impact of ICT in rural areas and particularly on rural poverty is very
limited despite its penetration into every corner of modern life.
Although, experiences abound demonstrating that ICT can make a
significant contribution to reduce rural poverty, the list of failed
initiatives appears even longer. One of the major reasons for this mixed
performance in rural areas is that its adaptation to the local needs was
left either to the private sector or to non-governmental organizations.
These organizations oftentimes operate without an official framework of
policies and guidelines and a clear definition of tasks and
responsibilities for the different “players”.
its very nature, ICT development tends to increase income inequality
within the country for several reasons: (i) it requires relatively good
education and special skills to make full use of ICT for socio-economic
gains, (ii) ICT infrastructure is more profitable and therefore easier
to develop in urban areas, thus further broadening the gap between urban
and rural access to ICT, (iii) those who developed widely used ICT
applications are mainly from urban areas who could reap benefits from
being first in tapping the ICT market in the country. Notwithstanding
the inequality bias, ICT has potential to improve the livelihoods of
low-income earners by enhancing delivery of socio-economic services,
offering them opportunities to increase income and empowering them
through participation in decision making processes.
leadership is a key element in making ICT work for the rural poor.
Country studies in India, Malaysia and Thailand commissioned by
the Rural Development Section of ESCAP’s Population, Rural and Urban
Development Division found that governments have an important role in
creating an enabling environment for ICT expansion in rural areas. These
findings were echoed by Michael Rawding, vice-president of Microsoft
Corporation at the ADB-sponsored seminar, “Unlocking the ICT Potential
in Asia and the Pacific”, held in Shanghai, People’s Republic of
China in May 2002, stating that partnership and government leadership
are pre-conditions to the success of the promotion of ICT in poor areas.
What is required and in most of the cases missing is a national ICT
policy that puts poverty reduction at the centre and addresses the
inequality bias of ICT development.
of national ICT strategies for rural poverty alleviation is a complex
matter. There is no single solution or best ICT project to fit all rural
situations, but a variety of approaches would be needed, particularly in
the early stage of ICT expansion in rural areas. Understanding how
ICT can service specific development goals requires both knowledge of
appropriate technologies and how these
technologies could be operationalized to address socio-economic goals in
rural areas. Key policy-makers need to make informed decisions to enact
“enabling” policy frameworks appropriate for their contexts and
the Fourth Session of the Committee on Socio-economic Measures to
alleviate Poverty in Rural and Urban Areas,
held in Bangkok, in December 2001, high-level government representatives
reiterated the lack of specific guidelines for governments to develop
national ICT strategies for the rural poor.
Subsequently, the participants of the recently held seminar on
“Information Technology Needs Assessment and Readiness in the Greater
Mekong Subregion (GMS)” recommended that governments should establish
a national ICT master plan. The master plan should ensure citizens’
access to relevant ICT services, as well as creating an environment for
the private sector to participate actively in ICT development. The
seminar was organized by ESCAP in Bangkok from 23 to 25 April 2002.
in the current reform of its
programme structure is giving increased importance to the use of ICT in
poverty reduction. It is ESCAP’s intention to establish “exchange
mechanisms such as internet-based regional resource facilities so that
Governments and other agencies can have easy access to information on
issues related to urban and rural poverty alleviation.”
workshop will be convened
at the United Nations Conference Centre in Bangkok, Thailand, on 28 and
29 January 2003.
overall objective of the
meeting would be to bring the benefits of the ICT revolution to the
rural poor. The specific objectives would be to:
the formulation of consistent national policies on ICT for rural
poverty reduction and sensitize the need for government leadership
in making ICT an effective tool for rural poverty reduction;
collaboration among governments, development organizations, NGOs and
other stakeholders in finding solutions to the common problem of
reducing rural poverty through application of appropriate ICT
services in rural areas;
a framework of national ICT policies for rural poverty reduction and
recommendations for defining the role and limitation of government
and other parties in developing ICT into an effective tool for rural
poverty reduction, including services expected to be rendered by
in defining ESCAP’s role in promoting ICT policies for rural
poverty reduction. and facilitating access to information on issues
related to rural poverty reduction through the identification,
analysis and dissemination of best practices.
selected number of experts on the application of ICT in rural areas will
be invited to attend the meeting. They will be from
central and local government agencies, community based rural
organizations with practical experience of ICT application and the
private sector with involvement in rural communication, communications
research and with experience in local content development for effective
programming of ICT uses in rural income generation.
addition representatives from other organizations involved in ICT policy
development and application for poverty reduction in the region will be
invited to attend at their own expense. These organizations include the
and Pacific Development Information Programme (APDIP) of UNDP.
