The World Bank Group released its ambitious new Information and Communication Technology (ICT) strategy aimed at helping developing countries use ICT to transform delivery of basic services, drive innovations and productivity gains, and improve competitiveness. The strategy reflects rapid changes in the ICT sector over the last decade, including a dramatic increase in use of mobile phones and the Internet, plunging prices of computing and mobile internet devices, and the increasing prevalence of social media.
“Information and communication technologies can help reduce poverty, boost economic growth, and improve accountability and governance,” said World Bank Vice President for Sustainable Development Rachel Kyte. “The World Bank Group’s new strategy will help our client countries take advantage of the opportunities that ICT offers across all sectors of the economy, drawing on our unique expertise in public-private partnerships in the ICT sector.”
The new strategy for 2012-2015 builds on the Bank Group’s experience working with client countries on ICT sector reforms, infrastructure development, and electronic government:
Over the 2000s, Bank support for ICT sector reforms helped attract an estimated $30 billion in private investment for mobile network infrastructure in the least developed countries. The IFC’s $2.3 billion in telecommunications infrastructure investments and MIGA’s $550 million in political risk guarantees also supported private investment in mobile service providers in difficult and high-risk environments.
Bank Group support for ICT applications has grown rapidly over the last decade, and over 70 percent of the 1,700 projects in the Bank’s active portfolio now have ICT components.
Since 2007, the Bank Group has intensified its support for public-private partnerships for broadband and high-speed Internet, helping bring down retail prices and increasing the take-up of services, in some instances by a factor of 10.
“The Strategy recognizes the vital role of the private sector in improving access to information infrastructure and services in developing countries,” said Rashad-Rudolf Kaldany, IFC Vice President for Global Industries. “IFC works with the private sector as an advisor, financier, and standard setter, to help unlock the potential of ICT for development.”
Stakeholders from 17 low- and middle-income countries and 4 OECD countries provided inputs for the new strategy, which emphasizes the transformative potential of ICT – in areas such as accountability, energy, and health – while maintaining a steady focus on ICT-enabled innovation and ICT infrastructure. Bank Group support will be directed to three priority areas:
• Transformation: Making development more open and accountable, and improving service delivery – for instance, by facilitating citizen feedback to governments and service providers.
• Connectivity: Scaling up affordable access to broadband – including for women, disabled citizens, disadvantaged communities, and people living in remote and rural areas.
• Innovation: Developing competitive IT-based service industries and fostering ICT innovation across the economy – with a focus on job creation, especially for women and youth.
The World Bank, IFC, and MIGA will work together to assist countries in unlocking the opportunities offered by ICT. For instance, the World Bank will provide support for appropriate policy, legal, and regulatory frameworks, as well as catalytic investment in ICT backbone infrastructure; IFC will provide financing and advisory services to mobile operators; and MIGA will provide guarantees to support the roll-out of telecommunications networks and services.
“MIGA has contributed to the rapid growth of access to ICT services in emerging countries by mitigating the political risk of investments. Under the new WBG strategy, MIGA will make available its insurance capacity to further accelerate ICT investments in higher-risk countries, notably fragile and post conflict countries, where ICT will be key to growth, job creation, sharing of knowledge, and governance,” said Michel Wormser, MIGA’s Vice President and COO.
The ICT strategy will adopt a new approach to implementation, including country diagnostics to help prioritize Bank Group interventions at the country level and leverage more partnerships with external sources of expertise. A results-based framework will be used to track progress.