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In Focus

 In Moldova, Technology Helps Citizens Hold Government Accountable
 Eastern African Submarine Cable System (EASSy)
 Tunisia: Providing Access to Disabled Children through Tunisia ICT for Development
 WIZZIT Payments (Pty) Limited
 Rwanda: Mainstreaming Applications through e-Rwanda
 Ruralfone Inc.
 Ghana: Innovative Project Design through e-Government PPPs in e-Ghana
 Digicel PNG Limited
 Morocco: Innovative Project Design through Administrative Reform
 Telefonica Celular de Bolivia S.A.

GICT Current ICT Unit Project Highlights


Like many former Soviet Republics, Moldova is struggling with the legacy of a vast bureaucracy and corruption. However, the spread of technology – and the country’s proximity to the European Union (EU) – offers real opportunities for empowering citizens for economic and social growth.

Moldova’s Governance e-Tranformation (GeT) project is intended to modernize and improve public sector governance in Moldova, give citizens access to government documents and data for effective public use, improve the investment climate, and increase global competitiveness.

“Through improvements in the ICT infrastructure, the Government is striving to become a proactive player in building a better and less regulated environment,” said Vlad Filat, Prime Minister of Moldova.

The country is one of the first to benefit from the Bank’s e-Transform Initiative, part of the institution’s push for more open development worldwide. Last month, the Bank approved a $20 million credit to support the Moldovan project.

“Citizen’s participation and good governance are recognized today as must haves for economic success,” said World Bank Group President Robert Zoellick, before the 2011 World Bank and IMF Spring Meetings in Washington. Read more



In Eastern Africa, around 200 million people do not have access to high-speed broadband internet services, relying solely on expensive satellite connections for their regional and international communications. EASSy is an undersea fiber optic cable system that will integrate regional communications and make state-of-the-art international connectivity widely accessible ─ at competitive prices.

The 10,000 km cable will start in Sudan and end in South Africa, with intermediate landing points in Djibouti, Somalia, Kenya, Tanzania, Madagascar and Mozambique. Land-locked countries will also benefit through the development of terrestrial backhaul links to individual landing points, part of a complementary regional connectivity project sponsored by the World Bank. Onward connectivity to the global backbone network will be provided through existing international cable connections in Djibouti, South Africa and Sudan. EASSy is sponsored by 25 telecommunications operators, 19 of which are African companies. IFC has invested US$32,700,000.

The IFC played a critical role in championing this multi-country project among DFIs and government and private sector stakeholders. The additional investments in terms of staff time reflect the project’s potential development impact. Once the EASSy cable is operational, prices for international connectivity in the region are expected to drop by two-thirds at the outset, and the number of subscribers is expected to increase rapidly. In addition, the availability of affordable broadband communications will likely improve the delivery of knowledge and services in areas such as education and health. It is also expected to spur the development of knowledge-based small and medium enterprises.

This is the first initiative to foster open access and a non-discriminatory communications regime that ensures that capacity is available to all at a fair price. Furthermore, this is the first hybrid SPV-consortium model: it allows eleven smaller operators to participate in the cable consortium with reduced individual entry investments, but achieving the same scale benefits accruing to large investors.



A $13 million World Bank loan is helping to develop Tunisia’s ICT sector. The project includes support to institutional and sector reforms; improving e-security mechanisms; developing e-government applications such as e-Justice and e-Culture portals; and promoting the participation of the private sector in ICT development. As one component of the loan, the Tunisian e-Disabled project is enabling 8,000 disabled children to access primary education enabled by ICTs. Special education centers across the country are receiving computer laboratories that are equipped with accessible hardware and software such as Braille keyboards, touch-screens, and software with sign language translation. By September 2010, the total population of disabled school children, some 15,000 children, will be covered. The project also funds 24 Internet centers across the country (two per Governorate) with accessible hardware and software equipment.



This was a runner-up company in the 2008 Financial Times Sustainable Banking Awards for the category “Banking at the Bottom of the Pyramid”

Approximately 40% of South Africans do not have access to formal banking services, but 60% of the population owns mobile phones. WIZZIT is a South African enterprise that offers low-cost financial services via mobile phones to people who would otherwise not be able to access them. The company is one of the first independent mobile payment operators in an emerging market. IFC invested US$1,990,000 in WIZZIT.

WIZZIT uses existing mobile networks and the technology of a sister company in order to offer branchless banking services. WIZZIT also offers debit cards to its customers. Given the company’s low operating cost structure, WIZZIT is able to provide services at a fraction of what traditional banks would charge for similar transactions.

The development potential of WIZZIT is tremendous. Customers are able to move from a cash-based system into the formal economy and manage their wealth more effectively. WIZZIT also educates its customers while generating employment opportunities for disadvantaged youth: the company trains young entrepreneurs and allows them to set up their own businesses. To date, over 2,000 “WIZZKIDS” have set up their mini ‘franchises’ around South Africa.

