Information and Communication Technologies for Poverty Alleviation/Preface

Preface to the First Edition edit

The information revolution is commonly talked about as a phenomenon that affects everybody, bringing fundamental changes to the way we work, entertain ourselves and interact with each other. Yet the reality is that for the most part, such changes have bypassed the majority of humankind, the billions of poor people for whom computers and the Internet mean nothing. However, in a growing number of instances, and as part of a quieter revolution, a variety of local organizations, aid agencies and government bodies are discovering that Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) can be used to extend the reach of the information revolution to the poorest of people living in the remotest corners of the world.

Under the right circumstances, ICTs have been shown to be capable of inducing social and economic development in terms of health care, improved education, employment, agriculture, and trade, and also of enriching local culture. Yet making this possible is by no means straightforward, as it involves more than the mere deployment of technology and requires as much learning on the part of the promoters of the technology as on the part of its users. It is all too easy to introduce technology with great expectations; it is far more challenging to create the necessary conditions under which the technology can attain its full potential, requiring as it does the combined and coordinated efforts of a range of stakeholders with disparate interests.

Much of the evidence in support of the use of ICTs for alleviating poverty remains anecdotal, and initiatives are proceeding with little reference to each other. There is a need for field practitioners to take stock of the experience that has so far been accumulated. Each experiment in the field generates learning opportunities and there are no failures, except perhaps our own when we do not learn from past experience. Moreover, as experience accumulates, we can begin to make general sense of it by detecting recurring themes and patterns of relationships that can be usefully carried forward.

This e-primer is brought to you by United Nations Development Programme Asia-Pacific Development Information Programme, in collaboration with the Government of India. APDIP seeks to create an ICT enabling environment through advocacy and policy reform in the Asia-Pacific region. The APDIP series of e-primers aims to provide readers with a clear understanding of the various terminologies, definitions, trends and issues associated with the information age. This e-primer on ICTs for Poverty Alleviation reviews contemporary initiatives at field level and synthesizes the learning opportunities that they provide. It serves as a practical guide for field implementers, offering not only a glimpse of best practices, but also a deeper understanding of how these have been applied in a range of instances.

We wish to acknowledge the contribution of the peer reviewers and the production team of the e-primer series.

Shahid Akhtar

Programme Coordinator,
UNDP-APDIP Kuala Lumpur,


Joint Secretary (Training),
Department of Personnel and Training (DOPT),
Government of India,
New Delhi, India