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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 to Improve Access to Information and Communication

Global recognition of the benefits of digital technology 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, digital technology 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 digital technology infrastructure at local, national, and regional levels; development of applications; and capacities and skills for development, implementation, and sustainable operation and maintenance.

Digital Technology for Development springs from the desire to leverage digital technology to propel economic and social progress and enhance its effects. Because digital technology 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 digital technology-related loans, grants, and technical assistance projects to the value of $11.9 billion to help develop and maintain:

  • Digital technology infrastructure, e.g., telecommunications networks, mobile and wireless networks, broadband cable networks, data centers, last-mile internet connectivity, etc.
  • Digital technology industries, e.g., digital technology centers of excellence, research/computer laboratories, digital technology-enabled industries such as business process outsourcing, knowledge process outsourcing, software parks, digital technology incubators, etc.
  • Digital technology-enabled services, e.g., digital technology applications for education, finance, governance, health, etc.
  • Digital technology policy, strategy, and capacity development, e.g., digital technology policy and strategy, telecommunications policy reform, universal access and service, digital technology road maps (national and local), digital technology regulations and laws, digital technology skills training and capacity building, etc.

Digital Technology in Key Sectors

The potential of digital technology as a development tool rests on its ability to improve the way people do things. The rapid changes and advancements in modern technology present a unique opportunity for developing countries to leapfrog intermediate steps in development while improving the quality and broadening the reach of public services.

The strategic and effective use of digital technology—combined with a reform-oriented mindset, necessary set of skills, institutional structure and capacity, appropriate business models, as well as policy and regulatory environments—can facilitate fast and efficient delivery of public services in key sectors.

ADB has incorporated innovative strategies for the application of digital technologies in its policies for key sectors:


ADB support for telecommunications and digital technology 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 digital technology access facilities like Community e-Centers (CeCs), and develop innovative and relevant digital technology applications.

Telecommunications is now considered an infrastructure essential to a country’s economic development and competitiveness. Apart from facilitating communication and various economic activities, telecommunications is an economic sector in itself. The mobile phone boom worldwide has created jobs and generated income for the government, operators, manufacturers, service providers, and application/content developers. In developing countries, mobile phones serve as the universal access tool, especially for their low-income populations.

ICT, which includes computers, software applications, and the internet, are benefiting countries and their citizens. A 2009 World Bank report found that for every 10 percent increase in high speed internet connections, there is a 1.3 percent increase in economic growth. The impact of ICTs is also seen in their creative and cost-efficient use in basic sectors, such as education, health, and agriculture, among others.

Title Description
Pacific Information and Communication Technology Investment Planning and Capacity Development Facility This technical assistance (TA) will make complementary support available to Pacific countries to overcome fundamental barriers to ICT development and make strategic decisions on ICT investment. Approved in 2013, it aims to achieve enhanced government capacity and leadership in ICT development in selected Pacific DMCs through (i) demand-driven ICT technical advice, assessment, and capacity development; and (ii) knowledge products on ICT development experience.

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Digital Technology in Education

Digital technology 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 Digital Technology in Basic Education Project, supported by a $30-million ADB loan, is bringing education to remote rural areas and benefiting 540,000 students.

Without the skills to fully realize the benefits of ICT the digital divide becomes an even bigger information literacy divide. A key aspect of a knowledge economy is an information-literate and ICT-capable labor force. ICT provides increasingly effective ways to reach out to rural dwellers in remote areas and disadvantaged groups that do not have access to quality educational opportunities, thus providing them with a link to global networks and the global economy.

ADB’s ICT initiatives in education improved skills training in poor rural areas by making up-to-date learning resources available online for distance learning for students, teacher training, and professional development. ICT also improves education administration by connecting district-level offices to the central education ministry.

Featured ICT-related Projects and Activities in the Education Sector

Title Description
Secondary Education Sector Investment Program - Tranche 1 This loan aims to develop a more efficient, equitable, and higher-quality secondary education system. One of its outputs is "enhanced use of information and communication technology for pedagogy." The program will review on-going ICT projects to inform development of a school information hub plan for installation of approximately 10 computers with internet access and related equipment, maintenance, security, and facilities in 5,000 schools.
Information and Communication Technology for Better Education Services The TA will enhance capacity of the education sector in ICT application at subnational levels. It will carry out the following: (i) development and implementation of a gender-inclusive ICT plan linking MEHRD, provincial education authorities and schools; (ii) identification of ICT hardware options, development of suitable applications, and piloting their use in rural or remote areas, including capacity building; (iii) comprehensive assessment study conducted on how enhanced access to ICT can add value to the DFL; (iv) convene ICT4E workshop and forum to raise awareness, identify potential and constraints, and share findings and lessons learned from the TA outputs.
Higher Education in the Pacific Investment Program - Tranche 1 This loan aims to achieve expanded and equitable access to quality higher education in USP member countries, especially for women and students from remote outer islands. One of its outputs is the expansion of the USP Kiribati campus to accommodate the rapidly increasing number of students by constructing additional classrooms, an ICT studio, a student cafeteria, and administration facilities. New ICT equipment will be provided to connect to other regional campuses, and deliver faster and more reliable ICT-based learning courses, especially DFL courses.

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Digital Technology in Public Sector Management

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.

E-government is the use of ICT to promote more efficient and cost-effective government, facilitate more convenient government services, allow greater public access to information, and make government more transparent and accountable to citizens.

