Gretta and Honore in Rwanda participate in the programme "ICT for kids".
Photo: Bihizi Patrick
Information and communication technologies (ICT)
Thanks to modern technology, people living in poverty have new opportunities to improve their living conditions. Sida works to increase skills and capacity in the IT field and to promote innovative solutions.
With help of technology, farmers can quickly and easily get weather forecasts, or find out about the market price for their crops. Teachers living in remote areas can develop their skills through distance learning. Mobile phones can be used to transfer money and pay for goods, and patients can get medical advice over the phone. Through Internet, citizens can detect and alert about suspicious cases of corruption.
The list of examples showing how information and communication technologies (ICT) can be used within development work continues. In many low-income countries, landline telephone and data networks are not expanded everywhere due to long distances and lack of resources. In those areas, mobile telephony and new cheap technology have created new opportunities.
Sida works to increase skills and capacity in the use of ICT among various stakeholders, particularly by supporting innovative projects. In order to take advantage of private sector’s innovativeness and investments, this work is increasingly more conducted in collaboration with the business sector. Sida also supports initiatives that use ICT as a tool to promote democracy and freedom of expression.
What matters is not technology itself, but the flow of information and data that can facilitate. New technology makes it possible for people to get a better service from authorities and businesses, and can be used to improve health care and education. Internet can also increase transparency so that citizens can get a better insight in the work of politicians and authorities, and thus facilitate their participation in society. The Internet is also a driver for innovation and sustainable growth.
The fact that an increased flow of information is essential for development is noted in the Millennium Development Goals, where one of the partial goals is to make new information and communication technologies available to the world's poor. A great progress has been done within technology. In the end of 2013, it was estimated that 89 per cent of people in developing countries have access to mobile phones and 31 per cent have access to Internet. In spite of that – more than a half of the world's population don’t have access to Internet, partly because the price of broadband Internet access as compared to the purchasing power of poor people can be ten times higher than in Europe. Therefore, it is expected that new Internet users will mainly be mobile.
The Internet has created new opportunities for activists, journalists and individuals to exchange information and demand accountability from their governments. But the technical tools have also been used by authoritarian states seeking to censor and monitor citizens, e.g. by passing laws that restrict freedom of expression online, or monitor and threaten those who publish information critical to the regime. According to Freedom House, freedoms and security on Internet have in recent years been in decline. At the same time, new initiatives are developed to raise awareness and prevent these types of repressive measures.
In many countries, there is a clear gender divide when it comes to use of technology and Internet access. This is why Sida has a particular focus on increasing women's and girls' use of new technologies. This will promote participation of women in the society and increase their possibilities to have their own income.