Highlights from IICD's 15th Anniversary
Nov 01 2011, Netherlands [NL]
Read all the highlights from the 'ICT for a Greener Economy in Developing Countries' conference, organised in honour of IICD's 15th anniversary. Written by IICD's Elske van Gent and Saskia Harmsen.
Contents - click on the name of the speaker to reach the section in the text:
Jozias van Aartsen - Bits4Green - Hennie Wesseling - Hans den Hartog - Bernhard van Oranje - Kentaro Toyama - Luis Parada - Caroline Figuères - Ben Knapen - UNCTAD panel discussion - UNCTAD IER presentation
Oct 25 2011 16:47:34
Our final key-note and also the end of our mini-conference was done by Mr. Jozias van Aartsen, the mayor of the Hague and chairman of the Board of Trustees of IICD.
He started his speech by pointing out that in light of the current economic and political climate, it is important to show how development cooperation and economic growth are closely intertwined. ICT is one of the options in this regard.
Mr Van Aartsen continued by stating that we have to realise how important economic development is, particularly within the agricultural sector, to feed the planet. ICTs can help to strengthen the capacities of smallholder farmers and make them more entrepreneurial. It can improve the agricultural chain, from the farmer all the way to the consumer. This was also stated by Caroline Figuères in her key-note earlier today and illustrated by the case presented by Luis Parada from the Department of Santa Cruz, Bolivia.
ICT is a means to an end for farmers in developing countries to participate in the green economy. To give an example, for them organic farming is one of the main opportunities to improve their livelihoods within a green economy. The first requirement for an organic farmer is to become certified: this enables him – or her – to use their organic status to add value to their crops. However, in order to get certified, one of the requirements is to be able to track and trace your goods. Without a good technological backbone, this is beyond the reach of most smallholder farmers.
Besides tracking & tracing, ICTs also bring people together, helping them to educate themselves and improve their businesses. For example, a group of organic coffee farmers from Ecuador use their online network to receive essential support on inputs, crop management and – last but not least – marketing. Via this, they have been able to upscale their businesses and now produce certified organic coffee for the European market, earning far higher incomes than they have ever had before. Another positive side-effect of this is that, with the extra income, the farmers have been able to invest in the diversification of their crops, which in turn generates extra revenue and results in a reliable yearly income; something that used to be unheard of for many of them.
In the context of empowering people to become better entrepreneurs; it is equally important to strengthen the educational system. After all, any investment in the (intellectual) development of youth will pay for itself in the long term (see, for example, the recommendation about extension services).
At the same time, other relatively simple technological and innovation solutions can have great impacts too. For instance: water harvesting, drip irrigation, and intelligent planting schemes; all of which can help the farmer to get greater volumes and higher quality yields from the land in a sustainable way.
These are just a few examples of how ICTs can help farmers to improve their livelihoods in a sustainable, green way.
When it comes to following up on ICT for a Greener Economy, Mr Van Aartsen hopes we all will take action. However, when doing so, we have to make sure to apply some of IICD’s key principles:
- Take ownership and make others take ownership of the need to create a greener economy too;
- Take action and learn while doing;
- Make sure you share your knowledge with others;
- Build (equal) partnerships to create synergies and arrive at new solutions for a greener economy.
He closed of with congratulating IICD with our 15th anniversary and thanking current and past IICD colleagues, for all the work that has been done. In fifteen years time IICD has managed to make great progress in enabling people in developing countries to benefit from ICTs; today 6.1 million people in 11 different countries are benefiting from IICD’s work and that is impressive when remembering that IICD started from scratch.
Ronald van Wuijtswinkel (CharITy), Caroline Figueres (IICD), and Hennie Wesseling (WorldPC) discuss Bits4Green
For more information on the Bits4Green initiative, and how companies can join in and support our collective work, have a look at the resources included in this article.
Hennie Wesseling, Board member of WorldPC
Hennie Wesseling took the stage and introduced Close the Gap, an NGO of Belgian origin, working on ICT for Development, refurbished PCs, and most recently a key actor in developaing a pragmatic and integrated solution to tackle e-Waste in East Africa.
