ray of hope for those who were until now devoid of all the benefits of technology. ICTs have the potential to reach poor and needy as these are affordable and have the potential to transcend the barriers of region, language etc. ICTs can play tremendous role in gender equality, education, rural livelihoods etc. These can help in spontaneous flow of information and thus help in promotion of campaigns against diseases, disasters etc. Just use of ICTs promise a society where there is free- and-faster exchange of information. It allows information to be transferred across distance without face-to-face contact. This will lead to empowerment of people, as knowledge is power. Poor people will become aware about their rights and happenings in the world. In this way they can avail the benefits of ‘information society’. ICT innovations in one sector will lead to development in other sectors too as the process of development is interlinked and interconnected. e-Government applications can help the poor to access government services, to spend less time satisfying government demands, to influence government, and indeed to reduce the dead weight of so many governments on their necks. It is especially important to utilise ICTs to improve health February 2005 |

and education services for the poor through telemedicine and distance education. The social and economic repercussions of the advances in ICT will be so great that the term “information revolution” is probably justified. On the one hand, technological progress is so fast that basic ICT services may well become universal and pervasive even in poor societies. On the other hand, developed countries spend many times as much per capita on ICT as do poor countries. Thus while ICT offer unparalleled opportunities to meet basic human needs in poor countries, aspects of the digital divide continue to widen, offering new risks to those same poor countries. This brings the role of governments in developing countries. Policies have to be framed in a way that will ensure that benefits trickle down to the poor. International agencies also need to donate and promote ICTs in an aggressive way. Policies have to be framed keeping in mind the social and economic development of all sections of society.

“The most important role of ICT in development is fostering a knowledge intensive sustainable livelihood security system in rural areas, since ICT can enable us to reach the unreached and include the excluded in information, knowledge and skill empowerment.” Prof. M. S. Swaminathan M. S. Swaminathan Research Foundation, India


ICT and Millennium Development Goals Goals

Role of ICT

Goal 1 • Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger

• • •

Increase access to market information and lower transaction costs for poor farmers and traders; Increase efficiency, competitiveness and market access of developing country firms; Enhance ability of developing countries to participate in global economy and to exploit comparative advantage in factor costs (particularly skilled labour).

Goals 2 and 3 • Achieve universal primary education • Promote gender equality and empower women

• •

• • •

Increase supply of trained teachers through ICT-enhancedand distance training of teachers and networks that link teachers to their colleagues; Improve the efficiency and effectiveness of education ministries and related bodies through strategic application of technologies and ICT-enabled skill development; Broaden availability of quality educational materials/resources through ICTs; Deliver educational and literacy programmes specifically targeted to poor girls & women using appropriate technologies; Influence public opinion on gender equality through information/communication programmes using a range of ICTs.

Goals 4, 5, 6 • Reduce child mortality • Improve maternal health • Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases

• • • •

Enhance delivery of basic and in-service training for health workers; Increase monitoring and information-sharing on disease and famine; Increase access of rural care-givers to specialist support and remote diagnosis; Increase access to reproductive health information, including information on AIDS prevention, through locally-appropriate content in local languages.

Remote sensing technologies and communications networks permit more effective monitoring, resource management, mitigation of environmental risks; Increase access to/awareness of sustainable development strategies, in areas such as agriculture, sanitation and water management, mining, etc.; Greater transparency and monitoring of environmental abuses/enforcement of environmental regulations; Facilitate knowledge exchange and networking among policy makers, practitioners and advocacy groups.

Goal 7 • Ensure environmental sustainability

• • • Goal 8 • Develop a global partnership for development • Address the special needs of the least developed countries (LDCs) • Address the special needs of landlocked countries and small island developing states • In co-operation with developing countries, develop and implement strategies for decent and productive work for youth • In co-operation with pharmaceutical companies, provide access to affordable, essential drugs in developing countries • In co-operation with the private sector, make available the benefits of new technologies especially information and communications

• • • • • •

Enable LDCs, landlocked countries and small islands to link up with the global market to accelerate their progression and full integration into the world economy. Distance working facilitated by ICT opens up opportunities to create servicesector jobs in developing countries in such industries as call centres, data entry and processing, and software development; Telecentres do not only provide access to telecommunications, they also create direct employment for men and women; Improve youth learning skills, employability to meet the challenges of the knowledge-based global economy of the 21st century. Provide online drugs databases. Combine low and high technology to achieve relative ubiquity of access to effective and affordable information and communication technology tools; Promote digital literacy through e-learning; Develop a critical mass of knowledge workers with the technical capabilities to provide and maintain ICT infrastructure.

Source: adapted from United Kingdom Department for International Development (DFID), The significance of information and communication technologies for reducing poverty, January 2002.


i4d | February 2005


ICTs and the MDGs: On the wrong track? The MDGs arose as a counter-blast to the perceived failure of the ‘neo-liberal’ agenda – the one favouring markets, the private sector, and globalisation – to deliver for the world’s poor.

Richard Heeks Development Informatics Group University of Manchester, UK

February 2005 |

The purpose of this article is to prompt some questioning of current “e-Development” priorities. We have too readily assumed that the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) must be the priority for application of ICTs. Yet the MDGs themselves can be challenged, as can the relevance of applying ICTs to those goals. This article will argue that we ought at least to be considering some different priorities if we want to make most effective use of the opportunities that new technology affords.

Questioning the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) Setting up of Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by the UN is an attempt to directly address fundamental injustices and inequities that currently blight our planet. It will be fallacious to assume that like Mother Teresa, MDGs are on the side of the angels, and we should follow their lead without questioning them. It might be true that their hearts are in the right place but development should be guided more by the head than by the heart, and we certainly have the right to question these goals. We can firstly question them from a political angle. The MDGs arose as a counter-blast to the perceived failure of the ‘neoliberal’ agenda – the one favouring markets, the private sector, and globalisation – to deliver for the world’s poor. Yet the new agenda falls into many of the same traps as the old one. Neo-liberalism was accused of being ‘hegemonic’: of imposing a one-size-fits-all model that allowed no deviations from orthodoxy. But the new approach does just the same, forcing policies through the MDG filter and hammering them hard until they pass through. Where is the flexibility? Where is the consideration that there might be alternative, even better, paths to development?

Neo-liberalism was also accused of being an invention of the North, imposed on the South by international agencies. Isn’t that exactly true of the MDGs as well? Developing nations have been dragged from one Northern-inspired orthodoxy to the next: a state agenda in the 1960s and 1970s; a private sector agenda in the 1980s and 1990s; and now an NGO agenda in the 2000s. Where is the breathing space and support for countries to construct their own agendas? We can secondly question the MDGs from a practical angle. Take a historical perspective and point out which of the rich, industrialised nations got rich and industrialised by placing MDG-type goals at the heart of their development strategies. Can you find them? I doubt it. My adopted hometown – Manchester – was the original laboratory, the original motor for the dramatic change of the industrialisation process. It catalysed England’s transformation from a relatively poor agricultural economy to a relatively rich developed economy; much the same transformation that so many developing countries today seek to achieve. But this change was not achieved by poverty-friendly policies, but, through an often unpleasant and unruly dash for wealth. Of course, philanthropy and social development played their part, but as after-effects of the transformation, not its driving forces. So the development agendas emanating from the North are very much a case of ‘do as I say’ not ‘do as I do’. Political economist Ha-Joon Chang calls this “kicking away the ladder”: denying developing countries the very paths to development that industrialised countries used. We’ve seen it with the environmental agenda: Northern nations that were dirty-as-can-be while they got rich telling the South that it must take the green route. And with the neo-liberal agenda: the


UN Millennium Project releases its final report UN Millennium Project is a global effort in the service of a great global cause—the Millennium Development Goals. Millennium Fund Trust, UNDP provided financial support for the project. “Investing in development: A Practical Plan to Achieve the Millennium Development Goals” is the final report of the UN Millennium Project. It presents the findings and recommendations of the project, which will be reported directly to the UN Secretary-General and the Administrator of the UNDP. It is a practical plan to achieve millennium development goals. Recommendations and sector-specific policies are summarised in this main report, and are described in further depth in the individual reports of the UN Millennium Project task. The study has touched various aspects of the MDGs like what are MDGs, why these are important, the need for substantial increase in official development assistance (ODA) and other resources to achieve the internationally agreed development goals. The report summarises the progress made towards each goal and how different regions of developing countries are progressing. It also enumerates the reasons for not achieving the desirable results so far. The report has identified four overarching reasons why the goals are not being achieved. According to it, sometimes the problem is poor governance, marked by corruption, poor economic policy choices, and denial of human rights. Sometimes the problem is a poverty trap, with local and national economies too poor to make the needed investments. Sometimes the progress is made in one part of the country but not in others. Even when overall governance is adequate, there are areas of specific policy neglect that can have a monumental effect on citizens well being. The report lays thrust on public and private investments to achieve MDGs. It clearly indicates that public and private bodies can act as complementary to each other and not as competitors if right mechanism is worked out. It also highlights how civil society can help in achieving MDGs and lays stress on good governance to achieve the targets set under the goals. One of the interesting findings of the report is that most of the regions like West Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America and Carribean are off track from reaching most of the MDGs. The report makes ten key recommendations to achieve MDGs effectively: • Developing country governments should adopt development strategies bold enough to meet the MDG targets for 2015. In order to meet this deadline, all countries should have these MDG-based poverty reduction strategies in place by 2006. Existing Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSPs) should be aligned with the MDGs. • MDG-based poverty reduction strategies should anchor the scaling up of public investments, capacity building, domestic resource mobilisation, and official development assistance. They should also provide a framework for strengthening governance, promoting human rights, engaging civil society, and promoting the private sector. • MDG-based poverty reduction strategies should be created


and implemented by developing country governments in transparent and inclusive processes, working closely with civil society organisations, the domestic private sector, and international partners. International donors should identify at least a dozen ‘fast-track’ countries for a rapid scale-up of ODA in 2005, recognising that many countries are already in a position for a massive scale-up on the basis of their good governance and absorptive capacity. Developed and developing countries should jointly launch, in 2005, a group of Quick Win actions to save and improve millions of lives and to promote economic growth (including for example free mass distribution of malaria bed-nets and the ending of user fees for primary schools and essential health services). They should also launch a massive effort to build expertise at the community level. Developing country governments should align national strategies with such regional initiatives as the New Partnership for Africa’s Development and the Caribbean Community (and Common Market), and regional groups should receive increased donor support for regional projects. High-income countries should increase Official Development Assistance (ODA) from 0.25 percent of donor GNP in 2003 to around 0.44 percent in 2006 and 0.54 percent in 2015 to support the MDGs, particularly in low-icome countries. ODA quality should be improved (including aid that is harmonised, predictable and largely in the form of grants-based budget support). Each donor should reach 0.7 percent no later than 2015 to support the MDGs and other development assistance priorities. Debt relief should be more extensive and generous. High-income countries should open their markets to developing country exports through the Doha trade round and help Least Developed Countries raise export competitiveness through investments in critical trade-related infrastructure, including electricity, roads and ports. The Doha Development Agenda should be fulfilled and the Doha Round completed no later than 2006. International donors should mobilise support for global scientific research and development to address special needs of the poor in areas of health, agriculture, natural resource and environmental management, energy and climate. Total needs are estimated to rise to approximately $7 billion a year by 2015. The UN Secretary-General and the UN Development Group should strengthen the coordination of UN agencies, funds, and programmes to support the MDGs, at headquarters and country level. The UN Country Treams should be strengthened and should work closely with the international financial institutions to support the MDGs.

The complete report can be read at: Reported by Naveen Kaul

i4d | February 2005

Despite the lack of exposure given to realities like Gyandoot, the message of ICT failure has trickled back to some development organisations. The result has been a backlash against e-Development. US and Europe – exhorting the developing world to ‘roll back the state’ and ‘leave it to the market’ – suffering collective amnesia about the central role played by government intervention in their own development. With these cases there is the strong whiff of conspiracy. That’s less likely with the MDG agenda (though it’s still a question worth asking: who benefits from promoting that agenda?) but the pattern is the same: “we in the North took the high road, but you in the South must now take the low road”. If this ‘ancient history’ from the Victorian era does not please, then we’ll set a quiz from more modern times. Which developing country has lifted more people out of poverty than any other (some 200 million in the final two decades of the 20th century)? The answer: China, a country’s whose policies do not fit the MDG mould. China reminds us that development is nasty and that development hurts. The MDG agenda is trying to soften the blow. The danger is, though, that it will deliver no punch at all.

ICTs and the MDGs We can leave a question mark over the MDGs and move on to look at their effect on ICT priorities in development. Twenty, even ten years’ ago, the ICTs and development agenda was a broad church, covering most conceivable ways in which the technology touched all aspects of socio-economic development. Today, the “e-Development” agenda has been pressed through the MDG filter, leaving many elements behind. We are left with an agenda that prioritises the use of ICTs in those domains in which they are often least able to be implemented, least able to succeed, least able to sustain and, hence, least able to make a contribution to development. One can just envisage the meetings in development institutions: • Boss: “OK chaps, we need to apply ICTs in development. Where shall we put the computers?” • Underling no.1: “Well, sir, how about in some high-tech firms in the city that could use them to create jobs and improve exports?” • Boss: “You idiot, that’s not what poverty alleviation and social development are all about. Get out of my sight.” • Underling no.2: “I know, sir, how about putting them in a small February 2005 |

village where there’s no electricity, most people are illiterate, and everyone is really poor.” • Boss: “Brilliant suggestion; here’s $100,000; go and do it.” Strip away all the hype about rural telecentres and e-Government for the masses and telemedicine for remote regions and eCommerce for microenterprises and what you’ve got – when you apply ICTs to the MDG agenda – are the rusting tractors for the 21st century. Most of these projects never properly work, and for those that might just get off the ground, go back two years later, and it’s all crumbled to dust. Yes, there might be exceptions but they are just that – exceptions; occasional minnows swimming against a rip tide of failure. Our evidence base on this does need strengthening but a recent survey suggests at least one-third of such projects are total failures and one-half are partial failures, leaving little room for success. We are often blinded from this reality by the blizzard of e-Development pilots, prototypes, plans and possibilities where ‘would’ and ‘could’ replace ‘does’ and ‘has’. A classic example is Gyandoot; an initiative of computer kiosks in rural India. In 2000, amid much fanfare, this won awards from the Stockholm Challenge and the Computer Society of India. Later studies of Gyandoot in 2002 did not hit the headlines, but they found kiosks abandoned or closed; absurdly low usage rates of once every two-three days; and few signs of developmental benefits.

What future for ICTs and development? Despite the lack of exposure given to realities like Gyandoot, the message of ICT failure has trickled back to some development organisations. The result has been a backlash against e-Development. As we know from gender, talk in these agencies of ‘mainstreaming’ ICTs can be a code word for ‘ignoring’. The idealists – and good luck to them – are continuing to chase the dream, and believe there is gold at the end of the ICT/MDG rainbow. For the cynical realists, what is to be done? Should we join the backlash? I think not. It is understandable that ICTs should be marginalised in the MDG front-line: Bill Gates’ decision to support Africa by pouring millions into medical initiatives rather than into ICTs is both symptomatic and appropriate. What is inappropriate is the more general threat that technology is marginalised in the development agencies. It is technology that generates the wealth of enterprise, which in turn, pays for all social development. It is technology that has delivered the productivity gains that enable lives of material comfort for many in the world that would have been unthinkable just two centuries ago. So, let us question the MDGs, and let us question the role of ICTs in delivery of those goals, but let us not throw the baby out with the bathwater and abandon ICTs altogether. Instead, let us see where ICTs are having a positive development impact. To move forward on this, we must divide out two parts of the ICT-and-development relationship: • ICT consumption: the use of technology in applications like eCommerce and e-Government. • ICT production: the creation of hardware, software and other components of the ICT infrastructure. Our evidence base is once again weak but the straws in the


Miles to go to achieve the goals

wind, all, point in one direction: the developmental gains from investing in ICT production are greater than for investment in ICT consumption. Put simply, agencies and governments with, say, $100,000 to spend would better use it to incubate new IT firms rather than to create a service delivery web site. Put another way, if you do invest in that web site, look for the benefits in the firm that made the web site more than in the government department that uses the web site. Supporting ICT production does not just mean helping large hardware and software firms in developing countries. It includes the above but, the ICT sector can be a much broader, much deeper development activity. It encompasses IT consultants, IT trainers, web designers, Internet service providers, data services providers, and many more. And it runs from the top to the bottom of the economy. India’s Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) may be nudging the global Top 10 in software but it sits alongside tens of thousands of tiny backstreet database developers, PC assemblers and the like. For an example of what can be achieved, take a look at that part of Kerala’s Kudumbashree initiative that is inducting women from below-poverty-line families into the ICT sector through hardware and services enterprises. These create real and direct benefits for poor communities – jobs, incomes, skills, empowerment, gender equalities – in a way ICT consumption projects cannot. Yet this


most valuable aspect of ICT’s role in development falls under the radar of most development agencies. Those agencies need to take a closer look at what ICT production has to offer. They also need to reconsider their ICT consumption priorities. Some suggestions, then, for those still investing in ICT consumption projects: • Break the MDG hegemony: The MDGs may be necessary for development but they are certainly not sufficient. We need a continuing emphasis on economic growth, and this covers ICTs too. To take just one example, the current MDG-inspired prioritisation of ICT applications for small- and micro-scale firms seems odd given these are the enterprises that have the least impact economically in terms of growth, incomes, efficiency and exports. At least equal weight should be given to assisting medium- and large-scale firms.They still need help but they are far better equipped to make sustainable use of ICTs, and are the main engines of wealth creation and competitiveness. • The back office not the front office: ICT initiatives reaching out to citizens are beloved by politicians and agencies because they grab media attention.They are also the ones that fail. Far more effective are the back office applications that help better planning, decision-making and management. They may not attract the limelight but they are more likely to sustain and to have a mass-scale impact. Here, the motto could also be “the data centre, not the telecentre”. • Follow some cowpaths: Sometimes agencies need to lead countries and communities in new directions they would not go by themselves; but they don’t always have to do this. With ICTs it often makes sense to take the organic approach of following fashion, rather than the inorganic approach of trying to create your own fashion statement. The ICT fashion already being followed in so many developing communities is the cell phone, not the PC. So agencies should be paying far more attention to the development potential of mobile telephony.

