South-South/Traingular Cooperation, ICT for Development and Post2015

The Administrator will be participating  in this event on Contributions of North-South, South-South, Triangular Cooperation, and ICT for Development to the implementation of the Post-2015 Development Agenda which take place at the UN in New York on 21-22 May. She will be making a 10 minute speech. ExO has requested inputs from South-South, Post2015 and our team so that they can draft the speech.

While our brief was much longer, here are the 11 key points we submitted, some of which should be highlighted in her speech. We will see.

  • A plethora of developing countries are currently harnessing ICTs to reinsert themselves in the global economy in more sophisticated fashion and going beyond the production of traditional staples and raw materials. From India to Rwanda, this group of countries see ICTs as a way to leapfrog development and address some of the core socio-economic issues they face today.
  • Most of these countries have setup long term national strategies that support not only the development of a local ICT sector and industry but also see ICTs as a dynamic enabler that can bring the benefits of development to the billions sitting at the bottom of the pyramid.  When it comes to scaling up and replicating successful initiatives, ICTs can certainly make the difference.
  • The rapid diffusion of mobile technologies in developing countries has also contributed to lowering the barriers to local innovation. Nowadays, we might we witnessing a paradigm shift as local social innovators are taking matters into their own hands, deploying local solution to local problems and working closely with local communities who in turn know them and have trust on their work.
  • Most government however remain oblivious to these developments and continue to rely on traditional development networks that at this point in time might not be ready to offer any new solutions to pervasive and seemingly unsolvable development challenges.
  • It is with this in mind that UNDP has launched  the International Network of Social Innovators for Human Development in partnership with Motorola Solutions.  The network was launched first in Kenya, then in Tunisia and Rwanda, and is expanding to other countries and regions. It is connecting social innovators with policy makers at the national and global levels while also fostering South South cooperation that can foster the cross-pollination of ideas, knowledge and initiatives among developing countries.
  • The fact that innovation is now taking off in developing countries also provides fertile ground for them to directly tackle some of the development issues that are more adequate given local and cultural contexts. While most ICT innovations are developed within the context of industrialized countries, nowadays many developing countries are in a position to develop and manufacture their own solutions that directly respond to local needs. From basic and affordable mobiles to software solutions for mobile banking running in local languages, these solutions can not only be more affordable to most people but also prove to be more sustainable in the medium and long run.
  • And here, once again, South South can help advance this agenda, especially if we keep in mind that emerging economies such as Brazil, China, India, South Africa, etc. are already in the innovation track but still face similar socio-economic and governance gaps as the poorer countries in the world. A solution that is thus targeted to the poorest in sat Brazil can thus be easily adopted and adapted in say Mozambique where contexts are similar.
  • While new technologies are rapidly transforming the lives of many around the world,  access to them is still unevenly distributed between men and women. This not only limits the choices and prospects of women, but also negatively affects development progress for communities and countries alike. Addressing the gender gap is important for development, including the achievement of the MDGs and in of the post2015 agenda. Enhancing understanding that equal access alone is not enough, and  emphasizing that to achieve gender equality, empower women, and drive sustainable development, we must also ensure that ICTs as enablers can play a catalytic role in empowering women.
  • Let is not forget that ICTs are not foreign to the MDGs. They are integral part of the Millennium Agenda as reflected in MDG 8, Target 18 which calls for bringing the benefits of ICTs to all. Target 8.F may be considered achievable by 2015 when it comes to access to mobile services (by the end of 2013, about 6.8 billion have mobile subscriptions)1 but the potential of ICT’s as important enablers of sustainable development has yet to be fully realized.
  • But we also need to learn from this experience. For starters, MDG Target 18 is basically focused on access alone. While this is a certainly a commendable goal, access alone does not not guarantee that ICTs can have a direct impact on the achievement of  other MDGs – on the contrary, it might actually compete with them. And secondly, this approach ignores that ICTs are enablers of human development and are thus a means to an end -and not a goal on themselves. Being connected to the Internet for example does not automatically enhance human development.
  • New ICTs are also empowering people by creating new communication and interaction channels among them and between them and governments. This has also been fueled by the emergence of new middle classes in a rather large group of developing countries. Pressure on states to delivery in effective fashion to people’s demands is increasing and being acknowledge at the international level too. To effectively respond to this, governments also need to capitalize on the new technologies for their own benefit by using them to capture citizen input, prioritize and localize such demands and invest in such areas to tackle concrete development challenges.

Cheers, Raúl

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