After the Millennium Development Goals: partnering with business to increase access to technology.

This week we read about the Millennium Development Goals. We have done a better job of meeting some goals than others, but with the end of the Millennium Development Goals now just one year away, the question becomes what’s next?

Richard Heeks alludes to some problems with ICT4D within the MDGs:

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 create jobs and improve exports?”

Boss: “You idiot, that’s not what poverty alleviation and social development are all about. Get out of my 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.”

Though his example may be a bit exaggerated, it’s not too far from the truth of what has happened in some areas. Technology has developed rapidly and no longer fits into the mold of the MDGs. When was ask ourselves ‘what’s next,’ the answer has to include a more sensible technological development strategy that keeps in mind the ever-changing nature of technology.

The Guardian ran an article last week asking the very question about what will come next after the MDGs. It argued that business will have to have an important role in future development.

“The expansion of mobile and internet networks into new territories, for example, could not have taken place so quickly without the private sector,” it argued.

The article is correct. Business is a crucial player in getting affordable technology access to those who need it. It must continue to do that.  The development field must also recognize that market-based solutions are some of the most successful solutions to developmental problems and it must work with businesses and the ventures of social entrepreneurs. Heeks’ example is an important one as well. Sometimes it is more beneficial to provide resources to businesses who, on the surface, don’t seem like they need help so that they can continue to innovate and create jobs for those who need help the most.


2 responses to “After the Millennium Development Goals: partnering with business to increase access to technology.

  • sydlicht

    I agree that business will play a powerful role in making technology available to those who need it. I have found Microsofts 4 Afrika initiative to be particularly interesting. The idea is to build capacity by teaching skills to budding entrepreneurs and providing technological materials in schools and businesses. Also, they are working in offices in Afrika to design apps that suit the needs of various communities.

  • jgallag2

    I love that these thoughts are coming from an international development student. I think we are often pegged for being liberal do-gooders who want to go in to poor communities and better their lives and in no way shape or form help big businesses. It comes from the ideologies of what we believe the role of government to be and how that determines the allocation of social welfare. That is why I love the suggestion of social entrepreneurship because it is a fair bridge between ideas too heavily derived from the trickle-down theory and small projects based on themes directly correlated with the MDGs. If all the do-gooders in development want to actually “do good” I think we need to correctly acknowledge, as stated, that incorporating businesses to create jobs and effective markets is more useful that trying to make change along the lines of the MDGs.

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