Wesseling said that, `If you think of Close the Gap as the actor that brings PCs to Africa, then think about WorldPC as the actor that brings them back to Europe. If that´s the only thing that you remember from my contribution today, then I´ve done well!´
During one of Close-the-Gap´s board meetings in 2009, they realised that making available refurbished PCs to African organisations was not enough if they did not at the same time tackle the additional e-Waste that their work created. They developed an integrated eWaste management solution that enables a controlled and appropriate dismantling process without the toxic impact on health and environment associated with improper handling. Recycling of e-waste is fully organized within the informal sector, thereby contributing to income generating opportunities.
Early this year, they developed the e-Waste certificates, which provide essential financing required to take back end-of-life hardware, and process it in a humane and environmentally friendly way. He mentioned that the certificates and income generated from them are controlled and audited to Eurpean standards (by Deloitte).
Wesseling went on to show a video about Close the Gap´s work, and of special interest to today´s theme was the opening of the e-Waste treatment plant that was opened on September 27th by the Vice-President of the European Commission, Mrs Neelie Kroes. See this news article on the same. As soon as we have the link to the video, we will add it here!
Hans den Hartog, CEO of Inter Access, on partnerships based on knowledge and expertise
Inter Access is a Dutch based IT Services organization, founded in 1980 which currently employs approx.
Hans den Hartog shared his and his employees´ experience of working with IICD in their longstanding partnership. He showed a short video interview with one of his staff,Harrie Breuker who recently worked with IICD partner CFSU in Uganda.
The partnership between Inter Access and IICD is based on making available Inter Access´ knowledge and expertise to IICD partners in developing countries, and at the same time is of key value to Inter Access, says den Hartog.
Inter Access has being a good employer as one of its key goals, because it also puts people first, in this case mainly its clients and its employees. The partnership with IICD has been really valuable for them in this light, for them as a company as well as well as in being able to give back to society.
Working with IICD helped Inter Access to win the Computable CSR-award in 2008, a feat which generated a lot of pride in the company on the part of both employees and clients.
Hans den Hartog concludes: our partnership with IICD and our annual investments absolutely pay off! And calls for other companies to not hesitate, but start collaboration with IICD as soon as possible. He is sure it will provide great value to them as well.
Oct 25 15:24:02
Bits4Green programme: what is it and how can we use it?
It works as follows. A company buys one or more Bits4Green packages. These packages are an investment in energy-efficient IT solutions for schools, hospitals, youth centres and farmer organisations. The company will then receive e-waste certificates from WorldPC which guarantee the safe decommissioning of hardware in Africa and the shipment of the remaining chemical waste to specialised disposal companies in Europe. It’s a nice and concrete way for companies to contribute to greener ICT use in Africa.
Congratulations to IICD by Prince Bernhard van Oranje
Prince Bernhard van Oranje, who is an honorary member of IICD’s board and an IT entrepreneur, just kick-started theBits4Green part of the mini-conference via a video message. Bernard van Oranje has been part of IICD’s Board of Trustees for almost 10 years and knows IICD’s work well. He is also a well known IT entrepreneur, who successfully founded and grew Clockwork into a premier full-service interactive digital media company, and his latest venture is a successful Nearshore IT service provider and software development company, Levi9. So he knows his ICT!
After congratulating IICD with its 15th anniversary, an accomplishment to be proud of, Mr van Oranje stated that ICT can have a real impact on people’s lives. It can help to establish true change and improve the lives of millions of people. He said that IICD has contributed considerably to this goal in the past 15 years; in 2010 alone the lives of 6 million people in Africa andLatin Americawere positively affected through IICD and ICT.
Mr Van Oranje continued by stating that he is a strong believer of companies and NGO’s working together in order to accomplish a bigger impact in developing countries. That is the reason why he would not only like to celebrate the anniversary, but also the newly set-upBits4Green initiative.
Last but not least, Mr Van Oranje wishes us a great, productive and inspirational day!
