Information and Communication Technologies: Results Profile

April 13, 2013

The World Bank helps developing countries use information and communications technologies (ICT) to improve access to affordable connectivity, including broadband, transform delivery of basic services, drive innovations and productivity gains, and improve competitiveness. Since 2007, the World Bank Group has strengthened its support for public-private ventures for broadband and high-speed Internet, reducing retail prices and increasing service use, in some cases by a factor of 10. Its support for information and communication technology sector reforms helped attract an estimated US$30 billion in private investment for mobile network infrastructure in IDA countries.


Technological progress is a considerable driving force behind economic growth. ICT infrastructure in particular has attracted much investment, and generated significant fiscal revenues and employment opportunities in developing countries. 

The number of mobile subscriptions in use worldwide, both pre-paid and post-paid, has grown from fewer than 1 billion in 2000 to over 6 billion now, of which nearly 5 billion in developing countries.  The number of Internet users in developing countries has also grown close to twenty-fold. With Internet penetration at a turning point, including in the least connected region, Africa, and with over 91 percent of the population in developing countries having access to fixed or mobile telephone, ICT networks now constitute a far-reaching service delivery and citizen participatory platform. ICTs can be used as a vehicle to increase accountability, and to transform and extend the reach of service delivery to the underserved in an innovative, fast, and cost-efficient manner. 

Key remaining challenges and opportunities for developing countries include (i) improving affordability in order to reach the population in developing countries that currently lives beyond the ICT networks, (ii) widening access to more advanced, affordable ICT services such as broadband for high-speed internet, (iii) leveraging the new ICT infrastructure to improve the delivery of services and to build on it as a source of economic growth, and (iv) developing and aligning people skills relevant to the information technology-enabled services industries and knowledge economy.


In 2012, the World Bank released a new ICT sector strategy comprising three strategic directions: Connect, Innovate and Transform.

The strategy’s Connect pillar focuses on expanding connectivity infrastructure and promoting stability and predictability in regulatory systems. The World Bank has worked with over 100 countries over the last decade to support privatization and sector liberalization, as well as capacity building for governments and regulatory institutions. More recently, the World Bank has stepped up its financing of innovative public-private partnerships as catalytic vehicles to attract additional private sector investment in broadband infrastructure. This includes regional communications infrastructure programs to accelerate the rollout of terrestrial backbone networks and submarine cable systems in Africa, Pacific Islands and the Caribbean. 

The strategy’s Innovate pillar develops competitive IT-based service industries and fosters ICT innovation across the economy, including at the grassroots technology entrepreneurship level – with a focus on job creation, especially for women and youth. This support includes a small but growing portfolio of IT industry development projects in Ghana, Mexico, Kenya, Armenia, Nigeria, and Bhutan

The strategy’s Transform pillar draws on deep sector expertise and relationships with government institutions to integrate innovations into service delivery and the accountability process. This makes development more open and accountable, and improves government services to citizens and businesses in for instance, education, health, and financial services. This support includes a portfolio of eGovernance and eTransformation projects in Vietnam, Ghana, Rwanda, Sri Lanka, Moldova and the Eastern Caribbean.


Some examples of results achieved with World Bank support, based on financing from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), the International Development Association (IDA), or through trust funds managed by the World Bank, include:

Africa: The IDA-supported Regional Communications Infrastructure Program (FY07-FY13) and the International Finance Corporation (IFC) jointly developed the Eastern Africa Submarine Cable System (EASSy), illustrating a joint World Bank Group approach to regional infrastructure development. The first project is a US$424 million World Bank program that supports improvements in the enabling environment and regional integration of telecommunications terrestrial networks through financing of public-private partnerships and broadband capacity purchases. The second project is a US$240 million investment in the EASSy submarine cable connecting the east coast of Africa (from South Africa to Sudan) to Asia and Europe. These projects have contributed to a 90 percent reduction in wholesale capacity prices in East Africa, with retail prices already starting to drop by about one-third in Kenya and Rwanda. In Kenya, this has helped in increasing the number of Internet users to 14 million in 2012 from 2 million in 2007.

Ghana: The e-Ghana Project (FY07-FY12, IDA) has an innovative design featuring a public private partnership to transform revenue collection, using a joint venture between government revenue agencies and a private sector partner. The project has helped the government attract US$40 million in private sector investment for developing and deploying an electronic tax application to automate revenue agencies and the Registrar General's Department. Upon completion, this application is expected to help the government increase compliance and transparency, and broaden the tax base, while reducing the incidence of fraud, upgrading government employee skills, and developing a template for upgrading other agencies.