Summing up The MDGs are not the devil’s brew, deliberately cooked up for the purposes of under-development. But nor are they tablets of stone that ‘shalt not be questioned’. They do run the risk of skewing the development agenda, and they also run the risk of marginalising ICTs. We must have the courage to challenge the MDGs and to take a broader look at ways in which ICTs can contribute to socio-economic development. If we do not, we may miss a generational opportunity to properly harness new technology for the good of all. 

Do you have an opinion, suggestion or a story? Write to us at

i4d | February 2005


Millennium campaign gains momentum Salil Shetty is the Director of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) Campaign. The campaign aims to promote the MDG globally and secure increased buy-in, not just from governments, but civil society stakeholders. The Millennium Campaign aims to mobilise North and South to achieve the MDGs. Salil’s work focuses particularly on helping the Campaign unit galvanise campaigns in the South by stimulating national political debate and harnessing existing national and regional networks and social movements in support of the MDGs. Salil Shetty, Director, Millennium Campaign, UNDP

In a telephonic inter view with Jayalakshmi Chittoor, Salil Shetty shares his extraordinary understanding of global and local development issues.

I read in a report that a group of parliamentarians are proposing for a new MDG-9 on sexual and reproductive rights. Is the Campaign looking at these kinds of proposals? There are many people who have been suggesting various amendments to the Goals, which were adopted during the Millennium Summit in 2000. It is not just the case of sexual and reproductive rights issues along. There are some who feel human rights should be the Goal 9. There are many such proposals. Folks from the environment side have been giving suggestions. After the September 2005 MDG +5 Summit, where the heads of state are meeting 5 years after they signed up, to review progress, an expert group will be looking at the goals, the targets and indicators to see whether there is any case to making any change, etc. I am sure that there will be some possibility to look at the targets and indicators. In fact as it happens, on the gender question, which is where the reproductive rights issues, gets covered focuses on gender equality and empowerment. As far as the Campaign is concerned, we do strongly believe there is a strong case to bring in sexual and reproductive rights as well the issue of violence against women. February 2005 |

Can you tell us about the concerns on addressing the issues relating to disability? None of these goals are new or are meant to substitute what has been agreed in other UN commitments and other processes. In case of sexual and reproductive rights, the Millennium Development Goals are not meant to be replacing that the Cairo IPCD commitments or the Beijing commitment. These are tools to mobilise the political will for the achievement of previous commitments. Not a single word in the Millennium declaration or in the MDG was invented at the Millennium Summit. It is a summary of various UN commitments. The declaration is a much more powerful document than the goals which are kind of short hand because from a communication point of view. You cannot present 15 pages to the public when you are trying to communicate through mass media etc. This is useful for the general public. For those interested in the intricacies of international development issues, we have the declaration and other documents that we can go back to. Are the regional differences well perceived at the national levels or the regional levels with respect to MDGs? Millennium goals are meant to be international mobilising tools for political will to be

created in order to achieve some of the basic needs of the vast majority of people in the world but there was never a conception or expectation that these goals are kind of global targets. You cannot achieve anything at the global level. Ultimately things are to be achieved at the national level and local level. These goals are to be adopted and defined in the local and national contexts, which provide broad guidelines. Most countries are adapting. Vietnam, for example, has laid the targets rather low as compared to global goals. They have defined it as Vietnam Development Goals. In the case of India, Government of India has translated and interpreted the MDGs in the context of the tenth five-year plans because it is meaningless talking of global goals in the Indian context. India is a big country, and even national goals are a bit meaningless if you look at it state-wise. The real action is at national level, which is equally relevant from the point of view of women rights, etc. Many countries have adapted the global goals at the national level and brought in a whole lot of issues like gender, sexual and reproductive rights, as they should. OECD DAC is using MDG as their performance indicators. They have reframed


their own DAC agenda. Is it re-diverting resources into programmes that are more macro-scale and actually missing that micro-support that came from these agencies. Could these translate into concerns? I don’t know how familiar you are with OECD DAC target, because it is interesting. OECD DAC target preceded the Millennium Goals. In fact, MDG were partly inspired by OECD DAC targets. The main difference is in the Goal 8 which states the responsibilities of the rich countries are particularly in relation of trade and debt. Having a global set of parameters by which we can measure progress is very useful to understand international development. In the EU context, we have seen the results of tighter monitoring. Without the MDG being there or this kind of monitoring happening, we would not have seen, for the first time 2 or 3 decades, an increase in International Development Assistance or overseas aid. Five or six countries within EU have actually for the first time last year put down a definite date to get the 0.7% commitment in aid. Advocacy continues to play a key role in this. We are strongly of the view that it is not the business of the donors to see how the money should be spent in sense of that level of detail. That should be nationally defined.


The role of the donor is to provide assistance if required. The countries should be accountable to their own people first and to the donor second in the way in which they spend money, but if every donor starts saying, you spent it in x, y, z ways, then it creates a mess. That is why we are in such a mess as in many African countries, which are heavily donor dependent, and have to succumb to the endless donor interference and conditionalities in their proposals. It is equally bad for donors to spend the money on microprojects, as it is to spend on micro-issues. Let these be national decisions. How can we actually make things more participatory, especially in non-trade issues? For example, issues of human labour, of forest use and management are being decided by international bodies. People are losing control over issues like climate change, forests, deserts. Please comment on Goal 8 and the WTO processes. I think we have to take it case by case. There is a meta-issue about global governance. There is a kind of voice of developing countries. The developing countries could exercise the one-member one-vote power only if they could operate in block spaces. Potentially, it shows the power of WTO getting democratised, but if you ask me, that

should these issues be dealt with WTO at all? We would strongly say that labour issues should not be brought into the WTO. That is very much in the realm of ILO, otherwise it could be a bad way of bringing in protectionism by rich countries. The good thing about multi-lateralism is that developing countries have some chance of coming together and challenging the prosperous. Then case-by-case, we can look at issues like intricacies of international property rights, indigenous knowledge systems, etc. There are lots of issues we can talk about but as far as we are concerned, trade, aid, debt, etc. are very much part our Campaign issues. We have got papers on our website on issues Numerous small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and people engaged in home trade sector don’t even know what is hitting them or if they are violating some international agreements. How does the Campaign address the issues like indigenous knowledge which the communities have held and haven’t put their work in the international patenting system? Just in terms of role of Campaign. We have some views of our own. The Millennium Campaign is a very small outfit that can do little on its own. There are big Campaigns i4d | February 2005

happening on trade like the Trade Justice Movement, (TJM) is working closely with Global Action Against Poverty. Many other trade groups are part of this group now. In a sense, trade in also getting now complex dimension. It is quite hard for everyone to work on these issues. There is a whole lot of detailed work that needs to be done. We are working at least on two or three top line issues like subsidies and defensive treatment. These two, we are constantly harping on every possible occasion. Trade absolutely is only a means and the end has to be the achievement of goal and poverty eradication. The problem we have in the last decade or so is that trade has become an end in itself. If it does not help to improve the quality of lives of large majority of citizens then we don’t need this kind of trade. That is the kind of headline position we want to raise and lots of details can be argued under that. How has your experience of Action Aid helped you in the Millennium Campaign? I know you have been one of the people who turned Action Aid into a leading advocacy group. In many ways, I don’t see the work I do in the Campaign as different from what I have done in the last 20 years of my life. That is, working on poverty and justice issues. The platform is slightly different, because the UN has unusually created a space for a semi-autonomous group to work within the UN system. The UN procedures and intergovernmental thinking do not tie us down. We don’t have to take permission from the General Assembly or any body to talk about something. We have been given a kind of half-in-half-out status. So we can say a lot more than normal UN agencies can. So, I am happy that everything that I have done before is directly relevant to what I am doing in this job because the issues are the same. To date, we have not applied our mind and we have not put adequate resources behind it and in fact it is not a question of rich countries having not put their best, but some of our own developing countries have also not helped. In each of these countries, the resources are not going to the right things either at national levels or at international levels. If you look at domestic budgets of most national governments, it shows that we have February 2005 |

been lot undecided in terms of where the resources are flowing. Where do you see ICTs playing a role in MDG implementation, which becomes targets and indicators for action plans for governments, NGOs, etc.? Generally speaking, technology and influence of technology is not different. It is unfortunate because we are bringing in a new set of innovations that are very unequal or further accentuates pre-existing structures of distribution of resources. Effectively, this becomes a new form or new axis of inequality. It becomes another device to increase inequality or poverty. Most of these things have the potential of becoming something that can actually be empowering and poverty reducing, but right now I do not see that happening at all. Even in India, which is becoming an ICT giant globally and there are many projects, we are not yet seeing the impact. I know some of the companies individually are

vaccines are just a year or two years away in terms of research and development but nobody wants to look at the side effects because malaria is not a poor people’s disease. Which pharmaceutical company really wants to spend money and time on this? ICT has become like this. ICT is not a priority for poor people. ICT for development is not a priority for industry or even government. We need to make it one.

trying to do something but in terms of impact they are actually making serious difference to the lives of poor people is minimum. Actually there is lot to be done and very little has been done. We can go into the question of how ICT can help on goal-by-goal basis. You can take livelihood and obviously there is a huge prospect there. You can take education, or health and with a bit of extra planning, we can make a huge difference using ICTs. Technology can help if it is done in a right way. If you take something like Malaria, the

look at the details of the goal, and in other goals, ICTs are interlinked and is enabling. ICT is one of the things that are crosscutting. If you have any thoughts on what we can do, we will be really happy to do that.

There are about 30,000 ICT4D projects being implemented in India. Many are very small scale, local and some very innovative. There are people in decision-making positions in governments who need to understand this vividly because they have not moved out of their desks for years. What are your thoughts? You are absolutely right, there is a big job ahead. Anything that you can think of by which the Campaign can help, we are happy to do so. ICT is part of Goal 8 (Target 18) if you

How does the recent tsunamis affect targets we have set to achieve? It has just kicked us all out of gear. As it happens, India and Indonesia, two of the largest countries in terms of population have been affected, as have Sri Lanka, Thailand and some other countries in Africa.


I don’t think it is going to make much of the difference because small part of the country is affected. But obviously, if you look at it from the point of human rights, in which if even one citizen or one human being is affected, that is of concern to us. Tsunami is obviously something that has pulled back seriously for those particular areas and those particular people. It has set us back definitely by almost a decade if not more. But given that these are big countries this won’t make difference in aggregate terms. Sri Lanka is slightly different. Sadly in the case of Indonesia and Sri Lanka, the worst hit areas are also the areas, which are in internal conflict, and that is not helping either. The interesting paradox in the situation is one of the few disasters of this scale which has affected the significant number of people from rich countries also. This being holiday destination, we have a huge number of islands of people from Nordic countries and UK affected as well and not just for that reason but because of the media impact. There is a huge overwhelming response from public. This has been a very positive development for the Campaign, for the work we are trying to do because we are always told that No! No! this is not politically important because people don’t care about these issues. Public in the north and rich countries don’t care. How do we expect political leaders to take action on these issues? That myth has been exploded. It is an equaliser in a sense. Another myth is that the public in the rich countries do not care. This is absolutely not true. It is just that there has not been much media attention for long term poverty issues. We are kind of challenging the media by saying that, do we want always keep waiting for the tsunami to raise the issue? Can we come up with a longterm plan on education, development and governments? How can we engage youth in the MDG Programmes? In the Campaign do you work with some youth groups? Ours is not an MDG Programme. MDG implementation is the national governments’ responsibility and they already have their own plans and programmes. There is nothing new or different with MDG label. Young people have the enthusiasm that is unmatched. They don’t have this fatigue


and cynicism that other people have. They are only interested in how do we achieve the goals and let us get on with it. “What we can do, let us do” kind of approach. We have been involved with all the major youth organisations. We plan to use youth icons to which young people relate. Like people from MTV. We will focus a lot on youth who take MDG seriously and for whom the matter is of the future. How serious is the HIV/AIDS concern that the next generation might disappear in some countries? Is that concern true or is that an alarm statement? When we talk about Africa, there is no question of talking about anything else without talking about HIV. There are many young people seriously affected. There is a huge amount of uncertainty as to exactly what this means in the South Asian context. The numbers range from being very small to very huge number people, particularly in India. I know that in China and Eastern European countries, the numbers are not looking good. The situation in India hit me only when I actually started spending time in Africa. Alarmingly, there is also a kind of inertia. In the early 80’s, people thought it was something not hitting Africa. Now it is a totally different ball game. 25-30 % of people are living with HIV/ AIDS in a place like Africa. You know one in four people are HIV positive. That is a mindblowing number. What is the situation in India? It is totally unclear as far India is concerned. But constantly raising the issue is important, as the situation in India is potentially a kind of time bomb. Of course, it is related to our sexual behavior. There is also a kind of hypocrisy in India. We are kind of puritanical about our sexual behaviour. The reality is different. It is not as open as it is in Africa and we in India pretend that the problem does not exist. Tell me little bit about your team? We took a view right in the beginning, that we should be a bureaucracy because this is a Campaign. By definition it is meant to take the goals to the people. We are not going to be able to do that by creating a bureaucracy sitting in New York. We are thus a small team of 8 people. We work completely on partnership basis with

networks of existing Campaign organisations. We are not creating anything new. The MDG framework helps to create some additional energy. We are just working with existing groups and supporting them in whatever way we can. The Campaign purpose: • Build political will for achievement of the Millennium Goals. • Enable people’s actions in holding their governments to account to the Millennium Pledge.