Capacity building for a greener economy – Kentaro Toyama
We just heard Mr Toyama is co-founder of Microsoft Research (MSR)India and a prominent scholar in ICT4D.
He talked about how to use ICT for a greener economy, using examples like ‘smart’ electricity meters and neighbourhood peer pressure, sensors to monitor climate change and teleconferencing.
But he also pointed out that there can be downsides to ICT use with regard to a greener economy; we should be aware of the potential ‘dark’ side to it. For instance, in 2006, data centres in the United Statesconsumed 1.5% of all energy used in the country of that year, and he suspects by now it must be more than 3%. He also mentioned that old electronics inevitably get dumped on third-world countries, which is of course not very green. In his speech he referred to the Jevons’s paradox; the cheaper something becomes the more of it we consume, creating new challenges to a green economy. (See here for the wikipedia entry on Jevons paradox.)
If we want to be truly sustainable, Mr Toyama pointed out that reducing waste is the first step, but it’s not enough. To really get somewhere, we must reach input-output equilibrium. Currently, we are not even close. We must focus on individual, political, and institutional will towards a greener economy in order to accomplish this equilibrium. Mentorship is an important step towards reaching this goal. To be an effective mentor, you have to be a good role model. In other words; practice what you preach is the creed. ICT does not change the human intent, it can amplify what a good organization is doing.
All in all a very inspirational speech from this sharp thinker, pushing us (as usual) beyond our regular way of thinking!
IICD and Bolivia; a fruitful cooperation
Mr José Luis Parada Rivero department of Santa Cruz, Bolivia, just spoke about his cooperation with IICD. Below a report of what he said.
‘Four years ago a flying Dutchmen came into my office and told me my ICT project wasn’t working as it should. This was Mr Stijn van der Krogt, Country Programme Director of IICD.
At that point, we didn’t realize how important our project could be for our country.Bolivia is a country with a very low income and with a large diversity of resources. Agriculture is our basis. Santa Cruz is the largest province of Bolivia and is growing very fast. We have 100% radio coverage but not so much broadband connections (yet). About 70 percent of our province is urban and about 40 percent of the population are immigrants. You can imagine that this poses a lot of challenges for the infrastructure. Poverty is also a great problem in our area. We produce most agricultural produce for Bolivia, and we currently only use 50 percent of total potential land for farming.
The objective of the IICD project is to support small farmers to enlarge their production and revenue. We’ve set up an agricultural library, equipment and input and online extension services. We integrated modern technologies: radio, mobile and telecenters. Daily we radio air information of the 58 main staples products. Mind you,Santa Cruz alone is already 8 times bigger than the Netherlands, causing great distance issues. Via this project information is now more quickly spread. Mobile phones are intensely used for e.g. spreading price information of crops, Q&A’s and also as a warning systems when there is e.g. bad weather coming. The telecentres are also used to train farmers.
The impact of the project on revenue is immediate; it has increased with at least 20 percent. The website has become a reference point for agricultural information in the whole of Bolivia and is one of the most visited sites per day in the country.
Other market value actors also use the site as main reference for their information and use it to determine their prices on a daily basis.
Already 40 to 50 thousand farmers are helped by these services, which are of course offered for free. The project is now integrated in the multi-annual budget and planning 2013-2017 of Santa Cruz. Also other departments in the country would like to cooperate and invest in this project, because they too see the great added value of this project. The project is fully based on the needs as expressed by the farmers.
Since we are talking about green economy today, we must also state that we have taken into account the environment in the set-up of the project. For instance, we use low energy computing and we watch our e-waste carefully.’
The cooperation between IICD and Santa Cruz is illustrative of how IICD can help enhance livelihoods, not only in Bolivia, but also in neighbouring countries, like Peru and Ecuador.’
Mr Parada Rivero closed of by thanking IICD’s for cooperating so well with him an congratulates IICD with her anniversary. Mr Parada Rivera pointed out that in Latin America reaching 15 as a girl is the most important anniversary there is!
