The World Bank Group’s work in the ICT sector aims to empower people socially, economically and politically to reduce poverty and increase shared prosperity. Below are some recent examples of projects that have lowered barriers to mobile and internet access, boosted jobs and improved government effectiveness and transparency.
In the Pacific region, the World Bank is helping the populations of remote islands gain access to broadband internet, making it easier and cheaper for people to connect to friends, jobs and knowledge. In August 2013, a new 830-kilometer fiber optic cable connected the country of Tonga, made up of 176 islands spread across 700,000 square kilometers of ocean, to Fiji and onwards to global broadband networks. As a result, the household price for a month of internet service, per gigabyte, has fallen by 60 percent, and bandwidth utilization has grown tenfold. The arrival of broadband in Tonga is expected to help create more local jobs through business expansion, as well as facilitate access to remote health and education services. Similar benefits are expected to spread throughout the Pacific as other countries join the Pacific Regional Connectivity Program.
In Afghanistan, a US$22 million credit supported sector reform that made the telecommunications market more competitive and attracted more than US$1.2 billion in private investments. This helped increase the number of telephone subscribers from 57,000 to 13.4 million between 2002 and 2010, and reduce costs from US$2 a minute to 10 cents a minute.
The World Bank Group is now financing a US$50 million project that aims to provide internet access to more users in Afghanistan, build on widespread use of mobile phones to improve the delivery of public services, and support nascent entrepreneurship in the ICT sector. To date, about 186 kilometers of fiber cable have been constructed. The Ministry of Communications and Information Technology has adopted an open access policy for the national backbone network, ensuring non-discriminatory access to wholesale internet bandwidth for all firms. In addition, approximately 600 Afghans have been trained to become skilled information technology (IT) professionals.
Boosting skilled job creation in the IT industry is also at the core of MexicoFirst, an institution supported by the World Bank Group in Mexico that trains and certifies IT workers for higher- paying jobs. As of 2013, more than 64,000 people were certified by MexicoFirst. An impact evaluation study found that graduates received an average salary increase of 36 percent after going through the certification program. ICTs are also creating new types of work, such as online contracting and micro work, in environments constrained by lack of quality physical infrastructure, travel restrictions or social norms.
In the Palestinian Territories, where youth and female unemployment rates are particularly high, the World Bank Group provided technical assistance to facilitate the creation of online work business partnerships between Palestinian workers and international online work companies.
The power of mobile technology was tapped to ensure food security in Uganda. In March 2013, ICT specialists helped the Ugandan government obtain rapid feedback on an outbreak of wilt infection in the country’s banana crop, a major staple consumed by over 14 million people in Uganda. They did this through U-reporters, a network created by UNICEF that includes more than 190,000 volunteers who use mobile technology to report on development issues. Over a period of just five days, text messages to and from U-reporters helped track the outbreak and raise awareness of treatment techniques.
In Moldova, the World Bank Group and its partners have helped usher an ambitious agenda that aims to transform the delivery of public services using ICTs, including the first public sector-shared cloud infrastructure for a client country, and the launch of many online e-services that have improved citizen-government interactions. There are now 395 services on the Government Services Portal, of which 95 are online e-services. Moldova has won several international awards, including one by Transparency International, for its Bank-supported work in this area.
Last Updated: Oct 02, 2014