This is your space to share your views and experiences about using information and communication technologies, or ICT, for development. Let me start by telling you who we are and why we started this blog. The World Bank Group is the largest international donor in the field of ICT for development, and the Bank Group's engagement in ICT is managed by the Global ICT department. This is a joint department of the World Bank and IFC, so we work with governments and the private sector in developing countries to help them put in place ICT infrastructure and applications. We do this by providing loans and investments, technical assistance, and advice on policies and regulations for developing the ICT sector and for promoting competition and innovation which ultimately lead to better, more affordable services for consumers.
We have been working in this area for over ten years, and initially we focused on helping developing countries build ICT infrastructure - basically, cables and wires - to bring telecommunications and the internet to the most remote areas. Now, as more countries have in place this infrastructure, we are helping governments and the private sector to use ICT applications for delivering more, and better, public and business services to their populations. This means helping people access education and health services online, or enabling them to transfer money and make payments on their cell phones. In many cases, it means using ICT to provide services that people would not be able to access otherwise.
So we have been in this field for a long time, but we are still asking ourselves: how can new technologies help extend benefits and create opportunities for people in developing countries? can we do more? can we do things better? Today, there are over three billion mobile phone users in developing countries. The number of Internet users in developing countries jumped from 76 to 786 million between 2000 and 2007 - a tenfold increase. It's a different landscape from ten years ago, and we are rethinking our approach to make sure that we are addressing the priorities and needs of people in developing countries. There are no universal answers or solutions, but there are best practices and we can learn from them. There is also a vast amount of tacit knowledge spread among ICT professionals around the world, and we hope that this blog can help extract it.
In this blog, we want to share our experiences and hear from you. Check back often to see new posts and to read what our guest bloggers think. I hope it will become the morning read to complement your coffee, and I look forward to meeting you here.
Mohsen A. Khalil
Director, Global Information and Communication Technologies
The World Bank Group