ICTs and Capacity Building

Bridging the so-called “digital divide” that has resulted from the gap in information and communications technology between developed and lesser developed communities is one of the Grand Challenges facing modern society. The Report of the Independent Commission for World Wide Telecommunications Development suggests that  other Grand Challenges have taken precedence over telecommunications development. However, there have been improvements in international commitments to increase access to ITCs.

The World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS)+10 Outcome Document outlines measurements of implementing policies focused on expanding communications infrastructure and access. These policies were decided during the 2003 and 2005 conferences, and represent a “common vision on the information society.” It seems to be widely accepted now that telecommunications should be just as crucial of an element in development as topics which attract more attention – such as agriculture and clean water policies. The WISIS+10 document emphasizes the creation of partnerships to overcome this Grand Challenge of ITC disparities. Public Private Partnerships (PPP) and Multi-Sector Partnerships (MSP) are the two which are directly mentioned in the document. One key partnership which is less highlighted, however, is that between ITCs and energy companies.

It goes without saying that electricity is necessary for making use of modern communications technology. Although, while a concern for capacity building is articulated in the WSIS+10 documents and other ITC related policies, it should also be noted that there is a potential for ITC development to compliment alternative energy development. Communities that lack affordable energy cannot even begin to think of advancing their communication infrastructure. What is more, access to energy must increase in order to expand access to the information society. The clear link between these two Grand Challenges demonstrates the need for partnership between their respective communities.