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Digital Technology

Digital technology has boosted growth, expanded opportunities, and improved service delivery in much of the world. ADB's initiatives are empowering the poor to use digital technology to help lift themselves out of poverty.

ADB's Work in Digital Technology

Digital technology has advanced very rapidly globally, enhancing connectivity, financial inclusion, and access to trade and public services. Digital technology has boosted growth, expanded opportunities, and improved government services across Asia and the Pacific. The use of big data and the rise of online platforms have accelerated this process over the past decade. In addition, the enhanced role of digital technology in the face of social distancing and lockdowns during the COVID-19 pandemic has further grown the sector.

The transition to digital has also reduced barriers to market entry for firms, lowering inequality in the process. Advances in digital technology have enhanced the productive capacities of economies, helping to improve economic efficiency and growth. In addition, digitalization has contributed to rises in regional and global economic integration, helping many economies make progress toward achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), especially SDG 9, helping to build resilient infrastructure, promoting inclusive and sustainable industrialization, and fostering innovation.

Efficient and affordable ICT infrastructure and services help countries to engage in the digital economy and boost their economic competitiveness. Such technology provides the means to deliver quality goods and services in health care, education, finance, commerce, governance, agriculture, and other vital areas. Digital can help reduce poverty and hunger, boost health, create new jobs, help mitigate climate change, improve energy efficiency, and make cities and communities more sustainable.

ADB recognises that for digital technology to effectively boost development in the region, more investment is needed in policy, regulations, infrastructure, capacity and skills. ADB financing has included support for:

  • Digital infrastructure, such as telecommunications networks, data centers, cloud services, devices and applications, and adequate power supply.
  • Digital technology industries, through an improved business environment, support to research and development, or enhanced competitiveness.
  • Digital technology start-ups, through ecosystem development and impact investment.
  • Digital services in areas such as education, finance, governance, and health.
  • Digital technology policy and strategy.
  • Data analytics and insights, such as leveraging public earth observation data from satellites for disaster risk reduction or intelligent agriculture.
  • Digital technology capacity development and upskilling.

Agriculture and Food Security

ADB’s digital technology work is raising agricultural productivity and the quality of life of farmers and the rural poor by improving information flow, communication, and access to reliable information. This empowers farmers and food processers and can lead to higher incomes and more sustainable livelihoods. Digital information technology helps farmers and agricultural producers make better decisions about market prices, logistics, credit, insurance, water supply, livestock, and other critical issues.

Agriculture and food security
Aquaculture research facility in Palau. Photo: Eric Sales/ADB

Education

In education, ADB is supporting its DMCs as they introduce digital technology to improve learning and teaching to build knowledge economies. These projects are particularly effective in rural areas where educational provision is often poor. For example, Uzbekistan’s Information and Communication Technology in Basic Education Project, supported by a $30 million ADB loan, is bringing education to remote rural areas, benefiting 540,000 students. ADB also supports initiatives that make learning resources available online for students, teachers, and education professionals. Such technology improves administration and finance in education and aids communication within and between relevant ministries.

Education
Beneficiaries of the Improving Internet Connectivity for Micronesia Project. Photo: Eric Sales/ADB

Digital Health

Digital technology has revolutionized healthcare and public health in many developing countries. ADB projects are improving medical consultation, diagnosis, and treatment, particularly in rural areas, through telemedicine. ADB also supports initiatives where appropriate use of digital technology brings huge gains in efficiency and lowers healthcare costs. The COVID-19 pandemic has shown how critical digital technology is in national infectious disease management and in the sharing of public health information.

Digital health
ADB grant-based PRC testing machine was handed to the Ministry of Health for increased COVID-19 testing capacity in Georgia. Photo: Tengo Giorbelidze/ADB

Digital Government

ADB supports e-government where it helps create new skills, builds capacity, and creates and stimulates public sector reforms. E-government facilitates lower costs, as well as transparency and public accountability. ADB digital technology projects have played an important role in public administration reforms in many developing countries. Such initiatives particularly benefit rural areas by connecting regional and local offices with central government ministries.

Digital government
With ADB support, the Government of Mongolia has improved its state registry services by connecting 290 soums and sub-districts to the online registry system and improving legal environment, data quality, and accessibility. Photo: ADB

Digital Connectivity

ADB support for telecommunications is changing lives across the region. Farmers receive weather and crop price updates on their phones; remote schools connect to educational resources through the internet; and citizens access banking and government services online. Along with facilitating development and progress, telecommunications is a booming industry in its own right. The industry has created millions of jobs in manufacturing, service provision, and application/content development. A reliable and affordable internet connection is essential to reap these benefits. For example, the Asia-Pacific Remote Broadband Internet Satellite Project provides digital connectivity to remote areas through satellite technology.