Mexico: Through the Mexico IT Industry Development Project (FY09-FY13, US$80 million, IBRD), the World Bank has assisted the Government of Mexico in the creation of MexicoFIRST, an institution aimed at closing the gap between demand and supply of skilled workers in the ever-changing IT industry. Through partnerships with global companies and strong links to local IT clusters, academy, and industry associations, MexicoFIRST provides certification programs that increase the quality of the Mexican labor pool. Students pay between 10 to 40 percent of the certification prices, making certification affordable. As of 2010, more than 6,000 people have been trained and certified in skills that will qualify them for employment with higher salaries. It is expected that more than 30,000 people will be certified by the end of the project. The certification gives the Mexican labor pool the ability to qualify for jobs higher in the value chain.

Rwanda: The eRwanda Project (FY07-FY11) financed 18 telecenters for rural populations and equipped 12 district offices with computers and office software, allowing the local government offices to be connected to Kigali’s central government. The project also financed four ICT buses that have been roaming among Rwanda’s district offices, teaching youths, civil servants, farmers, politicians and private sector entrepreneurs on ICT skills. Throughout the project, 2,822 citizens were trained on ICT subjects, helping them gain skills that will serve them throughout their lifetimes as employees, entrepreneurs, and local leaders, including 760 district office staff. eRwanda also had a strong gender focus. Among the trainees were 685 council women in rural areas, who learned how to access information and run relevant applications for their farms or cooperatives. 

Iraq: A US$65 million international trust fund supported the construction of the Iraq Inter-Banking Network (IIBN) to connect the headquarters of all banks in Baghdad area (52 banks) to the Central Bank of Iraq (CBI). All the 52 banks were connected by project closing. As a result, the project had a positive impact on the following services of the Central Bank: (i) the real-time gross settlement system, (ii) the automated clearing house, (iii) the Government Securities Registration system; and (iv) the Checks Enablement Project. The number of transactions in Iraqi dinars and US dollars per year increased respectively from 5,844 and 1,276 in 2008, to 30,740 and 6,898 in 2012. The microwave network of Iraq Telecom Post and Communication (ITPC), the state-owned operator, has been successfully rehabilitated. The project rehabilitated three routes departing from Baghdad, and which had been destroyed by the war: Baghdad-Ramadi-Trabil (500 km), Baghdad-Kirkuk-Mosul (390 km), and Baghdad-Amara-Basra (450 km). These three links (1,340 km out of the 2,050 km of telecom backbone) are now fully operational and allow telecommunications between the capital city and other provinces of Iraq. This brought reliable communications to more than 12 million people in five regions in Iraq outside the capital city. 

Moldova: The Governance eTransformation (GeT) Project (US$20 million, FY11-FY17) supplemented by a Moldova eGovernance Multi-Donor Trust Fund (US$1.8 million Dutch contribution) supports the government’s efforts to transform delivery of selected public services using ICTs. The project has funded the set-up of the e-Government Center, whose mandate is to lead the government-wide e-Transformation agenda, along with the procurement of the first public sector shared cloud infrastructure for a World Bank client country and the launch of several online e-services that are already starting to have noticeable impact on citizen-government interactions.  These services include the launches in September 2012 of a general Government Services Portal and in May 2012 of an e-Criminal Record that shows if an individual or legal entity has been convicted under criminal law. The effect was immediate: within the first month of the Portal launch, 3,000 visits were recorded, and within two months of the e-Criminal Record launch, that number had increased by over 1,300 percent to 40,000 total portal visits.  This increased ease of access to criminal records is expected to lead to greater transparency and reduced corruption and bureaucracy between citizens, government, and business. Moldova has won several international awards, including one by Transparency International, for its Bank-supported work in this area. 

Highlights for results from IDA countries include:

Nicaragua: A US$16 million project supported the strengthening of the regulator, privatization of the incumbent telephone operator in 2001, and introduction of competition in the sector in 2005. It helped bring about a ten-fold increase in mobile subscriptions by 2010. Total telephone penetration (fixed plus mobile) increased from 6 percent in 2001 to 25 percent in 2005, and to over 60 percent in 2008. Thanks to a follow-up project of US$10 million project, to which IDA contributed US$7 million, more than 350,000 people in 350 communities in rural Nicaragua received access to telephone services and more than 860,000 people in 104 rural municipal towns received an Internet connection for the first time. One hundred public Internet access centers were installed by the project for the benefit of those who could not afford to have direct access in their homes. The users pay a modest hourly fee for using Internet access, and receive free training for using the service, as well as for basic computer tasks.

