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Ethiopia Fights Poverty with Information Technology

  • Ethiopia is working to expand access to information and communication technologies (ICT)
  • A World Bank-funded project established community ICT centers and provides help for SMEs
  • Over 3,000 people have been trained at ICT community centers

ADDIS ABABA, December 15, 2010 -- Information and communication technology (ICT) has the power to connect communities, share information and support economic development. Over the past few years, Ethiopia has taken encouraging steps in expanding the use of ICT and with the help of a World Bank-funded project, more communities will have access to its development benefits.
Ethiopia’s ICT field has room for improvement. Over the past few years, the government of Ethiopia made developing and promoting the ICT sector a priority and established the Ethiopian Information Communication Technology Development Agency (EICTDA). But Ethiopia still lags behind, ranking 147 out of 154 countries in the 2009 International Telecommunication Unions’ ICT Development Index.

Funded with US$16 million from the World Bank’s International Development Association, the Information Communication Technology Assisted Development project (ICTAD) has supported the government’s efforts in developing the ICT sector and focuses on bringing ICT services to both rural and urban communities.

Since its launch in 2005, the ICTAD project has established several training and ICT centers across Ethiopia, contributed to new laws around the ICT sector and helped adapt new policies, standards and directives that create an environment conducive to ICT sector development. At the community level, the project aims to increase access to markets and development information and improve the delivery of public services.

Expanding ICT access to rural communities

Remote areas have a great demand for better access to information. In order to meet this need, ICTAD established 65 community ICT centers throughout the country. These centers help diminish the rural-urban economic disparities by providing better access to market information and facilitate service delivery in health, education and other areas. In addition, the ICT centers provide basic computer trainings and other ICT services. So far, over 3,283 people have been trained in these centers.

Among the regular users of one of the ICT centers is 20-year-old Muna Hassen who says that the first time she ever touched a computer was at this center. Muna is taking the ICT training to gain the necessary knowledge that will enable her to open her own training center and internet café.

Another satisfied customer of the center is Sadam Mohamed, a 21-year-old who is also taking one of the ICT trainings offered at the center. “I chose this centre because of the quality of the trainings it offers and its low price,” said Sadam. Most private ICT center charge over 450 birr (US$27) per class but this center only charges 130 birr (US$7).”  

ICTAD has also established eight community radio stations in rural communities to help reinforce the coherence of communities and strengthen initiatives to find local solutions to development issues. Across the different regions, these community radio stations help foster community participation and create an appetite for transparency, accountability and good governance.

In Kaliti, a suburb of Addis Ababa, ICTAD funded a fully-equipped and networked Computer Refurbishment and Training Center. The center refurbishes donated used computers and sells them to schools, health centers and communities at affordable prices. The average saving per computer is US$500. The center has the capacity to refurbish up to 15,000 computers per year. In addition, the center trains more than 50 ICT technicians every year with skills that will enable them to go out in the workforce and gain employment or start their own business.

Boosting private sector development

The project established four business incubation centers in different regions.  These centers help start-ups and entrepreneurs in ICT-related businesses to transform their potentially valuable ideas into marketable products, applications, and services. These centers have helped 43 private ICT start-ups to launch businesses.

ICTAD provided training to small and medium size enterprises (SME) to improve the skill of private sector or self-employed citizens and government employees in computer maintenance and the basics of computing and database management. As part of the capacity building effort, ICTAD supplied ICT equipment and materials and trained teachers of several institutions. This program trained 645 SME operators, including 288 women.

Protecting the environment from computer waste

An increase in computers also means an increase in potentially harmful computer waste. Improperly disposed of computer parts are harmful to the environment and people because they contain toxins such as lead and mercury. These chemicals can seep into the water system and contaminate drinking water, resulting in adverse effects on the central nervous system of human beings, animals, and plants. Working closely with the Ethiopian Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), ICTAD helped in formulating laws and regulations to control the handling of toxic electronic waste. Before ICTAD, there was no process in place to collect and process electronic equipment in Ethiopia after life cycle.

Even with these encouraging results, still, work remains to be done in the field of ICT development in Ethiopia. In its new five-year development plan, the government of Ethiopia aims to further expand information and communication technology throughout the nation. The Work Bank also plans to continue assisting the government in its ICT efforts.

For more information about the ICTAD project, please contact Wuleta Giday or Gelila Woodeneh

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