• ICTs and MDGs: New opportunities on the development horizon | Raul Zambrano

    01 Mar 2013

    students with computers
    In Albania, 2,128 public schools were equipped with computer labs and 589,000 students were taught how to use them. (Photo: UNDP Albania)

    We must acknowledge the amazing and certainly unexpected growth in the use of mobile technologies and devices on a global scale. While at the beginning of the new millennium mobiles were practically nonexistent in developing countries, today almost 4.8 billion people use them. Experts have already pointed out that this is the first time in history that a technology spreads so fast in so many countries.

    We have also seen the rapid emergence of social media and so-called Web 2.0 platforms. Unlike the Internet of the 1990s, social media empowers users to generate their own content and distribute it in real time to billions of people at almost no cost. Mobiles and social media are linked in multiple ways. Just recall the recent “Arab Spring” revolutions which capitalized on both, mobilized millions and triggered political change. Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) are an integral part of the Millennium Agenda as reflected in MDG 8, target 18, which calls on bringing access to ICTs for all.

    While this is a  commendable goal, the real development value of new ICTs stems from their transformational potential. ICTs can provide new and innovative solutions to traditional development goals. They can not only increase the efficiency and efficacy of public processes but also radically change the way in which development assistance is provided.

    Today, social innovators and social entrepreneurs are developing solutions that respond to the needs of local communities. They have the trust of local populations and can effectively deliver – including applications on health, education, agriculture, and gender-based violence, among many others.

    The MDGs and the upcoming post-2015 development agenda must jump onto the innovation train before it leaves the station. We need to harness ICTs and innovations to scale up ongoing initiatives and develop new ones. Only then will we be able to reach the billions who still today have little to no access to basic public services and information -while empowering them to be part and parcel of the overall process.