Global recognition of the benefits of ICT but also of the risks of digital divides suggests more investment is needed in policy and regulatory frameworks, infrastructure (including connectivity), applications (including contents and services), and capacities and skills.
We live in a digital age in which business and societal interaction increasingly takes place online. Ever faster and cheaper, when it is not entirely new, ICT allows people to seek, acquire, and share expertise, ideas, services, and technologies locally, nationally, regionally, and around the world. It boosts efficiency and productivity; reduces risks, transaction costs, and barriers to entry; provides the means for sweeping reorganization of business; and generally makes governments, markets, and networks work better. Nevertheless, success does not come out of nowhere: everything points to the need for enabling policy and regulatory frameworks in line with well thought-out investments in ICT infrastructure at local, national, and regional levels; development of applications; and capacities and skills for development, implementation, and sustainable operation and maintenance.
ICT for Development springs from the desire to leverage ICT to propel economic and social progress and enhance its effects. Because ICT can help achieve the aspirational, transformational, and universal objectives of the post-2015 development agenda, four targets of the newly approved 17 Sustainable Development Goals make direct reference to it.
Between 2000 and 2015, ADB extended 402 ICT-related loans, grants, and technical assistance projects to the value of $11.9 billion to help develop and maintain:
- ICT infrastructure, e.g., telecommunications networks, mobile and wireless networks, broadband cable networks, data centers, last-mile internet connectivity, etc.
- 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, etc.
- ICT-enabled services, e.g., ICT applications for education, finance, governance, health, etc.
- 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, etc.