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ICT Success Stories

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In 2004, more than 1.1 million of the world's population lived below the poverty line. The consequences of this socio-economic phenomenon are tangible at all levels in developing countries. Poverty, illiteracy and unequal access to public services are the main causes of underdevelopment and economic deficiencies in the South. Concerted action is now needed to achieve the first of the Millennium Development Goals - the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger. The WSIS process is contributing to this common end by seeking to provide ubiquitous and equitable access to knowledge and information as well as promoting ICTs as an efficient tool for overcoming traditional and less traditional problems, and bridging the gap.

ICT stories from the field

ICTs in the Hands of the Poor

Success Strategy: In 2002, UNESCO initiated a programme to innovate and research social and technological strategies to explore the potential of ICTs to contribute to poverty reduction. Spread across nine sites in South Asia, the programme is working with a range of poor individuals and communities and a variety of technology mixes. Each one is trying to develop social and technological access models that address both the fundamental poverty issues and key barriers to ICT usage by the poor.

The programme was designed to integrate research at the beginning of the implementation process as a strategy for both innovative project development and building a wider understanding of the role of ICTs in poverty reduction. The programme's ethnographic action research approach is based on combining two research methodologies: ethnography and action research. Ethnography is a research approach that has traditionally been used to understand different cultures. Action research is used to inform and adapt strategies through the ongoing process of reflection, planning and action.

The wide range of activities under the banner ICTs in the hands of the poor are intended to facilitate communication and information mainstreaming and make disadvantaged populations benefit from the outcome of this multi-level process.

Target group: Disadvantaged youth and citizens

Partners: UNESCO

Source: WSIS Stocktaking Database and the website of the activity

ICTs for Participatory Health and Livelihood Skills Training for Mon Migrants – Alliance

Success Strategy: In the Mon State of Myanmar, political differences between Mon and Burmese military authorities persist despite the 1995 cease-fire. More than 200,000 Mon fled the continuing instability there and now struggle to feed themselves and their families under trying conditions in border areas. Cross-border migrants like these typically live in fear, worried about being exposed to authorities and anxious about food security and income generation. Health issues including drainage of household water and the management of waste are overtaken by a preoccupation with survival.

ICTs for Participatory Health and Livelihood Skills Training is a pilot project designed to harness new digital camera technologies to help cross-border migrants learn basic health and livelihood skills that can improve their well-being even under the harsh realities stateless migrant experience. Community-based facilitators are taught how to lead interactive group discussions among marginally-literate neighbours and friends. Each target population learns how to critically assess local health and livelihood practices while collaboratively constructing their own models of best practices.

Using Participatory Video Editing, group facilitators capture raw digital video footage of poor health and livelihood practices to stimulate collaborative development of improved practices. Through an iterative process, poor practices are gradually edited out and improved practices edited in resulting in local models of best practices that incorporate the insights of the full range of stakeholders. The twelve video modules developed under the pilot will be produced and distributed as a set of Video CDs (VCDs) to facilitate the exchange of these best practice results across the participating target populations.

In addition to the Mon and Karen migrants in the border areas of Kanchanaburi and Ratchaburi provinces, the target populations include Burmese migrants working in the seafood plants of Mahachai in Samut Sakhon province, Laotian migrants crossing the Mekong at Khong Jiam in Ubon Ratchanthani province, and crossborder Khmu and Hmong along the border between Laos and the Han province of Thailand.

This one-year activity is funded by USAID under the dot-EDU cooperative agreement that seeks to strengthen education and learning systems through the use of information and communication technologies (ICTs). The project is being implemented with collaboration from a network of local NGOs that includes the Pattanarak Foundation, the Raks Thai Foundation, the Mon Relief and Development Committee. Hands on activities related to specific health and livelihood themes are being carried out by these local implementing partners with support from other donors. Education Development Centre and Academy for Education Development are jointly administering the activity.

