This short report provides a list of new information and communications technologies (ICTs) being used to enhance development outcomes. The use of ICTs among poor people is growing rapidly. In 2009, there were an estimated 2.2 billion mobile phones in the developing world and 305 million computers. In 1998, two of every 100 inhabitants in developing countries was a mobile phone subscriber – by 2008, that figure was 55 out of every 100. ICTs are being used to support development outcomes in five primary areas. First, they have helped to improve poor people’s access to markets, financial services and employment. Second, they have helped to improve the provision of services to poor people by governments, the private sector and NGOs, and to make these services more responsive to the needs of poor communities. Third, they have supported improvements in accountability, transparency and participation, by allowing citizens to publicise their concerns and grievances, share ideas, present information and hold governments to account. Fourth, they have contributed to improvements in security and supported efforts to protect human rights. Fifth, ICTs have affected the operational approaches of donors and other development actors.
Many of the approaches and tools mentioned in this report are still relatively new, and have not been subjected to rigorous evaluation. Very few ICT for Development (ICT4D) activities have proved sustainable. Recent research has stressed the need to shift from a technology-led approach, where the emphasis is on technical innovation towards an approach that emphasises innovative use of already established technology (mobiles, radio, television).
The first section of this report assesses the various applications of ICTs for development, while the second section provides definitions of selected ICTs.