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Information and Communication Technologies for Development

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Telephone booths in Sudan
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At a Glance

          Governments, businesses and people across the developing world use information and communication technologies (ICTs) to make public services more efficient, grow businesses, and strengthen and expand social networks.

          The number of mobile subscriptions in use worldwide has grown from fewer than 1 billion in 2000 to over 6 billion now, of which nearly 5 billion are in developing countries. More than 30 billion mobile applications, or “apps,” were downloaded in 2011. Wireless communication networks are now the world’s largest platform to deliver information, including public and social services to people in rural and poor areas.

          A 10 percent increase in mobile phone subscribers is associated with a 0.8 percent increase in economic growth, while a 10 percent increase in high-speed internet connections is associated, on average, with a 1.3 percent increase in economic growth, according to a World Bank study.


What We Do: World Bank Group Engagement in ICT

          Since its inception, the Bank has supported more than 100 developing countries with investments and technical assistance in ICT.  Since 2003, it has committed over $1.3 billion for investment in stand-alone ICT projects, including $776 million by IDA.

          Bank support for ICT components in projects across other sectors, such as education, health, and public sector management, has grown rapidly over the last decade. Over 70 percent of the 1,700 projects in the Bank’s active portfolio now have ICT components, at an estimated $7.3 billion.

          The Bank’s investments have helped attract over $30 billion in private sector investments in ICT in low-income countries from 1997-2007.

          The Bank has allocated $45 million to analytical work and technical assistance in ICT since 2000.  

          The International Finance Corporation (IFC) has invested over $3.8 billion since 2001 in 199 private ICT sector projects in developing countries, of which $2.05 billion was in 33 low-income countries.  IFC has also mobilized an additional $1.2 billion of financing. The Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) has provided investment guarantees totaling $1.8 billion in the ICT sector since 1988, including $550 million for projects in Sub-Saharan Africa. 

          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.   


World Bank Group ICT Sector Strategy 2012

In July 2012, the World Bank Group released its new ICT sector 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. Under the strategy, the World Bank, IFC, and MIGA will work together to assist countries in unlocking the opportunities offered by ICT, focusing on 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.


Information and Communications for Development 2012: Maximizing Mobile
In July 2012, the World Bank and infoDev released a new report which analyzes the growth and evolution of mobile telephony, and the rise of data-based services, including apps, delivered to handheld devices. Around three-quarters of the world’s inhabitants now have access to a mobile phone. The report finds that mobile applications not only empower individuals, but have important cascade effects stimulating growth, entrepreneurship, and productivity throughout the economy as a whole. The study benefited from research funded by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of the Government of Finland, the Korea Trust Fund for ICT4D, and UKaid.


Selected Results
In Afghanistan, the sector reforms supported by the World Bank contributed to an increase in the number of telephone subscribers from 57,000 in 2002 to almost 13.4 million by 2010, raising total telephone penetration (fixed plus mobile) of 0.2 percent in 2002 to over 27 percent in 2008. The Afghan telecommunications sector now contributes an estimated $75 million in taxes annually. In 2002, it cost about $400 to own a mobile phone and $2 for every minute of talk time. Today, people there can own a mobile phone for less than $50 and spend less than 10 cents per minute for talk time. The total project cost was financed by a $22 million IDA credit. An additional $6.1 million came from the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF), and the Public Private Infrastructure Advisory Facility (PPIAF) provided a grant of $480,000.


In Iraq (Kurdistan), the World Bank, with $13.2 million funding from the Iraq Trust Fund, helped establish an Emergency Medical Services (EMS) system for the Ministry of Health, to provide pre-hospital care for citizens throughout the region. Three call centers were set up in Kurdistan, Iraq, which respond to emergencies using ICT such as computer-aided dispatch of ambulances to the emergency scene and a live display of geo-spatially mapped ambulances at each call center for asset tracking. During a trial between January and March 2012, 803 emergencies were reported and processed. The target population served is about 4.9 million people.


In Ghana, the government’s proactive policies, combined with support from the World Bank and four other development partners, contributed to a competitive and vibrant industry with a telephone penetration of over 60 percent. The $84.7 million World Bank funded eGhana project is building on the IT-enabled services industry, including support to develop a Business Process Outsourcing center. Over 1,000 jobs have been created in the industry during the last two years. The additional partnership between the public and private sector to train some 50 training institutions and 6,000 business process outsourcing agents is expected to further strengthen Ghana’s position as one of the most attractive locations for IT-enabled services business in Africa.


Related Links: 

ICT website: 


Contact:  Cathy Russell, +1 (202) 458-8124,          

Updated September 2012


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