Global recognition of the benefits of information and communication technology (ICT) has led to more investment in and adoption of increasingly relevant ICT applications and services to aid development.
Rapid advances in ICT have created tremendous opportunities for economic and social gains toward the achievement of Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). A key infrastructure of knowledge-based economies, ICT has become a driving force for dynamic sectors such as electronics and software development, business process outsourcing, mobile applications, and various internet services. The growing uptake of ICT over the past decade has also contributed to more access to educational resources, better health services, improved flow of information in agriculture, and more engagement and interaction between and among governments and citizens.
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 region 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 and economic opportunities.
ADB's ICT projects have been helping expand telecommunication and ICT infrastructure in the Pacific islands, supporting innovative e-government solutions in Central Asia and South Asia, and developing smart power grids in East and Southeast Asia.
Between 2000 and 2013, ADB supported 547 ICT-related projects and technical assistance worth $17.67 billion. To date, ADB has helped develop and maintain:
- ICT infrastructure (e.g. telecommunications networks, mobile and wireless network, broadband cable networks, data centers, last-mile internet connectivity)
- ICT industries (e.g. ICT centers of excellence, research/computer laboratories; ICT-enabled industries such as business process outsourcing, knowledge process outsourcing, software parks, ICT incubators)
- ICT-enabled services (e.g. ICT applications for governance, education, health, finance)
- ICT policy, strategy, and capacity development (e.g. ICT policy and strategy, telecommunications policy reform, universal access and service, ICT road maps [national and local], ICT regulations and laws, ICT skills training and capacity building)
ICT in Key Sectors
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 itseducation 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.