Digits4Change: Do ICTs make a difference?

When it comes to bridging the Digital Divide, there’s so much hype, rhetoric and confusion. For many in the UN system, it’s just another development issue to be bandied about at endless meetings and conferences, and to be reflected upon from 30,000 feet above the ground where they find themselves most of the time.

Yet, at the ground level, individuals and communities are adapting various ICTs to meet their practical needs and solve real world problems. I sometimes feel that whatever bridging of the Digital Divide will happen in spite of, and not because of, the UN agencies and other development players debating issues to exhaustion.

In 2005-2006, we at TVE Asia Pacific documented some of these efforts in different parts of Asia. We looked at a variety of technologies solving a range of problems. This became Digits4Change.

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Here’s our series intrdocution:

There are more poor people in the Asia Pacific than in all other regions combined. At the same time, some Asian countries have achieved the most advanced economies in the world. Their prosperity is partly due to how they have developed or adopted information and communication technologies — or ICTs.

How can the developing countries of Asia use these digital tools to help generate wealth, create more jobs and improve living conditions of people? Governments, private sector, civil society and researchers have been trying out various approaches for years. The World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) in 2003 – 2005 took stock of what has been accomplished, and what remains to be done.

TVE Asia Pacific – a regional leader in using audio-visual media to cover development issues – embarked on documenting examples where ICTs have made a change in people’s lives in the world’s largest region. We investigated stories on distance learning, business process outsourcing, tele-health and rural connectivity.

The result is a new video series: Digits4Change.

Watch Digits4Change stories on TVEAP’s channel on YouTube

Read my views on the newly launched UN Global Alliance on ICTs for Development , published on SciDev.Net

One Response to “Digits4Change: Do ICTs make a difference?”

  1. Sandra Says:

    The UN-GAID is probably another endless talk shop of the United Nations, whose track record in promoting ICTs for development is patchy at best. The combined wisdom of the UN and assorted development experts failed to anticipate how fast mobile phones would spread in the Third World. Did a single UN agency back mobiles except the ITU whose job it is to promote telecommunications development everywhere? Similarly, the Internet, handycam video cameras and other digital tools were developed by the IT or electronic industries, and it was civil society activists who realised their potential for solving development problems. The over-paid, under-worked and completely unimaginative UN experts arrived at the scene years later. UNESCO is now trying to promote yesterday’s ICTs for solving today’s problems — they should just stick to talking each other to death in New York, Geneva, Paris and other UN capitals of the world….


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