ICT Access in Burundi: Can ICTs Solve the Problems of the Developing World?

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.

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2 responses to “ICT Access in Burundi: Can ICTs Solve the Problems of the Developing World?

  • mjurczuk

    I think it’s really interesting that a country as poor as Burundi is taking on such a relatively revolutionary development plan. The fact that it is so poor and underdeveloped makes me questions the effectiveness of such a plan, though. Perhaps they should start smaller, building infrastructure and minimizing social divides so that the ICTs have a greater impact. I definitely do agree that ICTs, when used appropriately and to their maximum capacity, can help to substantially develop second and third world nations. Simply being able to communicate information more quickly can help protect people in various aspects of daily life.

  • rgoode2

    This is really impressive! I had no idea Burundi was taking on such a project. Like the commenter above, there are definitely things to think about in terms of its success. Some may say that having access to the internet doesn’t help anyone if you don’t have computers or the skills to use them, but it is certainly a step in the right direction, because having access will create a stronger desire to utilize that access, producing more interest in obtaining the skills and computers necessary. I wonder if that is a later segment of the project- to distribute computers within the 8 states and provide computer literacy classes? It sounds like a huge project, and hopefully it will provide tangible benefits to the economy and society.

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