Partners: Alliance

Source: Alliance website

Project Sushiksha - India

Success Strategy: Project Sushiksha,is a functional literacy program for the illiterate section of the Society who fall easy prey to the allurements of the crime mongers against money. As illiteracy is coupled with vulnerability the program is inclusive of local spiritual practices so as to infuse mental strength to fight back allurements and seize resources righteously for enhancing material development and improving the mental power to establish ethical life style in their family life.

Sushiksha is an educational program, especially for Women from disadvantaged backgrounds with no accessibility for the light of knowledge and self-reliance. The curriculum includes basic reading and writing of the local vernacular (Bengali) and basic arithmetic for accounting. Besides, gradual awareness on environmental development for a sustainable better quality of life is also carried out. Participants were also trained to make handicrafts using various internet resources and thus acquire commercially applicable skills.

True education at the primary level should have a, according to project developers, flavour of spirituality and should be irrespective of age, cast and creed. The activities are focused on enhancing community members’ moral power by various means including ICTs urging them to be more beneficial to society and use resources very judiciously. The concept of the programme is based on the goal to help local communities help themselves to become self reliant rather than dependent and constantly demanding.

Started for the first time in 1996, the project has effect on a population of at least 50,000 slum dwellers of Tollygunj slum in Kolkata followed by 1,000 people from the remote Bhitargarh village, Mecheda in Midnapore district of West Bengal, India. The Centre for Adul women established in the village of Bhtaragarth, Mecheda, Midnapore district in 2000 initiated a regularized cycles of continuous education and knowledge certification contributing to the cultural and valuable content orientation of the Indian citizens form the area.

Following the encouraging experience of this first phase, 'SUSHIKSHA' was launched in 2004 at the VIP Enclave complex. Prior to the beginning of the project, a survey of more than 150 residents have indicated that to minimise domestic exploitation and mismanagement of finance due to lack of knowledge in arithmetic. The Programme to the Domestic help is expected to restore fearless freedom of expression through written complaints to the local authorities. Under the programme could be followed trainings in various other part-time income-generating activities. Particular courses in time management and better performance in domestic services have been also given.

The concept of this particular project has evolved and the crucial importance of social emancipation has been stressed through coherent activities. The programme has been raising social and awareness on value-based life style respectful to moral values and ethics rather than simply improved living standards. Health and education for all are promoted as universal goals.

From the beginning of the project in 2004, in Bhitaragarh Village this project has enlightened directly 60 women and effectively this has improved the social awareness of 60 families with membership strength of 500 people approximately. The program has its impact on the residents of this village and the surrounding rural areas. The members of the Sushiksha family are more and more self-reliant and now capable enough to protect their rights and render their duties for better living.

Target group: Illiterate population, with special focus on women and young people

Partners: Institute for International Social Development, Morning Glory Montessori for the domestic Help of the complex residents

Source: see WSIS Stocktaking Database and the website of the activity

Satellife PDA Project - Uganda

Succes Strategy: The goal of the SATELLIFE PDA Project was to demonstrate the viability of handheld computers -- also called Personal Digital Assistants or PDAs -- for addressing the digital divide among health professionals working in Africa. Started for the first time at the end of 2001, the project uses affordable technologies to link health professionals in developing countries to each other and to reliable sources of information, including modem-to-modem telephone links and the internet by using geostationary satellites.

The organisers believe Information and communications technology (ICT) can play an important role in combating disease and improving healthcare. The project used ICT as a tool to collect community health information to support decision-making; improving doctors' access to current medical information; linking healthcare professionals so they could share information and knowledge; and enhancing health administration, remote diagnostics, and distribution of medical supplies.

The project-explored questions related to the selection and design of appropriate, affordable technology and locally relevant content for use in African healthcare environment, specifically targeted at assessing the usefulness of the PDA for data collection and information dissemination. Physicians, medical officers, and medical students tested the PDA in the context of their daily work environments in order to gain a perspective on the real issues that affect the adoption of technology.