Digital connectivity
Greenhouse staff is harvesting tomatoes. The High-Efficiency Horticulture and Integrated Supply Chain Project will support 30 hectares of climate-controlled greenhouses in Yerevan, Armenia. Photo: Eric Sales/ADB

Policies and Strategies

ADB's approach to digital development embodies the following guiding principles:

  • Apply an integrated and holistic approach to digital development to respond to the complex and multidimensional development challenges in the region.
  • Take differentiated approaches, based on the country’s development priorities and needs, and their digital readiness.
  • Value digital technology as an engine for economic growth and for overcoming the middle-income trap in developing member countries.
  • Support the creation of strong foundations to enable the development and delivery of digital services and products across sectors in Asia sand the Pacific.
  • Help manage the privacy and security risks associated with digital technologies and platforms.
  • Promoting responsible use of technologies and data.
  • Promote inclusive digital development.

The strategic use of digital technology can facilitate effective and efficient delivery of public services in the key sectors of telecommunications, governance, education, health, and agriculture.

In 2003, ADB published its digital technology strategy, Toward E-Development in Asia and the Pacific: A Strategic Approach for Information and Communication Technology. The strategy’s three main goals are to:

  1. create an enabling environment through policy improvements, public institution strengthening, and relevant infrastructure provision
  2. build human resources for digital technology literacy and professional skills
  3. develop digital technology applications and information content through ADB-supported projects and activities

In 2016, the background report, Road to 2030: Information and Communications Technology in ADB's Corporate Strategy and Operations was released. This document highlighted the current state of digital technology, trends and applications, and recent and upcoming challenges within the sector.

Funding and Partnerships

In addition to providing assistance through its usual financing channels, ADB administers ICT Trust Funds.

e-Asia and Knowledge Partnership Fund

The Republic of Korea (ROK) supports the digital technology initiatives of ADB's member countries through the e-Asia and Knowledge Partnership Fund, as well as ADB digital technology initiatives through partnerships with concerned government institutions, such as the Ministry of Public Administration and Security and the National Information Society Agency, for capacity-building, training, and knowledge-sharing of best practices.

Partnerships with Development Organizations

ADB promotes and encourages the implementation of projects with development organizations and other regional partners whose expertise and resources should be maximized in developing new ideas, innovative strategies, and technological platforms.

Partner Organization Joint Initiative

Asian and Pacific Centre for Information and Communication Technology (APCICT)

National Information Society Agency (NIA)

Improving Public Services through Information and Communication Technology

This project, which aims to improve the capacity of governments in select DMCs in using ICTs for the better delivery of public services in key sector areas, such as administration, education, health, transport and agriculture.

International Telecommunication Union (ITU)
 
Rural Information and Communication Technology Policy Advocacy, Knowledge Sharing, and Capacity Building
This technical assistance aims to contribute to improving policy, legal, and regulatory environments to make them more conducive to the rapid deployment of ICT infrastructure and services for rural development.  

United Nations (UN) Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP)

JFICT 9068 Empowering the Rural Areas through Community e-Centers under the SASEC Program

This project aims to reduce poverty, empower communities, and improve the quality of life in rural areas in Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, and Nepal through increased ICT connectivity and accessibility.

Other Partnerships

ADB's assistance in digital technology for development is also carried out through partnership with the private sector and civil society organizations. ADB also encourages public-private partnerships to help promote investments in innovative technologies and strategies.

In 2009, for example, ADB and software company Microsoft began consultations on the possibilities of supporting digital technology-related projects in DMCs. The partnership aims to capitalize on development opportunities created by digital technology in various areas of interest, such as innovation, governance, education, job generation, as well as regional integration and trade.

ADB aims to help countries in Asia and the Pacific region reduce poverty and improve the quality of life of their citizens. ADB assists its members and partners by providing loans, technical assistance, grants and equity investments to promote social and economic development.

The Digital Technology for Development Unit supports coordination under the European Space Agency (ESA) partnership, complementing Global Development Assistance (GDA) with the Earth Observation for Development and Digital Transformation Initiative. This initiative supports the Operational Departments to streamline the adoption of this technology into investment programs by leveraging synergies among several Technical Assistance programs to finance Capacity Building and Skill Transfer in Developing Member Countries.

Republic of Korea e-Asia and Knowledge Partnership Fund

Established in 2006 by the Republic of Korea, the fund contributes to poverty reduction in Asia and the Pacific by improving access to advanced technologies including information and communications technology and facilitating knowledge sharing and partnerships.

Operational Priorities

Strategy 2030 sets seven operational priorities, each having its own operational plan. The operational plans contribute to ADB’s vision to achieve prosperity, inclusion, resilience, and sustainability, and are closely aligned with Strategy 2030 principles and approaches.

Experts

Thomas Abell
Thomas Abell

Advisor, SDCC and Chief of Digital Technology for Development

Ben Coghlan
Arndt Husar

Senior Public Management Specialist (Digital Transformation)

Yoonee Jeong
Yoonee Jeong

Senior Digital Technology Specialist

Paolo Manunta
Paolo Manunta

Senior Infrastructure Specialist (Earth Observation)

Gary Tsai
Gary Tsai

Senior Digital Technology Specialist

Seok Yong Yoon
Seok Yong Yoon

Principal Public Management Specialist (e-Governance)

Mitsunori Yoshimura
Mitsunori Yoshimura

Infrastructure Specialist