How can one become partners to this Campaign? We don’t have anything formal as there is nothing formal about it. If you think the goals make sense, and are something that you want to work with, we can talk about it in specific terms or general terms. We have our website. You can write to it. You can put your name to it. You can link our website to yours. It is a very open, unstructured process. From the civil society side you might find it easier to fit in some ways. There is a global Campaign called Global Action Against Poverty, which works very actively. I don’t know whether in the Indian context you have the possibility to raise awareness at government level. We need to keep the focus on MDGs with respect to the 10th Five Year Plans and Common Minimum Programme implementation. We should not really focus on papers and documents, but want to get moving and want to see whether the things are reaching people or not. Reminding the Government of India to keep their promise. When we say partnering, you can partner with Global Action Against Poverty and they have their own website (http:// ). There are two key dates for the Campaign: The G-8 Summit in July and the Millennium Plus 5 meeting 10 of September. We have two white band days of action and they have got many-many plans of their own. As far we are concerned we have got petitions, etc. If you have concrete ideas, we can discuss further.  For daily news on ICT4D log on to i4d | February 2005


Chennai Statement Upon invitation of the MS Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), development practitioners and policy makers met in Chennai, India, from 17-19 November 2004, for a workshop to review experiences in Asia and Africa in the use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) for poverty reduction. In order to provide a more compact input into the processes of the World Summit of the Information Society (WSIS), Poverty Reduction Strategies and the Millennium+5 Summit, the participants decided to compile some key conclusions and recommendations in a statement. The purpose of the Chennai Statement is to stimulate the debate from a clearly poverty-focused perspective. Among the participants were representatives from multilateral organisations, bilateral development agencies, civil society organisations and the private sector. The Chennai Statement is intended to serve as an input into the on-going global debate on the role of ICTs for development, particularly in view of the poverty reduction oriented agenda for the implementation of the WSIS Principles and Action Plan in the context of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The participants share the declared WSIS’s vision of a peoplecentred, inclusive and development-oriented Information Society, where everyone can create, access, utilise and share information and knowledge, enabling individuals, communities and people to achieve their full potential in promoting their sustainable development and improving their quality of life; the main challenge is now to implement the WSIS’s Declaration of Principles and the Plan of Action. The need to translate the people-centred vision of ICTs for poverty reduction into action is intrinsically linked to the challenge of reaching the MDGs. 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 enhancing empowerment, opportunity and security. This potential contrasts, however, with the overall modest impact of ICTs on the MDGs remaining well behind expectations. In view of the massive upscaling and replication of the use of ICTs for poverty reduction that is needed, the participants of the Chennai workshop on ‘Upscaling Poverty Reduction through ICTs’ hereby endorse the design, adoption, and implementation of ICT policies and practices at all levels. ICTs should be understood in a broader perspective that includes the following elements:

Relevance Building on the lessons learned, untapped opportunities exist for scaling up poverty reduction using ICTs, by harnessing their potential for dynamic knowledge sharing and networking, building on economies of scale and drawing on a broad range of approaches February 2005 |

that can be used as a catalyst for local adaptation. The positive experience of using ICTs for poverty reduction is often linked to use of the new options by organised self-help groups and collective organisations. Upscaling poverty reduction with ICTs means increasing outreach and deepening impact. ICTs can be used as a strategic tool for development. They also merit and receive growing attention for their instrumental value in implementing pro-poor policies. The deployment of ICTs increases the effectiveness and efficiency of all endeavours to reach the MDGs whatever the resources available. Mainstreaming ICTs pays off even when budgets are stagnating or shrinking. Those countries mainstreaming ICTs effectively into their productive sectors gain dramatically in competitiveness, often to the disadvantage of others. It is a matter of opportunities exist for scaling up poverty reduction using ICTs, by harnessing their potential for dynamic knowledge sharing and networking, building on economies of scale and drawing on a broad range of approaches that can be used as a catalyst for local adaptation. The positive experience of using ICTs for poverty reduction is often linked to use of the new options by organised self-help groups and collective organisations. Up-scaling poverty reduction with ICTs means increasing outreach and deepening impact. The basic requirements for successful up-scaling of poverty reduction through ICTs are (1) an enabling policy environment; (2) prioritising and creating conducive conditions for poverty reduction; (3) appropriate technology choices; (4) mobilization of additional public and private resources. The Chennai Statement reflects these requirements.

Enabling environment A clear and enforced legal framework should include respect for freedom of expression, diversity and the free flow of information. A conducive environment for upscaling includes supporting infrastructure such as electricity, internet connectivity, and a reasonable level of basic education. To meet pro-poor outcomes, such measures have to be combined with targeted pro-poor policies. The acceleration of the introduction of competition in ICT infrastructure provision, including in the last mile, is key. It should be associated with investment in service development including local content to drive the demand for infrastructure. Enhancing the adoption of open source solutions and strengthening user groups are key. Application of open source software/ products in the public sector and encouraging its/their application in the private sector and by civil society is cost efficient.

Poverty reduction Mainstreaming ICTs in poverty reduction strategies (PRS) is a key issue. The implementation of PRS can play an important role in


achieving the MDGs and empowering people living in poverty. ICTs can be used to facilitate the PRS process. ICTs should be mainstreamed into the implementation of sectoral components, complementing the poverty-reducing priorities of the national ICT strategy. In a conducive environment favouring poverty reduction, targeted pro-poor regulations and policies are key elements. They may include: - Building up strong independent regulators through capacity-building measures and the provision of resources to finance any resultant legal cases; supporting research and awareness raising throughout civil society. Transforming the policy environment through more deregulation in favour of local communities: (a) Licensing of air waves to grass-roots level institutions; (b)Representation of grass-roots level institutions on regulatory bodies. • Fast-track licensing for innovative solutions such as Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), Wireless Fidelity (WiFi) and Very Small Aperture Terminal (VSAT), and licensing of communitybased electronic media, in particular broadcast radio. 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, disadvantaged people, characterised by applications and content that are highly contextualised. A pro-poor emphasis in infrastructure provision and content development applications is a priority. This should include the introduction of lowest-cost and transparent demand-and supply-side subsidies to ensure that access costs are affordable. The use of voucher systems could be an appropriate option for promoting private partnerships in subsidised public access provision to address the needs of those in poverty. Financial, ecological and social sustainability is the triple bottom line for successful ICT-supported projects. Sustainability is contextual and dynamic. In a poverty stricken rural context, appropriate technology choices favouring social sustainability are as important as financial sustainability and require a focus on local content creation. The question of profitability should be embedded right from the start when designing and planning poverty reducing projects with ICT-use. The drive for upscaling and sustainability can itself become a challenge as it may cause a drift away from a focus on the poorest.

Resource mobilisation Upscaling to reach the MDGs requires additional investment. Public resources are severely limited at the national as well as the international level. Despite the Monterrey Consensus, it is unlikely that official development assistance (ODA) will be increased substantially. The search for new sources of development financing (NSDF) is still in its initial stages. The options discussed include a byte tax and other ICT related sources, which are not likely to materialize in the foreseeable future. In order to ensure the best use of scarce public resources, maximum mobilisation of private investment is vital. Depending on the enabling regulatory framework, the existing infrastructure and the


development potential, private investment can be mobilised, to a certain extent even in remote regions. The micro finance movement 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 particular,to bring connectivity, services and content to those in poverty. Resulting in a hybrid form of private public sources, national ICT licensing obligations should include funding mechanisms to mobilise finance for appropriate community initiatives, and to address the financing gap for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) interested in starting ICT businesses.

The way forward There are significant challenges in the transition to scaling up poverty reduction through the use of ICTs in national strategies, in terms of retaining local ownership, capacity building in local communities, developing sustainable business models and defining the level of institutional and public sector support. National level advocacy is key for upscaling poverty reduction through ICTs. The added value of global declarations, including 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. Global coalitions advancing empowerment, opportunity and security of people in poverty are effective and efficient channels for taking upscaling concerns forward. In particular, intensifying SouthSouth networking and dialogue should be pursued systematically. Recognising the complementary roles of governments, the private sector and civil society, building multi-stakeholder partnerships (MSP) becomes a priority in implementing an inclusive information society based on the WSIS’s vision and inspired by the Millennium Declaration. At the grassroots level, the capacity of community structures, such as self-help groups and other intermediaries, should be tapped and enhanced.

Follow-up This statement is timed to inform the preparations for the second phase of WSIS 2005 in Tunis. The declaration will be backed by a joint MSSRF/SDC discussion paper to be published early in 2005. The participants will use their networks to influence the WSIS process accordingly. MSSRF, SDC and GKP will host a side event during the PrepCom II in Geneva in February 2005. 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 to: • Review the added value of the WSIS outcomes for ICT for poverty reduction (ICT4PR) and MDG implementation; • Present the main ongoing and planned ICT4PR up-scaling programmes; • Discuss the key challenges met in ICT4PR up-scaling efforts; • Exchange information on lessons learned and good practices in ICT4PR.  i4d | February 2005






Social capital brings economic development What we learnt from our experience is that while the rich have financial capital for promoting their enterprise, the poor need to promote social solidarity and social capital so that they can raise their economic condition.

‘The Foundation of Occupational Development (FOOD), based in Chennai, India, began the Inter-City Marketing Network project in April 2001 to help poor women in urban areas increase their incomes. FOOD worked initially with some 100 existing women’s selfhelp groups representing between 1,000–2,000 women and their families. An initial survey of these groups indicated that while many women derived a small income from producing goods at home (food products, soap, repackaged food items), they were generally weak at marketing their products and finding customers. Typically, they sold their products to visiting middlemen and made little profit from their work. FOOD provided training in marketing and the use of “social capital,” encouraging these groups to focus on production, marketing, or both. It also provided each group with a cell phone to facilitate contact between production and marketing groups, and between groups and customers. This is a simple way of applying widely available telecommunication technologies to a traditional micro-enterprise sector with a very high proportion of women’s participation. While the cell phones were initially provided by the project, today all groups buy their own phones and pay for all calling charges. The target groups comprise of the local female artisans and semi-skilled workers who are currently living below the poverty line in and near Chennai.


Loyola Joseph Director FOOD, Chennai India

February 2005 |

During field visits to various cities of Tamil Nadu conducted by FOOD staff, we observed that each city has its own set of products that are manufactured using indigenous skills. Most of these products are made with locally available materials and the skills available in production, are seldom found in other cities.

Although, the majority of the community is a part of CBO, due to lack of communication link between CBOs, we observed that the producers are dependent on middlemen for marketing their produce outside their local area. This reduces the community’s earnings even though their products are of very good quality. The other major set back in the cultural system in this part of the country is that women are seldom allowed to go out of the house to sell their products to the public. Due to this, the skilled women workers are discouraged from making use of their creative and entrepreneurial skills.

What we set out to do… The goals of the network are to link women micro-entrepreneurs from different urban areas in order to exchange goods and develop new markets for their products. The groups trade in over 100 basic products, including soap, cooking oil, washing powder. Communication between the groups is maintained through mobile phones which are used to receive and place orders for goods with other groups in the network, and to compare prices across the region. This would lead in utilisation of ICT as a tool for social and economic development of the poor especially women. This would not only improve the cash flow within the community increasing the income of women thus reducing poverty, but also create direct market for the products made by women groups. It would further build the capacity of women entrepreneurs.

The evaluation process The evaluation process was primarily in the form of collection of stories from the community before the project starts (i.e. their practical problems, needs etc) utilising Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) and then


interpreting them into specific issues faced by the community. Then during and after the projects regular interviews were conducted to collect more stories (i.e. accounts from the community detailing whether the marketing network has made a difference to their day to day life) and then interpret them to enable the project to determine the success or failure rates.

Results Marketing in the network is based on the concept of social capital. Individual women are encouraged to foster good relationships with the family and friends to build a strong network of customers. The producer groups distribute their products to marketing groups via small and large trading meetings along with mobile communication. This has resulted in enabling the women to increase the profit margins, increase their volume of sales, and extend their marketing reach into new urban areas. Active network members started earning a profit of between US $ 10- 40 per month from their part time job. This income represents 10-15 percent of total family income and enables many members to pay school fees. More than 300 groups are now involved in the network.

Lessons learnt What we learnt from our experience is that while the rich have financial capital for promoting their enterprise, the poor need to promote social solidarity and social capital so that they can improve their economic conditions and standards of living. One of the best ways to build social solidarity is through community networking. Since the cell phone does not require much of functional literacy to operate and maintain, the community need not undergo extensive training or learn an unknown language in order to network. The use of cell phones has allowed the women groups to expand their reach and extend their activities to areas where they did not have a presence earlier. Before the start of this project, most of the production groups were restricting themselves to marketing their products either in their neighborhood or selling it to middlemen for a low price. Using cell phones the production groups are now able to conduct business with groups in other cities or areas, which was hitherto inaccessible to them.


By building a good communication network using cell phones, the inter-city marketing network has helped women who are culturally bonded to social barriers such as resistance to movement outside their neighbourhood, to utilise their free time to market products and hence raise the economic condition of their family. While discussing with the community during the course of this project we found that most of the women were previously doing nothing. They were of the opinion that they need capital to enter into any trade and it also involves commuting which means sacrificing their contribution to the family and not providing for the emotional needs of the family especially their children. One of the major breakthroughs in this project is that it establishes, one can earn as much as required if one can build social capital and this can be achieved by using communication links and supplemented by meeting face-to-face once in way in public places. The communication links have helped the women groups in this project to find livelihood leading to improved income and economic empowerment of women. The other lesson learnt is that building social solidarity and social capital eliminates cash credit requirement for doing business. In many groups it is found that the transactions are streamlined wherein the fund revolves within the community. For instance, the marketing groups have established good rapport with the production groups wherein the products are made available to the marketing group on 15 days deferred payment thus eliminating outside lending to the women groups. Cell phone also helps to monitor the functioning of the entire network wherein each groups’ credit rating is transparent.

The challenges While we are planning to create and organise the sector and promote economic activity by substituting financial capital with social capital, the growth of the network is being viewed by many financing institutions as a gateway for micro-lending and corrupting the women groups with finance. Few groups who have been provided finance have ventured into doing big business. Due to lack of knowledge in financial management they have fallen sick within 3 months of borrowing. We have now sent circulars to

The social impact

Padma Sivalingapuram, Tamil Nadu Padma’s husband had deserted her and she was struggling to earn a livelihood to support her 2 children and herself. After she attended one of the meetings organised by FOOD in her area, Padma was enthusiastic started marketing rice and phenol. In the first month itself she was able to earn Rs 500 by marketing product in her neighborhood, supplied by a remote women group. On getting a cell phone from FOOD, within a period of 3 or 4 months Padma’s confidence has increased he income by ten fold and she has even remarried. Her husband is now assisting her in the marketing activity.

Ramani Mangalapuram, Tamil Nadu Ramani lives in Mangalapuram with her 3 children. She was motivated to join the inter-city network after attending one of the regional workshops. She is now marketing shampoo, soap, washing powder and cleaning powder not only in her neighbourhood but also to other nearby areas by using her cell phone to keep in touch. She earns an average of US $ 33 to 44 per month. She has decided to now specialise in marketing detergent cakes since she sees a good market for it in her area.

i4d | February 2005

the financial institutions not to lend money to the inter-city network groups stating that this project is an attempt to find out how one can be economically empowered without borrowing money from outside source and that the bank’s intervention will only mar the basic concept of the program because on one side we see economic empowerment, the other side we see they are getting bonded to the lending agencies. Since micro-credit has set a wrong trend in the minds of many women groups we wanted to prove that building social capital is a better and sustainable option for micro-enterprise development. This we see as an alternative for micro credit. The members have learnt that it is possible to start and run a small business without depending on banks or money lenders for loans if, you have social capital. Providing cell phone for the sake of it had failed at the initial stages wherein the cell phone were taken by the women groups but they could not meet the telephone charges. Further some also started treating it as a toy and making calls erratically, leading to huge phone bills. On an average, we found that about 3% of the women groups dropped out from the project due to such reasons. Hence, based on the experience at

Some quantitative outputs Average monthly income per group Before

After 1 month

After Current 12 months

Production groups





Marketing groups





On an average, each woman in the project earns approximately US $39 per month. Compared to this, the average monthly income of the households in the affected communities is approximately $56 per month. Hence the average income of each woman in the project is almost equal to the average income of the entire household in the communities where the project has been undertaken. Average cell phone usage by women groups On an average, the women groups make about 20 to 30 calls every day. Since cellto-cell incoming calls are free, the women pay only a minimum charge of US $ 7-11 per month depending on the usage.

February 2005 |

present, the cell phones are provided only once the group has reached a comfortable income level wherein they will be able to pay the telephone bills. It is interesting to note that while initially the women groups were using the cell phones for personal calls also when they saw the telephone bills they have decided to compartmentalise usage of the cell phone and use it only for business calls so that they can justify the money spent on maintaining the cell phones. Their reasoning is that while the cell phone can be maintained comfortably out of their business revenue, it will become difficult if they start using it for personal calls since this cost will then need to be subsidised out of their business revenue – which they feel is not a good business practice. In fact many women are now in a position to even suggest to FOOD’s team how we can make best use of the cell phone so that the call costs are less based on the various packages offered by competing cell phone companies! One issue that was raised when we introduced the project to outside agencies is why the women groups are given a cell phone and not a fixed line phone. The advantage we found in providing a cell phone is that a cell phone is ideal for communication access in remote areas and moreover the women are always mobile while doing their domestic work, e.g. traveling long distances to fetch water, washing cloths, defecation, to procure their daily rations from Government fair price shops, leaving their children in schools etc. Further, since their houses are

typically small, the women, when they get free time, prefer to get together at a common place and chat. Since they are mobile almost all the time they see the cell phone is the ideal option since they will not miss business contacts.

