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IP/02/116

Brussels, 23 January 2002

Commission adopts blueprint to help put information and communication technologies at service of worlds' poor

Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) offer both challenges and promises for social and economic development and this is nowhere more apparent than in the world's poorest countries. This is the message of the Communication on "Information and Communication Technologies in Development: The role of ICTs in EC development policy" adopted by the European Commission. The Communication states that the EU will support and use ICTs not as a priority sector, but rather as a tool to achieve the objectives within the focal areas and crosscutting themes of the new EC development policy. As such, ICTs are not to be considered in isolation, but as part and parcel of an overall development strategy. The Communication illustrates several concrete possibilities for ICT applications, notably in the context of the EC six development priority areas; trade and development, regional integration and co-operation, support to macroeconomic policies and social services, transport, food security and rural development and institutional capacity building. The Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid, Poul Nielson, stated "ICTs can assist development objectives in a number of ways. This paper has the merit of suggesting concrete applications that recognises the realities of poverty and avoids a donor-driven approach." Erkki Liikanen, European Commissioner responsible for Enterprise and Information Society said, "In view of the opportunities which ICT offer for economic and social development, including poverty alleviation, the European Commission is now moving ahead in a determined manner. I am pleased to offer our experience on information society and development policies to the benefit of developing countries, notably Africa."

ICTs offer significant opportunities to decrease social and economic inequalities and to support sustainable local wealth creation, thus helping achieve the broader development goals. However, on the other hand, if misapplied ICTs might result in a further marginalisation of the poor, thus adding a digital dimension to the existing social and economic inequalities in and amongst developing countries. The Communication outlines the Commission's intention to play a more proactive role in the use of the information and communication technologies in the fight against poverty,

As with other development challenges, the decision to embrace these new opportunities belongs to developing countries themselves and the relevant stakeholders, notably the local communities. Ownership by them is indispensable. For its part the international community can play a pro-active role, by pointing to the potential benefits of new policies and assisting interested countries in designing appropriate policies in function of their situation and priorities.

As for actual planning, programming and implementation, the Communication proposes to consider ICTs in the framework of the Commission's country and regional strategy papers, to support multi-stakeholder approaches, to share knowledge on lessons learned, and to apply more effectively the current provisions on complementarity and co-ordination with Member States. Indeed, while a few years ago, very few donors were active in the sector, there is now and increasing number of players and effective co-ordination is essential. This message was also conveyed to the third informal EC/Member States' experts meeting on IT and development, held at the end of November.

Operationally, the European Commission is becoming more actively involved in this area. It has recently approved a € 63.5 m ICT regional program in favour of Latin America (@LIS), that comes on the top of comparable programs for Asia (Asia I & T) and the Mediterranean (Eumedis). Within the current policy and financial frameworks, similar programs for the ACP may be considered in the context of the 9th EDF programming exercise.

The document can be found at the following address:

http://ec.europa.eu/development/document/com_en.htm


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