All in all a great example of the effects of an IICD project in the field, enhancing the lives of thousands of people!
It all started 15 years ago with Jan Pronk who was then Minister of Development Cooperation in response to the needs expressed by developing countries.
He is the first person Caroline would like to thank today, his vision was to connect the unconnected, wanted to make excluded people part of society as a whole. He wanted to use all forms of new communication technologies to reach that target.
Caroline says that the words that Ben Knapen just expressed feel incredibly empowering, shows that people have really understood what ICT for Development can do. She wanted to quote him on earlier support expressed for IICD, but doesn’t find that necessary anymore, his words today say more than we dared hope.
Caroline then discussed the history of the IICD approach, where the first ICT4D Round Table workshops already took place in 1998. As it’s worked matured, increasing attention was paid to human resource development and organisational development as essential elements in successful ICT for Development initiatives.
Caroline shared that when she joined IICD a few years ago, there were still people in the development sector asking ‘You are talking about ICTs? Why? Focus on seeds!’
Now she finds that people are no longer asking Why, but rather hey are asking How? People are now coming to IICD with a request for assistance based on IICD’s wealth of experience.
She discussed some of the figures related to IICD work and outreach, after which she moved to discussing the recommendations that were just handed over to Ben Knapen. The recommendations are as follows (detailed document here)
- Recommendation 1: Use ICT to introduce and enhance the use of sustainable agricultural practices
- Recommendation 2: Use ICT to accelerate economic development while conserving the environment and maintaining biodiversity
- Recommendation 3: Use ICT to transform the behaviour, attitudes and values of individuals as citizens and consumers, economic and social structures, and governance processes
- Recommendation 4: Connect smallholder farmers
- Recommendation 5: Honour local roots by promoting participatory approaches
- Recommendation 6: Link action and experience to policy
- Recommendation 7: Secure optimal technical usage
- Recommendation 8: Limit energy usage
- Recommendation 9: Improve affordability of ICTs in rural areas
- Recommendation 10: Tackle e-Waste
Moving forward, Caroline talks about the Connect4Change Consortium, which has been established in order to scale up ICT4D activities, not only with governments but also with internationally active NGOs. Key northern partners in the consortium are: Cordaid, Edukans, ICCO, AKVO and Text to Change.
She says that in IICD’s future, we will continue combine different technologies in a creative way, because that is what our experience has taught us that works.
Caroline:“We need to be aware of our values as an organisation, what do we stand for? We stand for doing the right things in ICT4D, and being incredibly good at what we do. Only in this way can we serve our partners as they deserve, and help them to address their needs.
Without IICD staff, IICD’s achievements would not have been possible. So thank you IICD staff, present and former, for making our work possible!
We will continue to search for new forms for effective and efficient development cooperation. Thanks IICD’s partners, in South and North, present here and linking in via social media, for our collective efforts and realising all that we have done!
I hope that there are people and organisations present here that are not yet our partners, but that will join forces with us in future!`
ICT & sustainable development: the future
Mr Ben Knapen the current Dutch Minister for European Affairs and International Cooperation, just gave the first keynote at our anniversary event. He spoke about ICT and sustainable development, but started with congratulating IICD with its anniversary!
He started his speech with food security: he pointed out that 925 million people still go hungry every day and that two billion people still lack the essential nutrients to live a long and healthy life. What a number…and that’s today, because unfortunately, the problem is growing. It is expected that in 2050 nine billion people will live on this planet, and an astonishing 70 percent increase in food production is needed in order to feed them all, whereas the available farmland will increase by only 15 percent. Also the pressure on natural resources is reason for concern according to Mr Knapen.
In order to face this problem, the Dutch government aims to help people in developing countries help themselves. Economic growth is crucial to this, stated Mr Knapen, and in most developing countries economic growth depends for the most part on agriculture. For this reason, from the Ministry’s side, food security budget will be increased four times in the coming years.