ADB projects and support for ICT have played an important role in public administration reforms in many countries. Such initiatives particularly benefit rural areas by connecting regional and local offices with central government ministries. These also allow national government agencies to communicate and interact with their local constituency and improve public services.

Featured ICT-related Projects in the Public Sector

Title Description
Asia Pacific Public Electronic Procurement Network The TA will build capacity of Asia Pacific DMCs in implementing e-government procurement and enhance transparency of public procurement tenders. It will target all Asia Pacific DMCs and open membership to non-DMCs that wish to share experience in implementing e-GP with other participants. Possible coordination and South-South collaboration with Inter-American Network on Government Procurement (INGP) will be considered. The TA will also explore opportunities for continuous self-funding of the Asia Pacific Public Procurement Network through contributions of member countries.
Design of e-Governance Master Plan and Review of Information and Communication Technology Capacity in Academic Institutions This TA is one of ADB’s first e-government projects in Myanmar. It aims to adopt an integrated approach in implementing government applications and online services to achieve enhanced capacity for public service delivery.
Implementing the e-Procurement System The TA will support the development and roll-out of the government e-procurement system. The work will involve management system establishment, rules-making, system analysis, building of the hardware and software platform iteratively with system managers and users, capacity building of all stakeholders, testing and installation on a phased basis, and monitoring over the initial use period.

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Digital Technology in Health

Digital technology 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.

ICT has revolutionized healthcare in many developing countries by more efficiently disseminating public health information and facilitating consultation in health issues. Through telemedicine, patients can avoid long and expensive journeys to seek help by receiving remote consultation, diagnosis, and treatment from specialists in far off hospitals. ICT also means better collaboration and sharing of learning and training among health workers. The use of ICT in administrative systems of health care facilities brings huge gains in efficiency and cost savings. Thousands of lives are already being saved though the monitoring of public health threats using ICT which also allows a faster and more effective response.

Featured ICT-related Projects in the Health Sector

Title Description
Prevention and Control of HIV/AIDS and Other Communicable Diseases in Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation Countries

Strengthened core capacity for surveillance and response to communicable diseases in pilot countries in line with International Health Regulations.

Output 1: Mapping of communicable disease vulnerability and response conducted in each participating country. Effective control of communicable diseases requires information and evidence on the vulnerability of its population and geographic hot spots of disease incidence and prevalence. WHO supports member states in mapping potential hazards and vulnerabilities, which allows for development of focused preparedness activities to reduce the impact of crises, and thus prevent them from developing into full-scale disasters. One of the activities in this field has been the development of a disaster vulnerability mapping e-atlas to encourage ministries of health and other stakeholders within the health community to develop and improve their disaster management capacities. This e-atlas will be used as a framework for HIV/AIDS and communicable disease vulnerability mapping in each target country, including mapping of vaccination coverage for measles, rubella, and polio. This will allow the provision of sex-disaggregated and analyzed data for decision making for Central Asian governments and facilitate regional dialogue about cross-border risks from communicable diseases.

Social Protection Support Project

The loan aims to increase consumption and utilization of education and health services among poor households and women beneficiaries of the conditional cash transfer (CCT) program, Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps), while the TA focuses on strengthening the capacity of the Philippines’ Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) to implement the ongoing social protection reform agenda.

One of the loan's outputs is "improved systems for monitoring and evaluation of social protection programs", which include: (1) launch of core modules for computerized MIS for (i) household information, (ii) registration, (iii) verification, (iv) payments, (v) updates, and (vi) grievance redress system; and (2) fully integrate computer-based MIS operating by Q2 2011.

Part of the TA's outputs is to support strengthened and accelerated implementation of the computerized verification system (CVS) to monitor compliance of conditionalities.

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Digital Technology in Agriculture and Food Security

ADB’s digital technology 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.

Through ICT, farmers and agricultural producers can more easily access relevant and timely information—from the acquisition of quality seeds, credit and insurance, water supply for irrigation, to livestock care and market prices. ADB’s efforts in this area help create and spread agricultural knowledge, disseminate up-to-date technology, facilitate trainings, and connect rural enterprises to markets.

Featured ICT-related Projects in the Agriculture Sector

Title Description
River Basin Water Resources Management and Development

This TA aims to improve transparency and efficiency of the public procurement system.

Some of its activities include: (i) review and assess existing hardware and software elements of data collection and transfer; (ii) design means of transferring existing data into new databases; and (ii) select GIS software and formulate structure for an inventory of water and related natural resources.

Implementing the Greater Mekong Subregion Core Agriculture Support Program (Phase 2) This TA aims to enhance market access for environmentally friendly agricultural products produced by smallholders. One of its outputs is to establish the “electronic trade of environmentally friendly agri-food production of smallholders,” which entails piloting a road map for e-trade operations, including a cross-border trade administration system for agri-food products and e-trade modalities.
Applying Remote Sensing Technology in River Basin Management This TA aims to improve river basin management including flood risk management using SBT and ICT in target countries. The project’s specific agenda include: (i) developing application methodology on space based technology (SBT) and information communication technology (ICT) for water-related disaster management; (ii) developing strategies and programs for water-related disaster mitigation applying SBT and ICT; and (iii) developing capacity for SBT and ICT.

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  • Thomas ABELL (Mr)

    Advisor and Chief of Digital Technology for Development
    Digital Technology for Development Unit
    Sustainable Development and Climate Change Department