How Information and communication technologies help to eradicate poverty


Photo credit: ICT Discovery

Governments in the Asia-Pacific region have long-recognised the benefits of ICTs and many have encouraged investments in ICT infrastructure resulting into higher internet connectivity. Despite significant progress in ICT development, 930 million people in Asia-Pacific still lack internet connectivity or the e-literacy required to fully leverage on opportunities enabled  by ICT.

Today, ICTs are facilitating the delivery of information and services that promote wages and self-employment, raise productivity and improve the quality of employment generation and poverty-alleviating projects implemented by governments.

Our governments have embraced the use of e-commerce to support Small and Medium Enterprises to expand markets, facilitate remittances for its diaspora, mobile banking for remote communities, applications for the physically challenged, cloud computing for coordinated public service delivery to the public, and enable greater participation of the citizens in budget decisions and monitoring of development results.

Yes we have come a long way, but we still have a long way to go in ensuring that we leave no one behind, not only in terms of closing the digital divide but also more importantly, in closing the development divide.

The SDGs requires us to design and deploy integrated development solutions that enable us to address some of the root causes of poverty that goes beyond traditional poverty eradication programmes. Across the world, we see governments designing new strategies, deploying ICTs to alleviate poverty.

For example, in Bangladesh, UNDP’s initial support through the “Access to Information (a2i)” initiative towards the realization of the Prime Minister’s vision for a Digital Bangladesh has reduced the cost of access to services such as health, education or agricultural information and physical mobility. Under the project, 5,000+ Digital Centres are delivering over 100 services and serving 5 million underserved citizens every month. On the average, time to receive services has come down by 85%, cost by 63%. A study of 23 services over a period of 6 years reveals that simplification and digitization saved half a billion dollars for rural Bangladeshis.

In Viet Nam, an e-government initiative was introduced with UNDP support to enable the use of ICTs in online business registration, payment of taxes and other public administration services, resulting in much more transparent and efficient services. Many cities in Viet Nam started using ICTs in transportation, water and power supply, and public administration systems to make them “Smart” and efficient.

The UN has been advancing the ICTs for poverty eradication agenda through addressing digital divide since 2001 when the UN General Assembly endorsed the holding of the World Summit on the Information Society.  The WSIS+10 High-Level Meeting of the General Assembly in 2015 adopted the outcome document which reaffirms the achievement of SDGs.  We all agree that the use of ICTs is critical for attaining SDGs and eradicating poverty. This requires much stronger cooperation among the government, development partners, and the private sector. 

Can Information and communication technologies help to eradicate poverty?

There is strong evidence that the role of ICTs in eradicating poverty is undeniable, particularly for developing countries. The development of ICTs, especially in remote areas enhance people’s economic opportunities and access to financial resources, allows people to access information on government policies, social services, health care and education.

Working with our Governments, we can achieve significant results in using ICT to support poverty reduction.  We at UN/UNDP stand read to continue this collaboration.

Poverty reduction and inequality Haoliang Xu

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