World Bank Group consults on ICT strategy

Tuesday, 8 February 2011 00:20 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

The World Bank Group is launching a global consultation to gather inputs from a wide range of individuals and organisations for a new strategy that will guide how it helps developing countries mobilise Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) for poverty reduction and growth.

Interested parties can submit their comments and recommendations during one of the three dedicated live webcasts that will be held this month, starting on Friday, 4 February, at 11am EST (Washington DC) or via the ICT Strategy website until 31 March 2011.

“You just have to be in any developing country, and you’ll see the power of ICT,” says World Bank Managing Director Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. “There are over three billion mobile phones now in the developing world. We want to take it to the next level and support the use of mobile phones and the Internet as a platform for social services, green growth, and social accountability — as a way to help boost the well being and incomes of poor people.”

During the last decade, the Bank Group has supported major reforms of telecom markets around the developing world, contributing to attract massive amounts of private investment in mobile phone networks. Mobile connectivity networks now reach more than three billion people in developing countries.

The Bank Group has also financed connectivity infrastructure and supported regulatory reform, including privatisation of state-owned telecoms providers, liberalisation efforts, human capacity development, and ICT applications in public administration, health and education, among others. These new consultations will help set the scene for the bank’s work in this area in the years to come.

“The ICT field is moving so fast that our strategy should be to leverage expertise outside the World Bank and make it available to our clients,” said World Bank Vice-President for Sustainable Development, Inger Andersen. “It is about using the World Bank as a smart intermediary, connecting countries to solution providers whose innovations can help them address the development challenges they face.”

Altogether, the Bank Group has provided over US$7.7 billion in funding for ICT components in projects, supported over 20,000 small and medium-sized enterprises in over 80 countries through 300 incubators in infoDev’s incubator network, and enabled over $30 billion in private sector investment in low-income countries from 1997-2007.

The International Finance Corporation (IFC) provided investments of over $3.2 billion for 203 private sector projects in developing countries, of which $1.8 billion were in 32 low-income countries, and mobilised an additional $1 billion of financing, overall leading to 225 million new mobile subscribers in developing countries and creating 57,000 IT jobs in 54 companies.

The Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) has provided 38 investment guarantees in ICT sectors in developing countries, guaranteeing $1.3 billion for 21 projects, 12 of which are in Africa. Its work contributed to $6 billion foreign direct investment in the sector.

“The information technology revolution is just beginning,” said Philippe Dongier, Manager of the Bank’s Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) sector.

“A few years from now, the majority of Africans, Latin Americans, South Asians and other people elsewhere in the developing world will have, in effect, a small mobile computer in their hands—connected to the web and with the knowledge of the world at their fingertips. We would like to help our clients leverage this transformational opportunity.”

An ‘Approach Paper’ for the ICT Sector Strategy will facilitate these consultations. It is on a website (, where online comments can be submitted until March 31, 2011.  The Approach Paper proposes three strategic directions to shape the Bank Group’s work in ICTs in the coming years:

Connect – Expanding affordable access to voice, high-speed internet and information and media networks.

Innovate – Using ICT for innovation across the economy and promoting the growth of IT-based service industries.

Transform – Supporting ICT applications to transform the efficiency and accountability of service delivery for increased development results across the economy.  Comments and recommendations will be given due attention in preparing the new ICT Strategy.  During the third quarter of 2011, a draft ICT Sector Strategy will be posted, and further comments invited.