Concluding observations It is observed that women who joined the inter-city marketing network have been able to not only raise income for their family but also have become more self-confident and motivated. With high enthusiasm women have also learnt to cooperate with each other for mutual benefit. The awareness created and economic empowerment that this project has offered to the women who have all along been stuck to domestic work has brought them to the front line. Through this program, community solidarity has been established and the women groups have become well known in their community. The community organisation skills of the women involved in this project have empowered them to leap forward to a level wherein three women from the inter-city group stood and won the local body elections. We also learnt that when a woman makes money she tends to spend the entire income for the welfare of the family compared to men who provide only a part of their income to the family and retain the rest for their personal expenses. This project was selected as a finalist for the Stockholm Challenge Awards 2002. $1 = Rs. 45 



Saga of a rural Internet entrepreneur Just a decade ago, the advent of Internet heralded a discernibly new era of human development ‘through information’. Over the years, this ‘Information Superhighway’, has changed dramatically, the way people live and work. Born out of complex computer-codes, algorithms and Boolean logic, Internet has taken strides far beyond the guarded echelon of research labs, to reach out to every nook and corner of earth. Although, this global marathon of Internet is still in its warm-up phase, people around the world are celebrating its grand victory, by committing themselves to join the race in it’s ‘last-mile-run’. Among such Internet-inspired persons, who are trying to harness the immense potentiality of this formidable IT tool, and take e-revolution to the masses — one name is ‘Bhupinder Singh’. He lives in a remote village ‘Almora’ in the hill-state of Uttaranchal in Northern India. Almost five years back, this person undertook a basic computer application course in Almora and purchased a home PC with the intention to open up his own training centre. Initially, he set up the centre in his village and used to train students of surrounding localities. After about a year, when he came to know about Internet and the array of services that can be provided through it - he decided to open up an Internet kiosk by the name – ‘Surya Cyber Café’, in his shop at Kosi ‘bazaar’. Although, he was not sure of the business volume it could generate, he started off with a hope to make a break-through. Since Bhupenderji has long been a social worker and runs an organisation ‘Uttaranchal Yuva Kalyan Vikas Samiti’, making fat profit out of his computer was never his priority. He was more concerned about making people around him aware about this new technology.


To spread awareness among rural masses, he has arranged a number of ‘Internet Demonstration Camps’ in the surrounding villages. In these camps, villagers were enlightened on how to use e-mails to sendand-receive letters from relatives, get news and information, know about career opportunities , job openings, and check balance in their SBI savings account. Bhupinderji recollects one instance when he met two village women, who had their personal e-mail IDs. Although they never used their e-mails, they were curious to check e-mails from their husbands who were posted in Kashmir. Bhupinderji hopes that, like those two women, one day every villager in his locality will have his/her own e-mail ID. Since Bhupinderji began his Internet venture, he has experimented with all kinds of connectivity options in order to provide better services to his customers. Earlier, in the year 1998, there was the lone option of a ‘dial-up connection’ to hook to the ‘Net’. With an old and low capacity telephone exchange in his locality, he used to face a lot of trouble in getting connected. Often telephone lines remained out-of-order and connections used to fail repeatedly in between surfing hours. Bhupinderji brought the issue to the notice of SDO, Almora district and GM of ‘Almora Telecom Authority’. Both, assured him of the earliest up-gradation of Kosi exchange. Bhupenderji also experimented with the WLL-based Internet connection. Though WLL provided a reasonably good speed but intermittent connection-snags forced Bhupenderji to shift back to the dial-up connection. With the new and upgraded telephone exchange in place, he is now quite satisfied with the uninterrupted connectivity but ‘speed’ still remains an issue. Over the years, since Bhupenderji started his cyber café, he has reduced the surfing

charges from as high as Rs 45 an hour to the present Rs 30 an hour. According to him, such reduction in charges has been possible largely due to slash in basic telephone charges over the past few years. Customers who need to send only e-mails, he charges on the per mail basis at the rate of Rs 5. His customers mainly comprise of tourists, local students, sales persons of various FMCG companies and army personnel posted in the region. Railway booking and enquiry is another popular service that he provides to his customers. According to Bhupenderji, this is the second-most popular service that his customers avail, ranking right behind the conspicuous ‘e-mail’ service. According to Bhupenderji, the proliferation of Internet and its increased use in bridging the digital-divide is possible, only when we go way ahead of our present 33 percent rural-telecom penetration. He clearly points to the absence of adequate telephony and telecommunication facility as the biggest stumbling block in spear heading the e-Revolution throughout the country. However, he holds high hopes for the future and believes that in the years ahead, the situation would change for better and a large section of the hitherto ‘e-alienated’ rural mass of this country would be ushered into an “e-Enlightened” tomorrow. (Rs 45 = US $1) Dipanjan Banerjee, CSDMS i4d | February 2005

Vol. III No. 2

February 2005

Information for development

 Education Africa Microsoft to implement technology to the education sector Africa Microsoft, the global software developer, as part of its continued effort to bring the benefits of technology to the education sector across the region, has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the government of Uganda to promote Partners in Learning (PiL). The agreement, which came into effect in late December and extends until mid2009, was signed by Francis Xavier Lubanga, Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Education (MoE) and Sports in Uganda, and Louis Otieno, the Regional Manager for East Africa at Microsoft. Otieno has said that PiL is a valuable programme across the entire region and especially in Uganda. It provides government’s support in education through the integration of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) in learning and teaching.

NEPAD launches the largest ICT education project in Africa In Pretoria, NEPAD’s (New Partnership for Africa’s Development) e-Schools initiative is described as the largest multi-country ICT education project attempted in Africa. The NEPAD e-Schools initiative comes after the World Economic Forum’s Africa Economic Summit in 2003, and is aimed at bridging the digital divide in Africa. It will equip schools with ICT labs and the tools. The Communications Minister, Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri had remarked that in the first phase of the programme, 15 governments had selected six secondary schools, each to be included in the February 2005 |

project. The guidelines for selection were provided by the e-Africa Commission, she added.

Slum kids to access computers In India, the Yeshwantrao Chavan Open University will soon commence a mobile computer literacy programme, aimed at taking computer education to the doorsteps of slumchildren in the North-East suburbs of Mumbai. The officials at the university have said that the training programme will be provided to the students from standards v to viii. The computers will be installed in five to seven mobile vans and it will take rounds between the slums such as Ghatkopar and Mulund. Qualified teachers will also be hired for the purpose.

 Health A new website offered to companies to fight HIV/AIDS The Corporate Council on Africa (CCA) has announced the launch of a new service on it’s website, which will offer the companies easy access to resources and funding opportunities to initiate and strengthen private sector HIV/AIDS initiatives in Africa. CCA President, Stephen Hayes has said that the U.S. corporations invested in Africa must play an integral role in the fight against HIV/AIDS. The HIV/AIDS initiative taken by the CCA on the website named will permit their team to be more effective in assisting members to develop and implement effective HIV/AIDS business plans.

Malaysian schools link up with UK schools to boost up ICT

Patients to get online help from doctors

Some of the best schools in Malaysia will be connected to certain schools in the United Kingdom to enable the sharing of experience, particularly in ICT. As a start, SMK Bandar Baru Bangi which is one of the 88 smart schools in the country, will be linked with a 100-year old grammar school in Lancaster of United Kingdom. However, the link will not be limited to schools in the UK and could also be developed with other countries. This would be in line with Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s call to strengthen relationships between educational institutions, including schools in Malaysia and France. This initiative will open a new domain of distance learning.

In US, Park Nicollet Health Services has announced that a small trial group of patients from the Maple Grove clinic in the Twin Cities will be able to read portions of their medical records through the new ‘Patient Online’ service and conduct clinical electronic visits with their physicians. The patients will soon be able to go online to check such items as immunisation records, prescription directions and test results. They also can discuss personal health issues with their doctors via secure e-mail, including symptoms, medications, allergies and test results. The e-Visit is generally covered by insurance, and the physician will respond within two business days. The service of such nature will provide the poor people the access to good doctors.


The i4d News

Speech software for v visually isually impaired launched The President of India, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, has launched a speech applet named ‘Virtual Vision’ for visually challenged students. Interacting with students, Kalam has said that he was inspired to develop the applet when two visually challenged persons, Deependra Manocha and Asif Iqbal, met him at Rashtrapati Bhavan recently. He explained that the software is a voice-enabled interface and can be configured on any web server. It can be accessed through President’s website at http:// www.president It has various sections such as stories, Kalam’s lectures, songs,

Medical University launches ‘virtual library’ in India In the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, Dr. M.G.R. Medical University, has launched a ‘ virtual library,’ in which holdings are available in electronic storehouses. The user will be able to find the source documents very fast. According to the Vice-Chancellor, C.V. Bhirmanandham, the objective of the library is to convert full text holdings into electronic form using the full text medical databases and set up a hardware infrastructure to effectively disseminate the full text information to all remote and nearby colleges, to the university campus and to medical colleges affiliated to universities within the state.

Use of Internet to connect malaria research centres in Africa The Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA) and the US National Library of Medicine have committed five million Swedish Kronor (sh1.2b) to link malaria research centres in Africa on the Internet. In Uganda, Mulago hospital has been selected for the Internet link, with other malaria research centres in Zambia, Congo, Brazzaville and Nigeria to join the electronic malaria research network in the world. The project team will move to Uganda in February to do the physical assessment. The team is being lead by the Swedish Professor Bjorn Pearson who is the pioneer of this field.


 Community Radio Anna University campus community radio celebrates its first year of operation In India, Anna University’s Educational and Multimedia Research Centre (EMRC) has celebrated the one-year completion of Anna FM, the country’s only campus Community Radio. Throughout the year, the focus was on producing and airing programmes that are normally neglected by the mainstream media. That was the only way the programmes would appeal to the grassrootslevel people scattered along a 30-km radius from Anna University.

 Agriculture ITC’s e-Choupal initiative expanding In India, ITC has started expanding its e-Choupal initiative in most of the villages of Uttar Pradesh. The choupals, where village elders hold meetings on vital issues are popular in this part of the country. However, ITC has been able to penetrate into villages bringing V-SAT, computers, public address system and solar power givng away the traditional Choupals visible earlier. In less than a year, ITC has set up 1,546 e-Choupals in as many villages in Uttar Pradesh. An official spokesperson of the company has said that ITC has been using e-Choupals to market its entire product range, including Ashirwad flour, salt, candies, urea, DAP fertilisers and

also other products. The e-Choupals also serve the purpose of procurement of raw material, including wheat, which the company procures directly from farmers and sells back to them in finished form. Till now, ITC has covered 44 districts of Uttar Pradesh.

ICT initiatives for farmers in Uganda The Information Communication Technology for African Rural Development (ICTARD), an NGO working with Uganda National Farmers Federation (UNFFE) has launched a pilot project which will merge ICT into the agricultural sector. Helen Karamagi, the Manager of ICTARD, has remarked that the mission of this project is to use ICT to improve agricultural production and welfare of the farmers through the provision of agricultural production and market related information.

Farmers to become e-Farmers In India, the Chennai-based M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) is planning to set up a ‘village-level knowledge centre’ at Vallikunnu, in Malappuram district of Tamil Nadu. Their aim is to strengthen the agrarian community with information on latest developments and farm techniques employed in other parts of the world. The proposed centre will work as a catalyst to MSSRF’s ambitious drive, aimed at creating a chain of agri-based ‘information villages’ across the state. It will provide latest and useful information to the local farmers in order to improve their living conditions. The New Indian Express

NAFED to provide an electronic platform for farmers and consumers In India, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed among Financial Technologies India Ltd (FTIL), Multi-Commodity Exchange (MCX) and National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation (NAFED) with the State Bank of India in order to set up country’s first National Spot Exchange for Agriculture

i4d | February 2005

The i4d News Produce (NSEAP) for connecting all Agriculture Produce Marketing Cooperatives (APMC) and other physical market players on an electronic platform. NSEAP will connect all APMCs by creating an electronic bridge between the consumers and producers across the country. However, electronic linkages have to be created between buyers and sellers for better efficiency in procurement along with essential infrastructure support to settle transactions.

e-Governance applications in the rural areas. According to the official, the kiosks will be set up on a public-private participation basis and will be driven by district level administration, with the help from the state and central governments.

The EC circular has ordered that one Central Paramilitary Force personnel to be posted at the polling station entrance so that he gets an unrestricted view of the polling procedure inside the booths without violating secrecy.

The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) has for several years implemented an ICT advisory programme aimed at helping African countries provide ICT services to enrich the lives of poor people in Africa. This programme, known as National Information Communication Infrastructure (NICI) seeks to help countries to create an enabling environment for ICT-enabled projects that will bring health services, education, income generation and access to markets closer to the poor.

 e-Governance 8th National e-Governance Conference focuses on e-Governance action plan In the Indian state of Orissa, at the 8th National Conference on e-Governance 2005, the Union Minister for Communications and Information Technology, Dayanidhi Maran, has said that it is necessary to identify success stories in the domain of e-Governance and use them as a basis for rapid implementation in other states or at other locations in the same state. He also said that the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) Government has drawn up a national e-Governance action plan to ensure that, all the people from rural areas will have an access to all economic benefits within the country and outside. The Minister is hoping that the IT kiosks in villages, which numbered about 8,000 at present, will reach 1 lakh mark within 2-3 years, if they leverage e-Governance appropriately. The Chief Minister of Orissa, Naveen Patnaik has remarked that, it was unfortunate that the e-Governance projects were confined to select departments in some states only. The success rate of e-Governance projects was pegged at a mere 15 per cent and called for augmentation of the success rates, he added. According to him, with the use of ICT tools, the government can provide services to common man in his own locality ensuring efficiency and reliability at an affordable cost. The Union government of India has set a target of one lakh village information and communication kiosks by the end of current Plan period (2006-07). The department has already taken opinions from some of the states like Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, which have

February 2005 |

ECA goes for ICT programme to improve the lives of poor in Africa

EC agrees to videograph polling stations In India, the Election Commission (EC) has directed the Chief Electoral Officers of Haryana, Bihar and Jharkhand to videograph the proceedings inside polling booths within a week of the Supreme Court’s suggestion. At the same time the EC has also clarified that the secrecy of the vote should not be violated.

 Telecom Reliance Infocomm to empower rural telephony In India, Reliance Infocomm is now on a board to cover around 400,000 villages and 5,700 towns to provide services to 650 million people by the end of December 2005. Reliance Infocomm COO, Kamal Nanavaty has remarked that the company is targeting to double its user base to 20 million by March, 2006. The company’s 80,000 km of terabit optic fibre cable network forms the backbone of its countrywide expansion, which will facilitate unlimited and uninterrupted voice, data and video applications. This expansion is involving 8,500 BTS (Base Transceiver Station) towers, and will also cover 91 percent of the country’s national highways and 85 percent of the rail routes.

NOW adds a new cuttingedge to mobile phones in Sudan The town of Rumbek in Southern Sudan is getting used to a sound that was never

egov: A bimonthly magazine on e-Governance launched Centre for Science, Development and Media Studies (CSDMS), an NGO working for the promotion of the use of Information Communication Technologies (ICTs) for development released its new magazine ‘egov’ on February 3, 2005 at the 8th National Conference on e-Governance in Bhubaneswar, Orissa. ‘egov’ was formally released by the Chief Minister of Orissa, Naveen Patnaik and Union Minister for Information and Technology, Dayanidhi Maran. The magazine is a bi-monthly magazine on e-Governance and it aims to cater to the needs of government bodies, NGOs and general masses as well as the industry. The magazine will reflect current issues related to e-Governance world over. The magazine can be found online at The magazine is just another feather in the cap of CSDMS along with the much praised i4d magazine and i4d portal ( to disseminate news and views on ICT for Development.


The i4d News

South African education ministry offers first education portal The Education Minister Naledi Pandor has launched a portal that has been described as the first online education experience for South African learners and educators. The portal is known as, ‘Thutong’ or ‘place of learning’ in SeTswana, an African language. It is set to provide learners and educators with information for use in the classroom and ideas for projects. It also offers access to a vast and ever-increasing range of quality curriculum and learner support materials; professional development programmes for teachers, administration and management resources for schools.

heard before — the ringing of a mobile phone. Civil war had left southern Sudan a black spot for telecommunications until last August when the region’s first mobile phone operator — Network of the World (NOW) — was set up with a multimillion dollar investment. An end to 21 years of civil war, formalised by an agreement signed on January 9, has changed everything. Peace promises untold opportunities to propel Southern Sudan into the 21st century through development and modern technology. There are now about 1,000 subscribers to NOW in two towns — Rumbek and Yei. Richard Herbert, NOW’s Operations Director, is confident that the number will increase fivefold by the end of 2005.

