December 2007

ICTs – A Catalyst for Inclusion

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“The goal of the development process must be to include every last member of our society, particularly those who are at the margins. This not only broadens the support base for development, it also strengthens the government's ability to perform its core developmental role.” Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh's address at the Conference on Democracy, Development and Social Inclusion, Dec 2005

With 1.1 billion people, a smorgasbord of cultures, religions, and languages and a vibrant and healthy democracy, India is progressing on a scale that is unprecedented in history. It is today one of the world's fastest growing economies with a growth rate of 7 percent during the 10th Plan Period (2002-2007) and is the fourth largest economy in terms of purchasing power parity. India has emerged as a global player in information technology, biotechnology, business/knowledge process outsourcing, telecommunications and pharmaceuticals.

Though the threat of large-scale famines has been banished and absolute poverty reduced by more than half, yet substantial disparities remain: child malnutrition is a shocking 47 percent while the under-5 mortality is as high as 87 per 1,000 children. Female literacy hovers around 50 percent while 70 percent of the population does not have access to improved sanitation facilities. Endemic malnutrition continues to sap the resources and strength of more than half of our population thus preventing them from realising their full potential.

Social inclusion
On one hand there are the disparities in the growth process noted above, while on the other there are disparities across regions and across groups and communities. While Hyderabad

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