One way for farmers in these countries to become more competitive is by gaining access to ICT. Via ICT farmers can have e.g. up-to-date information about farming methods, market prices, weather forecasts or money transfers. As an example, Mr Knapen mentions ‘e-Choupal’ inIndia. Every day this internet service provides 4 million farmers with up-to-date information about farming methods, market prices and weather forecasts per district. The system is also used for buying and selling. We can conclude from this, that ICT becomes more crucial everyday in order for them to survive.
Mr Knapen continued by stating that IICD realised early on that in order to be competitive, developing countries must be connected. According to him, IICD has shown that ICT should always be part and parcel of development efforts, and Mr Knapen gave IICD a big compliment for IICD’s accomplishments in the field of ICT and development cooperation.
But there was another aspect of ICT use that he raised in his speech as well. The potential of ICT is massive, but cannot be fully exploited without focusing on educating and training people. Which is true of course: (if you can’t read or write, its especially challenging to use technological devices)
And then there is the mounting volume of hazardous e-waste, like discarded computers and mobile phones. This will have a negative impact on public health and the environment, not only in developing countries, but also in emerging markets.
We have a big task ahead. Mr Knapen continued his speech by mentioning the Rio+20Summitwhich will take place in June 2012. This summit aims to bring global sustainability closer. He expressed his hope to succeed in this during the summit and that he is looking forward to make a difference together with, amongst others, IICD.
Panel discussion following UNCTAD IER2011 report
Following the presentation of the Information Economy Report 2011 of UNCTAD a panel discussion started. As guests: Vinay Kumar of DigitalGreen, Vincent van Kouwenhoven ofeVenturesAfrica, Bram van Ojik of the Dutch government of Development Cooperation and Stijn van der Krogt of IICD.
Mr van Ojik replied by stating a lot still has to be done and there are multiple opportunities. But we also have to be aware of limitations. The public sector doesn’t have all the answers, but the private sector neither. But it is an area of focus for the Ministry.
But what about the farmers in the field? Vinay Kumar of DigitalGreen replies: ‘We try to educate farmers in new technologies and tools. To this end we develop videos with the actual people in the field. Dialogue is key in this process in order to get ownership.’
And how do you balance technology and human factor? Mr Kumar responds by stating that DigitalGreen uses a lot of time for the social aspect of the tools they develops. Technology is totally embedded in the social part.
Mr Van Kouwenhoven takes over and states that he loved the UNCTAD presentation: it pointed out the huge potential of ICT in developing countries. Every day he gets more excited about the possibilities they spot in the field when looking for new investments. The passion for technology combined with the passion forAfricais something that really strikes him in a positive sense when he is visiting the continent. The entrepreneurs he does business with don’t look for aid but rather for investments to build up or expand their businesses.
But what is Stijn van der Krogts opinion on this? ‘Not only investment in technology is important; capacity building is crucial as well. Most of the time the technology is already there, the devices also, but the private sector needs to focus on training and educating people in using the tools in order to really develop. A lot of companies can develop services but not so much for smallholder farmers. There is a great need for this, if we want to reach the private sector development on that level too.’
Mr Kouwenhoven responds; he is looking for this kind of interaction. The entire dynamics and the impact that information has, will be a major driving force for development in countries.
‘The combination of donors and private sector works best, not just one or the other’ replies Mr Van der Krogt.
And what about the Indian government? Mr Kumar replies there needs to be a better definition on what governments must do; the same goes for companies. A high level policy has to be developed and implemented in a transparent way. If policies aren’t implemented transparently you already start with a disadvantage.
Donor money can be very helpful in this regard. Regarding ICT development; this can only work if it is affordable. Donor money can play an important role in this.
Response from the public is that the challenge is that we need more than just technology to boost development. The surrounding institutions should be in place in well, otherwise it won’t be used.
Mr Van Kouwenhoven is eager to respond, he has a wish list regarding African entrepreneurship: the entrepreneurial spirit needs to develop as well, it used to be so aid driven: the business way of thinking has to be stimulated. Also: mixing public and private money is the best way to leverage investment inAfrica’ he states.