The PDA used was the Handspring Visor Neo, with a 33 MHz DragonBall VZ microprocessor from Motorola, a Palm operating system (Palm OS), and 8 MB of main memory. Pendragon Forms v3.1 was the software programme used to create the survey forms. Country-specific drug lists and treatment guidelines were obtained by Satellife in hard copy or electronic formats and adapted to a PDA-accessible format. Medical texts were obtained from Skyscape.

The Project was conducted in three phases. Satellife first put the handheld computers to use for field surveys, by linking this project to a widespread measles immunisation campaign being conducted in Ghana by the American Red Cross (ARC) in December 2001. The Satellife-Arc joint effort used 30 PDAs in a short-term survey intended to determine the efficacy of the measles immunisation campaign outreach efforts and collect some baseline health information. The Uganda phase tested the use and usefulness of 40 PDAs by medical practitioners to conduct an epidemiological survey on malaria, and to access and use medical reference tools and texts. The Kenya phase tested the use and usefulness of 40 PDAs by students to collect field survey information, and to access and use medical reference tools and texts as part of their studies.

This project was inspired and led by SATELLIFE, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organisation based in Massachusetts, USA. SATELLIFE's mission is to improve health in the world's poorest nations through the innovative use of ICT.

Target groups:  Health professionals in Ghana, Uganda and Kenya

Partners: SATELLIFE, the American Red Cross; Makerere University Medical School in Kampala, Uganda; HealthNet Uganda; Moi University Faculty of Health Sciences in Eldoret, Kenya; and the Indiana University Kenya Program, Acumen Fund

Awards: Tech Museum Laureate 2004, The Stockholm Challenge Winner 2002

Source: and

 Giri Pragna

Success Strategy: Giri Pragna means enriching tribal knowledge. ‘Tribals’ are aboriginals in their respective regions, miles away from civilization. Governments and Private Organizations presume that providing normal schooling is enough. ‘Giri Pragna’ Project is based on the concept of the IT Visionary Sri Rajendra Narendra Nimje that if opportunity is provided, tribals too can succeed. Giri Pragna provides opportunities to tribal children in 50 school complexes covering Class VI to X, 10,000 children per annum for computer education and Computer Aided Education and teacher’s training in a systematic way.


Computer Education syllabus can be changed as per the need every year which will ensure tuning with time. The broad band revolution is due in few years in India and the connectivity will change the methods of harnessing and evaluation of learning and teaching methods. Trained teachers during the initial period of three years will act as resource persons to cover hundreds of schools in Government sectors in coming years. Project is conceived as a continuous educational initiative and funds are provided for three years in advance. Many Non Resident Indians have shown interest to expand the project to other schools. Giri Pragna will cover all tribal families for computer education by 2008.

Partners: ITDA, Khammam owns the project who is the prime body for tribal development in Andhra Pradesh State. It has 50 School complexes in Khammam district for imparting primary and secondary education for tribal children. Project has tapped the resources of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), a Government of India’s initiative to strengthen education in the country. ITDA provided hardware, software, CBT material, furniture at each school complex. Trained computer professionals are deployed to provide training to students and teachers in all school complexes.

Awards: Stockholm Challenge Award 2005

Source: The Stockholm Challenge website

For more information: see the website of the organization

Boats and River Networks to Deliver Access to Information Technology - Bangladesh

Success Strategy: Shidhulai Swanirvar Sangstha, a Bangladesh NGO, has adopted a pioneering approach to bridging the digital divide and its commitment to providing free public access to computers and the Internet. Through the use of indigenous boats converted into mobile libraries, schools, and the Mobile Internet Educational Units on Boats program, Shidhulai Swanirvar Sangstha provides educational services, access to technology, and computer training to poor communities in a Northern Bangladesh watershed. The boats, which anchor at remote villages, rely on generators or solar energy and mobile phones for Internet access.

Shidhulai Swanirvar Sangstha is dedicated to alleviating poverty among the poorest people in the Nandakuja-Atrai-Boral Watershed, serving 86,500 families and an area covering over 240 kilometers crossed by thousands of rivers, tributaries and streams. The Access to Learning Award will enable the organization to sustain its services and expand programs to meet an increasing demand.