 Technology Tegic software to launch new software in different Indian languages Tegic Communications, the wholly-owned subsidiary of America Online Inc. has announced that it would soon launch its flagship brand — ‘T9 Text Input Software’ in India. The software would provide easier and faster mobile message typing in different Indian languages. The Senior Vice President of Tegic Communications, Ray Tsuchiyama has declared that by the end of June 2005, the Hindi version of its upgraded T9 software will reach the Indian market followed by versions in other Indian languages, including Tamil, Bengali, Punjabi, Urdu and English.


 Open Source UNDP releases primer on FOSS The International Open Source Network, an initiative of the United Nations Development Programme, has produced a 48-page primer on ‘Free/Open Source Software and Education’, which is now available for free public download. The primer is intended to help policy-makers and decision-makers understand the potential use of Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) in education. The topics covered include where and how FOSS can be used, why it should be used, and what issues are involved. The officials in the Education Ministry, school and university administrators, academic staff and researchers should find the primer particularly useful, according to the project. According to the project’s website the primer is intended to be a living document, constantly updated to reflect the latest information and available to all.

The source code for one of the Solaris development tools, Dynamic Tracing (DTrace) can be accessed through a newly created website, http://www.opensolaris .org. This milestone will open new gateways for developers and customers to get the full and free of cost access to the Solaris source code.

 e-Commerce ITZ Card initiates online railway booking in India The Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation Limited (IRCTC) and Intrex India Limited together launched a pre-paid card named ITZ Cash Card, that can be used to book railway tickets online. V Sriram, the Group General Manager of IRCTC has said that the card, developed by Intrex India, is included as a payment option for online ticket booking facility offered on the IRCTC website http://

Kenya Airways introduces e-Ticketing facility In Kenya, the National carrier, Kenya Airways has announced that the International passengers flying to and from Mombasa will be able to use electronic tickets. Unlike the standard ‘paper ticket’, electronic tickets, known as e-Tickets, have all their details stored on the airline’s reservation system, thus, eliminating the need for a physical ticket. This initiative has matched with the rollout of the recently launched e-Ticketing facility in the rest of the East African region. The e-Ticketing system is expected to boost the airline’s global operations.

Sun Microsystems releases Solaris code in India

SMI association to go for ICT use in SMIs

Sun Microsystems, has announced that the source code for the Solaris Operating System will be available through its OpenSolaris programme. The company will release the code under the newly Open Source Initiative (OSI) approved Common Development and Distribution License (CDDL), based on the Mozilla Public License (MPL).

In Malaysia, the SMI (Small and Mediumsized Industry) Association of Malaysia plans to enhance the use of ICT among more SMIs over the next three years. These plans mainly involve roadshow campaigns that will commence in April or May and will target Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs).

i4d | February 2005




From computer donations to poverty alleviation CDI initially created as a network of more than 200 self-managed computer schools in the urban slums of 17 Brazilian states, helping students who might otherwise have turned to drug trafficking or violence. CDI is an example of bridging the digital divide while providing important job opportunities to young Brazilians. Over 500,000 students have attended over 800 ICT schools since the project began, laying the foundation for professional skills. In December 2003 Rodrigo Baggio, founder and Executive Director of CDI, was reading a book about the history of Vila Isabel, a district in Rio de Janeiro. For Baggio this book had a special significance because it was written by students in a school that had been founded by CDI in Morro dos Macacos, a favela located in Vila Isabel. Rodrigo was very proud to see this. His dream –to create schools to teach computer skills to lowincome communities– was now a reality. In fact, Rodrigo’s idea had been so successful that he and his team were wondering how CDI could grow and broaden its scope without sacrificing quality or losing sight of its original objective. (

CDI The Comitê para Democratização da Informática (CDI), is a non-political, nonprofit, and non-governmental organisation founded in Brazil in 1995. CDI aims to promote the social inclusion of less-privileged populations, using Information and Communication Technologies as a means to help them become aware of their rights as citizens to participate fully in society. CDI operates in low-income communities and in partnership with institutions that serve specific target groups, such as individuals with February 2005 |

special needs, psychiatric patients, street children, prisoners and indigenous populations. By December 2003, eight years after the opening of the first school in a favela in Rio de Janeiro, CDI had 833 schools in 11 countries. More than 501,000 people had received training in these schools.

Rodrigo Baggio’s dream Rodrigo Baggio founded the Committee for Democracy in Information Technology (CDI) as a social movement, with the aim of opening more such schools, known as Information Technology Citizenship Rights Schools (ITCRS). But things happened more quickly than he could ever have imagined. The recently created CDI soon received requests from communities to create schools in other favelas. In only ten months there were ITCRS in ten favelas in Rio de Janeiro.

The social franchise model To reduce the digital divide between rich and poor in Brazil, action had to be taken: • An infrastructure was needed in low-income communities, especially with respect to telephone connections. • Internet access stations were needed that were free or available at very low cost. • Training was needed for people to be able

to make full use of Internet technology. This was where the ITCRS could do more work. In response to the great demand for new schools in other Brazilian states and beyond, CDI designed a “social franchise” model. The idea was to set up Regional CDI offices to work locally to create new schools. Each new CDI had to be founded by local organisations. CDI headquarters in Rio de Janeiro received applications for partnership from other NGOs, foundations, individuals, or organisations interested in implementing the CDI model in their region. Every new office had to have a group of volunteers capable of managing campaigns to collect computers and funds, and of contacting companies and other institutions, including local media. They also needed to have people capable of giving technical support to the schools, and in particular people capable of training the new teachers. If a proposal was viable, the establishment of a new CDI was approved and the local partner signed a “Protocol of Intentions” undertaking to respect CDI rules. Each newly created CDI was called a Regional CDI, and was responsible for establishing ITCRS within its region. Each Regional CDI was independently run,


self-managed and self-sustained. Together, all the CDIs made up what was known as the CDI network. New CDIs were advised to operate as social movements for 6 months to one year. During that time they would have to build local partnerships, raise funds and solicit donations of equipment to ensure they were financially self-sustainable, while the new internal structure matured. When this period was over, the new CDI was legally entitled to become a non-governmental organisation, which made it exempt from taxes and offered tax benefits for donors.

Information Technology and Citizens Rights Schools (ITCRS) One of the first challenges for a new regional CDI was to find local partners and set up its first ITCRS. As the project grew and gained local credibility, the process would change, as the initiative for creating new schools would start to come from community-based associations, which would approach the regional CDI with a view to forming a partnership. Any local organisation interested in setting up a school in partnership with the regional CDI had to present a project detailing the characteristics of the beneficiary community, the activities to be carried out, the team1 , etc. Communities themselves had to organise and plan the means to guarantee the self-sustainability and self-management of the ITCRS. The regional CDI


would study the viability of the project and visit the future ITRCS to verify that it complied with the requirements for new schools (space, furniture, electricity, ventilation, safety, etc.). If the project was approved, CDI would help to set up the school. Schools were installed in rooms made available free of charge by community organisations. CDI provided free computer equipment (donated by companies and individuals) and software, continuous training of educators and coordinators, pedagogical guidance, supervision and help in conducting fundraising campaigns and training personnel to be responsible for the maintenance of the schools. A school’s success would depend on the commitment of the local partner that assumed ownership of the project. To achieve financial self-sufficiency, some schools might be sponsored by a partner through donations; others charged a nominal tuition fee, which was determined by each ITCRS but could not be more than R$15.00 per month (approximately 5 US$). The fees helped to pay maintenance costs and instructors; they also had a pedagogical function in heightening students’ awareness of the value of what they were doing. A typical school might have 5 computers and a printer. Each class offered 10 places (two students per computer). The schools usually operated 6 hours a day, 5 days a week2 . Each group had 3 hours of classes per week, so each ITCRS could enroll 10

groups, which meant there could be up to 100 students enrolled on the courses. There were courses at different levels, depending on the students’ knowledge, ranging from an introduction to computers to instruction in the use of specific programs – word processors, spreadsheets, databases, Internet, software development, digital audio/video production and network planning and implementation. A course could last from one to three months. After a school had been established, the regional CDI would visit it at regular intervals to supervise the way it was run and the way the CDI formula was applied, and to offer guidance. Regular meetings with school coordinators were held to discuss any problems that might have arisen (management, fundraising, etc). These meetings and visits were an important opportunity for exchange of ideas and suggestions. New practices and ideas that had been adopted successfully in one school could then be evaluated and used throughout the rest of the CDI network.

Educators and Students Partner organisations were responsible for selecting suitable educators for their schools. Ideally, a candidate for the post of educator would have a background in information technology and would have finished, or would be about to finish, High School. Educators received training in the regional CDI. During training, educators came into contact with CDI work, were exposed to the philosophy behind it and became acquainted with the teaching methodology. Continuous training of teachers was very important. CDI organised monthly meetings of teachers to compare experiences and resolve problems. Many educators worked as volunteers. Others worked full-time and received a reasonable salary, depending on the number of classes they taught and the fees the school charged its students. Motivation of employees and volunteers was another important consideration. There were online chats, discussion groups and a digital newspaper. The constant interchange of ideas made members feel part of the CDI family. The type of students depended on the school. Some schools had a clearly defined target group, such as young people, people i4d | February 2005

In his words|Rodrigo Baggio

Rodrigo Baggio, the founder of CDI has won many accolades and worldwide recognition for his work that uses the potential of ICT for upliftment of poor community in Brazil. To mention a few, he has been a fellow member of the Ashoka Social Entrepreneurs in 1997; was appointed one of the 100 Global Leaders for Tomorrow by the World Economic Forum, Davos, Switzerland in 2001; winner of the Tech Museum award 2004 in the Equity category, which is the largest in Silicon Valley and acknowledges the best technology projects for the benefit of humanity. He speaks about the CDI initiative. Excerpts:

On the origin of CDI Actually when I was twelve years, I found my two big passions in life. All during my adolescence, I continued to work as a volunteer with social movements and also continued to work with technology. But also, in college I made a decision to make a link between technology and my social sides. After college I began to work in international companies like Accenture and IBM. And after IBM, I started my own company and I began to focus 100%, 200% in my company and I didn’t have time to work as a volunteer. And I was not happy with this situation. 1993 was a very important year in my life because in this year, I asked myself about my future, about what I would like to be in 10 years. But I didn’t know February 2005 |

how or in what kind of social work I would like to start. In 1993 during a night, I had a dream and in my dream I saw poor young people using computers and having discusssions about their reality and about solutions to their problems through computers. And the next day when I woke up, I was so excited about this dream that I decided to change this dream into reality. I know I’m not Martin Luther King, but I had my own dream and I believed in this dream. My first step was that I created a computer donation campaign in Latin America and through this campaign I realised that poor young people love the idea of using a computer, but they don’t know how to use one. When I started this computer donation campaign, I began to donate computers to low-income communities. After 6 months of doing this campaign, I realised that if we teach about technology, they leverage the use of technology better. So in July of 1994 I had the idea to start a school for information technology and citizens’ rights inside a community in Rio de Janeiro. So when I had this idea, I began to talk with many people about this idea. And 99% precent of these people (my friends, my family, businessmen) said, ‘Rodrigo, you are crazy because poor people have the minds of poor people and they will never understand how to use technology.’ And they also said that poor people need food, not technology.

On CDI’s bridging the digital divide In Brazil, we have about 14% of the population using computers and about 1011% of the population connecting to the Internet. So, we have in Brazil a real “digital apartheid”. So many people are excluded from the technology. And the CDI’s way to combat this reality is that we create digital schools in partnership with community-base organisations. For us it is important not only to teach technology but to use technology to change the reality of these low income communities. Our pedagogical proposal is very important to us. It is based on awareness learning, having in mind social transformation. Our students will talk about the reality of their communities while learning about technology. That means technology for us is a tool; it’s not the end. And they build a social project and this project will have an impact in their communities and by doing this project, they will learn about technology. So, through these citizens and information technology schools, we are including these poor young people in the new society.

On the future of CDI We have built our management informational systems, database, and Internet. And now we have information for all of our schools in all of our states and countries. And we apply many processes to guarantee quality in our network. So, continuous work with quality is very important to us. Today we have 946 information technology and citizen rights schools working in 20 Brazilian states and in 10 countries. And our focus is more with low-income communities, but we have many special projects in special schools for indigenous people, for blind and poor, mentally disabled, physically disabled, and street kids, senior citizens. So we work with many different groups, but our focus is still young, poor people in low-income communities. Nearly 700,000 people have taken part in the training programs. To start new partnerships and work with new companies is very strategic for us. We believe a lot in partnership. So, to work with more companies gives the possibility to learn more with these companies and aggregate value in our work.


educator Paulo Freire. The students learned their rights as members of society, and this could pave the way out of their social exclusion. In December 2003 CDI had regional offices in 37 cities in 19 Brazilian states, and 11 CDI committees in ten countries. In total, 833 schools had been created. with disabilities, prisoners, etc. Others worked for the community at large. An evaluation of the social impact, carried out by a external organisation, revealed that 87% of the students considered that the ITCRS had had a positive impact on their lives, in terms of motivating them to go back to school to continue their formal education, making new friends, or staying away from drugs. Ninety percent said that the courses had lived up to their expectations, 90% intended to do further courses, and 79% expected to find a job after completing the courses. There was evidence, too, that students’ school grades improved after attending ITCRS courses. The schools’ main objective was to give students a solid foundation for their future. The education they provided was not focused exclusively on acquiring computer skills; students were also trained to become entrepreneurs and become capable of thinking, discussing and taking action in their own social context. Technology was a tool for creating community awareness. “The computer is more than a machine, it’s a tool that can turn poor and underprivileged people into true citizens”.

Teaching methodology CDI had developed a methodology for teaching information technology. They taught in a creative manner, so as to foster the students’ development as individuals as well as the development of their community. Students learned how to use computers and software while discussing issues of particular interest to their community, such as human rights, the environment, sexual education, health and non-violence. This methodology was applied in accordance with the ideas of the Brazilian


Challenges for the future After years of intense expansion, CDI headquarters was wondering how to maintain the quality of the CDI model. Rapid expansion had created a large number of offices, but the CDI structure was not developed enough to manage this growth. CDI headquarters did not have the monitoring tools to control the whole network, and it was difficult to evaluate the activities of some offices. For that reason, since 2001 tougher conditions had been introduced for the creation of new centres. The priority was to improve the quality of existing CDIs and concentrate on growing in Brazil. CDI focused on specific issues, such as appointing more teaching coordinators at each regional CDI; increasing the amount of training and the number of inspection visits to regional CDIs and ITCRS; correctly implementing the teaching methodology; and improving management information. As regards the students, CDI was looking to provide a future for them after their schooling by seeking partnerships with companies to fund their continuing education; and, faced with the lack of employment opportunities in Brazilian society, by creating the Silicon Hill project. Silicon Hill was a successful pilot project that was tested in Rio de Janeiro, as an upgrade of CDI’s social franchise model. The main objective of the project was to give disadvantaged youth the opportunity to develop their entrepreneurial skills. The students were motivated to develop projects that had the potential to generate income and that would give them better employment prospects. Business management training was included in the program to support income-generating projects such as micro-enterprises. In December 2003 Rodrigo Baggio and

his team had new ideas and plans for the future: to connect as many ITCRS as possible to the Internet to create a worldwide network – a digital community that would act as a bridge between different social classes and different countries. New ways of generating income were being studied; some of the ideas were proposed and successfully applied by students. For example in the ITCRS of Morro dos Macacos the students created a cyber-café to provide Internet access at low cost for the community. They also set up a co-operative with a focus on Information Technology and with the objective of encouraging income generation and offering work opportunities to members of the community. This co-operative was soon proving its worth, securing a contract with a government agency, and some of the members became employees for large companies in the Technology Market. CDI faces new challenges in its expansion for future. How would Rodrigo and his team be able to manage growth without losing the original vision of CDI?

