Smart Islands is a programme that adopts an innovative approach to deliver connectivity and scalable and sustainable services to disadvantaged island communities. The Smart Islands programme aims at transforming rural and coastal communities and improving their well-being and livelihood by connecting them to a range of digitally enabled services. The programme, built on the ITU-led Smart Villages initiative
piloted in Niger and being developed in Egypt and Pakistan, adopts an innovative approach to deliver connectivity and scalable and sustainable services to disadvantaged island communities.
Small Island Developing States (SIDS) face a host of challenges, including geographic isolation, lack of human resources, low availability and quality of infrastructure, and vulnerability to external shocks. In remote areas and in outer islands access to information, government services, transport, health, finance, commerce and education needs prioritized attention.
High costs of electricity and lack of affordable connectivity exacerbate the above challenges for SIDS. Not only does the absence of digital technology contribute to the digital divide, but it also deprives small island communities of the opportunity to leverage digital solutions to obtain better access to essential services.
The Smart Islands programme is based on a whole-of-government approach and it is demand-driven, user-centric, flexible, and focused on sustainability, scalability, and multi-sector collaboration. It is designed to manifest digital transformation at the community level, to leave no one behind. The initiative leverages the four pillars of (i) improving broadband connectivity (ii) making broadband affordable (iii) enhancing digital skills (iv) and providing digital services, to impact people's lives based on their local priorities.
The Smart Islands programme will improve the provision of services in the following sectors:
- Health: the deployment of telemedicine and mHealth services to improve access to diagnosis, while also reducing the cost to the healthcare system. For example, mHealth programmes for diabetes prevention and control could be deployed on the basis of the ITU-WHO joint ‘Be Healthy Be Mobile’ initiative.
- Education: access to open and distance learning opportunities will enable capacity building for teachers and education administrators as well as providing equitable access to quality literacy, lifelong learning and skills programmes for children, youth, and adults. Local teachers could improve their qualifications and experiences of their students by using engaging education content, curated and uploaded on digital school units.
- Farming: e-Agriculture services can support efficient and productive farming capabilities among farmers, making rural communities more resilient from both economic and nutritional points of view. A specialized app could be provided that would help farmers detect and treat pests in a timely manner, based on the analysis of photos taken by conventional smartphones.
- Multi-hazard early warning and response: ICT systems for hazard risk monitoring, alert, and post-alert guidance and information. For example, a hurricane early warning system based on meteorological data analysis algorithms and messaging services.
- Digital financial services: provide access to much needed digital financial services, and accelerate financial inclusion goals.
- Tourism and fishing: support access to e-commerce and e-marketing to improve income opportunities and support livelihoods.
Transformation of small islands into smart islands will bring about a positive change in local communities' quality of life by providing them with connectivity and new ICT-enabled services, while also promoting interoperability, cooperation, and holistic demand-driven response to SDG-related needs.
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