Asia Networking Programme of IDRC.
Networking for Rural Asia/Pacific Projects (ENRAP) of IFAD.
Task Force of ASEAN.
of ICT services available in rural areas and their effectiveness in
addressing poverty reduction and the role of various stakeholders
of existing ICT government policies and programmes including
guidelines/instructions addressing ICT for rural poverty alleviation
role of private sector in rural ICT development
for formulation of national policies and legislations for successful
ICT application in rural areas and bridging the digital divide and
ESCAP’s role in promoting national ICT policies for rural poverty
terms of reference will be
provided to the invited experts for items to be covered, including
existing government policies, guidelines and instructions at central and
local level. From the beneficiaries such policies, i.e., the end-users
of ICT services a candid analysis of the successes/failures with regard
to usefulness of such services is expected. The private sector is
expected to describe the operative framework in which activities are
taking place and what improvements/adjustments for enhanced private
sector participation would be needed. An expert on communications
research and contents development will be expected to identify areas of
current shortcomings and recommend appropriate government policies and
papers should not exceed ten standard typed pages, single spacing, and
contain a half-page summary of salient
points. The invited experts are requested to submit their papers to the
organizers by 15 December 2002, either on floppy disk or as e-mail
attachment. In addition they should bring 10 copies of the paper for
distribution to other participants at the meeting.
are encouraged to use computers, transparencies or slides for their
presentations and are requested to inform ESCAP in advance of their
outcome of the meeting will largely be measured by the results achieved
in discussions and the recommendations made for ICT development
guidelines aiming at rural poverty reduction. Active interaction
with other experts, secretariat staff and representatives of other
organizations will be essential for the success of the meeting.
official working language of the meeting will be English. As all
documents will be available only in English,
participants must have a good working knowledge of the English language.
to be funded by ESCAP will be provided with round trip air
transportation following the most direct
and economical route between the airport of departure in the
participant’s home country to Bangkok, Thailand. Tickets will be
issued through local UNDP offices. ESCAP will assist self-financing
participants in hotel reservation at a reasonable United Nations rate as
of the workshop are expected to arrive one day in advance of the
meeting, on 27 January 2003 and shall leave not later than one
day after its conclusion. The accommodation for participants will be
reserved at Thai Hotel (78 Prachatipatai Road, Bangkok 10200, Tel:
662-2822831-3, Fax: 662-2801299) for three nights subject to
confirmation by the participants at least one week in advance. The
current daily rate for single accommodation in the hotel is Thai Baht
900 (approximately US$ 22) for bed and breakfast. The hotel is located
about one kilometre from the UNCC.
should obtain appropriate entry visas to Thailand from a Thai diplomatic
or consular mission at their point of origin or en route to Thailand.
will meet the cost of participation of some selected experts. They will
provide the nominated with a daily subsistence allowance (DSA), covering
boarding, lodging and incidentals in local currency at UN standard rates
for the period of attendance of the meeting. One extra day of DSA will
be paid as a contribution towards the incidental expenses to travel
abroad, such as expenditure for passport, visa, medical examination,
inoculations, and other such miscellaneous items as well as travel to
and from airports. No additional claims will be considered.
further information on the Expert Group Meeting, kindly contact:
Mr Peter Hegenbarth
Economic Affairs Officer
Poverty Reduction Section
Poverty and Development Division
Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific
Rajdamnern Nok Avenue, Bangkok 10200, Thailand
Fax: (662)288-1056, (662)288-1000