This week we read an article by Erwin A. Alampay, an ICT specialist from the University of the Philippines. In his article, he explained how information and communication technologies can be used for development and how universal access policies are beginning to address the problem of the digital divide. Alampay raises the idea that policymakers need to understand not only who has access to ICTs but also where and how. While this information is still very hard to analyze and requires more research, it made me wonder if countries that lack access to ICTs are employing any innovative methods to bridge the digital divide. I found a few but none more impressive than Burundi’s project.
Burundi, a small country in Sub-Saharan Africa, is one of the world’s poorest countries and the adult literacy rate is very low. But Burundi’s president, Pierre Nkurunziza, has established an ambitious project to redevelop the country through the use of ICTs. He has partnered with contractor, BBS Company, to install fiber optic broadband infrastructure and as of August 2012, the network covered 8 of 17 provinces in the country. President Nkurunziza believes that ICT access development will help bring the country out of poverty and has even begun using ICTs to ensure government transparency and accountability. Furthermore, Nkurunziza has laid out plans for the ICT sector to continue to grow over the next decade and become a regional hub for information and communication technologies. With Burundi hoping to address education, poverty, health and gender problems through the use of ICTs it is clear that not only developed countries but developing countries as well are beginning to utilize ICTs to accelerate development. Nkurunziza seems to believe that ICTs are the key to solving problems in Burundi and I think that is the same for the rest of the developing world. If leaders and policymakers from other developing nations copy Nkurunziza’s ICT development plan, I think many of the challenges these countries face, like poverty, unemployment and education, will be resolved.