Rapid advances in information and communications technology (ICT) have created tremendous opportunities for economic and social gains in the world’s poorest areas. A key infrastructure of knowledge-based economies, ICT is a driving force for rapidly growing new sectors including electronics and software development, business process outsourcing and various internet services.
A lack of resources, from funding and technology to literacy and ICT skills, is threatening to maroon many developing countries in the Asia and Pacific on the wrong side of a growing digital divide. ADB is committed to turning this digital divide into a digital opportunity for all. The most important benefits of ICT come not just from simple connectivity or access to networks, but from using it as a powerful instrument for innovative development solutions and economic opportunities.
ADB ICT projects have brought more efficient transport to the People’s Republic of China, lifesaving health education to remote ethnic minorities in the Greater Mekong Subregion, distance education to rural students in Sri Lanka, and customs modernization to Uzbekistan’s borders.
Between 2000 and 2011, ADB supported 372 ICT-related projects and technical assistance worth $13.22 billion. Based on a developing member country's ICT needs, ADB helps develop and maintain:
ADB’s initiatives are empowering the poor to use ICT as a tool to help lift themselves out of poverty while providing governments, businesses and citizens with an efficient means of communication and faster access to information.
ADB support for telecommunications and ICT is changing lives across the region. Farmers and fisher folk receive timely weather forecasts through their mobile phones, remote village schools connect to educational resources through internet -enabled computer labs, and citizens transact with their governments more efficiently through online systems. ADB is also helping to expand telecommunication networks, provide shared ICT access facilities like Community e-Centers (CeCs), and develop innovative and relevant ICT applications.
ICT can improve the efficiency and quality of education at all levels. Part of ADB's strategy to support its education policy principles is promoting "experimentation with, and dissemination of, innovative strategies and technologies in education." This involves developing appropriate e-applications to help DMCs leapfrog conventional means of learning and teaching . For example, Uzbekistan’s Information and Communications Technology in Basic Education Project, supported by a $30-million ADB loan, is bringing education to remote rural areas and benefiting 540,000 students.
ADB encourages governments to adopt both innovative approaches and modern technologies to promote good governance. This is done not just by shifting from manual, paper-based processes to automated systems, but also by creating new skills, building human and institutional capacity, and creating an enabling policy and regulatory environment to facilitate public sector reforms.
ICT can be a powerful tool for improving health and related services. ADB projects are helping to improve dissemination of public health information, bridge the gap in consultation, diagnosis, and treatment between resource-rich and resource-poor hospitals, facilitate learning, enhance the ability to monitor diseases and other health issues, and make health administration more efficient.
ADB’s ICT efforts are raising agricultural productivity and the quality of life of farmers and the rural poor by improving information flows, communication, and access to reliable, up-to-date information. This enables strategic decision-making by farmers and prevents or mitigates losses caused by natural disasters.