The beneficiaries Altamiro: An ex-inmate of the Lemos Brito Penitentiary in Rio, Altamiro had learned about information technology and computer maintenance at the ITCRS in the prison. He had been granted probation by the state and now worked as an educator for another ITCRS in the Maracanã football stadium. Ednilson Beserra: Ednilson was trained by CDI as an IT instructor at the ITCRS in Morro de São Carlos, in Estácio, a neighbourhood of Rio. He then set up his own micro-business which offered various IT services, and worked as an educator for CDI RJ. Marcos Mendes: A young social entrepreneur of rare intelligence, Marcos became an ITCRS co-ordinator at DefNet – Centre for Information Technology and Information on Cerebral Paralysis. Marcos was handicapped and had fought for the rights of the handicapped for many years, his main concern being the issue of political policy concerning their social inclusion. As well as co-ordinating the ITCRS, Marcos set up an NGO called “Brasil Cidadão” (Citizen Brazil).  i4d | February 2005


Think globally, act locally

More than a billion people in the developing world live on less than a dollar a day. Without enough money to buy food, millions go hungry every day and more than half of all child-deaths occur due to under-nourishment. Pervasive poverty and inequality are the major threats to prosperity, stability and peace at the dawn of the 21st Century. The role of ICT in combating poverty and fostering sustainable development has been the subject of much debate and experimentation. The contrast between the complexity and expense of the technologies and the basic needs of the poor has led to some doubts whether ICT should be a priority area for developing countries to eradicate poverty. But our experience in the last decade has shown that ICT can become a powerful economic, social and political tool for the poor and for all those who work to eradicate poverty. On making the opportunities that ICTs open up for individual and social improvement accessible to all citizens; and on applying ICTs to empower common folk and engage their participation in national and local development initiatives, ICT can be of immense help for poverty alleviation. Here, we are going to discuss a few success stories. They have been successful in creating an impact in the lives of poor people by giving employment opportunities, bringing connectivity and empowerment. These can be taken as pointers and inspiration for others to follow.

ICT creates employment opportunities ICT, as a sector, can create employment opportunities directly for the poor. Because of the low educational levels and skills of the poor, we can expect that there are more employment opportunities in the service sector. Grameen Bank in Bangladesh is a good example of this. It started a mobile telephone program called Grameen Phone and has become the largest mobile operator in Bangladesh, having 70 per cent of the market share and now more than 5000 Telephone Ladies in Bangladesh villages are doing roaring business selling telephone service.

Uplifting poor: Kamuli Project Uganda

Uganda is one of the world’s Least Developed countries. Uganda remains basically unindustrialised, ravaged by civil war. Structural adjustment programmes and AIDS have further increased their February 2005 |

poverty. Kamuli project aims to help the poorest uplift themselves, in consultation with them, by providing appropriate: information to facilitate development, communication to receive and distribute information and training people in its practical applications. It imparts computer training to the youth and individuals from community-based organisations (CBOs), thus building capacity for employment opportunities. Under Kamuli project, Development Support Centre has been developed in the Kamuli district of Uganda. The beneficiaries of this project are rural communities, primarily targeting women, youth and farmers. The project is carried out by Uganda Development Services (UDS). UDS is a non-governmental organisation whose mission is to contribute to the socio-economic development of communities in Uganda, through information sharing and technical empowerment. At the Kamuli centre, the project provides a growing range of services, which includes training in computer skills using in-house


computer facilities for micro-business women, agricultural information dissemination and training to farmers, business services like photocopying, typing and printing, library facilities for youth and public phone. The Kamuli project has identified 3 target groups: private individuals wanting IT training, local NGOs / CBOs and small-scale local businesses and government offices.

Siberian Development Net (SibDev) Russia

The small, remote urban centres within Siberia currently face economic problems due to high levels of unemployment. Therefore, people have set up their own independent small and medium enterprises (SMEs). The overall goal of SibDev project is to increase the capabilities of these SMEs in poor areas of Siberia to attract investments for the growth and sustainability of their businesses through Internet and development of a website dedicated to the marketing of Siberian SMEs. The project was started in June 2002, co-ordinated by a private company, Cryptos Ltd with initial funding from InfoDev. The project has run a number of training workshops, produced a toolkit to promote business marketing through the Internet called, “Attracting investments and promoting products by using the Internet” and developed a project website. The website ( includes basic regional investment information, and marketing sites in English and Russian where SMEs can post investment proposals and investors can make known their interests. The main beneficiary groups are the small and medium scale entrepreneurs of Siberia. The Siberian Development Net project has contributed to policy decisions that are important for SMEs and ICT development in Siberian regions. One example was the decision by regional government to adopt a regional ICT development strategy, with a particular emphasis on SMEs, and to conduct an e-readiness assessment.

Rural entrepreneurship through CICs India

In a country of 1 billion and more in India, the poor people of the rural areas are the last to get priority information on various


subjects, which would enable better access to basic needs, educational and financial resources. Moreover, migration of young people from rural to urban areas in search of opportunities deprives the rural communities of the energies and brain resources of such young people. In Kuppam, a rural town in Andhra Pradesh, World Corps India provides training to rural unemployed youth who then, own, operate and manage Community Information Centres (CICs). The CICs provide sustainable and affordable ways of getting information to poor communities. This is a part of the HP’s iCommunity initiative in Kuppam. The CIC project focuses on training promising young leaders from rural areas different areas like computers and Internet, developmental english, community outreach and development skills, entrepreneurship development, business management, marketing and communication skills, personality enhancement and value education. It launches the youth entrepreneurs into communitybased businesses called as Community Information Centres (CICs) providing information, communications and other allied services on a ‘fee for service’ basis. It provides partnership of the youth entrepreneurs with existing government agencies, private businesses and community-based organisations for effective dissemination of ICTs in underserved communities. It also plans to replicate the CIC model throughout India to reach a larger number of unemployed rural men and women. In 2002, 15 individuals were selected from 127 applicants and trained to establish five Community Information Centers (CICs). The complete case study can be read in the September issue of i4d:

ICT increases access and connectivity The poor people lack access to knowledge, which is a source of income earning opportunities and to political visibility and influence, which increases their social and economic vulnerability and force them into social exclusion, powerlessness and poverty traps. ICT, such as radio, telephone, and email, can be of great value in bringing people together, bridging geographic distances and providing relevant information to the poor. ICT can improve the access of the poor to health, microcredit and government services and support the rural poor in the production, storage and marketing of farm and non-farm products. Through infokiosks or even with the help of mobile phones, farmers can access information on market prices or on extension services and workers can get information on available jobs and minimum wages. Developing countries could benefit from e-Commerce through easier access to markets in developed countries and higher income resulting from these new trading opportunities. i4d | February 2005

PEOPLink United States

PEOPLink is a US-based non-profit organisation involved in training and equipping grass roots artisan organisations all over the world to market their handmade craft items using the Internet. From 1996-2000, PEOPLink trained 55 trading partners in 22 countries representing up to 100,000 handicraft artisans and equipped them to capture and publish digital images and to maintain simple web pages to promote their craft products to enhance B2B (business-to-business) marketing. The most popular CatGen artisan web sites are regularly attracting between 2,000 and 3,000 visitors a month, generating sales of tens of thousands of dollars. PEOPLink’s main target group is grass roots artisan organisations who need help to access overseas markets, such as Europe and the USA, for their products. The sales revenue directly supports the livelihoods of poor artisans, especially women, and their families. Ten trading partners in Nepal have set up a small artisan portal ( nepalcraft) that has achieved on-line sales of $6528 in the first six months of operation. The Chennai-based trading partner IFFAD (International Foundation for Fairtrade and Development), which markets craft products from 49 producers in Southern India, reports that their CatGen-based web site enabled them to find a new professional buyer in Australia, directly generating sales worth $2,200 in May 2003.

Gramin Information Centre, Gomukh Trust, Pune, Maharashtra, India Founded in 1995, the Gomukh trust works in 4 main sectors (Water resources, Environment, Agriculture and Livelihood). Their main I C T- re l a t e d project is the establishment of Information Centres in different villages. The first Information Centre was established in the village called Chale in Pune district in the state of Maharashtra by Gomukh and Mahratta Chamber of Commerce, Industries and Agriculture (MCCIA), another NGO. Farmers can walk into these Information Centres for help on various problems including prevention of disease, control, treatment of crop diseases, cropping patterns and even information on weather, rainfall etc. In addition, the project will also link farmers with potential markets across the country and overseas so that he gets a better price for their produces and escapes the clutches of middlemen. The local agriculture graduates from villages, who are generally well aware of the agro-climatic conditions, soil conditions February 2005 |

of that region are involved to manage these Information Centres. A ‘rice programme’ using the facilities of Information Centre and the registration onto, have increased rice yield from 1.5 tons to 7 tons per hectare in the area.

Tata Kisan Sansar: One-stop shops for complete farm solutions India

The Tata Kisan Sansar (TKS) set up by a private company Tata Chemicals provide farm extension services helping farmers in North India change their lives. The TKS, 421 of them, currently operational in the North Indian states of Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Punjab, provide end-to-end agricultural solutions to farmers, while using sophisticated technology such as satellite mapping and geographical information systems. The network of farmer centres is divided into Tata Krishi Vikas Kendras (TKVK) and franchisee TKS. The TKVK serves as a resource centre for both the TKS (franchisee) and the farmer. Each TKVK spans a radius of around 60 km and 20 TKS. Each TKS spans a radius of around 8 km and 60 villages. Currently, 18 TKVKs and about 421 TKS are in operation. This will be expanded to 40 TKVKs and 500 TKS, by 2005, to cater to the needs of the 14,000 villages in the command area. Each TKVK contains the entire infrastructure necessary to work as a comprehensive resource centre to fulfil the needs of the TKS network. Every Sansar is equipped with an administrative office, a training hall, a crop clinic, a soil-testing laboratory, a research and development farm, a storage godown, an exhibition hall and a TKS retail outlet, all under one roof. Staff at each Sansar provides farmers with solutions to every agriculture-related problem. TKS act as one-stop resource centres, offering cultivators a wide range of agri-services and solutions — from the stage of sowing of seeds to post-harvest management and marketing of agricultural produce. The Sansars also provide various sales and support services, including agro inputs, guidance on cultivation, crop-management techniques and other post-harvest management methods. They offer need-based farm machinery, besides location and situationspecific technology solutions to farmers at their doorsteps. The Sansars also take care of one of the biggest worries for small farmers in India — finance. Farmers can get credit, insure their crops against natural disasters and even avail of buyback facilities.


Precision farming, an innovative project pioneered by the TKS, is helping small farmers harness sophisticated modern technology, such as satellite mapping and geographical information systems (GIS), to maximise their agricultural yields. By making optimum use of information on soil conditions and key climatic factors, precision farming helps in the estimation of likely crop yield, the extent of pest-induced damage, and in identifying crippling crop diseases. The unique solutions offered by the TKS go beyond providing services and products to India’s agricultural community. They have enriched the lives of farmers through their integrated educational and training institutions. The Kendras enable the farmer to be an equal partner in the development process.

ICT facilitates empowerment Poor people are often unaware of their rights, entitlements and availability of various Government schemes and extension services. The poor also lack means to effectively voice their needs and pressure policymakers to be responsive to their interests and demands. ICT can improve information flows and communication services to make government and organisations serving the poor more efficient, transparent and accountable. ICT could be especially relevant for marginalised communities and groups, such as women, youth and ethnic minorities, by enabling them to share and exchange information of mutual interest, strengthen their collective power and find their own development solutions.

Using video for empowerment: Global Voices Nairobi, Kenya

Global Voices (GV), based in Kenya, use video as a tool to record communities discussing their own poverty and ways to get out of it so that poverty alleviation programme could be made more effective by involving the real people. Global Voices have proved to be a very articulate communicator and an effective community mobiliser. It hopes to create policy changes on land tenure, access to services and education etc. by mobilising the community to advocate and find solutions to these issues. In using video to record the images and voices of the people, GV ensure that these are then shared with the communities filmed. The people filmed are thus able to see themselves and their neighbours talk about the things that affect them as a group. This ability to see themselves appears to have energised them to act and take responsibility for the things happening in their


community. After seeing a GV video about how street children really live, community women came up with the idea to form the Wazazi Wanaojali (WW) group to help the street children and other children at risk.

MarketPlace India

Women in India have always been key agents of change. But poverty prevents women from maintaining good health, adequately nurturing their children, and engaging in civic life. MarketPlace: Handwork of India is an innovative and unique not-for-profit organisation that uses its proceeds exclusively to increase economic opportunities for low-income women in India and to further empower these women to bring about changes in their lives, their families and their communities. MarketPlace produces high-quality women’s apparel through 14 co-operatives in India and markets these products in North America through website and other direct and indirect marketing activities. The story of MarketPlace begins with SHARE (Support the Handicapped’s Rehabilitation Effort), whose mission was the economic empowerment of disadvantaged women. In 1980, SHARE began working with three women in the slum of Golibar, Mumbai (Bombay). SHARE trained the women in hand patchwork and the production of quilts for Indian and export markets. By 1982, there had been a strong response to home-based sales of these products in Chicago. The idea of MarketPlace – a U.S.based organisation that would lead the sales and marketing efforts related to products produced by the Indian co-operatives – was born. SHARE continued to service and grow the network of cooperatives in India. Participation in MarketPlace allows women to own businesses and to develop the leadership skills and self-confidence to challenge traditional restrictions concerning women and girls. It touches the lives of women artisans, their children and communities. MarketPlace connects low-income women to global markets. Existing cooperatives mentor new ones in production and management, maintaining the core philosophies. Increasing capacity in design and marketing will ensure viable and sustainable growth.  Compiled by: Anuradha Dhar and Sejuti Sarkar De, CSDMS i4d | February 2005

ICTD Project Newsletter

Making farmer an equal partner Agriculture is not only the predominant occupation of many in the world, but it also drives the economy of several developing nations. Today however, the whole sector is under tremendous pressure due to the rapid growth in population, increasing affluence and a dwindling natural resource base. People the world over are recognising the fact, if the sector is to progress and become sustainable, it must quickly transform its functioning, by adapting to new information technologies that assist farmers and help them improve economic performance and production. It is not uncommon to hear in India about how ICTs have transformed agriculture. Research agencies and agriculture extension departments have always valued the importance of information databases, and methodically archived research and development findings. But making use of the technology and providing local information, that is relevant and applicable to resident communities is a fairly new and exciting phenomenon in the area of ICTs for development. Such information assists farmers to make well-informed decisions about cropping and management of scarce resources. Currently, there are many ICT driven projects that

are changing forever the way agriculture and allied activities are practised in the country.

Road to rural empowerment ICTs can empower rural communities and give them ‘a voice’ that permits them to contribute to the development process. ICT tools like community radio and handheld computers are being promoted heavily in developing countries to deliver real-time information on agriculture issues. With the advent of such new ICTs, rural communities can acquire the means to improve their living conditions, learn about best practices worldwide, have a constant

dialogue with others, and reach a stage where they make decisions for their own development. The past few years have brought with them a sea of change. Earlier farmers neither had the means nor the awareness to know about the advancements in agricultural technology and other related information like hybrid seeds, weather conditions, price movements, pesticides, fertilisers etc, except through extension services offered by universities and research institutions. They would be absorbed in their daily work without any thought about measuring their current yield and increasingly productivity. But today, ICT has made it possible that information is delivered to these farmers at their doorsteps and that too in a language they understand. Such is the power of ICTs. If used freely and fairly, ICTs have the potential to change the social equations forever and can empower farmers and enhance the whole agriculture sector.

Models of excellence In the past few years, ICT intervention in agriculture has gained momentum world-over and development agencies are promoting use of ICTs in the agricultural sector aggressively. There are numerous examples of initiatives, both in India and in other developing countries in the world, such as the ‘Pedagogia Audiovisual’ project and ‘Comunicación para el Desarrollo en América Latina’ supported by organisations such FAO, ITU, IDRC, IFAD, UNESCO, DFID and British Council. The ‘Pedagogia Audiovisual’ project, located in Chile in Latin America, was set up to promote rural development and effective peasant participation through an improved communication


system. The project has brought together peasants, government representatives, researchers, technicians, banking services, construction companies and marketing and processing institutions. More information about the project can be found at 0055b.htm. ‘Comunicación para el Desarrollo en América Latina’, an Internet-based project (1994-97) helped knowledge sharing between small subsistence farmers and helped develop national communication systems in four countries in Latin America. The project resulted in the training of a huge number of national staff, in the production and use of various communication channels preferred by the farmers and semi-literate rural populations. The project proved very successful and soon spread throughout the Latin American region and beyond to China, Mali, Indonesia and the Republic of Korea. The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) supported another notable project in Latin America and Caribbean, ‘FIDAMERICA’. Now in its second phase, FIDAMERICA has 41 projects and programmes in the region and involves about 3,600 community organisations and 500,000 families ( ) The Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Co-operation (CTA), located in Wageningen, The Netherlands, also works towards improving the dissemination of information for the benefit of farmers through the use of new and improved technologies. CTA has a programme called Rural Radio Support Programme that supports rural radio and development of audiovisual aids in ACP (Africa, Caribbean, and Pacific) countries. Launched in 1990, the programme distributes information packages consisting of taped interviews along with transcripts and taped radio talks. Technical information and photocopies of relevant articles on each subject are also provided to the farmers. (


e-Choupal targets to reach one-sixth of rural India in a decade Launched in June 2000, ‘e-Choupal’, is the largest initiative among all Internetbased interventions in rural India. It is an excellent example of public-private partnership where 37 companies, NGOs and state governments, have come together creating a new ecosystem for villages and establishing a direct link between what consumers eat and what farmers grow. The e-Choupal redefines choupal, the Hindi word for village-square where elders meet to discuss matters of importance. e-Choupal offers farmers and the village community a range of services like daily weather forecast, price of various crops, e-mails to farmers and ITC officials, news, knowledge about soil testing, farming methods, platform for purchase and sale of products like seeds, tractors, etc. e-Choupal services today reach out to more than 3.1 million farmers growing a range of crops - soybean, coffee, wheat, rice, pulses, and shrimp - in over 29,500 villages through 5,050 kiosks across six Indian states (Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh). ITC aims to increase this number and reach 100,000 villages, and 10 million farmers in a decade. This represents one-sixth coverage of rural India. They also plan to market a wider variety of goods and services (education, health, entertainment, e-Governance)

Gyandoot: Community owned rural Internet kiosks Gyandoot, launched in the year 2000 in Dhar district, Madhya Pradesh state in India, is recognised as a breakthrough in e-Government executed with minimal investment. The project demonstrated a paradigm shift by giving marginalised tribal citizens, their first ever chance to access knowledge. Dhar district has a population of 1.7 million people wherein 60 percent live below the poverty line.

