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
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.
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
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 5,000 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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.