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Home > Focus > ICTs, Governance and Development: understanding risks and challenges

ICTs, Governance and Development: understanding risks and challenges

by Redazione FGB [1], 25 September 2003

Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) have become a major component of development finance. The United Nations (UN) Millennium Development Goals and the good governance imitative of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) have set ambitious policy targets to promote human development and economic growth among Less Developed Countries (LDCs) and consider ICTs as facilitator for the achievement of development goals.

Good governance, commends reforms of the political, bureaucratic and legislative apparatus of LDCs, especially in projects supporting the development of e-government at a state level. As it is perceived by the donors, the adoption of ICTs will be able to ignite a process of reform which would eliminate corruption, increase transparency and establish accountability systems. By facilitating the understanding of government practices to the general public ICTs would make its information and services more accessible and participatory.

However, looking at the experiences of Kyrgyzstan and Brasil we find two entirely different contextualisations of the ICTs for development initiative. The must striking difference between the two cases is the internalisation of the initiatives (i.e. their ‘rooting’ within society at large) so as to promote local ownership structures and their consistency with respect to the other development policies implemented by the government. Kyrgyzstan, for example, has a shorter historical record with respect to Brasil and there seems to be no overall government direction or consultation about the projects undertaken by donors, other than passive compliance. The guiding principles of the good governance initiative require that many organisations participate in the realization of the ICTs projects. However, that risks to be done in a transparency vacuum on the side of donor institutions because of the lack of monitoring from both local government and civil society.

Unfortunately (in both countries) huge problems still remain in order to allow the smooth functioning of the ICT infrastructures that are being created. For instance, in Kyrgyzstan the telecommunication infrastructure of the country is unreliable and obsolete and in both countries only a very small portion of the population is able to connect to the Internet. Crucially, the extent to which the majority of the population is able to afford an Internet connection is a signal of a wider absence of certain kinds of ‘infrastructures’ taken for granted in advanced countries, including water, electricity and availability of credit.

The issues raised above are mentioned in a full research paper forthcoming in the conference proceeding of the 1st Intrernational Conference on E-Governance (New Delhi) in December 2003. The elements I am interested in discussing in this Blog are:

1) How can we improve our understanding of ‘risk’ across contexts (developed and less developed nations) and organisations (governments, donors, non-government, business and civil society)?
2) What would be the risks (according to your own knowledge and experience) faced by the different organsiations involved in delivering e-governance policy reforms, and their implications for development policy?
3) Other cases, issues and examples related to this topic are welcome. To submit your comments as well as you need further clarifications I can be reached at the following address: navarra@fondazionebassetti.org .

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