Initially low cost rural Intranet covering 20 village kiosks in five Blocks of the district was installed, which was later the project was extended to another 11 kiosks. Aptly named in Soochanalaya (information centre in Hindi language), the kiosks enable the citizens have access to several government related information and services through the Intranet and Internet services. The content is available in both Hindi and English. Farmers and citizens can access the services by logging on to i4d magazine had published a special issue on ICTs and Agriculture/Water covering several interesting case studies, which can be downloaded from the Internet by logging on to: http://www.

NISG supports pilot project of ICT in agriculture In tune with the ongoing worldwide initiatives to use ICTs for development, the National Institute for Smart Government (NISG) in India, in collaboration with United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), has initiated the ICTD Project in India. The broad objective of this project shall be to make ICTs work for people and one of the areas which would be promoted under this project would be pilot initiatives that use ICTs to enhance Rural Livelihoods. In the future, market determined production is likely to be the basis of all agricultural operations. In such a scenario, real-time and up-to-date information regarding market prices, insurance, logistics, warehousing, commodity trading, pesticide and other allied activities and resources, becomes i4d | February 2005

indispensable to the farmers. Taking into account the need to provide the farmer with a fair chance in this competitive environment to continue farming, profitably, a pilot project is being implemented by the Kerala State IT Mission (one of the state missions in India) to create agri-business centres for providing web-based information system for multiple stakeholders.

Roy Mathew Director, Kerala State IT Mission, Government of Kerala

Facilitating agri-based information flow ‘A Market led Agricultural Initiative through IT enabled Agri Business Centres in Kerala State’ is being funded by the ICTD project and will pilot in the Malappuram district in Kerala. The project addresses the existing gap in agriculture information flow and transaction management and is expected to facilitate farmers to interact with Agricultural Service Providers utilising the already existing Akshaya centres as delivery points. The design and architecture of the project can be easily scaled to cover the entire state. The Kerala State IT Mission has previously implemented various projects like Akshaya, Friends etc (see box). Registered under Travancore Cochin Literary and Charitable Societies Registration Act, the Kerala State Information Technology Mission is an autonomous nodal IT implementation agency for the Department of Information Technology, Government of Kerala, providing managerial support to the departments under various initiatives. This project seeks to facilitate and enable small and medium farmers, owners of large landholdings and other stakeholders, to interact with agricultural service providers in the private, government and non-government sectors, through a web-based solution in the Agri Business Centres. The project will initially target 50000 people and use the existing infrastructure resources of Akshaya e-Kendrams, established throughout the Malappuram district (about 650), to reach out to the farming February 2005 |

“Akshaya project has facilitated creation of ICT access in every village in the district and 100% awareness of how ICT can influence people’s lives. The project ‘Market-led Agricultural Initiative through IT-enabled Agri Business Centres in Kerala’ is positioned to provide contents and service delivery platform to stakeholders in farming sector. We are building a robust, replicable, scalable and sustainable ICT application model in agricultural sector to provide transaction services to farmers and input/output providers.” community and other stakeholders in agricultural sector. The estimated cost of this pilot project is Rs.14.6 million (approximately US$ 0.34 million) and will be implemented over the next one and half years. The project though is likely to become sustainable by the end of the pilot phase.

Project specific information The Agri-Business Centres Project has been launched with a vision to establish a community of connected farmers throughout Kerala, who will have access to information on market demand, prices, best practices, quality

agricultural inputs, etc., along with a technology enabled robust transaction platform that facilitates all their offline activities. Such a platform is of vital significance and the key result of this initiative, shall be the facilitation and integration of economic activities of all member stakeholders involved in agriculture. One Agri Business Centre (ABC) with Information Assistant as the Akshaya e-Kendra Entrepreneur shall be promoted in all the 100 Panchayats and five Municipalities creating 105 agri-entrepreneurs in Malappuram district. These ABCs are responsible for identifying crops to be promoted, making firm arrangements with sales-warehouse/ transaction points and buyers, dealers in agricultural inputs, etc. These ABC’s shall register 500 farmers each in their respective Panchayats noting their vital information such as: acreage by product, number of plants, age, seeds used, harvesting skills, expected quantity by month, etc. Registered farmers will get an opportunity to test their soil samples for advice on fertilisers to be used, directives in crop maintenance, price information, new plantation, etc. Apart from the above, ABCs shall also register other stakeholders like agri-buyers/ exporters, agri-product manufacturers, agri-input providers: seeds, plantlets, fertilisers, pesticides, experts, test laboratories, agricultural equipments suppliers, quality graders, warehousing, logistics providers, banks, insurers, documentation specialists, accountants, legal support, payment gateway services, government offices/ resources, agricultural institutions, non-governmental organisations. Standard project proposals will be evolved after including views of experts in various domains to enable the participants to benefit effectively. To facilitate the processes, an expert panel will be constituted with the assistance of domain-functionaries. Transaction platform required by the stakeholders shall be studied and all the necessary


Akshaya and FRIENDS ‘Akshaya Project’ launched on November 18, 2002 is expected to generate a network of 6000 information centres in the state, generate about 50,000 employment opportunities and throw up investment opportunities to the tune of Rs.5000 millions, all within a time span of 3 years. The project involves the setting up of multi-purpose IT enabled ‘Akshaya Kendras’ for every two wards, each catering to approximately 1000 families. Akshaya Kendra is the basic unit through which the project aims to reach its objectives. Each Akshaya Kendra aims to become the primary contact point for residents in its vicinity. The Akshaya Kendra provides a number of facilities that could be used by the common man to simplify his day-to-day activities. The Akshaya Kendras are equipped with computers, printers, fax machines, photocopiers etc. Akshaya addresses three key issues in IT dissemination to masses: Bringing the benefits of technology to the households (Access), providing ample information base in local language relevant to citizens’ lives (Contents) and sufficient understanding of the world of Information Technology and how it can touch their lives (Skillsets) in terms of using simple programs, Internet browsing for information, emails etc. In the pilot project implemented in Malappuram district, over 600 Akshaya centres have been set up. State wide roll out of the project is taking place in phased manner and presently the first phase is in progress. (http:// The ‘FRIENDS’ project is a part of the Kerala State IT Mission. The FRIENDS counters are equipped to handle about 1,000 types of utility payment bills (electricity, water, revenue taxes etc.) originating out of various public sector departments/agencies. (


The agriecosystem

information sheets, content forms, application forms and transaction forms shall be made available online, and training provided to all potential beneficiaries. Care shall be taken to ensure that the range of services offered, shall suitably empower all the members in the agricultural supply chain. The objectives of the pilot initiative shall include aggregation of responsive farmer community (of about 100,000 with a cumulative farm land of 100,000 hectares, cultivating priority crops as determined by the market demand), establishment of a robust IT enabled platform where the members can seek information, transact and make or receive electronic payments, inclusion of legal, accounting, documentation support, and enrollment of farmers and other agricultural stakeholders. A highly proactive scientific mechanism has been evolved to carry out the programmes under this project. The work has been decentralised and various cells have been set up to look after the individual components of the programme and, to aid the smooth functioning of the program implementation and management. To state as an example, the network of Agri Business Centres shall be driven by a state level resource cell and a district level implementation cell. Web based platforms will be used in creating a virtual services gateway for all the participating members.

This platform shall cater to all needs related to information, communication, transaction, payment, and thus result in potential integration with related services. The implementation of the project will provide benefits to member farmers in terms of access to information on markets, prices, schemes, credits, quality issues, support services, benefits to member agricultural input providers in terms of logistics planning, contract farming, management of schemes, enabling e-transactions, benefits to member agricultural activists, NGOs, Government organisation in terms of policy support, integrated approach, structured dissemination of agri-based interventions and will eventually result in an increase in yields that will convert non-performing agricultural assets to performing assets. In the present scenario where competition for survival has become fierce and natural resources are dwindling, modernisation of agriculture along with empowerment of farmers has become inevitable. The project has set up very realistic targets and it is hoped, given the past experience of the Kerala IT Mission, that it will be able be able to achieve the set out targets.  NISG and i4d reserve the right to reprint articles produced for the ICTD section of the i4d magazine and website, with due credits to NISG and i4d. Please write to the editor for any request of reprints.


Practical approaches to reduce poverty Introduction

Existing policies, institutions and processes

Information and communication are recognised as essential components of the development process to empower poor communities and inform development agencies and policy makers. Yet information and communication systems are rarely well integrated into development strategies and programmes. This report describes a livelihood approach to information and communication in development, which seeks to integrate the best elements of traditional communication methods and the new ICT revolution technologies. It is based on the results of a six-month study by Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), Department for International Development, UK, (DFID), and Overseas Development Institute (ODI), which included a literature review and visits to Ghana, Uganda and India.

There are a number of international initiatives to help build developing country communications and information policy. FAO, UNDP and others are all involved in providing advice and practical support to governments and other national organisations. At a national level, government departments, private sector organisations, non-governmental organisation, research institutes, and the media are all involved.

The livelihood approach The livelihood approach incorporates an analytical framework providing a broad and systematic understanding of the various factors that constrain or enhance livelihood opportunities. The approach builds on some well-developed field-level tools and methods, such as participation and empowerment.

The role of information in the livelihoods approach Communication and information are critical components of the livelihoods framework, essential for linking and informing decision-making processes at every level: 1) to facilitate the acquisition and exchange of information by the poor necessary for developing livelihood strategies; 2) to improve communication within and between the institutions responsible for making decisions that affect livelihood options; and 3) to empower poor communities to participate in the decision-making processes.

Information needs for rural communities Rural communities need up-to-date information on sources, availability and cost of inputs for production, also on the potential of different techniques and technologies used for production, processing and marketing. They need information on the role and responsibilities of different institutions in the provision of key services including health and education, and where to go and who to ask for more specific information. It is important that this information is available in an appropriate format and language, and that rural communities have the capacity to analyse and act on it. February 2005 |

Practical Issues Although there are many examples of apparently successful approaches in many developing countries, and much qualitative evidence of the benefits to rural communities, there is little empirical data of the impact on livelihoods. The study identified seven key recommendations, to promote a livelihoods approach to communication and information systems. Determine who should pay Privatisation is the predominant paradigm in development economics today, but experience has shown that the private sector is unlikely to invest in communication and information systems in remote poor areas, or in systems for which the poor can afford to pay. It is important therefore to work with international agencies, intergovernmental organisations and national government to develop a new consensus on who should pay for information for poor communities. Ensure equitable access New systems must deliver the right kind of information in the right format, for poor people. The wrong information, in the wrong

Communication for poverty eradication, Uganda The need for improved information highlighted in the Poverty Eradication Action Plan, and addressed through its communication strategy, has spawned a rash of communication strategies in sectoral programmes (e.g. the Plan for Modernisation of Agriculture), and their component parts (e.g. the National Agricultural Research Organisation (NARO) and National Agricultural Advisory Service (NAADS) communication strategies). Most fail to focus on disadvantaged groups. Most stakeholders stressed the need for greater coherence and coordination within and between these strategies.


format, or, if information is only available to wealthier groups, may accentuate existing inequalities. It is important therefore to identify and empower the marginalised groups and ensure they can access the information. But this takes time, and most communication and information programmes have a very short time-frame. There are opportunities to use government’s and multilateral organisation’s own information systems to demonstrate how new technologies and approaches can be used to make public information more accessible as is happening in the Gyandoot Network in India. Promote local content Poor people need locally-relevant information, in the right language, to meet their immediate needs, and it may be more useful to promote more information sharing between local institutions than bring in new information from outside. It is important therefore to promote information as a catalyst for community initiatives and encourage the adaptation of new technologies within decentralised and locally owned processes. Strengthen existing policies and systems Communication policies in many countries are fragmented and unclear and further work is needed to make them effective. The emphasis should be on supporting existing information systems at community level, identifying existing information system infrastructures that can be improved or enhanced with appropriate new technology, and encouraging multi-disciplinary, cross-sectoral, inter-organisational communication and information systems that can inform rural development strategies. Build Capacity Strengthening human capacity is at least as important as new technology. Capacity building is needed at all levels, from international and bilateral agencies down to community level – to equip people with the new skills necessary to develop and manage new systems. Support is also needed for national government through the provision of training packages and information management resources to help them to promote livelihoods approaches and develop appropriate training materials for field level organisations.

United Nations University, People, land and environmental change This project is being run simultaneously in a number of regions around the world. Ghana forms part of the West African cluster and there are six demonstration sites in the country. In the Northern region the demonstration site centres on the village of Zugu with a total of 33 villages included within a 10 mile radius. The emphasis is on local knowledge sharing and different activities such as botany, herbal uses for trees and plants, weaving for women’s groups are developed according to local needs, demands and experiences. Specialised training courses are developed and where necessary teachers and facilitators are brought to the village to provide extra support. The project focuses on capacitybuilding rather than traditional extension approaches and university staff and students assist the communities to develop their own problem-solving techniques and solutions.


FAO’s livelihoods approach to communication in Uganda FAO is building a programme to help the government of Uganda to develop communication and information systems in Uganda to support the Poverty Eradication Action Plan (PEAP). The programme will support a range of activities to ensure that two-way communication is established at all levels from the village to the Ministry of Finance. Work will also be undertaken to harmonise the communication strategies of the Plan for modernisation of Agriculture and the National Agricultural Advisory Service. Finally, work with the Ministry of Finance and Central Bureau of Statistics will help to improve data availability for monitoring the impact of the plan. Organisations, community groups and farmers also need training in information collection, storage and dissemination including the use of innovative formats based on the local culture. Use realistic technologies There are many examples of over-ambitious communications and information systems that have never worked effectively in developed as well as developing countries. The most effective systems use realistic technologies that enhance and add value to existing systems. It is important therefore to develop models for realistic approaches to information technology that can be expanded as the infrastructure and resources become available and to provide a forum for discussing and evaluating experiences that contributes to lesson-learning within governments and development agencies. Build knowledge partnerships New internet technologies provide enormous opportunities to build new knowledge partnerships that cross national, ethnic, social and institutional boundaries. But for this to happen it is important to encourage more pluralistic and decentralised networking that involves greater participation and two-way information transfer. This is starting to happen in some communities, but it is often difficult to promote connections with appropriate intermediaries, for the information to flow up to policy level. This is an area where external agencies can pay a useful catalytic role.

Conclusion It is clear that there is considerable scope to develop improved communication and information systems, which incorporates both the advantages of face-to-face transfer of local knowledge, and of more flexible information storage, management and delivery of information through the internet and mass media, and can bridge the two. However, although there are many examples of apparently successful approaches in many developing countries, and much qualitative evidence of the benefits to rural communities, there is little empirical data of the impact on livelihoods. Communication and information pay a vital role in livelihoods approaches, and the principles of the livelihood approach provide useful guidance to the development of communication and information systems.  Source: http:??

i4d | February 2005

18-22 J ANUARY 2005, K OBE , J APAN

ICTs: Essence of early warning systems Role of information and communication technologies in disaster mitigation was one of the themes that dominated the recently held ‘World Conference on Disaster Reduction’ at Kobe, Japan. Specialists from government and private bodies attended the five-day conference that started on 18th January 2005. The findings of the deliberations can be classified as under:

Importance of ICTs Recent experience shows that when disasters strike, telecommunication can save lives. ICT applications to disaster reduction can play key roles in early warning of environmental hazards, promoting economic continuity, infrastructure preservation and fostering local social and cultural dynamics. Recent tragedies, such the Indian Ocean tsunami of December 2004, have drawn popular attention to the life-saving role of now common technologies such as mobile telephony-based text messaging (SMS).

