Addressing infrastructure in the context of a strategy deploying ICT as an enabler to enhance the achievement of development goals would involve the adoption of the following broad principles, adapted for the particular national context:
Strategically Focused Capacity. The strategy should focus on developing strategically focused network infrastructure capacity for key sectors to take advantage of leading edge technologies. To take advantage of global positioning possibilities, such focused capacity should also include a reasonable level of global connectivity.
Relative Ubiquity. Unlike policies focused on export expansion or only on global positioning, the above should be complemented by interventions to promote ubiquitous access through universal access funds and support of community networks and public access points.
Until recently, the financial situation of a country's public telecommunications company defined its ability to build and maintain core network infrastructure, as well as to provide universal access. However, with privatization, liberalization and policies aimed at increasing competition in the sector, there is a greater involvement of the private sector in infrastructure provision.47
Ubiquity and the move toward universal access48 is becoming more and more feasible due to rapidly declining costs for networking and telecommunication technologies. These declining costs allow developing countries to leapfrog ahead through the use of cutting-edge technologies. In Botswana, for example, the information network is composed of an all-digital microwave and fiber-optic system with digital exchanges at the main centers. The involvement of the private sector has hastened the adoption of these technologies, particularly in the case of wireless and mobile.
Thus, the framework associated with the development dynamic suggests a move away from either a "build it and they will come" infrastructure policy or one that does not see ICT infrastructure as a development priority. Instead it focuses on the complementarities and synergies between the five strategic areas for action, and on coordinating the work of multiple actors. Infrastructure is rolled out as part of an overall program that includes simultaneous actions in other areas. These could include: the introduction of a supportive regulatory framework, partnerships with NGOs, private enterprise and non-profit community initiatives to expand ICT access and services, support for SMEs and strengthening demand as a beneficial side effect of addressing development imperatives through a public infrastructure strategy (for example, through schoolnets or e-government).49
Such initiatives can also help to enhance the financial sustainability of the infrastructure created. Human capacity and skill development would not appear as a bottleneck limiting effective deployment and use of infrastructure. An overall strategy which focuses on strengthening human capacity will result in much more effective spending on infrastructure because insufficient skills will not create a bottleneck to its effective deployment and use.
© 2001 Accenture, Markle Foundation, United Nations Development Programme.
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