Statement by Dr. Henning Karcher, UNDP Resident Representative, on the occasion of the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty (IDEP)

18 Oct 2001

Statement by Dr. Henning Karcher, UNDP Resident Representative, on the occasion of the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty (IDEP),
Thursday 18 October 2001, UN House, Pulchowk.

Honourable Vice-Chairperson of the National Planning Commission Mr. Prithvi Raj Ligal, Dr. Rameshananda Vaidya, Honourable Member of the National Planning Commission, Representatives of His Majesty’s Government, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, Colleagues and Friends,

I have great pleasure in welcoming all of you to today’s function which serves the purpose to mark the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.

Today we rededicate ourselves to the most important and most noble task our generation has before it to provide support to the billions of our fellow women and men who live in abject poverty. Many of them do not know how to provide food for their families for the following day or have to watch helplessly as their loved ones are killed by avoidable disease. They do not have the education and skills to lift themselves up to a better quality of life.

Poverty is a multi-dimensional phenomenon and requires a multi-dimensional strategy.

Much has been written on the subject. Today I would like to focus my remarks on a few elements of the strategy which, I believe deserve special attention in Nepal and could be helpful in achieving better results than those produced during the past. In this context I will pay special attention to ICT and how its potential could be harnessed in our joint WAR on Poverty.

Emerging evidence indicates that a strategic deployment of ICT can contribute to addressing specific development problems, as well as enhancing the economic, social and democratic governance dimensions of development activity. In addition, given the changing nature of the dynamics of the global economy itself, as a result of the socio-technological transformations unleashed by the information revolution, developing countries increasingly need to deploy ICT if they are to be integrated into the global economy on more productive terms.

ICT potential stems from its cross-cutting pervasive nature; it is used for a variety of public, personal and productive purposes. Within the realm of ICT, the Internet is fast becoming one of the most efficient means to communicate, access and share information, conduct trade and arrange for delivery of goods and services. Effective ICT deployment can result in multiple effects - in the creation of earning opportunities and jobs, improvements in the delivery of and access to basic services in health and education. It can increase the transparency, accountability and effectiveness of institutions -- thus improving the enabling environment for development itself.

ICT plays an important role in determining competitiveness, employment and economic growth. It creates new opportunities at the same time that it makes increasingly unviable some of the existing production, communication and distribution processes. In doing so, ICT has the potential to change the spatial division of labour and production both within and across countries, sectors, and enterprises.

For ICT to have a positive impact on development, there needs to be, at the very least, extensive, affordable and equitable access, as well as sufficient human and technical capacity, a supportive business and policy environment, and the production of relevant content and applications to deploy for example, ICT in health and education.

As the corporate UNDP Report on Overcoming Human Poverty states, Governance represents often the missing links between anti-poverty efforts and actual poverty reduction. The poor cannot gain access to public services from an unresponsive bureaucracy – or know that the services exist if they lack information. Even when services are decentralized, the poor might not benefit if a local elite diverts the resources for its own interests.

Information Technology can play a critically important role in making citizens aware of available resources and their use. Only last week I paid a visit to the Municipality of Bharatpur and was delighted to see their Urban Information Centre (UIC) established under the UNDP supported Rural Urban Partnership Programme (RUPP). Interested citizens can obtain there comprehensive information on all aspects related to the management of the Municipality including revenues and expenditures. The Municipality has already decided that this information will be placed on their own website in addition to socio-economic data, taxpayers lists and household data. The Municipality has also decided to install at least one computer in each ward so that all citizens can get relevant information close to their homes. It is also envisaged that the payment of taxes will be done electronically avoiding the need to come to the Municipality. I believe that such management innovation will go a long way in enhancing transparency, participation, efficiency and trust between authorities and the public at large.

The district of Kanchanpur represents an example of a similar initiative in the rural context. Describing Kanchanpur as an ICT-friendly district the DDC Chairman introduced farreaching changes in the management system including not only providing comprehensive socioeconomic data in computers and revolutionizing the DDC’s planning processes but also providing for the installation of computers in all VDCs of the district. An intra-district network has already been established and soon villagers will have information on plans, budgets, resources, expenditures and progress in project implementation at their doorsteps. I have no doubt that such innovations which are supported under UNDP’s Participatory District Development Prorgamme will go a long way in introducing a new culture of transparency and accountability from the bottom up.

Poverty Monitoring is another area where Information Technology can play an important role helping to assemble and transmit data from rural areas to central Government institutions, such as the National Planning Commission. Nepal’s Poverty Reduction Strategy will only be successful if Poverty Monitoring becomes an integral part of the overall system. Close monitoring will make it possible to assess the impact of strategies and programmes. Adjustments and fine-tuning can be made in the light of practical experience. Similarly Poverty Mapping will play a critically important role in determining the spatial dimension of poverty. Identifying the poorest households will make it possible to design and implement targeted Poverty Reduction programmes much more efficiently than during the past. UNDP feels privileged to be able to work closely with His Majesty’s Government in both these areas of Poverty Monitoring and Poverty Mapping applying ICT as appropriate.

During this morning’s programme we will have an opportunity to get first the broad picture, the national ICT strategy so to say from the Hon’ble Member of the National Planning Commission, Dr. Rameshananda Vaidya with whom we have been partnering closely during recent years. We will then hear two exciting examples of initiatives aimed at widening the human resources base in ICT as well as bringing computer technology to remote areas with the help of solar power. The Hon’ble Vice-Chairman of the National Planning Commission will wrap it all up in his customary brilliant fashion.

Once again welcome to you all.

Thank you.