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Working Paper_60004.pdf - Bangladesh Online Research Network

Working Paper_60004.pdf - Bangladesh Online Research Network

W orking

W orking Paper Series 04I. ON WRONG FOOTINGThe MDG as regards ICT is on a completely wrongfooting. Under the Goal 8 Develop a GlobalPartnership for Development, target 18 is related toICT. The target is expressed in the following way: Inco-operation with the private sector, make availablethe benefits of new technologies, especiallyinformation and communication. For achieving thistarget, three indicators have been selected:Indicator 46: Telephone lines and cellularsubscribers per 100 population.Indicator 47: Personal computers in use per 100population.Indicator 48: Internet users per 100 population.The placing of ICT under Goal 8 was an error in thefirst place, because receiving assistance of the ICT,in alleviating poverty is not possible throughisolated technology intervention. The agenda iswrong as it prioritises the use of ICTs in those areaswhich are often least achievable and will notautomatically play a contributing role to povertyalleviation. The teledensity can be increased from 2percent to 10 percent by the year 2015 with theparticipation of private operators, given that propercompetition policy and universal service obligationare in place for the telecommunication market. Theuse of computers and the Internet may also beincreased by appropriate tariff policy and fiscalpolicy measures. However, this growth in use ofcomputers and the Internet will not ensure that therewill be a positive impact on poverty alleviation. Inthis context, anecdotal illustration of the meetings indevelopment institutions as regards ICT anddevelopment presented below will be relevant.1One can just envisage the meetings in development institutions :Boss: "Ok chaps, we need to apply ICTs in development. Where shall we put the computers?"Underling no.1: "Well, sir, how about in some high-tech firms in the city that could use them to createjobs and improve exports?"Boss: " You idiot, that's not what poverty alleviation and social development are all about. Get out ofmy sight.”Underling no.2: "I know, sir, how about putting them in a small village where there's no electricity,most people are illiterate, and everyone is really poor."Boss: "Brilliant suggestion; here's $100,000; go and do it."Bringing connectivity and technology alone withoutmaking them relevant to the livelihood of the poorpeople is unrealistic. This core issue of linking ICTand poverty alleviation is to improve access toinformation and knowledge by the poor, fordeveloping livelihood through technology. This is avery complex process. Only local languagelivelihood content can make a difference to theinformation starved poor. The delivery mechanismis also important as a poor farmer, who is oftenilliterate will not use a computer herself/himself andmost importantly, will not be able to afford it.Despite the exponential penetration of mobilephones, not all poor villagers will be able to affordpersonal mobile phones in near future. In thiscontext, one can easily understand that the indicatorsfor achieving the MDGs on ICT and technology areinsensitive to the reality of poor peoples' livelihood.In Bangladesh, the personal computers per hundredpersons will not increase dramatically even in 2015.It is also not feasible to put an indicator like “internetusers per 100 population”. From the resourceallocation point of view and from affordabilityperspective, public access system to technology,particularly ICT is most suitable for the developingworld. “copy-paste of the indicators” which aresuitable to developed countries, is a manifestationthat proper thoughts were not applied to the issue.1Heeks R. 2005. “ICTs and the MDGs: On the Wrong Track?”1Millennium Development Goals in Bangladesh and Information and Communication Technology

W orking Paper Series 04There are alternative indicators which wouldprovide better picture in terms of accessibility to theICTs mainly telephones, Internet and personalcomputers. The major difficulty of the poor people isaccess to information, an important economic andsocial resource. The ICT related millennium target issupposed to be devoted towards mainstreamingICTs, in improving access to information.The target 18 is confined within the private sector.While private sector investment is important forachieving progress, it is foolish to expect that privatesector will invest for the poor. There should bespecific plans for addressing “market failure”problems. Only a proper regulatory framework cancompel the private sector to roll out connectivity inthe “non-profitable areas” through universal serviceobligations. The target could include the third sectoror citizens sector, which is very active across theworld, particularly in the ICTs.The government claims that in order to address theissue of poverty “…Bangladesh is in the process ofcompleting its first PRSP, which has taken intoaccount the MDGs. The PRSP is addressing theissues of pro-poor growth and human development,and when implemented will accelerate theachievement of the MDGs.” The mapping exerciseof the PRSP thematic area of “ICT and TechnologyPolicy” with MDG 8 was accomplished.II. PROGRESS IN ACHIEVING MDGGOALSIt is very interesting when the government perceivesthat “…the main underlying factor for the slow pace2of MDG achievement is poverty” while actuallyMDGs have been designed for poverty alleviation.This is a reverse logic and the inability to recognisesome of the real causes of failure to achieve theMDGs are: improper resource allocation, failure toprioritise the action agenda, corruption, malgovernanceetc.III. (i) Progress in Achieving Teledensity:Indicator 46The teledensity including both the fixed line andmobile phone was 1.85 percent in 2003.Source:[Raihan and Mahmood, 2004].2Government of Bangladesh and United Nations Country Team in Bangladesh. 2005.Millennium Development Goals, Bangladesh Progress Report 2005, February, 2005 pg. 6, Preface.Millennium Development Goals in Bangladesh and Information and Communication Technology2

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