Leadership The international community, inter-governmental agencies and NGOs and other representatives of civil society need to show more leadership on realising the global potential for ICT in disaster reduction. International community should encourage countries to join the 30 who have ratified The Tempere Convention on the Provision of Telecommunication Resources for Disaster Mitigation and Relief Operations, which removes barriers to cross-border deployment of ICT equipment, systems and expertise.

Partnerships Smart partnerships are needed amongst international and national agencies, the private sector, academic institutions, NGOs and other stakeholders from civil society. The International Telecommunication Union, in working with ICT sectoral partners and national regulatory agencies, have crucial roles to play in fostering both preparedness for disaster and response to them. Preparedness for disasters is enhanced by the ITU’s prioritisation of emergency response capabilities in its spectrum management role and promotion of international technical standards. Disaster response capacities and support for sustainable recovery is provided by the ITU by coordinating satellite communications capacity between nations as an immediate response to crisis and by mobilizing resources, including expertise, for systems stabilization and rehabilitation. Closer partnerships with researchers and private sector ICT stakeholders is needed for development of disaster-resilient information and communications systems February 2005 |

Capacity-building The ITU and other international agencies, governments and the private sector all have important and complementary roles to play in capacity building. The particular needs of least and less developing economies, particularly vulnerable to natural and other disasters need to be addressed by the international community at large. Information systems for disaster reduction need to be open and locally responsive while allowing effective information aggregation for coordinated responses to threats. University linkages present enhanced human resource development opportunities as well as research capacities that complement and transcend the particular mission of agencies and other stakeholders.

Local Responsiveness ICT applications for disaster reduction must be tailored to local economic, geographical and social-cultural contexts. Localized egovernance initiatives are central to, and must engage with, policy responses to the social and economic imperatives for disaster reduction. As disasters are ultimately local, strategies to build resilience to disasters must be founded on local knowledge, communities and institutions. At that same time they must be informed by, and coordinated with, international disaster preparedness systems.

Recognising the need for resilience Greater recognition is required of the need for planned resilience for communications infrastructures and the information systems that they support. For business everywhere, disaster preparedness should be seen as an integral component of effective corporate governance. Suggested indicators to measure accomplishments Ongoing measurement of enhanced capacities in utilising ICTs for disaster preparedness, management and sustained recovery requires use of both existing and new indicators, including: • ITU’s key indicator, the Digital Access Index, measuring societies’ performance in terms of infrastructure, literacy, quality and affordability. • Complemented by measures of the resilience of ICT systems to various disasters and recovery capacities • Continued ratification by member states of the Tampere Convention • Measures of the dissemination of threat assessment methodologies, business continuity planning, and the designation of chief information officers (CIO) in critical organization  Source:



Tool for enhancing food security While some African countries could be reported to have benefited fully from their agriculture industries, some countries are not realising the full benefits. Instead, we continue seeing countries becoming more and more impoverished. Agriculture sector the world over is said to be the backbone of every nation’s economy. This is because, as compared to other industries such as mining and others, agriculture in non replenishable. The production of good abundant crops helps produce and maintain a country’s food security and contributes towards a nation’s economic performance. Therefore society needs to utilise its agriculture industry to improve its economic standards by employing workable strategies that could address the challenges of this sector.

Overview of agriculture sector in Africa While some African countries could be reported to have benefited fully from their agriculture industries, some countries are not realising the full benefits. Instead, we continue seeing countries becoming more and more impoverished. When it comes to making agriculture work, Southern African countries such as Zambia have their own problems. For instance, most indigenous farmers in Zambia are small scale farmers and do not have the capacity to farm big, as they do not have adequate


farming inputs such as fertiliser and seeds. This has resulted in a situation where serious commercial agriculture is pursued mainly by wealthy people especially, foreign investors who enjoy the monopoly of the business. Lack of information about markets where they could sell their produce is another problem faced by small farmers. This is usually in the case of the farmers who stay in far-flung areas where there is severe crisis of communication. In most rural areas, there is no ICT infrastructure. At some places even if Internet is present, it is either expensive or rural dwellers do not have the skills to use it. Some unscrupulous business people have taken advantage of this and tried to coax the farmers into selling their produce at throwaway prices. The lack of communication infrastructure is a problem faced by most African countries. Though there are rural areas, which are slowly getting connected through ICT’s like phones, TV, and Internet but largely the potential of ICTs remains untapped. Today, ICT’s hold the key for bringing transformation in the society. ICTs can help local farmers in gaining access to international market. e-Commerce can help both the seller and the buyer to communicate in less time and use Internet to carry out a transaction. Farmers can research on new types of products and search for information about ways in which they could package their produce better. If a farmer is effectively able to use ICT’s, he stands to benefit more than one who is unable to. This is because, soon there will be a situation where the farmer would not even have to go looking for the market but people would easily contact him and make their orders and the farmer would eventually be transformed from a local seller to a large international exporter. From this transformation, the nation and the youths would benefit as more jobs would be created with increase in demand, more production and enhanced efficiency. This would also help retain the youths in rural areas as they would get work in the farms and their need to relocate to the cities would be decreased. i4d | February 2005

Successful agro-business projects Some of the ICT and Agriculture projects that have recorded success in Africa include the Zimbabwe Agro-business project where a woman in Zimbabwe has successfully built a dried food repackaging business by using e-Commerce to sell to Zimbabweans diasporas in other African countries. Her neighbours, the rural women in Gwanda, a place situated about a100 kilometers away from Bulawayo, in Matabeleland used to bring dry vegetables and edible caterpillars for sale in major cities of Zimbabwe. The women would spend a long time away and business would not be so well because everyone would do the same business, leading into oversupply in the market. But this exceptional woman started to buy the products from her rural neighbours and packaged them hygienically and advertised on the Internet. She has now grown to be a big exporter and is at present supplying her produces to the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Africa, Europe and the United States of America. Another similar project that has shown a good example of how ICT’s could work for Agriculture is the ‘Volunteer Efforts in Development Concern (VEDCO)’ of Uganda’s Luwero district. It is an association that uses ICT’s to bring information to small-scale farmers on how they could add value to their produce by producing them in different forms, to widen the market. This association has so far learnt a number of ways in which they could package their crops to suit international markets and has been able to add value to the potatoes using information retrieved from the net. Apart from packaging the potato in form of dried flexes, they process it into flour and sell in that form. Sometime, using the same flour, they bake scones and cakes, to sell. The same potato is also processed into a vitamin content using the green leaves, which could also be dried and packaged as vegetables. With such value added, the same plant is sold in different forms and brings in a lot of money, as opposed to it being merely sold in one form.

This exceptional woman started to buy the products from her rural neighbours, packaged them hygienically and advertised on the Internet. She has now grown to be a big exporter and is at present supplying her produces to the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Africa, Europe and the United States of America. February 2005 |

The association also uses Internet to get market for the crop after packaging it in different forms. This has led to its strong presence in the international markets of USA and other countries. It is possible to replicate these initiatives in other African countries and improve people’s livelihoods. Drawing from the examples of agriculture projects that have engaged ICT’s, it has been noticed that ICT’s are improving the status of agriculture today than ever before. Sometime back, there were only government information agencies in charge of disseminating agriculture information about what crops were in demand, production levels, fertiliser prices, etc to give farmers direction and enable them to grow the right crops for the season and market. This was done through publications in different languages. Untimely information was a big problem. As such, information has until relatively recently been somewhat limited but with the coming of new ICT’s such as computers, Internet, etc, things have changed and we see daily publications and updated information being readily available on the net. Various ICT tools can play different beneficiary roles in agriculture, but for Africa to realise the full potential of ICT’s there is need to use a wide range of ICT’s for different activities. ICT’s such as radio, TV, video projectors, Internet, email, computers and newspapers can be used to improve the sharing of agriculture information by remote rural farming communities. Participatory communication technologies can support agriculture extension efforts, especially using local languages, rural radio programmes, video projectors, email alerts, video shows and brochures covering information about the local area. The first set of connection can be the extension of rural connectivity telecentres and cyber cafes, where producers could either go to use a computer or simply see posted information on paper. Like the United Nations Secretary General Koffi Annan said, “new technologies are not a panacea or a magic wand, but they are without doubt immensely powerful tools for development”. For agriculture, ICT’s are a way to reach greater heights. It is worth harnessing the full potential of ICT’s to improve agriculture sectors in Africa. For indeed, this is an industry that will never be replenished.  Glory Mushinge Freelance Journalist and Chairperson Media and ICT’s Network for Development (MIND)



Understanding poverty Poverty at a glance Before trying to evolve any strategy to tackle the problem of poverty, it becomes necessary to form a holistic picture of poverty. A comprehensive picture of poverty is prerequisite in order to find an appropriate solution to the problem. We need to find answers to the questions like what is poverty? Who are poor? How poverty is measured?

What is poverty? Although poverty is one of the most familiar and enduring conditions known to humanity, it is an extremely complicated concept to understand. There is no universally accepted definition of poverty. There are many people who talk and write about poverty around the globe, without forming a consensus on one single definition of poverty. Some researchers view it as a reaction to the stress of being poor, whereas others perceive it as a process of adapting to the condition of poverty. Historical definitions are numerous, but can be classified as relating to either lack of financial income or lower social status. Some define it as the state of having little or no money and few or no material possessions. The Oxford English Dictionary defines poverty as: ‘The condition of having little or no wealth or material possessions; indigence, destitution, want’, and suggests its first use was in AD 1075. In recent years, research tapping the perspectives of poor people has recognised that poverty involves a wider set of deprivations, including vulnerability and exclusion from society, in addition to material destitution. Absolute poverty, as a definition, is based on what human beings require as a minimum, to survive. This definition uses the arbitrary concept of “absolute poverty” to suggest that there are certain absolute standards that can be identified; the most frequently used absolute measurement is income. Personal or family income falling below a certain limit indicated as essential to maintain an appropriate standard of living can be taken to define poverty. Other forms of absolute measurements for poverty revolve around concepts of basic needs and evaluate whether the households and/or individuals are covering those needs or not.

Chronic Poverty People in chronic poverty are those who have benefited least from economic growth and development. They, and their children, will make up the majority of the 900 million people who will still be in poverty in 2015, even if the Millennium Development Goals are met. The chronically poor people are multi-dimensionally deprived ie they experience deprivations of many kinds. According to an estimate, there are between 300 and 420 million people in 32 developing countries including India & China.


The other definition is relational in nature –relative poverty– and is based on the position of a person or family in relation to others in the community or to a standard considered necessary for living in society. Thus the positions of different individuals and groups are considered in relation to others in a specific universe. Under this perspective, it is clear that persons who can be classified as poor in some countries or regions may have higher income or greater comforts that some groups not considered poor in other less developed countries.

Poverty and its measurements Measuring poverty at the country level Recent years have witnessed lively debate on global poverty measurement. However, the most commonly used way to measure poverty is based on incomes or consumption levels. A person is considered poor if his or her consumption or income level falls below some minimum level necessary to meet basic needs. This minimum level is usually called the “poverty line”. What is necessary to satisfy basic needs varies across time and societies. Therefore, poverty lines vary in time and place, and each country uses lines which are appropriate to its level of development, societal norms and values. Information on consumption and income is obtained through sample surveys, during which households are asked to answer detailed questions on their spending habits and sources of income. Such surveys are conducted more or less regularly in most countries. These sample survey data collection methods are increasingly being complemented by participatory methods, where people are asked what their basic needs are and what poverty means for them. Interestingly, new research shows a high degree of concordance between poverty lines based on objective and subjective assessments of needs.

Measuring poverty at the global level When estimating poverty worldwide, the same reference poverty line is used, and expressed in a common unit across countries. Therefore, for the purpose of global aggregation and comparison, the World Bank uses reference lines set at US $1 and US $2 per day. There are other methods of measuring poverty: Unsatisfied Basic Needs (UBN) method, Sectorial Gaps method, Integrated Measurements methods (MIP), and Social progress index method.

Useful resources • UNDP documents available on Internet: • dimpov.htm  Compiled by Naveen Kaul,

i4d | February 2005

What’s on Belgium


18-20 April, 2005 ISCRAM 2005: Information Systems for Crisis Response and Management Brussels

11-15 July, 2005 OSS2005: International Conference on Open Source Systems Genova

The United Kingdom 15-17 March, 2005 Newcom Africa Chelsea Village London index.htm

04-06 April, 2005 LILAC 2005: Librarians’ Information Literacy Annual Conference London



22-23 April, 2005 WebTech 2005, Sofia

10-11 May, 2005 3rd International Open Access Conference Maputo

22-24 June 2005 First International Conference on e-Social Science Manchester

Canada 27 June-02 July, 2005 ED-MEDIA 2005, Montreal

24-28 October, 2005 E-Learn 2005: World Conference on e-Learning in Corporate, Government, Healthcare, & Higher Education Vancouver, British Columbia

China 29 March–01 April, 2005 2005 IEEE International Conference on e-Technology, e-Commerce and e-Service, Hong Kong

India 03-04 March, 2005 Towards Building Communities of Practice (CoPs) for Achieving the MDGs New Delhi

South Africa 02-04 March, 2005 ICTS and Civil Society Conference Johannesburg 76307/1

Spain 06-08 July, 2005 7th ISKO-Spain Conference Barcelona

Tunisia 16-18 November, 2005 WISIS: World Summit on the Information Society Phase 2 Tunis 101014?PrintableVersion=enabled

The United Arab Emirates

03-06 March, 2005 Baramati 2005 Baramati, Maharashtra

05-06 April, 2005 Middle-East E-learning Technology Dubai

10-12 July, 2005 Euro Conference on Mobile Government Sussex University Brighton europeanmg.htm

United States 01-05 March, 2005 SITE 2005 Phoenix Arizona

14-17 March, 2005 The O’Reilly Emerging Technology Conference (ETech) San Diego

02-05 April, 2005 e-Learning 2005 Dallas Texas http://www. 2005glance.htm

16 April, 2005 Grassroots Use of Technology Boston

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How is Asia progressing? Asia 3,738 million (Population 2002) Goals and Targets






on track

on track


on track

on track

progress but lagging


on track


progress but lagging

high but no change


on track

progress but lagging

high but no change



no significant change

no significant change





GOAL 1: Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger Reduce extreme poverty by half Reduce hunger by half GOAL 2: Archieve universal primary education Universal prim ary schooling GOAL 3: Promote gender equality and empower women Equal girls’ enrolment in primary school Equal girl’s enrolment in secondary school Literacy parity between young women and men Women’s equal representation in national parliaments


progress but very low, some progress lagging

very low, no change

GOAL 4: Reduce child mortality Reduce mortality of under-five-year-olds by two thirds

progress but lagging

on track

progress but lagging

moderate, no change


on track

on track


low level

high level

very high level

moderate level





moderate risk

moderate risk

moderate risk

low risk

moderate, decline

high, declining

high, declining

low, declining



small decline

less than 1% forest

Halve proportion without improved drinking water in urban areas

decline in access

high access but no change



Halve proportion without improved drinking water in rural areas

progress but lagging

progress but lagging

on track

progress but lagging

Halve proportion without sanitation in urban areas

progress but lagging

on track

on track


Halve proportion without sanitation in rural areas

progress but lagging progress but lagging

progress but lagging on track

progress but lagging some progress

no significant change rising number & proportion of slum-dwellers

low, increasing

rapidly increasing

low, increasing

high, increasing

Measles immunization GOAL 5: Improve maternal health Reduce maternal mortality by three quarters GOAL 6: Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases Halt and reverse spread of HIV/AIDS Halt and reverse spread of malaria Halt and reverse spread of tuberculosis GOAL 7: Ensure environmental sustainability Reverse loss of forests

Improve the lives of slum-dwellers

GOAL 8: A global partnership for development Youth unemployment



i4d | February 2005

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MDG Intro/Poverty Reduction-MDG 1 : february 2005 Issue  

i4d encompasses the role and relevance of ICT in various development sectors such as Rural Development, Gender, Governance, Micro-finance, E...