ICTs in Action

How some communities in the developing world are putting information and communication technologies to use:

Information and communication technologies are tools with myriad potential applications. What follows are a few illustrations of creative and effective uses of ICTs. We are not endorsing these projects and cannot guarantee that the synopses are accurate.



Grameen Phone’s Village Pay Phone project helps Bangladeshis without financial collateral to provide telecommunications services to their communities. They purchase mobile phones via lease, and pay for their investment by allowing villagers to make calls and send and receive messages. In time, other services such as email and fax will also be available.

The initiative has shown that poor rural residents value telecommunications and are in fact willing to pay fair (and sustainable) prices for telecoms services. In addition to providing access for the community, the phones create microenterprises. Furthermore, by employing mobile phones that can be used anywhere in the community, problems arising from the location of fixed community phones have been largely avoided.

URL: http://www.grameen.org


Adesemi Communications International is providing the first reliable, quality phone service in Tanzania through the Adesemi Payphone concept. They have installed durable user-friendly units, capable of connecting local, long distance and international calls.

Their wireless system allows the flexibility to install payphones where they are most needed, regardless of whether landlines exist. Instead of using coins, users can purchase Adesecards in denominations as small as 45 cents. Minimizing vandalism and maximizing theft protection, these cards have proven far superior to coins.

Small businesses that are heavily dependent upon communications for their commercial viability, such as taxi dispatchers, have reaped tremendous benefits. The company is planning to add Internet connectivity to its phones and is expanding its operations elsewhere in Africa, and to Latin America and Southeast Asia.

URL: http://www.adesemi.com


Red Cientifica Peruana, located in Peru, is completely self-sustaining, receiving no subsidies, governmental or otherwise. RCP has successfully set up a national network of 27 telecenters in Peru, which typically consist of 20 desktop computers with dedicated Internet access. The telecenters provide computer rentals, training, personal email accounts, World Wide Web page development and other services.

What is most notable about RCP is its successful business model. They have devised a fee structure that covers costs and allows their organizations to grow while retaining profits. Additionally, RCP has become the largest provider of Internet access in Peru and the country’s most popular portal with 20,000 hits per day (85% foreign).

RCP recently signed an agreement with the US investment fund Westsphere to form a new communications company, dedicated to expanding current Internet services, with plans to expand into long distance telephony and television programming.

URL: http://ekeko.rcp.net.pe/


Chennai Interactive Business Services has developed an English-language web portal offering a wide range of local content directed at residents and potential visitors of Chennai, India (formerly known as Madras). The expansive portal receives over 10,000 visitors daily hits and provides information on everything from recipes to railway reservations, from links to government agencies to lists of government tenders.

CIBS also has what it calls the only Tamil language e-zine, covering a variety of different issues, and appealing primarily to the dispersed Tamil Diaspora. It uses technology to support the perseverance of this ancient language and maintain ties with community members long since emigrated.

URL: http://www.chennaionline.com/

URL: http://www.aaraamthinai.com/


Centro Comunitario Internet El Encuentro, Chile’s first community Internet center, is located in Penalolen, an economically disadvantaged area of Santiago. By providing the opportunity to learn about computers and the Internet and access to them, CCI El Encuentro hopes to promote personal, social and economic development in its community. In addition to listing contact information for local microentrepreneurs, it transmits the community radio station over the Internet, and hosts other local social development groups.

Not satisfied by fostering production and dissemination of local content by the information have-nots, CCI El Encuentro also hopes to become a link between the community and government, especially as it continues to initiate new forms of e-government.

URL: http://www.elencuentro.cl/


Thanks to modern technology, 1400 people from Turkey to Great Britain to Thailand, are sharing ideas in an on-line forum called The Global Knowledge for Development Discussion List (GKD). Participants come from governments, universities, NGOs and local community members in 90 countries, more than half of which are in the developing world. Through real-time virtual chats, GKD has allowed participants to make global friends and partners, and to help in the fight to make information universally available and well utilized.

URL: http://www.globalknowledge.org/tales/virtuallythere.html


PEOPlink is a non-profit organization that helps artisans in developing countries sell their products over the Internet. The PEOPlink website features many artisans’ products, permitting remotely located customers to browse and purchase them online.

Business is conducted directly between producers and consumers, and avoids the expense of a middleman. Email enables consumers’ requests to be relayed directly to the artisans, thus allowing them to better know their distant and culturally distinct market, and to adapt their products accordingly. Many rural women’s groups have found gains in self-confidence and a new desire to use technology in their daily lives. Only a minimal amount of local bandwidth is required so PEOPlink does not need the top notch infrastructure unavailable in most rural areas.

URL: http://www.peoplink.org


It is becoming possible to split up parts of the business process in ways that were never possible before, gaining new cost savings and efficiencies. InterLink Communications provides offshore medical transcription services to the U.S. healthcare industry from its facilities in India.

Doctors dictate their notes, and the recording is digitized, compressed and sent via the Internet to India, where workers who have been extensively trained in anatomy, medical terminology, and American diction transcribe the recording into text. The time difference allows return of the resulting transcriptions overnight at a lower cost.

URL: http://www.iclnet.com


As part of its Twin Cities Network Services (TWINS) initiative, the Government of Andhra Pradesh State in India recently inaugurated the first Integrated Citizen Service Centre. Not only does the ICSC place the citizen interface for 18 services from twelve government departments under one air-conditioned roof, it actually allows all services to be delivered from any desk in the building. Services include payment of utility bills and taxes, registration of births, issuance of driving and vehicle licenses, and information on government procedures.

URL: http://www.andhrapradesh.com/