Afghanistan: A US$22 million IDA credit supported sector reform that made the telecommunications market more competitive. The project has attracted over US$2 billion in private investments, improving access to ICT services and reducing prices. This helped increase the number of telephone subscribers from 57,000 to over 18 million between 2002 and 2012, and reduce costs from US$2 a minute to less than 10 US cents a minute. The Afghan telecommunications sector now contributes an estimated US$75 million in taxes annually.

Bank Group Contribution

Since its inception, the World Bank has supported more than 100 developing countries with investments and technical assistance in ICT. Since 2003, it has committed over US$1.3 billion for investment in standalone ICT projects, including US$776 million by IDA. In addition, the World Bank supports IT components in lending projects across other sectors, such as education, health, and public sector management. In a 2006 study, this figure was estimated to be US$7.3 billion in some 1,700 active projects under preparation or implementation. Approximately US$45 million was spent on analytical work and technical assistance in the ICT sector since 2000.


The World Bank has worked extensively with other partners in the ICT sector: 

• On policy formulation, the World Bank has worked with the International Telecommunication Union (co-producing the Telecommunications Regulatory Handbook) as well as bilateral agencies on raising awareness for open access policies. 

• On ICT infrastructure financing, funding for the EASSy project, a 10,000 km submarine cable system linking South Africa with Sudan via landing points in Mozambique, Madagascar, the Comoros, Tanzania, Kenya, Somalia and Djibouti, was done in partnership with other donors and the funding was undertaken by IDA jointly with the IFC, the European Investment Bank, the African Development Bank (AfDB), and the German development bank/Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau Bankengruppe (KfW). The World Bank and the AfDB are also working together with the Africa Union on the Central Africa Backbone program. 

• On facilitating project development, the Korean Government has made available a US$15 million Korean Trust Fund focusing on project development for investment and lending, and innovative analytical work related to ICT as an enabler of transformation. 

• On contributing to building ICT and eGovernment competencies in developing countries, the World Bank is partnering with the Government of New Zealand’s Department of Internal Affairs.

• On developing a strategic technology accelerator program to benefit developing countries, the World Bank is partnering with the Government of Singapore.

• On improving access to telecoms/ICT in the Pacific Region, the World Bank has worked with AusAID through the Pacific Facility Trust Fund and Pacific Region Infrastructure Facility to help finance TA and operations in Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, Kiribati, the North Pacific, and the Pacific Regional Connectivity Program.

• On improving access to education in the Caribbean, the European Commission is funding a euro 10 million fund to support the Caribbean Knowledge and Learning Network (CKLN), which has implemented a private broadband network among Caribbean educational institutions. 

Moving Forward 

As part of the process to formulate its new ICT Sector Strategy, the World Bank Group reassessed and refocused its role and priorities for engagement in the ICT sector, and across sectors, to help developing countries mobilize ICT for poverty reduction and growth.  

Going forward the WBG will follow three strategic pillars. It will promote ICTs to transform services for greater development impact—strengthening accountability and governance, improving public services, and enabling more inclusive private delivery of services (Transform pillar). It will advance ICTs to improve competitiveness and accelerate innovation across the economy and target skills development for ICT-related jobs (a large portion known to be going to women) to improve productivity (Innovate pillar). And it will scale up its support for policy reforms and private and public-private ventures to catalyze investment in broadband infrastructure and expand access to broadband services, including for women (Connect pillar).

The new ICT Sector Strategy highlights leveraging partnerships with external sources of expertise and sharing ownership of the agenda across the institution. Key features of this new approach are (1) using country diagnostics to prioritize WBG interventions at the country level; (2) strengthening collaboration in the WBG and with partners; (3) becoming a connector of expertise for our clients; and (4) adopting a stronger cross-sector and cross-region leadership of the ICT agenda, improving IT procurement outcomes, and focusing on ICT skills development. 


The Organization of Eastern Caribbean States’ (OECS) Telecommunications and ICT project (TICT) included a Universal Service Fund (USF) component that provided equipment and software to upgrade an Information Technology Center for the Saint Lucia Blind Welfare Association. The center was equipped with ten computers, a scanner and the ‘Job Access with Speech’ (JAWS) software, which has several features supporting visual impaired learning, such as reading out loud text on a computer screen. JAWS increases visually impaired students’ ability to attend secondary schools and university, enabling them to follow the normal teaching speed of a class.

Visually impaired students can also access the Internet and social media through this software. As a result, 90 visually impaired students in St. Lucia now have access to an Information Technology Center on the island with a learning application for visually impaired students, whereas before there was no access to this customized technology. 

14 million
Internet users in Kenya in 2012 compared to 2 million in 2007