Transactions conducted through WIZZIT are more secure and efficient than cash-based transactions. This benefits individual customers and small businesses owners, who can use WIZZIT to pay their employees. Cashless transactions are also more transparent; IFC plans to help WIZZIT create and implement effective anti-money laundering policies and procedures.

The growing reach of mobile services greatly increases WIZZIT’s potential impact. If it is successful in South Africa, WIZZIT and IFC will be well positioned to introduce this business model in other emerging markets. Yet the mobile banking industry is young, and its regulatory future is undetermined in South Africa and other emerging markets. IFC, the World Bank and CGAP have established a mobile banking practice group in order to bring to bear the full range of World Bank Group services in the sector, including assistance with regulatory policy, the creation of collaborative learning tools, and the provision of finance and technical assistance.



As part of a US$10 million e-Rwanda e-Government and ICT Applications project, the TRACNet system funded under the project uses cell phones for health workers in the field to gather data about AIDS patient and their drug treatment, receive lab results and report drug shortages. This allows the Ministry of Health to track the medical supplies used by 252 HIV/AIDS clinics throughout the country in real time. The results are striking: 70,000 patients living with HIV and AIDS can now be targeted for treatment against 6,000 patients before the system was introduced. This has pushed the percentage of eligible patients receiving treatment from 10% to over 65% while the percentage of patients initiating late treatment has dropped from 67% to 34%. TRACnet is being extended to deliver lab results for infants with HIV immediately so that they can be rapidly placed on life-saving treatment. Plans to expand the system to monitor other diseases such as TB and malaria could profoundly transform the impact of disease surveillance programs.


 Ruralfone Inc.
Recipient of a 2008 IFC corporate award

Telecommunications service and coverage in rural areas of Brazil has historically been very poor due to limited infrastructure, great distances and low income, cash-based economies. Ruralfone has developed an innovative business model that brings high quality services to a segment of the population that is not serviced adequately by incumbent fixed and mobile operators.

The company uses standard GSM technology to deliver local, fixed wireless solutions. It relies solely on local communities for all advertising and marketing initiatives, reducing costs and building skills and relationships with the community. The model operates profitably, without subsidies or government assistance, in a market segment considered unprofitable by most telecommunications providers.

In May 2005, through its Brazilian subsidiary, Ruralfone launched its pilot in Ceará, one of the country’s poorest states. The company has substantially increased telephone penetration in its four pilot cities and is expanding service to ten additional cities. IFC approved an investment of up to US$ 3 million to support the company’s expansion plans. The investment will be made in the “frontier” rural areas of Brazil’s north east.

The project will have a significant impact. For one, Ruralfone offers services to extremely underserved areas: 75% of new subscribers did not previously have access to a phone. By using GSM technology and reducing cost through the leasing of capacity, Ruralfone offers its customers cost reductions of as much as 40% over traditional fixed line services. In cities where the company operates, this has allowed local governments to provide additional social benefits, such as “hot lines” for violence against women and children and tourist information lines.

In addition, Ruralfone creates employment opportunities and builds local capacity by hiring and training management from the local population. Women in their mid-twenties make up over 60% of Ruralfone’s staff. For many of them Ruralfone is their first major job, and some have become the main bread winners in their households. The project also promotes local businesses: about one third of Ruralfone lines are taken by local small and medium enterprises as their primary business line.



The US$57 million e-Ghana project includes an innovative project design which spearheads a Public-Private Partnership to introduce electronic applications in key revenue agencies. Project outcomes also include four key bills passed for Electronic Transactions, Electronic Communications, National Communication and the National Information Technology Agency, the completion of a National Skills set standards, curriculum and accreditation, the completion of the Business Incubation Policy Framework, the launch of an e-Government Public-Private Partnership process to introduce electronic applications in key revenue agencies, the establishment of an IT/ITES industry Association (GASSCOM), and a 50% reduction in bandwidth prices for GASSCOM members.


 Digicel PNG Limited

Telecommunications coverage in Papua New Guinea (PNG) is limited to a few urban areas. IFC made its first investment in PNG and its single largest investment in the Pacific Region in order to provide coverage to all major cities and several remote areas, including full coverage of the national highways and critical security and commercial coverage. This is also the first major private initiative in PNG’s telecom sector. The total cost for the first phase of network roll-out was estimated at US$160 million equivalent, providing capacity for approximately 850,000 subscribers.

Digicel PNG is a subsidiary of a long-time IFC client. Building on the experience of a similar joint project in the Caribbean, IFC and Digicel were able to structure a financing package which attracted commercial banks and set the stage for a larger pan-Pacific facility, all targeted at an IDA region in need of foreign direct investment. IFC provided a loan of US$40 million to the Project, helping to structure an overall debt financing of US$92.