All our program activities are concentrated in and around the rivers using a familiar vehicle for people to approach technology. Our boat libraries are crucial to the progress of the villages along the river basins,” said Abul Hasanat Mohammed Rezwan, executive director of Shidhulai Swanirvar Sangstha and founder of the boat project.

Relying on skilled volunteers, Shidhulai Swanirvar Sangstha educates men, women, and children on issues ranging from agricultural practices and to micro enterprise and literacy. Farmers learn about strategies for productive and sustainable farming and the ecological hazards of pesticides. Throughout the year, they are able to connect with educators via onboard e-mail and check current farm prices online to remain competitive in the local market.

Seeing a computer, let alone touching it, was beyond our wildest imagination,” said Abdul Azad, a farmer who travels an hour to the docked boat library from the remote village of Kalinagar. Students who would otherwise be unable to attend school during the monsoon season continue their education through the year using the libraries’ onboard field staff. With literacy rates in Bangladesh at only 42 percent, Shidhulai Swanirvar Sangstha is making a significant impact on educating young people, especially girls. In fact, over 70 percent of the program’s beneficiaries are women. In a highly competitive job market coupled with pervasive poverty, student participants are eager to learn technological skills they hope will translate to a career later on.

The project is intended to extend further even if government subsidies are not available. Over the next five years, the program hopes to double its capacity.

Target group: Local communities, with a special focus on women and children

Partners: Shidhulai Swanirvar Sangstha (SSS) 

Awards: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's annual Access to Learning Award

For more detailed information: see the SSS' website

Source: the Council on Library and Information Resources (Clir) website

El Correo del Agricultor (The farmer's mail) - Bolivia

Success Strategy: In Santa Cruz, Bolivia, a simple means of using the radio, with information sourced from the internet and communicated through e-mail, has helped improve the lives of 14,500 families.

As the farmers rarely ventured from their villages, they depended on middlemen and brokers who collected the products directly from the farms. The brokers would take the vegetables to the markets in Santa Cruz without paying the producers. After selling the products in the market, they would return to the farms and pay the farmers whatever they wanted as they were not aware of the market prices of their produce. Many times farmers were not even able to cover the cost of production.

All that has changed since the creation of a radio programme called El Correo del Agricultor. Itsprogrammes has helped change things around for farmers in the region by offering them information, such as the price list for the main agricultural products for that day.


The radio programme also contains two other important sections: a discussion about the environment and sustainable development, and a segment on Health, Nature and Life that deals with natural medicine and local practices. These segments incorporate information found on the internet, which is made relevant to local issues.

The program has been broadcast on local radios every Monday to Friday since January 2001. As a result of the programme, the terms of negotiation between the middlemen and the producers have improved considerably. This in turn has improved the income of thousands of families by at least 10 per cent. The number of farmers who take their produce to the market themselves has also increased.

The quality of the radio program has also led to the improvement in the quality of other local radio programs. One of the radio stations actually went as far as copying all the digital editing equipment of the project, including the furniture! Today, the farmers have access to all sorts of more pertinent and relevant information, through the radio, which was formerly dominated by foreign content. They feel more wired and connected and are able to discuss issues that are important to them.

Target group: Bolivian farmers

Partners: of Instituto de Capacitación del Oriente (ICO), Central de Asociaciones de Pequeños Productores de Vallegrande (CAPA)

Awards: GKP Tony Zeitoun Award 2003 - Winner

Source: The Global Knowledge Partnership and the website of the activity

World Agricultural Information Centre (WAICENT)

Success Strategy: The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and its Member Nations highlight information as one of the priority areas in achieving agricultural development and food security. FAO established the World Agricultural Information Centre (WAICENT) as a corporate framework for agricultural information management and dissemination. This is a strategic effort to fight hunger with information. The WAICENT framework integrates and harmonizes standards, tools and procedures for the efficient and effective management and dissemination of high-quality technical information, including relevant and reliable statistics, texts, maps, and multimedia resources.

