The World Bank is an international organization that manages the distribution of aid and makes loans to developing countries, with the goal of reducing poverty and spurring development. In June of 2012, the World Bank updated its ICT strategy, previously revised in 2001, to reflect the progress of ICT’s in the past decade. The strategy is focused around three pillars: transform, innovate, and connect.
Transform: “Making development more open and accountable, and improving service delivery – for instance, education, health, and financial services” .1) open and accountable development using ICTs: This strategy point focuses on using ICTs to increase government accountability and the availability of information and data. This requires cross-sector cooperation between government, civil society and businesses to improve the delivery of services, as well as citizen feedback systems. Given the World Bank’s focus on aid, this strategy emphasizes the use of ICTs in monitoring aid programs in order to evaluate and maximize their efficiency. Also, this point recognizes the ability of ICTs to empower and involve women in society. 2) transformation of service delivery: This point focuses on the delivery of services in the sectors of health, education, social protection, justice, agriculture, water, energy, and transport. The WB recognizes the widespread use of mobiles, and their strategy promotes them as the most effective way to get services to those who need them most. This point also stresses the need to coordinate services between sectors, so there is less overlap and more convenience for citizens. 3) projects: an open and free World Bank database; initiatives to inform citizens about projects in their country and increase their involvement; a more selective and restrictive allocation of funds to IT investments because of their high failure rates.
Innovate: “Developing competitive IT-based service industries and fostering ICT innovation across the economy – with a focus on job creation, especially for women and youth” 1) competitiveness: by giving incentives to the private sector to develop ICTs and establishing regulations to build trust in the ICT sector governments can enhance competition and therefore drive down costs of ICTs, making them affordable to a larger population. This point also mentions the usefulness of mobile banking in helping small businesses get financing. 2) IT-based services: governments need to play an active role (tech parks, infrastructure, etc.). Building IT skills is essential. The best ways to do this are through curriculum integration at the secondary and tertiary levels, investment in R&D, and standard testing in the IT field. 3) ICT entrepreneurship: In order to support business start up, countries should provide training and reasonably priced start-up space. Another feasible strategy is to promote clustering of IT businesses for cooperation and knowledge sharing. 4) Bottom-up, user-centric approach: Introduces the concept of “light innovation” which is an inexpensive, decentralized and fast moving model for innovation. It focuses on innovation from the user perspective, using community networks to produce ICT solutions.
Connect: “Scaling up affordable access to broadband – including for women, disabled citizens, disadvantaged communities, and people living in remote and rural areas” 1) Promoting affordable and accessible broadband services: Broadband service is expected to require more government intervention than voice telephony. Therefore, countries should expect to allocate more time and resources towards the development of these services. One way this can be done is through removing obstacles and giving incentives for the private sector to invest in broadband in underdeveloped regions.
The World Bank is in an excellent position to insure that its policy strategies such as this one are carried out. One of the implementation methods is for the World Bank to be more conservative with its available development funds. The countries that are seen as compliant with this ICT strategy will be allocated more aid from these funds than those that are not. Needless to say, this is a very powerful economic incentive. Out of the current World Bank projects, the World Bank claims that 74% of them have an ICT component. It recognizes the need to improve this number, and this new strategy is seen as what will be an effective way of doing so. It will be interesting to see if this new strategy will effect how countries approach ICT4D and if their funding from the World Bank will be altered.