Digicel has constructed and now operates a nationwide GSM digital cellular network in PNG. The company was awarded a ten year license in March of 2007 through an open application and award process. It launched its network in July 2007 and currently has over 420,000 active subscribers.

Digicel’s entry into the market has encouraged competition and provided alternative service options, a key goal of the government. Initial subscriber fees have fallen from PGK125 to PGK25, and the price of calls has decreased by as much as 60%. Digicel has also introduced coverage to rural areas; the company projects mobile penetration in PNG to more than triple by the end of 2008. Digicel has generated over 200 regular jobs and created indirect employment for about 4,000 Papua New Guineans.

The success of Digicel in PNG demonstrates to other governments throughout the Pacific island region that the successful application of a sound business model in the information and communication technologies sector can significantly benefit the economy. As of November 2007, Digicel had contributed to a 0.7% growth in PNG’s GDP.



The World Bank’s instruments for “Development Policy Loans” provide untied, direct budgetary support to governments after implementation of policy and institutional reforms aimed at achieving a set of specific development results. As part of an e-Government component, this instrument was first applied in Morocco. The Morocco Public Administration Reform Project provides the equivalent of US$33 million support for improved service delivery and simplified public procedures through e-government policy reform, creation of an e-Government inter-Ministerial body, e-Customs, e-Procurement and e-National Registry applications.


 Telefonica Celular de Bolivia S.A.

Bolivia, an IDA country, is one of the least developed countries in Latin America and has the lowest mobile penetration in the region. IFC is supporting the expansion and upgrade of Telecel’s mobile cellular network. The financing will increase Telecel’s geographical footprint by about 40%, specifically targeting rural areas where 77% of the population is poor. This is in line with the government’s interest in extending and increasing coverage and improving the quality of basic services to rural areas.

This third IFC investment in Telecel, a subsidiary of long-time IFC client Millicom, will also expand the quality of service by upgrading all subscribers from the obsolescent TDMA technology to GSM. IFC is providing a senior A loan of US$30 million.

The upgrade of Telecel’s network from TDMA to GSM technology will lead to a lower cost network, with savings passing down to the consumer in the form of lower prices. The upgrade will also enable additional access for the provision of health and education services to rural areas, as well as the delivery of innovative services such as mobile banking. An expanded service offering will also increase market competitiveness and bring additional discipline to a sector in which the leading operator is likely to be nationalized.

An expansion of Telecel will generate new employment opportunities. Aside from jobs created within the company (currently over 450 employees, 97% of whom are Bolivian citizens), an expanded and upgraded network will spur the growth of related small and medium businesses, such as distributors. It also generates employment in related sectors such as network construction and maintenance. Telecel plans to expand services directed to this business segment, further promoting growth and innovation. Many of these employment opportunities will be generated in rural and semi-rural areas.

Telecel demonstrates that countries facing political instability are still able to support transparent and profitable investments, if they are carefully selected and supported by sound governance.



In most countries, health care and related costs rank as the second or third largest public budgetary expense. Health care is particularly costly in developing markets that lack the information systems to track usage, establish accountability and increase efficiency. Yet the high cost of deploying such technologies has impeded the implementation of integrated health systems and often bottlenecked development assistance to some of the world’s poorest areas.

IFC has committed to invest US$5 million in Voxiva (US$2.5 million disbursed to date), a company that develops integrated public health care systems that rely on existing mobile networks. Voxiva's systems provide insights and help manage aspects of public health care including drug inventory, disease surveillance and patient monitoring. The information generated by Voxiva's systems enable governments to know the usage, inventory and location of specific drugs, curbing waste or fraud and increasing availability. They help governments to track the spread of contagious diseases, focus prevention and containment efforts and concentrate on well-identified and quarantined geographic areas. In addition, Voxiva's systems allow people with chronic diseases to self-report their condition at defined intervals, enabling public health officials and doctors to monitor patients remotely at minimal cost.

Voxiva's systems rely on user generated reports. Through their mobiles phones, patients report their medical condition, nurses report on drug usage and needs and doctors report medical information into a national database. In addition, citizens use Voxiva’s systems to report crimes they witness in their neighborhoods. This data is collected at a fraction of the cost of paper-based systems, and with much more accuracy. The timeliness of the reporting makes the data valuable to and actionable by decision makers who are able to efficiently allocate resources to priority areas or conditions.

Voxiva's systems are already live in remote areas of Peru, Argentina, Rwanda, Kenya, Indonesia, India and Nigeria. And the company is targeting a market that is still under development. As such, it needs funding from patient and strategic investors such as IFC who share the company’s vision and are willing to invest long term capital. As Voxiva’s technology matures it will partner more frequently with local and regional system integrators that can implement solutions on their behalf. IFC’s portfolio of such system integrators is of immense value to Voxiva, as is IFC's expertise with markets to which Voxiva plans to expand.


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