WAICENT was established in response to the high priority accorded by FAO to the enhancement of access to timely and relevant technical information by FAO Member Nations and the general public as well as to the encouragement of FAO Member Nations to utilize information as a key resource for development.

Since the creation of WAICENT in 1989, there have been enormous advances in information technology and the task of managing and disseminating information in a digital environment has become increasingly complex. Two tasks in particular are assuming greater importance: first to enable better access to FAO information resources and to promote partnerships with other agricultural information networks; and, second to assist FAO Member Nations to build their own capacity to manage and utilize food and agricultural information.

Partners: FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations)

Source: WSIS Stocktaking Database and the website of the activity

Rickshaws Connect India's Poor

Success Strategy: But still only around 23 million people have access to mobiles out of a population of 1.1 billion. A regional mobile phone company in India is taking a novel approach to drive up business and help the poor at the same time. Shyam Telecom operating in the state of Rajasthan has equipped a fleet of rickshaws with one or a couple of mobile phones. Drivers pedal these mobile payphones throughout the state capital, Jaipur, and the surrounding countryside providing exclusive opportunity for disadvantaged rural community members to make a call or send sms. The hand-pedalled rickshaws are equipped with a battery, a billing machine and a printer.

 The rickshaw drivers, numbering around 200, are largely drawn from those at the margins of society - the disabled and women. The telecom company charges nothing for the initial set-up costs despite the 75,000 rupee ($1,641) price of the tricycle and equipment. The drivers take a 20% on every call, earning between 6,000 (US$131) to 9,000 ($197) rupees per month. Through these mobile payphones, some drivers are now able to be entirely self-reliant and even support a family of five people, says the company.

 "The operator gets traffic on its network, the driver gets a commission and the consumers get access to affordable calling", she told BBC News Online, saying many companies could learn from Shyam's focus on customer service.

But Shyam is not limiting its novel interpretation of mobility just to voice services nor to tricycles. The company's latest innovation is a camel equipped with a wirelessly connected computer, for use in the desert, though just two animals are currently in commission at present.

And after discussion with the drivers, Shyam is also planning to add internet-ready laptops to the rickshaws.

Target group: Rural communities, disabled, women

Partners: Shyam Telecom

Source: BBC News website

The Hills are Alive with Radio Impacto - Peru

Success Strategy: A pioneer project in Peru aims to support underprivileged people to assess and respond to the challenges posed by new technologies as well as developing and adapting these to applications that will improve livelihoods. Such a sustainable model for rural broadcasting was needed to reinforcing local know-how and reducing the isolation of rural peasants in Cajamarca.

For many decades radio has been an effective tool for participatory development. It is without doubt the mass communication channel with the furthest and most comprehensive reach in the world. The opportunity to link radio and internet provides new strength to communities and increases networking opportunities.

In January 2000 a new initiative began to establish alternative communication and information services for rural communities using small radio dissemination businesses. Three Chilala radio stations were set in 2001. After a trial period and some technical problems, three radio stations are now operating regularly in the areas of Huanico, Chanta Alta and Asuncion in Peru.

The content of the rural radio programmes aims to satisfy the communities' own needs. They deal with themes such as raising guinea pigs, improving cheese production, education in Chanta Alta's school and the work of midwives. Every week they choose a theme they would consider important and prepare it using information from written material used in previous training. The community directly participates by managing and producing radio programmes and this actively reinforces the local culture. Space was created for personal and community information relating to farming, livestock and existing organisations in the area, by-laws, agreements and so on.

Programmes are broadcast all day long on market days, which are very important socially because people from different settlements congregate. The programmes vary from one radio station to the other, and as greater interest in shown in the programmes and as more people become involved in broadcasting, the greater the diversity of programmes will be.

Given their democratic nature and community spirit, these radios are currently an open platform for participation and discussion purposes. They are an example of how the media can make a positive contribution, not only providing information, but also creating opportunities for dialogue, where there is little other opportunity.

Target group: Remote rural communities in Peru

Partners: Intermediate Technology Development Group(ITDG) and ITDG Peru

Source: The Equator Initiative (UNDP)

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