ICTSD2004: Abstract

Title Utilizing ICT for Sustainable Development in Developing Countries.

The global economy is increasingly becoming dependent on ICT systems, while developing countries are critically operating under lack of e-readiness, newly evolved constraints, open competition, and unsteady sustainability policies. Infrastructure, content and human capacity are rapidly expanding through increased participation of private sector investment, though not with enough benefits to the marginal communities in rural regions. Information management technology plays a critical role in facilitating the flow of information, knowledge, and lessons learned among different communication tiers within the society. However, the infrastructure needs to be designed to meet the requirements for mass dissemination of useful information to the community.

The increasing international interest in the potential of ICT as a tool for fostering sustainable human development has been reflected in a series of activities, and accelerated by a number of events, like the G8 2000 meet in Tokyo, WSSD Johannesburg Summit in 2002, and WSIS Geneva Summit in 2003. These series of international conferences, attended by experts from developed countries, have become interactive and open dialogue platforms for discussing the differences in access and use of the information technologies in developed and developing countries.

Though the focus and attention to this issue have not been underestimated globally, the efforts and measures have not yet been harmonized by the volume of actual resources dedicated to abridge the existing differences. A concerted effort to overcome the digital divide needs to be undertaken. The digital divide should not be treated as a single parameter within itself; rather it is a product of other more entrenched divides, social and economic. Information technology should be taken as the premier strategic instrument to address these fundamental demarcations by forming an integrated, multi-spurred approach by incorporating information-driven changes within and across developing countries and regions. ICT can potently serve as an inter-active, specifically designed and mutually supportive element in diversified socio-economic development efforts.

Developing countries and especially the least developed countries (LDCs), have yet to attain measurable socio-economic benefits out of ICT. Development of this sector has often been hindered by a combination of outdated infrastructure, relatively high telecommunication costs, inappropriate technology policies, absence of skilled professionals and the intricate culture of information interchange. With these views and practices, many of these nations could not able to be the forerunner in the global market and compete with their more fortunate neighbors.

Due to the uneven and scanty penetration of fixed telephone and the availability of computer in rural and other disadvantaged regions, information is not readily available there except through mono-directional media. Radio, TV and print media are widely used as the means of sharing information. They are not interactive and the information provided is driven by the publisher, rather than by the end user. The Internet has the potential to change this paradigm entirely.

However, the sustainable development processes should accommodate the advancement of equitable and environmentally sustainable policies with strengthened economic, political, and socio-cultural capabilities of people to support the democratic evolution and economic liberalization. The development strategies should comprise of human resource development; gender equity; infrastructure development/up-gradation; e-governance; private sector entrepreneurship enhancement; and environment awareness, focusing utilization of information technologies for the advancement of the marginal communities.

Keywords: G8, WSSD, WSIS, sustainable development, ICT.

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