To round of the discussion one final question was asked: how can we make sure everyone is included?
Mr Van Ojik: donor policies and donor money can help out here;
Mr Kumar: educate and inform people as much as possible and work toward financial inclusion.
Mr Van der Krogt: ask what the people really need and develop it and build on the network you already have;Mr Van Kouwenhoven: be aware of it in your business
The discussion was very interesting, and as always short in time!
October 25th ICT4D events kick off with the Dutch launch of the UNCTAD IER2011 report
He stated that he may be preaching to the already converted in this room, but the audience extends beyond this room. According the Fredriksson, private sector development is crucial to achieve the Millennium Development goals – create jobs, raise income, generate government revenue, etc. We have come some way over the past years, but still need to accelerate. He said that it is important to consider what innovative approaches we can turn to to accelerate private sector development.
Some snapshots of the new ICT landscape:
- Rapid improvement in mobile telephony penetration around the world. In around 50 of the LDCs, the uptake of mobile has been dramatic. If we compare 2005 to 2012, mobile phone penetration in LDCs on average has increased from 5 subscription per 100 people to 33 per 100 people. So it is clear that mobile phones are a preferred business ICT tool in low income countries
- New forms of mobile use: Mobile money, only in past 2 or 3 years this has really taken off. In April 2011 there were about 50 such systems in Africa whereas there were only 5 in the EU! We don’t know exactly how they will play out, but the rapid uptake suggests there is a strong interest from the private sector and also individual users.
- Many entrepreneurs rely on remittances, if we can find more efficient ways of money transfer while lowering the transaction costs, that has tremendous potential.
- Policy challenges associated with mobile money: the fact that all these new services are being launched low income countries provides a challenge in developing appropriate policy environments. It’s the low income countries that are pioneering these services. In this case, we cannot look at what the OECD or more advanced developing countries have done on this front. Fredriksson suggests that therefore this requires donor support.
- First challenge is to have reliable mobile networks available to small entrepreneurs, second is to have broadband internet on mobile, but nevertheless the report highlights the broadband divide that has emerged.
The main focus of report is to highlight what ICT can do. Fredriksson restates that ICT should not be at the centre of the development debate, but rather let us put private sector development (or education, or health, etc.) at the centre and then identify the interfaces with ICT. He shows four main facets when related to PSD and ICT:
a) Strengethening ICT infratsturcture,
b) Enhancing ICT use in the enterprises,
c) Promoting ICT in the producing sector,
d) Using ICTs to support and facilitate PSD.
Fredriksson discussed some barriers and said that the report draws heavily on work done by IICD in this field. One particular aspect mentioned is that ICT solutions need to be accompanied by training – they may not think about how they could use these tools as a business tool. One need is: very hands on teaching to small entrepreneurs on how they can make better use of their mobile phones.
Fredriksson talked about an interesting programme being established by UNCTAD in Mali. In Mali there are 8 million people but only 50,000 tax payers. This mean that there is a great loss to government revenue, and at the same time the entrepreneurs are not getting anything in return from the government. The UNCTAD programme in Mali involves smart cards, providing entrepreneurs with a unique IDs, to access insurance, microfinance, registering his/her company with city council, tax registry, etc.
Main conclusion wrapping up the presentation of the report: from now on, we have to ensure that ICT is mainstreamed when developing private sector development strategies are developed and that it is done in more systematic way than in the past.
Question from Gerd Junne (IICD Board member): “What about the barriers to mobile phone use for international remittances? Apart from the systems that exist between Kenya and the UK?”
Answer: One of the problems is the fact that there are such bilateral corridors. Even within Kenya, you cannot send mobile money from one telecom operators’ network to another telecom operators’ network. There are a lot of vested interested. This is an area for research that we would like to plough deeper into, we haven’t yet done in-depth research into this but intend to, also together with other players like the Worldbank working in this field.
Question from host: “How can UNCTAD work for example with IICD and others working internationally in this field?“
Answer: help small entrepreneurs get access to finance, research, advocate, encourage the development of more applications.